Madonna said ‘Strike a Pose,’ and it was life-altering

In Photo: Madonna and her dancers in the seminal music video to her massive hit, the classic “Vogue”.

By Glenn Kenny / New York Times News Service

Editor’s note: It is highly unlikely Strike a Pose will get theatrical distribution around these parts. The documentary is, however, available for viewing on Netflix.

EARLY in Strike a Pose there’s an old clip from the TV program Entertainment Tonight about the 1991 movie Madonna: Truth or Dare, a documentary about her 1990 Blond Ambition tour. Describing the movie’s supposedly scandalous contents, a correspondent notes, with an audibly raised eyebrow, “There are even scenes of two men kissing”. As mortifying as it was to have sat through that nonsense then, it’s even more embarrassing revisited here. Directed by Ester Gould and Reijer Zwann, Strike a Pose depicts the lives of the seven male dancers who worked for Madonna on that tour, and catches up with the six who are still with us today.

The movie begins with thumbnail portraits of the men, who appear in new interviews, conducted in both cinematically formal (in black and white, with the subject seated in front of a white backdrop) and at-home settings. Luis Camacho and Jose Gutierez were recruited by Madonna from the world of vogueing, which she celebrated in song. “She saw talent, she saw character, she saw artistic expression,” says Gutierez, who still exhibits a fierce charisma.

The New Orleans-born hip-hop dancer Oliver Crumes III, the only heterosexual of the group, allows that before he met his tour colleagues, “if someone was gay I would punch them out.” A couple of the dancers tell of their struggles with drugs and alcohol; others describe their experiences with being HIV positive. “When I was diagnosed,” recalls one, Carlton Wilborn, “I was just ramped with fear and hatred of those lepers.” Sue Trupin speaks of her son Gabriel Trupin, the seventh dancer, who died of AIDS in 1995.

Beyond the personal stories, the movie frames the tour and Truth or Dare as landmarks in the push for gay rights and awareness, and makes a convincing case. A couple of the dancers read letters by fans from the Midwest and East Los Angeles, not known as bastions of gay acceptance, chronicling life-changing encounters because of Truth or Dare. But the Madonna collaboration had its issues. Trupin sued Madonna for invasion of privacy. Two other dancers took her to court on noncompensation complaints that were settled out of court. Madonna is not interviewed in the movie, and there’s no indication that she was approached. The surviving dancers articulate their reasons and their regrets here.

The actor Kevin McCarthy, in conversation with Kurt Vonnegut (in whose play Happy Birthday, Wanda June McCarthy had acted), described how theater people, working together on a single project, would form the impression that they had bonded with their colleagues for life, and then pledge to always stay in touch. “But they don’t!” McCarthy exclaimed at the conclusion of his observation. This showbiz truth gets an extended play in the last third of  Strike a Pose, as the six dancers meet for a filmed dinner. “No numbers tonight,” one says in the middle of a hug. Not long afterward, another breaks that directive and says, “Twenty-five years!”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Previous Article

When your pet is a four-legged peace broker

Next Article

Lamudi awards top brokers and property firms

Related Posts