I arrived at the Roseland Ballroom for the Smirnoff Nightlife Exchange Project/Madonna fest, way too late for entry. I had a hard time getting "Madonnavated" and missed the press call, and so there were no guest list gals or PR flacks to whisk me inside. Only a gaggle of indifferent security guards who had heard it all. They kept repeating their mantra that they were over capacity and no one was getting in. A fellow shut out was being told by a friend in the smoking section that the line had been around the block and that it was absolute chaos inside. He proclaimed Madonna was "only going to be here for 23 minutes!"
I wondered how that number was arrived at or how nuts this fellow must be. Catherine Fulmer, an extraordinary designer and old friend who I chat with on Facebook since she moved to Nashville, suddenly appeared and told me about the madness inside. Someone had stolen her phone which she had placed on a table in the V.I.P. section, and no one would help her. I asked her what she was doing here. She told me she was dining across the street at Victors when she saw the line and inquired. "No," I said, "I mean in New York." She was in town buying fabrics when she was swept up by the Madonna wave. Here I was on the outside looking in, and I grasped the irony of that position. How many hundreds of thousands had stared at me when I was on the other side of the rope. Suddenly, a celebrity appeared and she and her entourage were granted entry. I talked to the man who made that call, explained to him briefly the profound reasons for letting me pass, and I was in.
The queens I worked with on my job sites during the day were over Madonna. I was shocked, for she was their deity not so long ago. Their indifference weighed me down as I walked into the familiar hall. Roseland is still one of the best rooms in the city. Ancient crown moldings and architectural remnants whisper of a glorious past. Most of the pizzazz has been gone for years, or obscured now by giant video displays and sound equipment. The crowd was mixed: Flocks of little twenty-something girls traveling in packs with suburban smiles on their way-too-made-up faces; queens feeling it; odd couples of somehow connected straights and planted dancers working up their sweats. Camera crews blinded patrons while catching dancers in their moment. The images were being whisked around the world and images of dancers from around the world were being whisked to us. It was chaos by the V.I.P. section, but I didn’t see anything that looked like a winner being let in. The crowd downstairs was having fun and their enthusiasm swept me up.
This could easily have been a cheese-fest, a glorified Dancing with the Blahs competition, but their was a certain vibe being felt that it was going to be cool. An MC appeared. I had arrived just in time. Dancers of the TV variety did an uninspiring Argentina bit. A Thai troupe followed and was so boring I won’t eat pad thai for months. Then came the real-deal dancers, and then Madonna rose from below center stage.
She wore a white blouse, some sort of black skirt or shorts, and boots. She clung to a very expensive-looking long coat. Videos introduced the dozen finalists, with names like Skorpian and Princess Lockeroo and Lil Buck. Lil Buck would eventually win, but all were amazing. I found myself yelling "Wow" and "Geez" and "Holy Shit" a lot. Lil Buck had me screaming. I can’t describe his schtick, but luckily I won’t have to. YouTube the man, he’s been around. Now he’ll tour with Madonna. She asked the 4 finalists if they had ever been arrested before. Strange that this wasn’t dealt with on the application level, rather than in front of a couple of thousand live attendees and a worldwide audience of millions. Madonna repeated the "change your life" thing, and then gave the prize to Lil Buck. He proved to be a better dancer than public speaker as he accepted his sneakers in a box trophy. He declared, "I’m straight from the streets and things like this don’t happen to us."
This was a great party and a great overall concept. I need to highly commend Smirnoff for sponsoring this event, which must have cost mega millions. I must commend Madonna for always delivering a product that inspires. She looked great and worked hard to greet as many people as she could. She was there for way more than 23 minutes. I wanted to call Catherine Fulmer and talk about the event but alas, her phone was history. I headed down to Snap, knowing I had missed the big fight. I went down to Stash to see how the preview week was going. My week is going to be rough, too much to do. The Roseland event has me up. It has me believing that good things can come from hard work. I need to grasp that concept right now.
Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Smirnoff