Lena Pistolias has no job, no prospects, and parents who think she’s crazy. But that couldn’t keep her away from Madonnathon ’92.
Pistolias, 25, an Australian who lives near Sacramento, spent $440 to fly to Madonna’s old stomping ground of Detroit for the First International Madonna Appreciation Convention, held Aug. 15-16 in nearby Southfield, Mich., in honor of Madonna’s 34th birthday (Aug. 16). Pistolias’ room at ”Madonnathon Central” (a.k.a. the Holiday Inn) cost $49 a night; minutes after bounding through the convention doors she had snatched up copies of three early Madonna fanzines ($2 a pop), an Italian publication with Madonna on the cover ($12), and a Japanese 45 of her hit ”La Isla Bonita” ($12). ”Where Madonna is concerned, I have no budget,” Pistolias explained cheerfully. ”I’m sick.”
Some 1,500 fans, similarly afflicted, forked over $5 apiece to celebrate Her Blondness at the combination worship service and swap meet, sponsored by the Toronto fanzine MLC (for Madonna Louise Ciccone). There were nonstop videos, impersonation contests, and enough black camisoles to stock Victoria’s Secret for a year. ”A lot of people call me a wannabe,” said Chicagoan Jennifer Gray, 18, one of the most convincing look-alikes. ”But I just really respect her. She’s my role model.”
Disciples elbowed through a mauve-carpeted conference room, amid Madonna treasures offered by a dozen vendors. Jennifer Scanlon, 22, an art school graduate from Pittsburgh, hawked Madonna portraits she had drawn. Jeff Garbus, 34, sold photographs of a mid-’70s, brunet Madonna vamping like a cheerleader; he also had copies of the September 1985 Playboy, with its notorious Madonna pictorial. ”If it says Madonna, it’s sold,” Garbus explained. The Material Girl-who was invited to the event but did not RSVP- could only have admired the bustling commerce.
In an impersonation contest at Menjo’s, the gay bar where Madonna first got into the groove, 18-year-old Gilian Opolko, from Kitchener, Ontario, defeated four other women and four men. And at the official impersonation event at the Holiday Inn, Jennifer Gray was judged as giving the most artistically valid performance-in other words, she grabbed her crotch the most. For the first time in Gray’s life, she was being hounded for autographs—but she didn’t know whose name to sign. ”It’s stardom only because I’m somebody else,” she sighed. ”That’s the sad part.” Somewhere, Madonna is weeping.