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Madonna Talks 'Milk', AIDS, Old New York with Gus van Sant


Gus van Sant interviews Madonna for the new issue of Interview magazine. Says Madonna:

"By the way, Milk [2008] was such a brilliant film. I cried and cried. I loved it...I could see why [Sean] would be attracted to the role and be able to say yes in two seconds. Watching Milk was such a trip down memory lane for me...I [went to the Castro a lot] when I was younger.


But you know, what the movie triggered for me was all my early days in New York and the scene that I came up in-you know, with Andy Warhol and Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf. It was just so alive with art and politics and this wonderful spirit. So many of those people are dead now. I think that's one of the reasons I cried. In fact, the character that Richard E. Grant plays in the film I directed, Filth and Wisdom [2008], is this blind professor who was based on my ballet teacher, Christopher Flynn. Growing up in Michigan, I didn't really know what a gay man was. He was the first man-the first human being-who made me feel good about myself and special. He was the first person who told me that I was beautiful or that I had something to offer the world, and he encouraged me to believe in my dreams, to go to New York. He was such an important person in my life. He died of AIDS, but he went blind toward the end of his life. He was such a lover of art, classical music, literature, opera. You know, I grew up in the Midwest, and it was really because of him that I was exposed to so many of those things. He brought me to my first gay club-it was this club in Detroit.

I always felt like I was a freak when I was growing up and that there was something wrong with me because I couldn't fit in anywhere. But when he took me to that club, he brought me to a place where I finally felt at home. So that character in Filth and Wisdom was dedicated to him and inspired by him.

I don't know why I'm bringing all this up, but I guess it's just coming from that world in Michigan and the trajectory of my life: after going to New York and being a dancer when the whole AIDS epidemic started and nobody knew what it was. And then suddenly, all these beautiful men around me, people who I loved so dearly, were dying-just one after the next. It was just such a crazy time. And watching the world freak out-the gay community was so ostracized. But it was also when I was beginning my career. . . . I don't know. Your movie really struck a chord for me and made me remember all that. It's a time I don't think many people have captured on film. It's a time that people don't talk about much. And even though there was so much death, for me, New York was so alive.

The interview is accompanied by a photo set shot by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. More of it over at Boy Culture.


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  1. Those photos certainly are intensely airbrushed, aren't they? To the point of being cartoons.

    Posted by: Ben | May 4, 2010 9:38:48 AM

  2. @Ben: I was just going to say, they should be called photo-illustrations, not photographs.

    Posted by: Fred | May 4, 2010 9:58:30 AM

  3. All that she says is true... it was an exciting time for the arts & desperately frightening as well; Reagan in White House, friends dying regularly, many of the limited freedoms we have today not yet realized.

    In some way, I think we still haven't mourned this period of loss- it's nice to remember all those beautiful people left behind.

    Posted by: stephen | May 4, 2010 10:09:49 AM

  4. I love when she talks about her early days. The things she saw, the people she did!

    Posted by: Gregoire | May 4, 2010 10:13:43 AM

  5. Gorgeous. I think her surgeon has managed to tap into the look she had in the early 1990s.

    I don't mind some light airbrushing. Most professional photography involves some touching-up, and I doubt the brushing here was as extensive as you might think. I suspect in this case, more was done by doctors and cosmetologists than by the photographer.

    Hell to this day I'm thankful to a portrait studio that my high school grad pics didn't show a blemish that sprang up the night before my shoot, as if to mock my naturally nice complexion. :P

    Posted by: sparks | May 4, 2010 10:18:48 AM

  6. I also enjoy it when she talks about her early days... She was so much more interesting then.

    Posted by: matt | May 4, 2010 10:19:16 AM

  7. She is right, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring were my idols, they were geniuses (genii?) The whole pop art movement and New York scene was fuelled by beautiful, now-dead gay souls. Act-Up and Queer Nation were so formative to me (even the rumps we got up here in Montreal were HUGELY influential). And she is also right, that no one has captured that essence on film. Basquiat had the location, Milk had the feeling, but no one has quite hit it yet....

    BTW, that second photo would have been a great cover for Hard Candy (an album which I love).

    Thanks Gus and Madonna!

    Posted by: Strepsi | May 4, 2010 10:32:17 AM

  8. embers of pre-gargoyle Madonna still linger

    nice to see them once in a while

    Posted by: neverstops | May 4, 2010 10:33:21 AM

  9. the second image is gorgeous. so what if it's altered a bit? it's art.

    Posted by: b mac | May 4, 2010 10:34:49 AM

  10. I was surprised that's a new picture. I thought she stopped putting crucifixes up her vagina around 1990.

    Posted by: crispy | May 4, 2010 10:37:11 AM

  11. I have always loved Madonna and think that she is awesome, airbrush or not! As for Milk, I cried, every time!

    Posted by: RB | May 4, 2010 10:39:46 AM

  12. What she has to say is interesting. I also have enjoyed some of her music. But anyone who has ever interacted with her personally, as I have, knows she is not someone to admire very much. She's always been willing to drive over her own grandmother to get what she wants.

    Posted by: James | May 4, 2010 10:51:15 AM

  13. photos or not, i think that's the most human Madonna has ever been in the press in her 26 years in the public eye, and i don't think it was Gus Van Sant or Milk or NY, i think it was her looking back and thinking as we all do over 50, where did that go?

    Posted by: cd | May 4, 2010 11:06:32 AM

  14. Say what you want about her, Madonna is one of us, warts and all.

    And who amongst us wouldn't airbrush away at least a few warts?

    Posted by: Derek Washington | May 4, 2010 11:36:26 AM

  15. So Madge - did you grow up in the Midwest? For God sake's - you grew up in Detroit, not some small town in the middle of Nebraska. I think that we all get exposed to more art as we mature regardless of where one is raised.

    Posted by: Mike | May 4, 2010 11:38:48 AM

  16. Madonna go run and hide.

    Oh so predictable.

    Nothing like serving lip service to your sycophantic gay fans and have them gurgling after you like some creepy school boys.

    Loved what you did with Malawi HUN!

    Love what you do with that kid who's just 8 years older then your daughter HUN!

    Love how you f*cked over your brother and anyone who stands in your way HUN!

    Posted by: Dan | May 4, 2010 11:43:55 AM

  17. Actually, Madonna grew up in Bay City, Michigan right outside of Detroit but she frequented Menjo's right on McNichols (6 Mile Rd.) right across the street from Highland Park

    Posted by: Chitown Kev | May 4, 2010 12:21:01 PM

  18. What a bunch os a**holes post on this site. Madonna - like her or not - has done more to bring the issues in the LGBT community into the public eye than any other "celebrity."

    It just amazes me that if you read almost any of the comments of almost any post on this site you'll find a bunch of people ripping on and putting down other people. Sad.

    Posted by: buno | May 4, 2010 12:26:11 PM

  19. these photos, you fashion-wise-less critics were shot by Mert& Marcus. Google them up, they're particulary know for airbrushing their pictures to death. Shot lots of Louis Vuitton campaigns, and I don't really like them for this "style". So don't think this was done specially for M to hide her wrinkles, blame those lame, so-called photographers. OMG, I sound so bitter on towleroad! M, you're an idol. Let's drive over your grandma anytime.

    Posted by: Daniel | May 4, 2010 12:28:23 PM

  20. Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot, you disrespectful _________.

    Posted by: Daniel | May 4, 2010 12:31:38 PM

  21. Oh come on, we're making fun of her vanity and ego. The first person who would laugh at those slavishly sucking her asshole on an hourly basis is Madonna, circa 1981. This creature long ago ate the old Madonna and is coasting on her fumes.

    Posted by: Fred | May 4, 2010 12:41:35 PM

  22. It's amazing how she interprets a biopic about an important historical gay figure into making it all about herself and her career.

    Posted by: GrabbinNewscum | May 4, 2010 12:54:03 PM

  23. hahaha @grabbin amazing indeed. Still, monstruosly admirable because of it.

    Posted by: Daniel | May 4, 2010 1:31:34 PM

  24. When was Madonna ever in the Castro?

    Posted by: Christian Canterbury | May 4, 2010 2:20:56 PM

  25. Blah blah blah....Where was her mouth, her gratitude for The Gays...and more importantly her GAZILLIONS...during the No on H8TE battle? It coincided with her 2008 tour yet there’s no record of her having contributed a DIME and the only time she mentioned it was the week before the election at the Oakland concert across the Bay from San Francisco….GEE, what a risk taker!

    There’s no air brush or photo software in the world powerful enough to erase her hypocrisy!

    Posted by: Michael @ | May 4, 2010 2:43:54 PM

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