“Like a Virgin” (1984)
“Material Girl” (1985)
A lion and a junket to Italy made her the first true video star.
Les Garland, MTV VP of Programming: Freddy DeMann had managed the Jacksons and Michael, but he got fired by the dad, Joe Jackson. One afternoon, Freddy phoned and said, “I got one that’s gonna be huge. She’s gonna be bigger than Michael.” I go, “Dude, you’ve got big balls.” “Trust me, Gar. Her name is Madonna.”
Susan Silverman, Warner Bros. Exec: Madonna came into our office on a skateboard, all sweaty and dirty. She went to see Bob Regehr—a big product manager at Warner Bros.—and left a note on his bulletin board that said, “Sorry I missed you, because I’m gonna be a star.”
Mary Lambert, Director: Ayeroff[then a Warner Bros. exec.] wanted to position her with a little more integrity and depth. He gave me the song “Borderline” and bought me a plane ticket to New York to go meet her. When I heard her music, I thought she was black. She was living in a bare-bones apartment on the Upper East Side. It didn’t look like anyone lived there, to tell you the truth. There wasn’t any furniture. But we hit it off. She had four or five different boyfriends at the time. We talked for a couple of days about “Borderline.” She was really into Hispanic boys, and she wanted the video to be about having an affair with a cute Hispanic boy who was part of the street scene.
Ayeroff: MTV jumped on “Borderline,” and that was it. Away we go.
Lambert: For “Like a Virgin,” Ayeroff said, “We want to do something outrageous.” I said, “Let’s do it in Venice!” The idea of Madonna singing in a gondola was the most outrageous thing I could think of.
Ayeroff: By that point, Madonna was on the cover of Rolling Stone. So we went to Venice, like a bunch of fucking wack jobs. I don’t know what we spent—$175,000?—but it was way more than we’d ever spent on a video.
Lambert: There’s this famous carnival in Venice where everyone wears masks. Madonna’s love interest in the video wore a lion mask, and that gave me the idea to get a real lion. I wanted to have the guy in the lion mask turn into an actual lion.
Simon Fields, Video Producer: The lion started to get crazy around Madonna. And then we found out that you can’t have a lion around a woman when she’s on her period.
Sharon Oreck, Video Producer: Madonna’s breasts are super-perky, so they tend to pop out when she dances. In the “Material Girl” video, she’s wearing a pink outfit, and I guess it didn’t have a bra, so whenever she’d go upside down or lay back with her arms in the air, one or two of her boobs would come out.I was on the set when she first met Sean Penn. She was in her Marilyn Monroe finery. We all knew they were going to fall in love and get married.
Freddy Demann: People often misunderstand the “Material Girl” video. The idea was that Madonna was a Marilyn Monroe–type actress playing the role of a gold digger—a “material girl”—in a musical, but off-camera she was a good person. She chooses the poor guy in the shitty car instead of the rich guy. But everyone assumed Madonna was identifying with the material girl. The title stuck to her, and that bothered her. She never liked that handle.