On her debut album, Madonna thought about taking a holiday. And here at Interview, it is one, since Madonna, the 1983 self-titled debut from the high priestess of pop, turns 40 today. To celebrate a woman who’s helped define pop culture we know it, and who’s appeared in this very magazine numerous times over its 54-year history, we asked the biggest stans on staff to recall their favorite Madonna moments. From our editor-in-chief Mel Ottenberg, who took in the raunchy spectacle of the Blonde Ambition tour alongside his impressively open-minded parents, to our intern Emma, whose Nebraska Catholic school played “Like a Virgin” after every school dance, let the memories below serve as a reminder that, four decades on, Madonna remains the Queen of Pop.
Madonna the album turns 40 today. One of my favorite albums of all time, and my top artist of all time. “Everybody” is my favorite song on the album. My best Madonna memory is a lucky one. I was 14 and my parents took me and my 10 and 11-year-old siblings to the Blonde Ambition Tour. Major shoutout to my parents Jane and Richard for taking us, as the Blonde Ambition tour was the most controversial thing in America while Madonna was touring it. People were going haywire about it and my parents thought it was an important cultural moment for us to witness. Anyway, being a dorky 14-year-old with my family watching Madonna simulate masturbation in her gold Jean Paul Gaultier bustier look, pumping her crotch into the bed and going nuts while performing Like A Virgin—that was the best. MADONNA FOREVER!
I went with Daphne Guinness to Steven Klein’s birthday party one year and Madonna stood on the sofa next to me when the cake came out and I thought, my god, my third-grade self would die knowing this woman’s leg was right next to my head.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 40 years since Madonna Louise Ciccone shocked the world with her debut album. Even more impressive is her tight grip on culture—there would be no pop stars today without Madonna. Period. Lucky Star and Holiday remain two of my all time favorite Madge songs, closely followed by Future Lovers, and her transatlantic accent post her London era. Life is a mystery, time goes by so slowly, and oftentimes in circular motion, so when I had the privilege of seeing Madonna perform Hung Up at the Boom Boom Room during that infamous Pride party, just like a prayer, she took me there.
My dad and his siblings reminisce about Madonna when she comes on the radio. The soundtrack to late nights at the roller rink, morning breakfast with MTV playing Borderline and Like a Virgin, musings of New York City, pulsing energies. Decades later, my all girls Catholic high school in Nebraska still plays Like a Prayer at the end of every school dance. A few girls stand on the bleachers, high priestesses leading a chorus of plaid skirts in a prayer to that same feeling my dad felt in the 1980s. Of raw excitement, anger, fear that builds in adolescence. Stigmata-era Madonna riled us up, even as the nuns watched with raised eyebrows.
Madonna’s career apex for me was her role as Breathless Mahoney in Dick Tracy. The reveal that she was also the mysterious faceless villain The Blank counts as one of the biggest shocks of my early moviegoing career. Sorry for the spoiler, but if you haven’t seen Dick Tracy yet that’s on you.