Sunday, June 1, 2014

Madonna and Me

Some of you friends of mine already know this story, so please forgive me for repeating myself.  But now I have some added visuals.

I covered Madonna one night in October 1992.  Not in a horizontal sense.  I was a regular on a new weekend local morning news program on WNBC called Weekend Today in New York.  October was the second month of the show.  We premiered in September 1992 with a very modest set and local industry buzz that our show would be canceled within six months.

Weekend Today in New York still airs on WNBC/Channel 4 in New York City.

Madonna, a master at wooing the media, had undergone yet another transformation.  She was out of the cone bra phase and had now done something provocative in the world of publishing.
She still had Blonde Ambition.  Natural Blonde?  Well, I guess fans could've found it if they purchased her Sex book.  The coffee-table pictorial had plenty of photos of Madonna in sexy situations -- like standing on a street wearing nothing but a pair of high heels.  That's our Madge.  She knows how to get attention.  Madonnna's Sex made her the November 6, 1992 cover girl of Entertainment Weekly.
One October night in New York City's Greenwich Village, the place to be for entertainment press was the site of Madonna's book party celebrating the release of Sex.  I was there for WNBC's Weekend Today in New York.  So were camera crews from Entertainment Tonight and E! Entertainment Television.  Photographers from national magazines were there.  This retro look was filed ten years later in the October 25, 2002 issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine.

See that 4 pointed at Madonna in the lower left corner of the photo?  That's my hand holding the WNBC/Channel 4 microphone to get soundbites from the former "Material Girl."  MY hand.
There was a contributor from NBC's Today Show there in the press throng, but she didn't get a soundbite from Madonna.  I did.  Katie Couric called me and congratulated me on my work.

After three years of presenting Madonna's music videos on VH1 when I was a veejay and having stood next to Madonna once backstage as we greeted Liza Minnelli during Liza's Radio City concert intermission, there I was on tired feet with an army of excited press members waiting for the superstar to show up.  She was really late but she did appear.  My boss at that time assigned me to cover the event for Weekend Today in New York.  He figured talking to Madonna would be pretty impossible in the crush of reporters.  But he'd seen some of my VH1 work and liked my viewpoint.  He told me to make the piece about what it's like to cover a frenzied Madonna press event.  That way, not getting a soundbite from her wouldn't hurt the piece.  I liked that idea.

That boss, who was let go the following month, was pretty much my only executive support and champion.  Back then, I didn't get much help from the WNBC news desk, even though I was approached to be a regular on the show.  I'd come to WNBC right after hosting a syndicated late night summer replacement game show.  (It was relationship game show called Bedroom Buddies.  Wonderful experience, great crew, good pay, mediocre show.)  I'd done three years on VH1 that included my own prime time talk show.  In 1991, I'd been a guest host a few times on CNBC's Talk Live.  However, some folks in the WNBC newsroom asked me if I was an intern.                                                      

I got to the Madonna book party location and found my two-person camera team, two guys I'd never met before.  They weren't too friendly at first.  But  I also found a good buddy in the crowd.  He was a cop, a member of the NYPD.  He was working crowd detail for the Madonna event.  A good buddy -- and an openly gay cop -- he proudly told me that he'd recently been promoted to captain.  He told me where to stand with my cameraman so I would be in a fine spot when Madonna passed by.  I told the cameraman and the audio man to stay with me and follow me when I moved.
I am still grateful to my cop buddy.  Thanks to him, I was able to file this feature one morning in the early days of WNBC's Weekend Today in New York.
By the way, that cameraman and audio man got friendly to me when I finished my assignment and the piece aired.  October 1992, the second month of WNBC's Weekend Today in New York, a show that many predicted would be canceled in half a year.

And that's how I got my hand near Madonna's bosom in a national magazine photo.

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