The proud owner of the most celebrated belly button (an inny) since Cher paid a visit to Anaheim Stadium on Saturday, and the outpouring of adoration she elicited from 60,000 worshipful fans was mighty indeed. I refer of course to she of the bee-stung lips, conspicuous underwear and come-hither glance, Madonna.
To say that Madonna performed on Saturday doesn't quite convey the frenzy she generated. With a larger-than-life omnipresent image that beckons from movie screens, magazine stands and TV sets, Madonna (whose opening show on her U.S. tour was reviewed June 30 in The Times) has taken on an extraterrestrial glamour that makes it hard to believe she actually exists in the flesh. So, when she took the stage--well, it was some kind of holy moment, better described as an occurrence than a rock show.
A pop culture apparition sanctified by the media and anointed by the camera lens, Mrs. Penn is currently the repository of the most ravenously lustful collective fantasy of Western culture, and to be at Anaheim Stadium on Saturday was to be at the center of the MTV universe. Even the lousy seats located behind the stage with no view of the proceedings whatsoever were filled; obviously there were many people who felt it was imperative to attend this concert regardless of the circumstances.
Trekking to the stadium from distant parking lots as if on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, they came. Disco dudes in white pants and gold chains (Madonna, one recalls, is the queen of the dance club beat), youngsters, oldsters, sunburned surfers, representatives of every ethnic minority. Fans in front row seats (reportedly going for the tidy sum of $250) peered anxiously through binoculars, seemingly unable to get close enough to pop's best-loved tart. See, Madonna's fans don't just want to see her, they want to be her, and Wanna-Be's (girls who attempt to emulate her style of dress) were in abundant number. Mini-skirts were de riguer and mousse abuse was rampant among the crowd where the average age was 18 and the average I.Q. was . . . well, lets just say there seemed to be a lot of girls eagerly anticipating careers in modeling.
Time and history may show that Madonna's most significant contribution to culture was making it hip for a girl's bra strap to show, but at this point she seems like nothing less than the definitive feminine role model of the '80s. Though her image seems designed to appeal to men, her audience is predominantly female, and it's easy to see why young girls want to emulate her.
Madonna has style to burn and even looks cool dressed as a crackpot bag lady (as she was for an imaginative reworking of "Material Girl"). Needless to say, the secret to Madonna's sartorial success is attitude; she struts her stuff in such a way as to defy you and anybody's army to even suggest that she's anything less than the hottest chick you'll ever see.
Yes, Madonna is indeed The It Girl of 1987, and she pulls off one particularly impressive ideological back flip; aerobics dovetail quite neatly with feminism, which comes full circle in the person of Mrs. Penn. She conforms to the stereotype of the kissable Kewpie doll, but once she gets you going she cracks her gum, laughs in your face and struts off to the bank. The dress-for-success hooker gear is merely a tool which she knows how to use, and use it she will.
Early in her career Madonna exuded a rough and rowdy street-wise quality that's virtually gone now. She's found the audience that can afford to finance her career on the scale she requires and it's an audience redolent with the narcissistic wholesomeness of Yuppiedom.
On Saturday, she drew a decidedly well-mannered audience seriously interested in clothes, physical fitness and upward mobility. The fact that there were no alcoholic beverages for sale may have had something to do with the squeaky clean vibe of the crowd, but I suspect these people keep their cuffs buttoned as a matter of course.
And Madonna is their walk on the wild side. Employing many of the tricks of the classic screen sirens, she's "bad" in a way we've seen before and hence understand.
And she works hard for our love. Presently in the midst of a 23-city tour involving three continents, she puts on an impeccably rehearsed show involving complex staging and dazzlingly lavish production values. Call it Vegas for the new wave crowd, call it a marketing man's dream, write it off as show biz, but the Mothership has landed and its name is Madonna.