True Blue 

Finding home in a material world

Wednesday, Dec 3 2008

Arts intern, proofreader, special-issues editor, acting music editor, film critic, Valley restaurant critic, arts writer and TV columnist 1987-1996

Smoky and buzzing, filled with real grown-ups, the old city room tucked behind the weird intern trough at the Weekly’s building in Silver Lake felt like a city room. Just the fact that I was in something called a city room was heady enough. It must have been 1988, because one by one the Madonna posters, pictures and fan ephemera started appearing over people’s desks. Soon, the room was dominated by the True Blue album cover above Jonathan Gold’s desk.

Unable to take it anymore, copy chief and jazz writer Greg Burk pasted up a photocopy of her head with a “No” symbol over it, declaring his desk a “Madonna-Free Zone.” Which, of course, made the room complete — everyone had Madonna’s face hanging over his desk.

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I was attracted to working at the Weekly (at the intern trough, originally) because the paper was impossibly cool to a late-blooming, directionless recent college ejectee. If reading it made me feel part of something urgent and vital and sometimes barely comprehensible, if I hid the fashion section under my bed in order to flip through it again and again, impatient and inspired, if I nonchalantly quoted the film reviews to friends and took the starred reviews as gospel, then being in the building meant joining in the discourse, and connecting to the city I loved in a way that was knowing and smart. But the collective swoon in the direction of Madonna cemented my admiration.

There was something disciplined about the way the (admittedly louche, in those days) Weekly approached taste. Call Madonna mainstream, disco, tabloid fodder, she rang a chord in these news guys, as well as the girl who used to tote around a cassette player and hit the button for “Everybody”— for everybody — as a freshman. Elitist rockism was never an option; no one rejected Madonna for being popular or intellectually rationalized True Blue to make it safe for the smarties — they responded to it with open hearts. Even Greg had to acknowledge her ascendancy, grudging, but good-natured, as it was. (I try to picture a contemporary city room, should such a thing still exist, festooned with Jonas Brothers posters.) This was the place I belonged — opinionated, engaged, in love with the conversation. It felt like home.

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