“I have the same goal I’ve had ever since I was a girl. I want to rule the world.”- Madonna

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By MargOH! Channing

Yes, she does, and I experienced firsthand the drive behind that desire. It was back in the late 90’s when I owned a twenty five seat cabaret/bordello/escort service in Bangkok. In a tornado of light and a mix of patchouli, Persian rosewater and sandlewood she burst in and demanded an order of Pad Thai to go. Before I could say “let us pray, Namaste and shalom” my wardrobe mistress Berna yelled out “We don’t sell food here, just pussy!” The Enlightened One formerly known as The Material Girl gave us the once over and then hissed “You?!!” and flipped me the bird as she disappeared out through the door.

Shaken, I made myself a Mai Thai to calm my nerves and that was when I started to smell smoke. My twenty five seat cabaret/bordello/escort service was going up in flames! Myself, Berna and my girls barely got out alive. Afterwards, as we searched through the rubble, all I could find was a singed red kabala bracelet. I whispered to myself in disbelief and amazement…”life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone, I hear you call my name and it feels like hoooooome.”

Now, I’m not saying that Madonna set my little establishment on fire BUT I like to believe that she did. The whole incident gave me the courage to get back to New York City and snatch my career back. I honestly wasn’t sure how many more bit parts I could do in Thai Godzilla remakes and was looking for a sign from on high. That it came in the form of Madonna Louise Ciccone, she of the music that is the soundtrack and inspiration for my life, is nothing short of a true blue miracle.

Whenever I walk through Times Square, I always think about Madonna and what she must have been thinking when she told the cab driver to drop her off in the middle of everything. Did she sincerely believe that she was about to set the world ablaze with her music? Could she have understood what was about to happen?

And then, still walking through Times Square, after I’ve signed a few autographs for the tourists, I think about me and Madonna. Then sometimes about you and Madonna. Like do you remember where you were the first time you heard a Madonna song? Well, I do! I was making love to some actor from one of those Thai Godzilla remakes when Holiday came on the radio. Immediately I sat up in bed – taken by the simple yet exciting dance beat vibrating my ears. Something just came over me and I jumped out of bed and started dancing all around the room, thoroughly confusing my sexy Thai lover. My knockers were bouncing so hard to the beat I almost knocked myself out. I just had to know more about this fabulous diva who had taken over my body! I kicked him out of bed and ran to the local music shop, Cathay records, still just wrapped in my tattered bedsheet, and yelled out “Madonna!” to which the clerk nodded towards the import section. “She’s white???” I said in myself. I fingered the album titled very simply “Madonna” contemplating the girl on the front. I paid the clerk and then clutching my sheet, ran home and listened to it over and over again from start to finish. Borderline, Lucky Star, Holiday, Burning Up, Everybody, Think of Me, I Know It, Physical Attraction…it was love.

Not long after I had fallen for this fascinating creature with her street walking Minnie Mouse style and infectious rhythms filtered in straight from the streets and clubs of my old stomping grounds, New York City, I switched on the television and there she was – on American Bandstand dancing like a demented ballerina in tattered clothes and rubber bracelets – on MTV in denim and neon orange pumps, spray painting things and cavorting with sexy Latin men…one second in color, the next in black and white – blowing my mind with every transition. She was everywhere. In what seemed like a hot minute every little Thai girl (and me) was Madonna’ing it up, trying to tease and bleach their hair, all in an attempt to be like her. It was then I realized she was the second coming…

Well through the years I naturally followed her career and was very excited when she came to Thailand to shoot portions of Shanghai Surprise. I got an extra role as Rickshaw Girl #6 and was lucky to run into her after I hid out in her trailer one afternoon.

“Don’t I know you?” she said. I told her I didn’t think so but then she pulled out an old copy of Juggs and pointed to the centerfold. “This is Sean’s, he likes vintage porn, that’s you ain’t it? Yeah, it is, I can see it…”.

I grabbed it and said “OH! Well, yes, that was after I did the film Common Law Cabin”

“Nice” she replied “A Russ Meyer gal. How’d ya end up here?”

“Darling , it’s a long story, a tryst with Neil Sedaka…”

“I’m not into long stories.” she gestured over at the stove. I got up and made her tea and then heated up some escarole and fennel soup while she painted her toenails. I asked her if she needed anything else and she responded simply “Thanks, lady” and winked at me – I felt a bit like Rosanne Arquette in Desperately Seeking Susan. That was the last I would see her until the Pad Thai incident – what would be the turning point in my life.

Now I could go on and on about the accomplishments in Madonna’s career – her award winning albums, her boundary pushing fashions, her Golden Globe winning acting breakthrough brilliantly portraying Eva Peron in the film version of Evita. Or perhaps we could discuss her endless support of AIDS organizations and never ending advocacy for the GLBT community. Perhaps instead we could discuss her legendary concert tours, sometimes giving us what we want and other times giving us what she thinks we need but always giving us more in one show than many could give in a career.

But when you have universities offering classes simply in Madonna – why even try to attempt that?

I just know that she makes me see the beauty in everything and in anything, especially in myself. As an artist she not only holds the mirror up to ourselves but she flings open the window to the world and offers us the chance to see what is out there. And even with all of that said…the truth is that Madonna has been there for many of my ups and downs and her music inspires me and encourages me and keeps me going.

When I’m feeling down or complacent or even just bored, I dust off my “Madonna” album and set it on the phonograph and press the needle to Holiday and before you know it…a snap, crackle, pop kids it’s time to celebrate!

Happy Birthday Madonna, you fabulous, fierth, grande DIVA!

By MargOH! Channing