Front: Luis Camacho. Back (L-R): Ester Gould, Reijer Zwaan, Carlton Wilborn, Kevin Stea, Oliver Crumes, Slam Gauwloos. (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)
Strike a Pose, the touching documentary that catches us up on the lives of Madonna's dancers from her Blond Ambition World Tour and the ensuing warts-and-all documentary Truth or Dare, is currently playing the Tribeca Film Festival. This limited engagement was enough to score me some face time with five of the seven original dancers: Slam Gauwloos, Carlton Wilborn, Luis Camacho, Oliver Crumes and Kevin Stea (Gabriel Trupin died of AIDS in the mid-'90s and Jose Gutierez was doing another interview).
Check out my review of Strike a Pose
First, I thought I was getting them in a crowded round table session, so I only had a couple of questions prepared. After all, I'd once been in the same situation with Madonna and it had been a battle to get a word in edgewise. As I got into a cab, I received word I'd have them to myself. Gulp. Could I handle those guys? They seemed high-maintenance in Truth or Dare, holding their own in scenes alongside the planet's biggest superstar. On that topic, Slam later noted of Madonna, “She was not that insecure, you know? I think a lot of artists don’t do that because of their insecurities. She just was perfect at picking the good talent, putting it together, and just, in the end, it made her look better, too.” Kevin chimed in, “When you’re secure with yourself as a star, you want stars around you.”
I frantically dashed off some impressionistic questions. Lucky for me, I'd seen Strike a Pose as well as Truth or Dare and do know quite a bit about the subject matter, so even though I ultimately wound up sharing them with one other journalist, I was ready for these guys and wasn't too nervous that they'd gang up on me.
Making things easier, I found the boys—now men—to be extremely articulate, witty and forthcoming, as you might expect from the cast of Truth or Dare, which has been called the “grandmother of reality TV.” (I submit that Madonna might prefer “aunt.”)
If I dominated a bit, I hope the other writer can forgive me. After all, these were the guys who showed me it was okay to be gay, and who were in the position I most coveted 25 years ago: Madonna-adjacent.
As the film shows and as my life experience had already taught me, glamour is often an illusion, and reality is better anyway.
Keep reading for my talk with the guys, and with filmmakers Reijer Zwaan and Ester Gould ...