In 1990, Madonna changed pop music – and the lives of her dancers – forever.
It’s been 25 years since Madonna released her documentary film In Bed With Madonna, which profiled the star on and off stage during her legendary Blond Ambition Tour of 1990.
The film also shone a spotlight on her troupe of mostly gay dancers, whose presence in her life and on her stage preached a powerful message of acceptance to her huge mainstream fan base.
Now, a quarter of a century later, their stories are being revisited through a new documentary Strike A Pose, by film makers Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaan, and Attitude has taken the opportunity to catch up with five of them.
We’ve already caught up with Slam and Kevin and Carlton this week, and in this interview with Oliver, he discusses what it was like being the only straight dancer on the tour, and how he changed his views on gay people after being taken under the wing of the other dancers.
What was it like for see this new documentary Strike A Pose for the first time?
It was incredible. It was good to see us altogether on the screen again. I found out some things that I didn’t know about some of the dancers, which was shocking and enlightening. I wish I could have known all that a long time ago… but it is what it is.
Where were you, in terms of your career and experience, when you joined the Blond Ambition Tour?
I did a tour before, and a music video. I was choreographing and teaching at the time. I was actually the first teacher to teach hip hop in L.A. in 1988, and then in 1990 I heard about the audition through some students. So I had a bit of experience before.
When you joined the tour, did you have any idea of how big it would be, and the cultural impact it would have?
I had no idea. None of us had any idea of what we were getting ourselves into, and I mean that in a good way. When I got the tour, the first thing we did was the Vogue video, and we heard it for the first time. I didn’t know what vogue was, when she told us about it, but I loved house dancing. So when I heard it, I thought, yes! And to get my own section in the video, and to get to choreograph it, at the age of 19. To put my hip hop dancing in the video was just the icing on the cake.
That’s the ‘get up on the dance floor’ bit where you pop out from behind her, which is one of the most iconic moments in music video history now.
Yeah it is! It’s so cool. It’s so cool to know that I got the opportunity to do that.
What was your best memory of the tour?
The one thing that stands out to me is when we performed at Wembley Stadium in front of 70,000 people, and it was daylight. When we came up on to the stage for Express Yourself, we all just paused because of the sea of people, it was incredible. We couldn’t believe what we saw.
When In Bed With Madonna first came out, you guys were featured quite heavily in it, and you were highlighted particularly. What was that like for you?
Well, first of all, I didn’t expect to be in it! A lot of people said to me that I was in it as much as she was! Looking back after 25 years, I think In Bed With Madonna just showed the side of being on tour, which is about the experience you make a family. And we still are a family. But the movie really shows you what the artist goes through, what the dancers go through, the ups and downs. It had a big impact on a lot of people.
You were the only straight dancer on the tour, and that was much discussed in the film. I wonder what you learned about gay people and about yourself, both through being on the tour, and through watching the documentary afterwards?
I have to thank the gay community for not throwing me under the bus. When the movie came out, a lot of gay and lesbian people could have treated me like shit, because I was very homophobic, and I was very ignorant. Basically, the guys took me under their wing, and Kevin and Gabriel just took me so under their wing, and I learned so much about the guys. I learned about how they realised they were gay, and what they went through. And then I had a different perception of the community. Carlton was like a big brother, and he was like that with everyone. Even though in the movie you can see Jose, Slam and Lewis giving me a hard time, it was all out of love. And to be honest, I would not change anything.
What have you thought of Madonna’s career since then?
I’ll tell you, after the tour when she did Justify My Love, I wasn’t too fond of that. I thought it was too much. I thought she didn’t need to do that because she was Madonna. But I have to say this: the dopest thing that she has done, from 1990 to now, was when she did Vogue at the Superbowl. Oh my god. I got up and I applauded. She was incredible. And I actually don’t think an artist should ever change the choreography of something that iconic, but the way she did that. I thought it was the most incredible thing. It was as good as the Vogue video.