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Madonna Is The Soundtrack of my Life

Madonna Is The Soundtrack of my Life

Tomorrow July 23rd is my birthday. I realize Madonna and I have been through a lot together.

She’s my everybody

Madonna and I came out in March 1983. While she was burning up the charts with her first hit “Burning Up”, I was burning up the dance floor at the local gay club in Cherry Hill called Gatsby’s. Feressa ruled the dance floor, Bobby & Debbie ruled the DJ booth and I wore different color parachute pants every night. 1983 was also a turbulent year for me, I failed out of college, I was working at a gas station, which wasn’t that bad as I got to talk to a new person every 10 minutes, but the smell of gas couldn’t be masked with my Polo cologne. Someone told my parents I was gay, that wasn’t cool and they kinda freaked out, a lot.  (This was just a few years after being gay was removed from medical books as a mental illness) I was kinda surprised that my close friends freaked out as well. They all took it hard, turning their backs on me, even my BFF who I had introduced him to his future wife.

My first real boyfriend was Wayne Bowman (we’re still friends – his birthday is 7/24) , but the first guy I thought I was in love with was Scott Schaeffer, a bad boy. Scott was influenced by Madonna, as we all were, she was rebellious, in your face and unique, his hair was wild as if he’d never met a brush, he’d dress in black all the time, and wore about 75 “Madonna” rubber bracelets on both arms. He was in hairdressing school.  I was much more conservative wearing only 7 rubber bracelets ( bought at Spencer’s), which seemed to be too much for the Cherry Hill nursing home where I was working. I’m not sure if it was my rebellious manner or the fact that I refused to wear a hairnet that got me fired (I didn’t want to ruin my new perm, so delicately shellacked with Aqua Net), but I was on the hunt for a new job.

Madonna’s debut album Madonna was released in June 1993, several months after her three hits.

It was a Monday night, Quarter night at Gatsby’s when Scott and his cousin, John, rolled in about midnight to tell us about Madonna at the MTV Music Awards writhing across the stage during her performance of Like A Virgin. By the time the show air, Madonna had already been condemned by the Pope for her many antics, including this song, but when she vilified the virginal wedding dress on live TV, she was done we all thought. Her publicist Liz Rosenberg was bombarded, “People came up to me and told me her career was over before it started.” Instead the performance left a lasting legacy and one of the most memorable on-air performances ever.

My life on the other hand was going off the rails. Scott and I broke up, it seems I was too big of a mess for him to deal with my family issues and partying recklessness; by this time I was a busboy at H.A. Winston’s in Cherry Hill (best Burgers ever), and the atmosphere accelerated my partying. I was rolling into my house nearly every morning at dawn, as my family was getting ready for the day. Family members stopped talking to me, and looking back I’m sure I wasn’t the most pleasant person to deal with with my new found attitude. Within months I left home to utter failure as I really had no idea about how to manage basic living responsibilities. I began to do drugs, attempted suicide more than once, and eventually ended up homeless and in some really scary situations. (I’m going to skip the gory details) Thankfully my friend Jeff Shaw and his family invited me to live with them in Audubon, NJ  until I could get back on my feet. (I’m still friends with the Shaw’s today, in fact Jodi Shaw cuts my hair at her shop Splitting Hairs in Audubon, NJ; and I like to go to their July 4th parade as well) OK back to Madonna, on the night I tried to kill myself I listened to “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” When I listen to the song it doesn’t make me sad, it reminds me of how far I’ve come, and my life did get better. The video for the song wasn’t made for over a decade. Here’s interesting background on the song.


In 1985, Madonna went on tour. I remember I couldn’t afford the $19 ticket, so I wrote her a tear stained fan letter. She never wrote back, but I still loved her. This is still one of my favorite songs, as I was always searching for love and willing to give up everything to have it. Madonna and I have something in common, we’ve both dated guys who have physically abused us.

June 1985 – Live AID, how amazing this took place in Philadelphia. I watched it on TV cause I couldn’t afford to pay $35 for a ticket, but I was still partying hard, and loving life. I couldn’t see the problem, as I was having a great time, but the lows were pretty low. It was around this time that Hugh Hefner, Playboy and Penthouse magazines got a hold of  “modeling” photos Madonna had done in her lean years, many of them with her naked, and published them. Usually this was a death nil for someone’s career, but Madonna kept ascending. I was able to afford to buy both Playboy and Penthouse.
I got fired from HA Winston’s cause they expected us to show up on time for work, annoying. Got a job at the Garden State Racetrack, where alcohol and drugs were plentiful.


Getting on my feet meant jumping into a relationship and moving out of the Shaw’s house into another persons house in Gloucester Twp NJ. Life was manageable for about 2 years, but I never really addressed my partying problems and wild ways, so it was an unhappy, dramatic ending. Nothing says it’s over more than when your boyfriend moves his boyfriend into the house, and your clothes are thrown on the front lawn. I then moved in with Wayne Bowman and Michael Root, and slept on their couch for about 6 months til I got my life together, which meant working 2 – 3 jobs and living with a moody roomate. Madonna on the other hand had a hit movie “Desperately Seeking Susan”. A lot people thought it was autobiographical with Madonna basically playing herself.


When I worked at the racetrack I was unemployed 4 months out of the year, and was eligible for unemployment and assisted tuition. I took the Civil Service Test which said I had good reading comprehension and matched me with a few careers. I decided to go to paralegal school, a relatively new career, but predicted to be a hot job in 2000 (this was around 1988). I eventually went to work for the Solicitor of Camden, along with my other three jobs, working at the racetrack, Blockbuster and as a Sprint Telephone Operator.


In 1990, I moved to Philly to be closer to the bars, oh and a new job I took at the law firm. Since I didn’t have a college degree, I started out as a file clerk (I still worked at Blockbuster for the first year, commuting back to Cherry Hill at night). My boss was a wonderful women, Jane Lawton who put up with a lot of hangovers on my part. So many nights at Kurt’s, Woody’s, The Bike Stop, Second Story, Catacombs, Sunday nights at Voodoo and Revival, while playing for Spruce Street Video Softball with coach Frannie Price and teaching Les Price to pitch and catch. Great times, and memories, but life’s bad decisions were catching up to me, my health was bad, I weighed about 150 bloated lbs and my job was on the line. As for Madonna- This is the most amazing video and she does a much better job at lip syncing then Brittney.  People at work would ask me, when Madonna says good face does that mean a BJ. SMH They just never understood her like I did, lol


1989 – Madonna Like A Controversy with Like A Prayer. Walks away with Pepsi’s $5 million bucks she earned from filming a commercial based on this song, after half the world condemns her for using religious imagery in this video.  My mom asks me not to play Madonna around my little sister. I buy cassettes for her cause I want to make sure she stays cool.  The Like A Prayer albums, cassettes and CDs are scented with patchouli to simulate church incense. Every cool kid begins wearing patchouli for the next few years. When I met Mike in 1994, he tells me, please don’t wear patchouli, it smells like bad dirt.


Madonna and I had our best performances in 1991. She sang at the Oscars, I finally got sober 12/16/91 after a few failed attempts for a year.


Madonna’s Sex Book was released on October 21, 1992. I didn’t have $50 to buy it. Years later, friends Bart & Jim gave me
one of their copies to celebrate my 5th year anniversary of being sober. I still have it, unopened. Now that retirement is in sight, maybe Madonna can fund a little bit of it.


Then I met that Mike Toub guy on July 10, 1994. I knew he loved me cause he didn’t complain when I played “Take A Bow” on a loop for days on end. I was in good company as “Take a Bow”, topped the Hot 100 for seven weeks, the longest period of any Madonna single.

Our dreams were coming true – I finally found The One, and Madonna finally had a successful movie with Evita, and became a mother.

I began making changes in my life. Went back to school to get a degree as Kohn Swift said they would promote me from file room to paralegal if I had one (a very rare move as they only employed 4 year college educated paralegals [Thanks Harold Kohn, Esq.]. I will always be grateful for that opportunity), began volunteering for organizations including Thrift for AIDS, The Phila Lesbian and Gay Task Force, as well as political organizations and joined my neighborhood group, while also re-connecting with my family. I was able to reconcile with my dad, and have enjoyd an amazing relationship with my family for the past 25 years.

Music Makes The People Come Together – I finally could afford to go to a Madonna concert, The Re-Invention World Tour was Madonna’s sixth concert tour (2004). I cried in the audience.

Years later I lived in NYC while working on a project for the law firm (I made sure that my living arrangements were less expensive than commuting to and from Philly; I barely ate) In August of 2005 I was able attend the annual MadonnathonMadonna Birthday at BB Kings. It was amazing.  I went to Virgin’s record store in Time’s Square when the CD was released in October (she often releases her CD’s then I noticed) hoping she’d show up, but she didn’t. I played the CD religiously nearly everyday of the 18 months I lived there, and shortly before I left the Big Apple, I finally caught a glimpse of Madonna grabbing dinner with Gwyneth Paltrow in Midtown. (While in NYC I went to Madonna’s Confession Tour at MSG. That was amazing)

A few years later when I became a professional celebrity photographer, I did get a chance to photograph Madonna. (I was still a paralegal, but twice weekly would head to NYC to photographer celebrities after work, or on vacation days) She had called some of the photo agencies and mentioned that she’d be at the Kabbalah Center for morning services. We went and grabbed a few photos of her arriving. The next day she filed for divorce from her 2nd husband, Guy Ritchie. The photos that ran were the ones of her going to service with her son David.

Aren’t we all? I started my blog in 2007 after returning from NYC, to highlight social events in Philly, especially charities.
In 2011 I was laid off from my paralegal job, and became an event photographer, as well as a content provider for the media. Thank you my readers for your continuing support.

PS Marilyn Russell and I attended Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour in 2016. I nearly fell out of my seat when she climbed on top of a cross on stage. She’s still as provocative as ever.  Madonna‘s 14th Album should be released sometime this year.

At the Met Gala earlier this year she debuted a new song, sang an old song and sang another favorite songs. I continue to live my best life, and hope I can bring a little joy to the world.

PS Madonna if you’re reading this please unblock me from Instagram, I’m sorry I called you Reductive defending Lady Gaga. I am heartly sorry for having offended TheeThanks, in fandom- HughE ie PhillyChitChat

Thanks to Mike Toub for helping me achieve my goals, as well as keeping me grounded and my best friend. (I love him despite him insisting I keep my framed Madonna mag covers in the closet for the last 20 years.)