If there is one person more enamored and idolatrous of Madonna than me, it is Matthew Rettenmund from Boy Culture. Hell, he even wrote the book on her (literally – the Encyclopedia Madonnica – and it’s brilliant, but more on that later.) A brief while ago, Matt got to meet Madonna and her daughter Lola at a pink carpet event for their Material Girl clothing line, and their meeting, so many years in the making, is documented touchingly on his site here.
I’ve never been all that interested in other people making their dreams come true. I mean, yes, I’m happy for them, but the whole dream-realized moment is usually a let-down (and far too Oprah-like for me). Once in a while, though, someone’s dream touches me, and if you’ve been a part of their journey for a long time, it means a lot more. That may be the reason that Matt’s encounter with Madonna was such a happy event, even if I’m viewing it through vicarious distance.
My admiration of Mr. Rettenmund goes back a long way – to 1995 when the Encyclopedia Madonnica was published. It had been a difficult few years for Madonna, what with the big Sex backlash and some questionable behavior (dating Dennis Rodman, fouling up on David Letterman) so for a fan this sort of book was a welcome reminder of what we loved most about her. While Bedtime Stories worked wonders for her music and video rehabilitation, we were not yet to the miraculous double-come-backs of Evita and Ray of Light, so it was still rocky going.
At the time, I was a rabid Madonna fan, lining up at midnight for any new album release, skipping class on a day that a new CD maxi-single was out (hello Junior’s Luscious “Bedtime Story” remixes, good-bye “Madness & Folly in Renaissance Literature”), and lining my dorm room with posters of her. When the Encyclopedia Madonnica arrived at Tower Records, I hungrily devoured it, poring over every word, savoring each glimpse into every detail of her life, and cherishing the compendium of collected facts in one convenient tome. More than that, however, was the voice of the author, for while Madonna alone was inspiration, the perspective of a gay guy who had found his way in the world was even more compelling. I remember sitting in my dorm room and recognizing something in his writing, some familiar understanding, coupled with a kind of longing for a gay friend. I needed someone to show me the ropes, to indoctrinate me into this world that was both inclusive and impossibly exclusive – a guide or a mentor – and for a while, the narrator fulfilled that role. I didn’t have a lot of close gay friends – I still don’t – so it meant a lot to find so many shared feelings and thoughts on a favorite subject.
It didn’t matter that I never met him, or that I was in Boston and he was in New York. It didn’t matter that he wouldn’t know me if we were the only two people in an elevator. All that mattered was that someone had seen what I had seen in Madonna, and had put it eloquently into words. There was nothing overtly personal about Matt in the book, but he was there on every page – his love, admiration, and honest critique of the woman I so loved resonated deeply within.
That such a love of an artist could result in another work of art was a joyous bonus. In our shared love and appreciation was a way to feel less alone, and less lonely. Those cold winter nights of coming out – first and only to myself – were comforted by two people whom I still have not yet met. But at least now I know that they have met each other, and the world somehow feels a little warmer because of it.