But for those lucky enough to score tickets, the film was screened at a North American premiere held at Nitehawk in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, Wednesday night — and it was, as Madonna cheekily said of her opening night in Speed-the-Plow on Broadway, “Better than sex.”
The film dissects and in many instances expertly recreates Madonna's early years in NYC, when she was part of several bands — principally the Breakfast Club. It generously explores the birth of her musicality and the bond she had with her then-boyfriend, Dan Gilroy, and his brother Ed, with whom she lived in a converted synagogue in Queens. Appropriate, since we had all made a pilgrimmage to Prospect Park in order to worship.
Keep reading for way too many photos ...
As I later told Guy, the entire opening-night festivities were on par with those I've attended for films with far bigger budgets, so fans who took the plunge were rewarded with a fun atmosphere and Nitehawk's luxe seating and tasty food delivered to you throughout the show.
I arrived just as the red carpet was heating up in the lobby.
Jamie Auld — who plays Madonna — was a vision in white, wearing a dress inspired by the one worn by the Queen of Pop in Who's That Girl. It was striking to see a brunette in that iconic look. Calvin was immaculate in his suit, in stark contrast to the hipster duds of his character, the charming — but regrettably absent — Dan Gilroy.
I spent over an hour shooting every possible combination of cast member and well-wisher, includiing plenty of Guy and event producer Joe Berger, who is now everybody's go-to guy when it comes to all things Madonna.
I had already screened the movie at home (the link is dead — don't ask!) to be prepped for my role — I was nervous but thrilled to have been asked to moderate the post-screening Q&A with Guy; his stars Jamie and Calvin; and three of the film's interview subjects, former Breakfast Clubbers Ed Gilroy and Gary Burke; and Madonna's Brando-bodied beau from 40 years ago, Norris Burroughs. I had planned for a lengthy Q&A, but the timing switched so I spent some time editing questions down for an 18-minute session.
Jamie talking with guests, including Chef Guerrieri of Smart'Wich (R)
Whenever I was in the theater, though, the crowd was enthusiastically reacting to the movie with applause, laughter and hoots for the many cast and crew members in attendance.
It's not hard to understand why they liked what they were seeing.
Jamie with my co-author, Anthony Coombs, and gamely posing with our book!
Guy's Madonna and the Breakfast Club is clearly a labor of love, and his passion for his subject and for the era is infectious. His meticulous approach to recreations means that there are famous photos of Madonna from her school and early NYC days that are vividly brought to life thanks to an eye for matching Madonna's clothing, hair and makeup to an eerily exact degree. He also displays an uncanny ability for casting actors to play real-life people. Madonna doppelgänger Jamie is familiar to fans by now (and was just on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen), but even Madonna's family photos are brought to life using actors who could pass for the real deals. There are literally moments when you're not sure, at first, whether you're watching vintage footage or Guy's modern-day restaging.
Fans will love the many never-before-heard songs played in the film and will find the innerworkings of Madonna's early band enough to hold their attention, but I believe general audiences will also be drawn to the heart in this film courtesy of honest and vulnerable interviews with the Gilroys, Burke, Burroughs and many more. Burke, in particular, opens up, confessing he ballsily tried to steal Madonna from Dan Gilroy and discussing at length how heartbroken he was when — after he, Madonna and two others had bolted to form the band Emmy — Madonna was signed as a solo act and never looked back. Rather than dealing in familiar Madonna tropes (Madonna the user), Guy's film provides space for Burke to explain that while hurt at the time, he knew she was doing what she had to do. It is a gracious assessment that never would have appeared in, for example, FOX's notoriously bad Madonna biopic Innocence Lost.
Another nod to Madonna's underreported loyalty: When Dan, Ed, Gary and Steve Bray were enjoying Top 40 success as the Breakfast Club, years after Madonna had left, she made a point of visting the boys on the set of one of their music videos, gave Dan a big kiss and congratulated them. This is the kind of tidbit we are gifted every other minute in the film.
I think one of the most amazing finds is the audio Dan provided Guy. He has incredibly intimate tapes of Madonna and himself speaking while lying in bed, whispery, far-out musings that sound like today's ASMR. Hearing them, you feel like you've just exited a time machine and arrived in 1979/1980. These tapes are more revelatory than those auctioned-off panties and Tupac scribblings from the recent past.
Also exciting is when Ed gives a tour of the legendary synagogue, pointing out the drum kit Madonna used (complete with remnants of her chewed gum on it) and the guitar she used to compose her first song. He is living amidst rock history, and yet he and his brother have rarely spoken about Madonna. At the Q&A, Ed said Guy had won them over with his kindness; they knew he was not one of the many seeking to do a hatchet job. Indeed, if Guido takes a hatchet to anything with his film, it's to the slew of cliché narratives that have dogged Madonna throughout her career.
The film received huge applause, and I think the Q&A went well, too! We were in a spotlight (I was tempted to get awfully awful in it, but resisted the urge) so it was hard for me to see the crowd, but I kept things moving and everybody had an opportunity to speak, whether it was Jamie talking about being recruited to play Madonna while working in a doughnut shop, Calvin recalling his casting immediately before shooting commenced, Ed talking about Madonna's It factor, or Gary trying to sum up the Music Building for fans who have romanticized it forever.
Afterward, it was time to party, and the cast and interview subjects must have posed for hundreds of photos. Gary sweetly kept saying he couldn't believe the hoopla and expected to wake up, as if from a dream. When I asked Ed to sign my “Right on Track” 45, he looked at it almost as if he had no idea what it was. (Perhaps the picture sleeve was a rarity?) He then said he was afraid to make a mistake, but he and Gary happily signed it. By the way, Ed mentioned there is new music coming; I did not confirm if he meant new old Breakfast Club (they had a full second album that was shelved) or new new music, but I will report back once I hear.
The mix of famous fans, cast, crew and Guido family members made for a memorable night, and one that has been a long time coming. Congrats to Guy and everyone involved — Madonna and the Breakfast Club is finally right on track.