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Like a Tornado: Or, Madonna’s Recent Concert


My cell phone rang at 4:00 pm on Saturday, September 8 while my family and I were eating a weirdly-timed meal at Harry’s Burritos in Larchmont. From the caller ID, I knew that it was my good friend, Laura. “Hey,” I said, answering the phone. “What’s up?”

“I know this is last-minute, but I have two extra tickets tonight to the Madonna concert. Can you and Brett join me and Neil?”

My first thought was, Ohmigod, Madonna!

My second thought was, we don’t have a babysitter!

My third was, isn’t there a tornado warning in effect tonight?

“It starts at 8:00 but I heard she doesn’t go on until 10. We have seats down front, on the floor. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

I quickly parlayed the info to Brett.

“Where’s the concert?” he asked.

“Yankee Stadium, I think,” I said, confirming this with Laura. She said that the concert was indeed outdoors at Yankee Stadium, and that, should it be cancelled and rescheduled due to bad weather, we were no longer invited for the rain date. Her friend’s husband was sick tonight, but would most likely be better soon. “I’m just saying,” she said. “Tonight only.” She paused for dramatic effect. “And I need to know like now or I’m inviting someone else.”

“Give me thirty minutes,” I said, disconnecting and speed texting a babysitter.

While waiting for the babysitter to text back, we paid the bill at Harry’s and walked around town a bit, stopping for ice cream at Longford’s for a weirdly-timed dessert. I texted my friend Kate, who had attended the concert two nights earlier and had given me a brief - and decidedly lukewarm - report. Was the concert really bad, or just eh? The question I had for Kate was this: is it worth going through all the trouble of finding last-minute child care, washing my hair, putting on something stylish yet rain-proof, and staying up past midnight for this concert?

I needed to know how far I should go in the name of Madge.

In 1985, I was willing to do just about anything for Madonna, scalping tickets on the street for $50 each just to have a glimpse of her from the nosebleed section of her Virgin Tour. (Get it? It wasn’t just the name of her 1984 album; we were her first concert tour.) When invited at the last minute by two cute high school seniors (seniors!), my friend Jackie and I quickly readied ourselves, putting on our best fingerless lace gloves and moussing up our hair. We made sure our sweatshirts were cut across the neckline and that our eyeliner – fresh from the freezer – was thick and black. After making sure we each had thirty or so bracelets up our arms – both the black gummy variety and some rhinestone stunners -- we bounded out of my house and into Hottie Senior Number One’s car.

I was in the ninth grade.

The Beastie Boys opened for Madonna that night – I had no idea who they were, and thought they kinda sucked – and so Jackie and I spend most of that first 30 minutes shopping the vendors for the perfect t-shirt souvenir.

What happened next was pure magic. According to Wikipedia, that night, Madonna sang “Dress You Up,” “Into the Groove,” “Everybody,” “Angel,” “Borderline”, “Lucky Star” AND “Crazy for You.” She also sang “Burning Up” and, in her finale dressed as a bride, performed “Like a Virgin” and “Material Girl.” It was a legendary concert – a greatest hits performance before we knew it - and I was there.

Flash-forward to the present. I couldn’t just put on my fingerless lace gloves and head to the city because Madonna was waiting for me. I had responsibilities. I had two children who had never heard of Madonna. I had stormy weather to worry about. I had a little indigestion from that burrito. And I had a bedtime of 10 pm.

4:27 pm. “Sorry, I can’t 2 nite,” came the text from my babysitter.

I thought of texting another babysitter, and then maybe another. I thought of reaching out to friends and hitting up their babysitters. Then I received a text from Kate, which read, “Honestly, it was just okay…she didn’t come on until 10:45…Nice to be out with your hubby regardless…lmk.”

I looked over at Brett, who was now finishing off Zoe’s ice cream. Is it really always that nice to be out with him on a Saturday night regardless of the reason? Isn’t it sometimes better to be in pajamas watching HGTV’s Canadian remodeling design show, Sarah’s House? And, what is Madonna thinking, starting her concert at 10:45? Both she and I have wrinkles now, for goodness sakes. (She hides hers, but they must be there, right?) Although, she can still rock a leather bodysuit, which is kind of annoying, and simultaneously awesome.

I texted Laura and told her my decision: we were skipping the concert. She’d have to invite someone else.

I used to love Madonna. But I am not in love with Madonna anymore. I still adore the vintage Madge, the one who sang songs that mattered to me. The one who didn’t call herself “Madge.” That Madonna shaped the way I dressed and gave me quasi-deep things to think about through her platform as a pop culture icon. Sex. Religion. Abortion. Fashion. Dance. Romance.

But for me, to quote Take a Bow, “the show is over, say goodbye.” I felt lame by not going that night, and, as I watched the rain fall, I also felt perfectly comfortable with my decision. I mean, it’s not like I’d never seen Madonna in concert. It’s more like, can anything ever really top your first (and perhaps, only) time with her?

I went home and put on my PJs and snuggled with my husband in front of the TV. Then I read an email from another friend who attended the Thursday concert.

“BTW - Madonna concert was great,” she wrote. “As theatrical, sexy, crazy as ever. And she looks fab! Her surgeon should be commended. Some small slow parts, but whatever – I’m a HUGE Madge fan so it’s all good for me.”

Did I feel a pang of regret when I read that email while sitting in my suburban living room? Perhaps a little bit.

But at least I had my once-in-a-lifetime with Madonna in 1985, which sometimes really feels like a lifetime ago. And, call me crazy, but that’s honestly good enough for me.

(Pictured at top: Me as Madonna from 1985 in 2010)

gerstenblattColumnist and blogger Julie Gerstenblatt writes with humor and candor about her life in Scarsdale, her friends and family, and the particular demands of motherhood and wifedom in modern-day suburbia. She recently published her first novel, Lauren Takes Leave.