I was a cog in the wheel, a mere speck of dust, in Madonna’s early days, quickly realizing that this was a talented woman with tunnel vision about her own drive and future success, a supernova who was leaving mortals like me on the other side of the fast lane. But her trajectory didn’t happen overnight. In fact, she initially was a drummer, guitarist, keyboard player, and songwriter with the Breakfast Club, a band she and Dan Gilroy formed in the late 1970s. (Gilroy was also her boyfriend at the time.) Guy Guido’s upcoming movie Madonna and the Breakfast Club is a “docudrama”—a documentary with current talking heads interspersed with actors’ reenactments of the past—and it will be released across digital and on demand platforms on March 12 by the Orchard. Playing Madonna is 23-year-old Jamie Auld, who looks way more like Madonna than Zac Efron looks like me. In fact, she’s the spitting image.
Auld hails from Maryland, moved to New York to go to FIT, and works full time in the talent department of Grey Advertising. In her first interview for the film, she told me all about what it’s like to be pre-Madonna, as it were.
Hello, Jamie. So this is a doc with reenactments?
Exactly. Guy interviewed a multitude of Madonna’s ex band members and friends, and I’m recreating scenes with costar Calvin Knie (who plays young Dan Gilroy). There is dialogue as well.
When did you realize that you’re a dead ringer for the young Madonna?
Growing up, I had been told it a couple of times, but it wasn’t until living in New York, going to college, and working at a coffee shop that Guy [Guido] approached me. He seemed like another normal customer to me. But he said, “Has anyone ever told you you look like Madonna?” I laughed it off. He said, “No, have they?” I thought, Okay, this customer is getting a little weird, but I told him I’ve been told that a couple of times, and he left.
A week later, his partner—who’s now his husband—came in and said, “We’re making this movie and would love for you to play Madonna. I’m not sure if you have any acting experience.” I took his card. When I got home, I called my mother and told her, “This director came up to me, and it sounds fishy. This is New York City. You never know who to trust.” She said, “Meet him in a public place and go from there.” We met at Starbucks and he showed me materials for the movie, and it was legitimate. But it wasn’t until the first day that we started filming, when I was in the hair and makeup, that I realized, “Wow, I really do look like her.”
You even have the gap in the teeth!
I have to admit that was done with stage makeup. I did have a gap growing up, but I had it fixed.
And did you have acting experience?
When I was in elementary and middle school, I had done a little acting and modeling, nothing with a speaking role. I was an extra in a couple of things, like Nicole Kidman’s movie The Invasion, but in the background.
A portrait of Madonna herself from 1979.
But do you have acting ambition?
Yeah, I’ve always been really interested in acting and modeling and being in front of the camera, and that helped me play more to the camera, I have to admit.
You’re so young, you must have had to do some research about Madonna’s early days.
I’m not going to lie. Naturally, I knew she was iconic, but before starting the film, I hadn’t looked too much into her past. But it was remarkable to do so and see how much Madonna had to fight to become who she was. I had no clue how much drive she’s had and how much she had to work for her fans.
How about her longtime relationship with the LGBTQ community?
I think she’s a pioneer. Even in the ‘80s, she was never afraid to go where society says is off limits. Any taboo, she goes there, but in a respectful, “What’s good about this?” kind of way. She puts on this air of inclusivity for everyone.
Were there any especially challenging scenes that you had to play in this movie?
There was one scene that was a 20-minute, 18-page dialogue. Since we have the actual recording of Madonna and Dan, we had to memorize it to a T. All said and done, it’s a beautiful scene, and it ended up being dispersed throughout the film. It’s this fun banter, back and forth one morning. Dan and Madonna had woken up and Madonna had decided to film them, playfully. They speak a whole bunch of nonsense and at one point, they go into a language they made up on the spot. It shows how Madonna had that fun side to her and has such a funky and unique character.
Auld as Madonna.
Word on the street is that Madonna’s legal team tried to kill the movie during the early stages, but later pulled back on that. A copy has been sent to Madonna. Have you heard her reaction to the film?
Madonna hasn’t publicly spoken up about this, but we hope once she sees how much love Guy put into it in the way that demonstrates her drive and his sense of admiration for her, she’ll see it in as positive a light as we do.
Do you feel Madonna gets enough respect today?
No. I think some people misunderstand her. Her openness and vulnerability are sometimes misinterpreted. There will always be critics and haters, but with this movie they’ll realize how much she had to put herself out there and promote herself. Her drive is incredible to me. No one’s spoken about that side, just how famous she became, but that’s not the whole story.
She is still acting sexy and doing dance music. Should she keep doing that?
I feel she can do music till the day she dies.
A Night of Rapture With Chris Stein (and Debbie Harry)
Frankly, Madonna’s drive doesn’t enchant me as much as the long-running class and talent of Chris Stein and Debbie Harry of Blondie fame. Last week, the two gave a talk at SVA Theater, moderated by Rob Roth, to promote Chris’s new photo book, Point of View: Me, New York City, and the Punk Scene, and I got plenty of points of view out of it. Among the highlights:
— Chris mentioned that Debbie had dated rocker David Johansen, but Debbie interjected, “Once! Does that count?”
— Debbie said she never smoked pot, but Rob pointed to a photo in the book of her doing so. As a result, they told a story about the time Jane Fonda and Kris Kristofferson came over in 1980 and they all did pot and watched The Tin Drum together. Remembered Debbie, “Jane and I got so stoned we couldn’t speak.”
— Debbie recalled the weird moment when pre-Red Hot Chili Peppers Anthony Kiedis was a kid and fawningly proposed to her. “I waited for Chris to come back into the room and defend me,” she said. “I didn’t want to be a child molester!”
— Chris related how he bought a painting from Jean Michel Basquiat for $200, which had the artist gloating that he’d ripped Chris off. But Chris said he managed to sell the thing for $10,000 while Basquiat was alive. As for reports that the two collaborated, Chris said they didn’t, “beyond me getting him in a methadone program.”
— Debbie was once walking around Sydney, Australia, with Chrissie Hynde when a fan ran up to Chrissie and begged for an autograph. “Haven’t I done enough?” the rock singer snarled back, exasperated.
— As for the two rockers’ relationship—which long ago went from lovers to friends—Debbie said, “I love him. I hate him. He’s a wonderful person.” As for her ambitions, Debbie deadpanned, “I’d like to learn to sing.” Her memoir comes out in October.
Looking for a City
But back to Madonna: Remember when she irritated some Christians with “Like a Prayer”? Well, the culture clashing is apparently still going on in our fine country. Eureka Springs, Arkansas, happens to be the home of the “Christ of the Ozarks” statue, some alleged miracle water, and a splashy Passion Play about Jesus’ plight, right smack in the same town where a bar they call “the hillbilly Studio 54” hosts outrageous drag performances. It’s a mass of contradictions and emblematic of the warring tribes in America, as shown in the excellent new documentary The Gospel of Eureka, as directed by Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher and narrated by Justin Vivian Bond. The differing points of view are all shown—from LGBTQ people who don’t feel they’re going to hell at all, to Christians who insist that they are to those who believe in “Live and let live.”
Best of all is Butch Berry, the very cool mayor, who—after a heated battle over trans bathroom rights is resolved in favor of equality—quips, “Everybody is welcome in Eureka—even the Christians.” Perfectly enough, the drag queens perform lipsynchs to serious gospel songs, as well as high and mighty satires of them. (Like “You Can’t Pray The Gay Away”). You’ll come away believing—that individuality and spunk still have a fighting chance in small town Americana.
The Flip Side of Mean Girls
Meanwhile, the pom pom girl culture is still clashing with the psycho community, at least onstage. Preston Max Allen’s We Are The Tigers (which begins previews February 7 at Theater 80) is a new musical horror comedy about cheerleaders who get terrorized by a serial killer. Interestingly, Preston has truly evolved, transitioning since the show had staged readings and concert presentations.
I asked him how Tigers reflects his own experiences and observations, and he replied: “The pressures put on young women to succeed in every way—academically, socially, physically—are deeply unrealistic and damaging, especially at such a formative time as high school. As someone who’s lived that experience, it took me years to understand that the societal bar has been set impossibly high, and the only way to grow is by recognizing that the standard is the problem—not one’s ability to meet it. I’ve written Tigers over several periods of growth, and at the center of the piece is a celebration of the strength it takes to get through high school, the necessity of accepting and providing positive support, and a warning against these vicious norms.” Go, guy!