The Madonna Timeline: Song #51 ~ Rainbow High~ Late 1996-Early 1997


{Note: The Madonna Timeline is an ongoing feature, where I put the iPod on shuffle, and write a little anecdote on whatever was going on in my life when that Madonna song was released and/or came to prominence in my mind.}

There again I’ve more to do than simply get the message through – I haven’t started.
Let’s get this show on the road, let’s make it obvious,
Peron is off and rolling…

Seeing as how the iPod has shuffled over to ‘Rainbow High’ from Madonna’s turn in Evita, it seems a good time to dovetail the timeline with an explanation of a Tour. After all, the woman who inspired it all was then portraying Eva Peron on the big screen, and I was on my “Royal Rainbow World Tour”.

It was the very end of 1996. I had graduated early and was about to embark on a few whirlwind months of traveling –from upstate New York to Florida, from Albany to Puerto Rico, from Seattle to the Philippines, from Hong Kong to New Orleans, from Washington to London to Wales to Ireland… it was truly a world tour. While I actually went to all those places, I didn’t really perform or put on a proper show like most people who tour. My tour was just a name for a bunch of trips to see friends and family, encapsulated in a “tour book” that everyone had to sign as a memory-keeper for my travels. But when you hype and promote the hell out of something – no matter how trivial or insignificant – it sometimes turns into something more.

figure ~

In those days I was running, trying to get away from the boys who didn’t like me and the girls I could never like enough. At the time it didn’t dawn on me that when you run away from one thing you inexorably run toward something else. In this case it was an idea of the person I most wanted to be – the fascinating, charming, enthralling character I had so much trouble expressing but wanted so badly to believe was within. It always came out wrong.

glamour ~

The idea of a tour was pure fantasy and make-believe. That my friends supported and believed in it as well is a testament to them. That they stuck by me through the histrionics and tantrums, when my only way of self-preservation and survival was a vicious form of vanity, has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.

It was all I could do to put on a brave face for the world. In my costumes and couture was the armor that would shield me from injury. I thought that the sparkle of a sequin and the quill of a feather could penetrate the most otherwise-apathetic heart. I was hell-bent on not being ignored, even if that meant being grotesque.

I came from the people, they need to adore me
So Christian Dior me from my head to my toes
I need to be dazzling, I want to be Rainbow High
They must have excitement, and so must I…

If the world wouldn’t give me the time of day freely, I would demand it – and I would be ruthless about it to the point of arrogance and haughty defiance. I wanted it to come across as confidence – and in all fairness much of the time it did. The ploy was working. No matter how inwardly wracked with insecurity I may have been, I knew I could put on a smart coat, down a dry martini, and carry myself with grandeur.

I’m their product, it’s vital you sell me
So Machiavell me, make an Argentine Rose
I need to be thrilling, I want to be Rainbow High
They need their escape, and so do I…

Yes, I needed an escape, whether real or imagined. I needed love and adoration, and if I couldn’t find it from one person I’d find it in another. And another. And another…

The excitement came in ways I didn’t always invite. In catering to those who weren’t the least bit interested, I inadvertently crafted a persona that gained notice and admirers almost as an afterthought. In trying to impress one person who couldn’t give two shits, I ended up attracting the attention of three onlookers. But all I ever felt was the absence of affection from the very people whose love I wanted most. I was still alone.

All my descamisados expect me to outshine the enemy
I won’t disappoint them!
I’m their savior, that’s what they call me
So Lauren Bacall me, anything goes
To make me fantastic, I have to be Rainbow High
In magical colors…

From the lofty air of hotel balconies to the trundle of a night train, I traversed the world. A rickety jeep boldly navigated the treacherous roads of the mountains in the Philippines, carrying me to the place where my father was born. A steep tram pulled me up to a high peak overlooking Hong Kong where I had my first taste of dragon-hair’s candy. An enormous ship sailed me from Wales to Ireland, where I dangled upside-down to kiss the Blarney Stone.

It was the tour of a lifetime. Never again would I have such freedom to travel so far, and I made the most of it with the pomp and circumstance befitting royalty.

You’re not decorating a girl for a night on the town
And I’m not a second-rate queen getting kicks with a crown…
Next stop will be Europe!
The Rainbow’s gonna tour, dressed up, somewhere to go
We’ll put on a show…

It was over-the-top, over-blown, and completely out of proportion with the reality of the situation. But that’s what got me through. At some point the fantasy of it all bled into reality, bolstering what little faith I actually had in myself and coalescing into the living character I was becoming.

It was the little engine that could all over again, and the power of words, of hype, of an image that floated so mightily above everything, was enough to carry the insecure shell of a wisp that only I knew was there.

A belief in oneself, however misguided, can work wonders for the soul – and sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can keep the act going long enough to make it come true.

Look out, mighty Europe
Because you ought to know what you’re gonna get in me
Just a little touch of
Just a little touch of
Argentina’s brand of star quality.

On the screen, I watched Madonna as Eva Peron traversing the world on her own Rainbow Tour. Such a little lady, commanding such enormous power, yet so much of her life was lived alone. True, she had a husband, and the affection of an entire nation, but in the moments when it counted – when she laid her head down on her pillow at night – she was alone. Even when surrounded by mobs of people, jostled along in the busy day of a living icon, she was by herself.

Right then, my heart ached a little for Ms. Peron, a little for Madonna, and a little for myself.

Song #51– ‘Rainbow High’ – Late Fall 1996/Winter 1997
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