Why so many of the Truth or Dare interviews with Madonna's dancers were in bed
Convenience (and not art) was the real reason why Madonna's Blond Ambition tour dancers were interviewed in bed.
When it comes to music documentaries, Truth or Dare, even 30 years on, remains one of the best of all time.
The 1991 film from director Alek Keshishian (a Harvard grad and music video director who was 26 at the time) went behind the scenes of Madonna's 1990 Blond Ambition tour, which was in support of her fourth album, Like a Prayer. At the time of its release, EW writer Owen Gleiberman called the doc "riveting," and gave it an A-.
One of the most compelling parts of the documentary, as Gleiberman noted, was seeing the relationship between Madonna and her dancers. Memorably, many of her dancers, back-up singers and the others in her orbit were interviewed in intimate spaces for the doc – their beds. The setting may have seemed unusual for a documentary, but perfect for one focused on Madonna. On Friday, though, we finally learned why those conversations were conducted in pillows-and-sheets-filled locations — and it wasn't down to artistic master planning.
"In Japan, I started interviewing the dancers in bed. That was the only way I could make sure they showed up," Keshishian told Vulture for an oral history of the classic doc celebrating its 30th anniversary. "They generally would wake up super late, go to the venue, do the show, and then they would be out all night. I was just curious about who these guys were. Who are these people who have suddenly landed in Madonna's world?"
The doc dished on the private lives of not only its star, the queen of pop, but those in her orbit.
"It was surprising how in-depth they went with some of the questions, just in regards to our personal lives," Carlton Wilborn, a dancer, told the New York mag offshoot. "There's so much more that we talked about and shared that didn't actually end up in Truth or Dare."
Donna De Lory, a backup singer, recalled how the bed talks were pitched. "It was, 'You're going to get into bed, and they're going to light you really well and ask you personal questions.' When that was happening, I thought, 'They're going to be telling our stories as well.' A lot of us had similarities in our background, coming from parents who were divorced or had addiction in the family. There was a reason we all wanted to be performers and wanted to be loved."
Madonna herself opened up about the documentary's content in a 1991 interview with EW, saying that behind the scenes, there were compelling stories that deserved to be told.
"It's something that I felt compelled to do," she said of the film. "I was very moved by the group of people I was with. I felt like their brother, their sister, their mother, their daughter — and then I also thought that they could do anything. And that we could do anything on stage."
"Because the show was so demanding, so complex — whenever you go through something really intense with a group of people it brings you closer together. And ultimately, though I'd set out to document the show, just to get it on film, when I started looking at the footage I said, 'This is so interesting to me. There's a movie here. There's something here."'
In 2019, Madonna reflected on Truth or Dare with EW guest editor Andy Cohen. She admitted though, that she had not gone back and watched it.
"I've seen bits and pieces from it," she told Cohen. "I sort of gag when I watch it, cause I'm like, 'Oh my god, I can't.' It's hard to watch myself do anything. I can't even stand to watch myself in concert, like my last tour."
The "Ray of Light" singer did however crash a 25th anniversary screening of the film in 2016, held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Around 400 fans were in attendance and happily surprised by her appearance.
According to the New York Times' April 2016 piece focusing on Strike a Pose — the documentary about the dancers in the '91 Madonna doc — a handful of them sued over Truth or Dare. One sued over invasion of privacy, and two others for compensation. All the suits were settled out of court, the Times previously reported.