While awaiting impatiently for the Sticky & Sweet Tour to start this coming Saturday, Madonna Tribe News keeps its readers entertained bringing you for the first time an interesting and exclusive interview to Michael McKenzie, who today is the creative director of www.americanimageart.com and that in 1985 penned the first ever book about Madonna, simply called Lucky Star and that had the chance to know in her first days of fame.
MadonnaTribe: Hi Michael and welcome to Dominatrices. You are known amongMichael McKenzie: I first met Madonna at a big time record party that she had sucked into. I immediately thought she had a lot of character and a lot of nerve, two qualities that both a singer and dancer need really, when you think about it. I had photographed the dancer Rudolf Nureyev and the singer Deborah [Blondie] Harry, both of whom were heroes to Madonna. In fact, when I first photographed her, about three years before I wrote Lucky Star, she came to my studio, met Deborah Harry there and was a blonde about three weeks later.
long-time Madonna fans for being the author of the
very fist book about the “Queen Of Pop”. You wrote and released “Lucky
Star” in 1984 when Madonna’s second album
“Like A virgin” was just released and your book is a testimony of the
big star we all know in the making.
How did you come up with the idea of documenting the rising of Madonna
to superstar, right as it was happening?
Ironically, when I began writing Lucky Star many people in the music business felt Madonna had no chance, that she sounded like an Afro-American but she was white and would disappoint both audiences. I thought Elvis Presley solved that controversy a long time ago and I just thought she had electrifying star qualities, was really driven and, as I said before, had nerve. And I had seen many young stars go from zero to 60 before so I was pretty confident that I was right on Madonna.MadonnaTribe: Not everybody could foresee at the time Madonna was about to becomeMichael McKenzie:Madonna had style – she could make a hot fashion statement with things she found in a thrift store – or the garbage even! She was also one of the country leading young modern dancers, very trained in technique, very versed on the street and very talented: all the makings of a great stage performer. When she gave me a tape of songs and it turned out she could sing, I was won over completely and it was fun to, in essence, bet on her then watch her go through the roof as I was writing the book.
such a huge star, what were the special traits that you perceived in her? raw talent, strong will, ambition?
MadonnaTribe: You first met Madonna she was just starting to move from dance toMichael McKenzie:She took the name Emmy because she always wanted to win an Emmy Award. Huh! Now there could be a Madonna Award. She was on the club scene and I was too and what was interesting is that she would go from one club to the next, always know the d-jay [most of whom thought she’d be their gf] and always be at her flirty best. Drugs were very prevalent in clubs in the 1980s and the other thing I noticed about Madonna was that she never took drugs, drank or smoked – yet that crowd went for her even though she was ‘straight’, a tribute to her charm, and smarts.
music and was trying out the name Emmy, what do you remember about
MadonnaTribe: How did you approach the writing of that book? Did you have anyMichael McKenzie:I knew Madonna for a few years at the point I was writing the book and had had a lot of input from her and her circle of friends and managers, many of whom I knew independently of Madonna and were my friends as well. That said, I still tried to keep the book in an objective framework reporting on what I saw and knew and as I look at that book 25 years later it still looks good to me. That was a format – black and white and red in an unusual size – that had never been seen before and I wanted it to be new. of course, within a year the format was copied by a dozen others and Madonna books, many of which were just bad re-writes of my book, came out every week. She is a very smart person, very focused and very drive. People mistake that for being ‘harsh’ or ‘self centered’. Personally I think she is a good role model for women.
impurity from her?
MadonnaTribe: One of the amazing aspect of your book Lucky Star are the greatMichael McKenzie: At the time I was pretty much the coolest young photographer in New York so everyone cool wanted to work with me. I actually took up art and photography to pay my way through writing school and the photography took off but I knew I would always segue back to writing. I do many things but in my heart I am basically a writer who does other things too. I had worked with Truman Capote, one of my favorite writers, and his method for books was gathering interviews then weaving strong quotes from others through his story. I pretty much write that way and the photographs in the book were also put together that way: a picture tells a thousand words of course.
photographs of early Madonna published in it.
Not only the great cover shot by Deborah Golding but all the inner
photos of Madonna posing as a dancer and often times
pretending to be a rocker or the images with the Breakfast Club. Where
did you get those from?
MadonnaTribe: The book is also great for how you use the Martin Burgoyne stylizedMichael McKenzie: Martin was living with Madonna at the time and he was young, talented and very good looking. He and Madonna made quite the pair. He did a fantastic job as art director for Lucky Star and I had gotten him a job right after that to do a Batman photo book. Unfortunately Martin passed away at 22 or I would have done many projects with him.
images of Madonna, that were also seen on the Burning
Up maxi single. Did you happen to know Martin well?
MadonnaTribe: The book was so successful that it was translated into various
languages, including Italian and French and later in 1987
reassembled as “Madonna” with some updates on her career. Would you
write a new biography about her today? And if yes,
how would you make it different from the many that are out there?Michael McKenzie: It is funny that you ask because I am re-visiting my first book which was on Saturday Night Live! I wrote it while I was still in school and it sold many many copies. I am thinking now to do an art book entitled “The Art of Saturday Night Live!” and discussed this with lone Carmichael who, of course, is the heart, soul and creator of the show. I think “The Art of Madonna” would be an interesting book, all the costumes, artists, photography, lyrics – for me art is about great and creative, not just about painting and both Madonna and SNL! are art to me.
MadonnaTribe: Speaking about biographies and books Madonna’s brother Christopher hasMichael McKenzie:I didn’t read that book but I think Madonna went out of her way very early on to help get careers for both Christopher and her sister, whose name I can’t remember. But being related to someone, even that closely, doesn’t guarantee stardom. Being a star is a magical thing and there are no formulas or transfer rights.
released his version of the story of “his life with his sister”.
Did you read the book and what do you think about it?
MadonnaTribe: A lot of people and critics are caught up in the idea that theMichael McKenzie: Madonna revamped a dying record industry given sex appeal to the dance scene, which had become dreary disco, and sex appeal to the rock industry, which was becoming a bad version of itself. People are always jealous of goodlooking people. They tried to say Marilyn was just a dumb blonde but her reputation has long outlived the critics who knocked her. Same for Madonna. She’s the real deal.
“Madonna Phenomenon” was simply something related to style and image.
But we really think
that after all it’s about the music and hot songs she has come up and
that making her one of the most enduring acts in pop music. What do
you think about that?
MadonnaTribe: What are you doing at the moment and what are your current projects?Michael McKenzie: I am working with the artists and writers I admired my whole life and just released a monumental sculpture of Hope with my friend Robert Indiana who did LOVE in the 60s. The piece supports Barack Obama, who Madonna has also supported. I am working on several books, one about HOPE, another about Five Star Lifestyle and the third on Saturday Night Live! I am making art and writing books, same as I did since I was a kid – and finding time for my own kids, Leif  and Simona  who like myself and their mom, my wife Teresa, love art, music, writing and dance.
MadonnaTribe: We always ask people who met Madonna what is their fondest memoryMichael McKenzie: The funniest really was a mutual friend of ours who ended up being a bigwig at MTV took his New Years Eve to videotape an early Madonna performance and his pay was 1/2 of the gate for the show. But only 30 people showed and I think 10 paid so he made 25 bucks! He was so angry he never kept the tape. Imagine what that would be worth now! Goes to show you, don’t give up.
of her? Do you have one?
MadonnaTribe: Michael thanks for being with usMichael McKenzie:Thanks to you.
My best to all the readers. You are THE HOPE GENERATION and our trust is in you.
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