Back When Madonna Scared the Shit Out Of Me

It had to be done delicately. We did not have HBO. We probably didn’t even have a VCR at the time. I set it up with my brother’s friend. No connection. No one would ever know. But I knew I needed it. It was my fix. I needed it bad. I would do anything for it. Fortunately, he seemed to understood, gave me no grief, and offered to leave it hidden in the bush in front of his house. I could pick it up after dark on my way home. No one would be the wiser.

At the appointed time, I rode up on my bike, checking that no one was around as I planned my pick up. The night had turned cooler. Dusk was at hand. It was the perfect time to take what I needed and disappear. I inched along the hedge in front of his house and looked in through the leaves. At last I found it. It was a videotape. I picked it up, put it down the front of my pants, and pedaled away, as fast as I could go, without looking back.

Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour had aired on HBO for the first time the night prior, and I had begged my brother’s friend to record it for me. He did so, and I held in my crotch the videotape of that sacred event. As I rushed down to the basement to watch it for the first time, my heart raced. Yet I was not quite ready for it. The year prior, I had almost smashed her ‘Like A Prayer’ album in my backyard, beneath a rock, for fear of the retribution God would inflict on me and my family for having listened to it. A strict Catholic upbringing ran deep and dark.


“She doesn’t want to live off-camera, much less talk.

There’s nothing to say off-camera.

Why would you say something if it’s off-camera?

What point is there… in existing?”

– Warren Beatty 

Now, a year later, I inserted it into the VCR and watched the show. I made it through the first few songs… but when they got to ‘Like A Prayer’ I freaked out again. The religious imagery, the almost-sacriligious movements… it was all too much for my fourteen-year-old mind to take. I wasn’t ready to give it all up just yet. I stopped the tape. Yes – I, Madonna-fan-extraordinaire – turned off her Blond Ambition Tour.

It would only be another year or so before I embraced it fully in ‘Truth or Dare‘ – the exact moment that cemented my Madonna obsessions and love forever – daring God to strike me down – and begging my parents to get me a laser-disc player so I could watch the broadcast properly. (They did, and I did. Over and over. To the point where I had the choreography memorized – no lie.)

Today marks the anniversary of that tour’s opening, and I am brought to that innocent, and not-so-innocent, time. A lot has gone down since then. But the moment remains a milestone in my memory, and is worthy of note. I’m posting it here for those who remember – and for those who don’t. I’m straddling the line these days.

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