The task of defining Madonna’s impact is brutal. You could say she redefined the power of pop stardom. Or helped establish music videos as an art form. Or called her own shots in a career that amounts to living mythology. But that would still be selling Madonna short, since any rote discussion of her 'great business skills' leaves out the impact of Madonna as a person - the impish, unapologetic, philanthropic, often hilarious crusader who has been the LGBTQ community’s raddest pop heroine since she introduced her armpits to a hand dryer in Desperately Seeking Susan.
As far as being an ally goes, she’s the Elizabeth Taylor of pop; as far as iconography goes, she’s like if Marlene Dietrich were an X-Men. That’s a whole lot of gay credibility. Pride Month is not the same without Madonna and her music, and thus we recount 10 of her great gay moments.
1. Those Decades of AIDS Activism
Back in the ‘80s, we were hard up for celebrities who spoke out against AIDS (and it didn’t help that we had a president who was, shall we say, reticent on the subject). But in 1989 Madonna and her Detroit-era dance instructor Christopher Flynn, who was then diagnosed with AIDS, fired up New York with a major benefit dance marathon. By that time, Madonna had already lost her good friend Martin Burgoyne to the epidemic. In footage from the event, she thrashes about with sweet abandon. That’s fun to watch, but it’s even cooler to see Flynn, who later died from the illness, open up about Madonna as a confidante who understood him.
2. The Documentary Where Madonna Is Queen, But the Gays Rule Too
The ‘91 documentary Truth or Dare is quite possibly the second most essential purchase for new Madonna fans after The Immaculate Collection. It gives you legendary performances (not just the masturbation-centric 'Like a Virgin' but also 'Oh Father,' 'Vogue,' and 'Keep It Together'), infamous cameos from the likes of Antonio Banderas, Kevin Costner, and then-beau Warren Beatty, plus scream-worthy interactions with her backup dancers, most of whom were gay. Truth or Dare is one of the first documentaries I ever saw that featured gay dudes hanging out. They go to a Pride parade, gossip about each other, and get an earful from Madonna when they’re mean to another dancer. 'Be nice to him. He doesn’t have the thick skin that you have,' she intones like the headmistress of homosexuality. Be sure to bring a hanky when she dedicates a show to her pal Keith Haring, who died just before the tour started.
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