Monday, March 29, 2010

Desperately Seeking Susan - 25th Year Anniversary - When I saw My Hussy Goddess on the Silver Screen!

Madonna and Director Susan Seidelman on the set of Desperately Seeking Susan. "She'll love it."

Wow. 25 years ago Desperately Seeking Susan came out. I don't think there has been a movie before or after that I have been so excited for it's release. A life changing experience if you were fortunate enough to see it on the Big Screen - at the height of Madonna-Mania! Seriously, nothing has been like Desperately Seeking Susan and it never will be. It is, by far, the greatest Madonna movie. It's really what separated Madonna from her contemporaries - the role that made her immortal.

Actors search their entire career to get a role as defining as Susan was for Madonna. It was like Gloria Swanson landing Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd. - a role she will forever be known for. For Swanson, Sunset Blvd. was a blessing for it was a comeback and much later in her career. For Madonna, Desperately Seeking Susan was almost a curse - for it was in the beginning of her career and she was so arresting and her presence so strong that she has really been unable to escape it. In fact, it was Gloria Swanson who said, "that corniest of all theatrical cliches - that on very rare occasions the actor actually becomes the part. Barrymore is Hamlet. Garbo is Camille. Swanson is Norma Desmond." Well, I will add to that..."Madonna is Susan." I still believe there is a role for Madonna that may come later, several generations away from Susan, that may have that same high level impact.

The Los Angeles Times Kevin Thomas review, The Calendar Section still completely intact after 25 years, scanned especially for you all.

The movie is mesmerizing. From the acting, cinematography, set design, script, humor, sexiness...just about everything in this movie is wonderful - no stone was left unturned in regard to detail. Every character down to the sax player (John Lurie from the Lounge Lizards), shown for millisecond through a window while Dez and Roberta are eating chinese food on the roof, was a fixture on the downtown New York scene at that time. Not only is the movie brilliant, it's also historical for these reasons never to be captured again in Hollywood History:

1. This is the first major motion picture in the history of Hollywood directed by a woman (Susan Seidelman), produced by two women (Sarah Pillsbury, Midge Sanford), about two women with the lead roles (Rosanna Arquette, Madonna) . It's a true feminist film and that was their demographic until Madonna's star blew up mid-production and she was known as 'the slut'. When production began for Susan, Madonna only had her first album out and although she was already the biggest and greatest star to have ever lived to me, Like a Virgin hadn't happened yet. Mid-production, her legendary bawdy performance of Like a Virgin at the 1984 MTV Music Awards happened and the album of the same name was released . Security was brought in because they were filming on the streets of New York and Madonna-Mania had hit. Historical fact: the feminists in those days, mainly Gloria Steinem, vocalized very loudly that Madonna was setting the women's movement back 30 years. The audience for Desperately Seeking Susan had changed before the movie was even finished. It was a character-driven, art house feminist film that suddenly had a mainstream appeal. Ms. magazine women and art farts weren't going anymore - Madonna was their nemesis. Camille Paglia wouldn't come around until a little later proclaiming Madonna as the 'future of feminism'. Even then, Camille wasn't on same page as the 'Germaine Greers' or 'Steinems' and this debate would continue well into the 1990's.

2. That particular time in New York City captured forever on celluloid. That New York scene has never been captured on film in the way it was in Desperately Seeking Susan. It's just a time but a very special time and the way director Seidelman, cinematographer Edward Lachman, and production designer Santo Loquasto created it was as if the viewer was living in the east village of New York City at the time. Everyone's been chasing that New York dragon but there is nothing like the first high. We could taste and smell it. So impressive was Loquato's work in capturing "that look" that he's been on virtually every Woody Allen film since. We are even invited into the Danceteria, the dance club made world famous by Madonna herself. So, thank God for the above mentioned for participating and capturing it properly.

Listen this can go on and on so, I'm going to add read more and any freak interested in more of my perpetual Madonna drivel, pictures, scans and personal Rosanna Arquette video from DSS screening can read on.

Ok, well all that history lesson bullshyt aside, I won tickets off KISS-FM to go to a pre-screening at the Director's Guild on Sunset Blvd. I took my friend and I was bursting with excitement. I was 14 years old and about to see My Hussy Goddess on the Silver Screen. We saw it, I thought it was the best motion picture I had ever seen. There was a raffle either before or after the film, I can't remember but what I do remember is that they were giving away a red satin jacket with the pyramid on the back. We were all given tickets and when they called the number I yelled, "That's Me!" I ran to the front to get my jacket even though they didn't really call my number. Haha!

The Jacket 25 years later!

Then, in the Los Angeles Times, Daily News, school fliers, and on the radio, they were 'broadcasting' to see Madonna LIVE at the Desperately Seeking Susan premiere at the Plitt Century Plaza Theater in Century City on the Avenue of the Stars - so, my wonderful mother took me down there and I saw Madonna live for the very first time. I almost died. She was there, she was gorgeous, she was glowing - no shyt.

The Ad from the Los Angeles Times to see Madonna in person!

Orion Pictures wanted Madonna to go on Good Morning America to promote the film. Freddy Demann said "No Way." Instead they sent Rosanna Arquette to New York and the premiere was in Los Angeles. Rosanna was rightfully upset by this because nobody told her there was going to be a premiere.

It was also Rosanna who recommended Herb Ritts to do the promo shots that were not originally intended for the movie artwork - just press photos for various magazine - some of which I still have (Rolling Stone, Record Magazine) that were released months prior to film. It was Rosanna that introduced Madonna to Herb and said that she could see the gravitational pull between the two of them and then, of course, that he went on and was a part of creating the mythological Madonna.

Last month on February 18, I went to the American Cinematheque at Aero theater in Los Angeles and saw Desperately Seeking Susan on the big screen again for the first time in 25 years! It was just as good, if not better 25 years later. Rosanna Arquette was going to have a Q&A in between Scorceses's After Hours and DSS. It was fantastic on every level. She spoke and answered questions for a good 45 minutes. Producers Sarah Pillsbury and Midge Sandford came unexpectedly and joined the discussion. We were right in front and there was ROBERTA right in front of us. LEGENDARY! First they showed After Hours and then she spoke and stayed for DSS. I turned around and there she was, Roberta, watching one of the most important feminist films in the History of Motion Pictures, in which she starred, with her daughter. The most surreal moment is when we left. She was two feet in front of us as we were walking back to our car. She turned left, at the light and we crossed the street. There went Roberta was fantastic.

Rosanna's Q & A - she said in those days she would assign her characters an astrological sign, yours truly asked her what sign Roberta was:

Thanks to Alex for the Video. xo


  1. WOW, comparing Desperately Seeking Susan to Sunset BLVD. one of the greatest and most influential films ever made is way out of touch with reality if you ask me.

  2. you may InTouch but youre not too bright, ramon. i didnt compare the films, at all. xo

  3. Ooooooooooh I remember this boring and slow movie. I remember how fat and tacky Madonna was in it.

  4. vanina, this isnt so really keep your awful energy to yourself. the only thing fat and tacky is your rotten attitude and thats what you exude, so imagine that the next time youre pondering your existence.

  5. Pud this is awesome!!! One of your best posts yet! I am grinning from ear to ear reading this. Wow! And all those scans and videos at the end too - this is fan heaven...!

    I love that you got that jacket at the screening even though it wasn't your ticket which won!!!

  6. BTW - Did you know that the official "Making Of DSS" is included on the original 1999 Japanese DVD of the movie? I only found that out a few months ago - I had thought the online versions which we have seen of this making-of came from TV recordings!!! So if they could put it on the Japanese original DVD why not on the US / UK versions!!!!!???? (angry!)

  7. jamesy - im so glad you enjoyed it!!! xoxo

    Ha! to my 'lifted' jacket. "She owes me a coat"

    No, why wasn't that glorious footage on the other DSS dvd's!!!???? so jaded!

  8. WOW!!! Such a great post! You fill me with so many great memories of my youth and a lot of it is because I grew up with Madonna! Thank you! Thank you! xoxo

  9. Great post, Pud, as always! Easily my favorite Madonna movie. She looked so sexy and that charisma just oozed off of her beautiful, porcalin face. This move is ALL about, 'The FACE'!

  10. coca - xoxooxox!!!

    tony - seeing it again on the big screen in february was insane! i saw things i still cant see on the dvd. like, at the magic club, on the mirror is a picture of boy george. i never clock'd that before and i've seen this movie over 50 times. there were other things, too. like you can see the relief on the earrings. oh, and in the orange MC shirt, waiting on the couch - those are shorts! i always thought it was a skirt! there was more, i just cant think of it. it's that movie screen - its mesmerizing - nothing like it. the movie is perfect. xo

  11. "Desperately Seeking Susan" was such a great movie, and a debut she was never quite able to top. That newspaper clip is great. Thanks for posting it.

    While I've always been fond of "DSS," I always felt her best was yet to come. I loved her characters in "Dick Tracy" and "A League of Their Own." She has great comedic skills!

  12. Ugh Pud, you DID compare the too and it was a totally dellusional compariso. First of all, if we are going to talk about a defining role in Madonna's film career(if you can call it a career), it would be Evita. Norma Desmond was Norma's major last role on the screen, not her first like Madonna's Susan, and while she might not have been aware of it while she was living it, every single moment in her life was a preparation for that crowning moment when she played Norma in one of the best movies ever made, and she totally should've wone an Oscar, she was born to play ms Desmond, kinda like Madonna was born to play Evita.

  13. ugh, ramon - again i did not compare the films - i compared the potency of each role and how it was difficult for the public to separate them. Swanson is Norma Desmond - Madonna is Susan. I'm sorry, whatever you feel about Evita, nobody cared and the public had no problem separating Madonna as Evita. It was forgotten by her next project. Susan is still lingering.

  14. It is only with hindsight that Desmond became her defining role. It is really just a convenient way to dismiss anything else she did before then as it is such a caricature. How could her entire life have served the purpose of starring in one film? That's also why you like Evita so much. Personally, I'm glad Madonna had the chance to sabotaqge that one right away with her next wave of cinematic achievements. ;)

  15. Pud, I live outside the US and no one remembers Desperately Seeking Susan. And people have never been able to see Madonna in a film as anyone else but Madonna, and there is an explanation for that. In a 1990 interview for Dick Tracy she said that she had a hard time letting go of control and putting herself in the director's hands, and that she couldn't stop concentrating on her music career even when making a movie, that is why she never grew as an actress, Susan is no different, it's just herself being herself. And the movie is hardly a classic.

  16. ramon, just trust me on this one. when people talk about Madonna and her film career - DSS is the one that is and will be mentioned and remembered. it is a classic already and will be more so in years to come because it defines and encapsulates "Madonna". thats just a fact.

  17. Alexander Christ, Norma Desmond is NOT a caricature in Sunset Blvd. It may seem like a caricature NOW because Gloria created an archetype with that role, and countless and countless characters that borrow from sunset have appeared in countless films over and over.

    The truth is that Sunset Boulevard was a revolutionary film, before it there had never been a Hollywood story film, wich portrayed the negative aspects of fame. The movie was so shocking, that the head of the studio at the time(can't remember the name) was enraged with billy wilder, calling him a traitor, he couldn't why would he dare to make a movie depicting Hollywood as such a negative place, and he swore the movie wouldn't see the light of day. Of course we all know what happened.

    And I'm not dismissing Gloria's prior achievements in silent films, wich by the time Sunset Blvd. came along had long been forgotten by almost everyone.

    Today none of her silent films is on DVD or accesible and a lot of them have been lost or destroy. All that remains is Sunset Blvd. it's her legacy in a way. I don't see how can it not be a defining role. And a fateful one too.

  18. ramon, the reason i brought gloria swanson and sunset blvd, into my piece on DSS is because im a huge fan of both sunset blvd and swanson. sunset blvd is one the best films in the history of cinema.

    youre proving my point in your response to AC. as i stated in my piece, sunset blvd was a blessing for gloria, DSS was curse for madonna. the public cant seperate them from those roles. glorias came later and made everything she did prior relevant. the silent era was virtually forgotten, with that, so was she. television had come in - she made some appearances there and on stage but no one cared. all madonnas post susan films were irrelevant because the public couldnt get past MADONNA AS SUSAN! it immortalized her the way norma immortalized gloria.

    hence this quote out of glorias mouth after losing the oscar to judy holliday:

    "that corniest of all theatrical cliches - that on very rare occasions the actor actually becomes the part. Barrymore is Hamlet. Garbo is Camille. Swanson is Norma Desmond."

    historically, the role association to evita will belong to patti lupone. she immortalized it.

  19. This is a very interesting conversation. I suspect that DSS will be remembered as a classic because Madonna was in it, and it was her first starring role. Had another actress been cast as Susan, like Goldie Hawn, the movie would not be remembered today.

    I also think that if she had allowed herself to be cast-typed in that role, her film career would have been more successful. She had several opportunities like Blake Edward's "Blind Date" and "The Fabulous Baker Boys" that would have been much better starring Madonna rather than Kim Bassinger or Michele Pfieffer. And both of those roles --- which I believe were written for Madonna based on the character in Desperately Seeking Susan -- certainly would have played to her strengths.

    I remember back in the '80s after Shanghai Surprise and Who's That Girl tanked at the box office, many lumped Desperately Seeking Susan as being a dud as well. But now that time is passed, DSS is remembered very fondly by most critics and fans alike.

    I think Evita also has its place in film history --- but it will probably be remembered more as Madonna's comeback than as a real classic on its own. But only time will tell.

  20. Evita = Patti Lupone, absolutely. And Madonna = Susan because Susan ='d Madonna.

  21. JC, you make some good points. I completely agree that her acting career would have been more successful had she let them typecast her (which would not necessarily have been a bad thing, but that's debatable, to be sure). Blind Date with M would have been a hoot, though I thought KB did a good job. Fabulous Baker Boys, on the other hand.... M would have been SO much better than MP in that role. Interesting stuff.

    And great post, Pud. Well done!

  22. thanks betty. xo

    well, jc and betty, i always think that madonna should have played type, as well. it was a character that she had been known for and it was so powerful. just a few more roles in that vain could have changed her entire acting career. she seems impatient to me and wanted to taken seriously as an actress too quickly. i think because critics stated that she was playing herself - she did a great disservice by playing a missionary in 'shanghai surprise'. although the miami heralds review called her 'the sluttiest missionary in the history of motion pictures!' Haha!