What’s up with Madonna ”Like a Virgin” Ciccone and Britney ”Still a Virgin” Spears? The former’s New York City mini-concert, held Nov. 5 at the Roseland Ballroom, included head-scratching nods to the top 10 teen queen. Not only did Maddy sport a sleeveless black tee emblazoned with Britney’s glittery name, she dedicated the ballad ”What It Feels Like for a Girl,” from her latest album, Music, to the buxom Britster. ”It was a fun, lighthearted tribute,” explains Madonna rep Liz Rosenberg. Britney responded with a deliberately ”aw shucks” statement: ”She’s my idol. For her to dedicate — ironically — my favorite song on the album is incredibly flattering and sweet.”
But some present for the free performance thought Madonna’s name check was less about giving props than putting a copycat, midriff-baring upstart in her place. ”There are originators and duplicators,” says hip-hop bluesman Everlast, who opened the show with an acoustic set. ”And Madonna was just letting it be known, ‘Don’t be fooled by TRL.’ We all know who was doing this first, who made it all right for all these girls to dress skimpy.”
Britney wasn’t the only celeb Madonna called out during the 25-minute Western-themed spectacle. (Think bales of hay; shirtless, boot-wearing male dancers; and Dolce & Gabbana duds that background singer Niki Haris describes as ”Patsy Cline goes to Mars.”) The pop vet told the 3,000-strong crowd of industry folk, radio contest winners, and paparazzi bait (including Gwyneth Paltrow and Rosie O’Donnell) that she last appeared at Roseland 18 years ago as the opening act for R&B boy band New Edition, then fronted by the notoriously arrogant Ms. Whitney Houston. ”I just want to say to Bobby Brown, if you’re in the audience, I have a bathrobe with my name on it too now, okay?”
Supporting Madonna at this Roseland homecoming — a rumored warm-up for a possible 2001 world tour — was her longtime backing vocalist team of Haris and Donna De Lory, who said they’re ready to hit the road again. But don’t expect things to be as racy as they were during the Blonde Ambition tour, which was chronicled in the infamous documentary Truth or Dare. ”Madonna was just becoming a superstar,” says Haris. ”She was spoiled. She threw temper tantrums. But we’re all older now. We’re tired, our hips hurt, and there are kids involved. But we have a lot more fun.” Sure, you do.