University Hospitals to offer
domestic partner plans
by Eric Resnick
Cleveland�University Hospitals will become Ohio�s first major
hospital and one of the state�s largest employers to offer domestic partner
benefits to employees and their same-sex partners.
An August 24 human resources memo states that "the decision has
the thorough and complete support at the highest levels of the administration"
including CEO Farah Walters.
At press time, employees of Cleveland�s second-largest hospital system
had not been officially informed of their new benefit, but according to
spokesperson Eric Sandstrom, they will be notified prior to benefits open
registration in October.
The new benefit includes health care and other insurance, similar to
that offered to opposite-sex married couples. It will take effect January
Sandstrom said the hospital administration has not yet worked out the
details of the plan, but that committed same-sex couples who have been
together a year or more will be eligible. Those interested will need to
sign an affidavit and produce evidence of financial responsibility for
each other, such as a mortgage or lease.
The new benefit will cover all 25,000 employees and physicians at the
University Hospitals campus and seven affiliate hospitals located throughout
Cuyahoga, Ashtabula, and Geauga counties. Those hospitals are Bedford
Medical, Brown Memorial, Geauga Regional, Laurelwood, Memorial Hospital
of Geneva, St. Michael, and Richmond Heights Hospital.
Employees at the four hospitals in partnership agreements with University,
Mercy Medical Center in Canton, St. John Hospital in Westlake, St. Vincent
Hospital, and Southwest Medical Center, have separate benefits through
their own employers, and are not eligible for the same-sex domestic partner
Sandstrom said that a small group of employees had formed two years ago
to present the administration with a proposal for the benefit.
The proposal contained information gathered from the Human Rights Campaign
web site and from surveying out-of-state teaching hospitals, many of which
have offered domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples for years.
The effort was helped by Case Western Reserve University�s decision a
year ago to offer similar benefits to its employees.
University Hospital is not owned by Case, but serves as its primary medical
research and teaching facility.
Forty other Ohio employers offer health-care benefits to domestic partners,
including Federated Department Stores, Key Corp., Nationwide Insurance,
NCR Corp., Lexis-Nexis, The Limited, Progressive Insurance and TRW, according
to the Human Rights Campaign.
Some of these also offer benefits to opposite-sex unmarried couples.
University Hospitals will limit theirs to same-sex couples.
Sources close to the negotiations said that the hospital administration
was never opposed to offering the benefit, but there were some matters
that had to be worked out before it was agreed to.
The primary one was cost. Although this is expected to be very small,
the hospital has been cutting the size of its staff, and there was fear
that people would claim that the new benefit was the cause of the layoffs.
Neither the administration nor advocates of the benefit have a sense
of how many will sign up for it. They note that many partners who would
be eligible are already covered by their own employer�s benefits. Also,
some hospital employees will choose not to come out at work to sign up,
even though University Hospitals includes sexual orientation in its non-discrimination
The hospital regards its decision as one of fairness.
"The administration felt it was the right thing to do," said
Sandstrom. "It�s all about employees being treated equally."
The hospital also believes that this benefit will help recruit professionals
in areas and specialties where there are shortages, such as nursing.
"There was an awareness that no other hospitals in the area are
doing this," said one of the negotiators, "and that was a selling
point. At the time, they didn�t realize they were the first in Ohio. But
the administration just had the sense that this was the right thing to
The hospital will make the benefit known to prospective employees in
its recruiting materials and advertisements.
26-way race for council
includes one gay man
by Doreen Cudnik
Cincinnati--In a year marked by racial turmoil, strained police-community
relations, and calls for major changes in the way the city does business,
26 people have entered the race for Cincinnati City Council hoping to
become a part of making that change.
Among the candidates who have filed for the election is 37-year-old architect
John Schlagetter, an openly gay man who owns a home in Cincinnati�s racially
diverse Price Hill neighborhood with his partner of almost ten years,
Schlagetter says it is the city�s unique challenges that prompted him
"My belief has always been that you can�t expect other people to
do everything for you," Schlagetter said. "You�ve got to contribute.
You�ve got to help make your neighborhood a good place to live. You�ve
got to be part of the solution and not run away from the problem."
Schlagetter said he also recognized by attending City Council meetings
that he had "skill sets to contribute that were lacking on the current
"It seemed like the right opportunity and the time to introduce
myself to politics."
Schlagetter, who is endorsed by the Charter Committee of Greater Cincinnati
and the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants, has chosen three
themes to sum up his campaign goals: "Courage to do what�s right,
teamwork to ensure win-win outcomes, and results--to deliver value for
your tax dollar."
His web site, www.john4council.com, has had over 35,000 hits to date.
On it, Schlagetter outlines in detail how he intends to help create "a
more compelling vision for Cincinnati." It also provides links to
all of the other candidates� web sites.
"I try to speak well of other council candidates as often as I can,"
he said. "People are really responsive to you as a candidate if you�re
willing to speak well of others, because it portends the way you intend
All nine seats on the at-large city council are up for election, with
seven incumbents among the 26 candidates. A September 11 non-partisan
primary is not binding; candidates will decide based on that vote whether
or not to remain in the November 6 general election.
Schlagetter officially kicked off his campaign in February of this year.
He has distinguished himself from the very large pack of council candidates
by attending community council meetings in many of Cincinnati�s predominately
African-American neighborhoods. As a result, he has created a valuable
and diverse "word of mouth contingent."
"I�m out there and listening to people, and if I get asked to do
things I follow up and do it," he says. I�m really working in the
black community to listen and understand issues of importance to blacks
as defined by blacks. So it�s not a white guy coming in and telling folks
how to live. I�m listening to what people have to say and seeing what
I can do about it."
His nearly decade-long relationship with Freeman, who is African-American,
has undoubtedly taught him much about listening to other people as they
define their own issues.
As a result of the four days of civil unrest in April, which followed
the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white Cincinnati police
officer, questions about improve police-community and race relations in
the city are often among the first ones posed to council candidates.
Some of the answers, Schlagetter says, are as simple as requiring police
to be residents of the city and equipping them with proper technology.
"For years, you�ve been able to rent a car and when you return it,
they record all your data on a little handheld unit, give you a receipt
and wire it off," Schlagetter said. "The police are filling
out 8� by 11 racial profiling data forms. We should be able to do that
electronically. If we make it easier, they�ll do it, and that�s more time
they can spend on the street. We don�t necessarily need more police."
Schlagetter said Cincinnati�s problem is "not black and white, it�s
North and South."
"We have a mentality among some white Cincinnatians that African-Americans
are still three-fifths of a person, that their lives are less valuable,
that they are somehow less human than we are.
He noted a promotion on radio station WLW 700 AM as proof of this mentality.
The station offered a free casket to the 100th black shooting victim.
Schlagetter was outraged, and pointed out that the station would not have
begun to joke about offering a casket to the "next white teenager
that died while driving drunk."
"The fact that anyone thought that it would be okay to do that indicates
the real institutionalized racism that we have in this city," Schlagetter
said. "There is a belief that permeates some of our white neighborhoods
that blacks are somehow "less than" or "other than"--not
even American at this point."
Schlagetter is aware that his strong advocacy for the African-American
community may alienate some white voters, but he plans to continue engaging
in "respectful talk" with voters of all races wherever the campaign
trail takes him.
"I don�t think there�s as much malice out there as there is ignorance
and fear," Schlagetter said, "fear of something that�s different,
fear of change, fear of displacement."
While his staunch support for issues of importance to the African-American
community may affect the way some white voters perceive him, Schlagetter�s
sexual orientation may be a factor to voters of all races, given that
the city has anti-gay discrimination written into its charter. Schlagetter
hopes that this will not be the case and asks voters to judge him on the
issues, not his personal life.
"I�m a candidate who�s gay, I�m not a gay candidate," he says.
"Don�t vote for me because I�m gay, don�t not vote for me
because I�m gay. Listen to my ideas. Listen to what I bring to the table."
Schlagetter is not ruling out the prospect of an "October surprise"
if his candidacy threatens another candidate heading into the November
"If anyone�s going to make my sexual orientation an issue, I wouldn�t
expect them to do it until the last weeks of the campaign," he said.
Schlagetter shared his deep belief that the city has changed since voters
passed the Issue 3 charter amendment in 1993.
"We�re living in a different world eight years after the voters
passed Issue 3," he said. "I think that Cincinnatians simply
don�t care about my sexual orientation. They want to hear what I can do
for them. I�m a homeowner; I�m going to be celebrating the ten-year anniversary
of my relationship in November. I�m a productive, law-abiding citizen,
and I care deeply about Cincinnati. I want to earn that $56,000 a year
making people�s lives better."
Schlagetter joins six other gay men running for city council seats in
Ohio. Dennis Lange is running for an at-large council seat in Toledo,
where incumbent Louis Escobar is seeking re-election at large and Scott
Robinson seeks a District 4 seat.
James Moore-McDermott is running for an at-large seat in Bucyrus.
In Cleveland, Joe Santiago and Michael "Buck" Harris are running
in Wards 14 and 17, respectively. Edward Hudson-Bey has dropped out of
the Ward 8 council race.
Ohio�s only other openly-gay elected official, Dayton city commissioner
Mary Wiseman, is not seeking re-election.
suburb to consider
gay civil rights measure
by Anthony Glassman
Covington, Ky.�The Rev. Don Smith, a member of the Covington Human
Rights Commission, said that the commission will recommend in six months
the addition of sexual orientation to the city�s anti-discrimination ordinances.
The move would bring the Cincinnati suburb, just across the Ohio River,
into line with Lexington, Louisville, Henderson and Jefferson County,
Ky., which all passed gay-inclusive civil rights measures in recent years.
Henderson�s "fairness law," passed in 1999, was repealed by
a newly-elected city council in 2000.
According to Smith, who is the pastor of the Community of Faith Presbyterian
Church, the commission, at his behest, has been studying the issue for
almost two years.
"I don�t believe gays and lesbians should have more rights than
other people, but I don�t believe they should have fewer rights, either,"
Smith told the Kentucky Post. "I feel like our community should
make a statement about fairness and justice."
According to Rev. Smith, the new ordinance, which has not been drafted
yet, should include provisions prohibiting discrimination on the basis
of sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as to prohibit discrimination
based on region of origin, protecting people of Appalachian descent, in
addition to gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals.
The measure would also outlaw discrimination in housing and employment
for all groups covered in the ordinance, and would impose penalties against
transgressors. The commission has not yet begun discussions on the levels
of penalties put forward by the proposal, but Smith said that the commission
would probably also recommend a mediation program to lessen the need for
"There ought to be some consequences when the rights of our citizens
are violated," Smith said.
The ordinance would also serve a less noble, but no less practical, purpose:
it would open Covington up to businesses and conventions that do not want
to deal with Cincinnati because of Article 12, the city charter amendment
preventing Cincinnati from passing any form of gay civil rights protections.
Article 12, according to Cincinnati�s convention bureau, has cost the
city over $6 million since voters passed it in 1993 as "Issue 3"
to cancel a gay equal rights ordinance.
Eleven other Ohio cities, including Cleveland and Columbus, now include
gays in their equal rights measures.
Covington�s move accompanies efforts in Cincinnati to repeal Article
12, which Mayor Charlie Luken said he would support if the public favored
it, as well as a stepped-up effort by the Kentucky Fairness Alliance to
inform lawmakers about anti-gay discrimination. The alliance�s efforts
have given State Rep. Kathy Stein an optimistic view of the chances for
a change to Kentucky�s laws granting protection from discrimination to
gay men and lesbians.
"There are countless teenagers in the Commonwealth of Kentucky who
are harassed and made fun of daily in our public schools and other schools,"
Stein said. "That�s just a chief priority. We need to establish a
fair and equitable society. We�re not talking about special rights, just
Federal judge upholds
Florida lesbian-gay adoption ban
by Brendan Farrington
Miami�A federal judge upheld Florida�s ban on adoptions by gays
August 30, accepting the state�s argument that married heterosexual couples
provide a more stable home for children.
U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King said that two gay men who challenged
the law failed to demonstrate that "homosexual families are equivalently
stable, are able to provide proper gender identification or are no more
socially stigmatizing than married heterosexual families."
The ruling drew sharp criticism from civil rights groups, who said an
appeal is likely. An organization devoted to "traditional family
values" praised the decision in the closely watched case.
Mississippi and Utah also ban adoptions by same-sex couples.
But the Florida law is considered the nation�s toughest, prohibiting
adoptions by any gay or lesbian individual or couple. It was passed in
1977, the same year former beauty queen Anita Bryant led a crusade to
overturn a Dade County ordinance banning discrimination against gays.
In the two cases, Steven Lofton and Douglas Houghton challenged the law
as discriminatory after being told they could not adopt children in their
Lofton, a foster parent, wanted to adopt a ten-year-old boy he has raised
since infancy. Houghton is the guardian of a nine-year-old boy.
Lofton is a 41-year-old nurse. He and his partner of 15 years are the
foster parents of three children ages 8 to 12. The men have raised the
children since birth. Two of the children were born HIV-positive and now
have AIDS. The three children still remain wards of the Florida Juvenile
Court, which last year allowed the men and the children to move from Miami
to Portland, Ore.
The judge acknowledged that the men have developed close bonds with the
children--"as close as those between biological parents"--and
formed "a deeply loving and interdependent relationship" with
However, he said, "given there is no fundamental right to adopt
or be adopted, there can be no fundamental right to apply for adoption."
Casey Walker, an attorney who represented the state of Florida in the
case, said the right to decide whether gay men and lesbians should be
allowed to adopt belongs to state lawmakers.
"The law is perfectly constitutional as a legislative policy choice,"
A spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Jeb Bush said he supports the ruling.
Florida officials have displayed little enthusiasm for the adoption ban.
The Department of Children and Families, for example, takes no public
position on the measure.
Plaintiffs� lawyer Elizabeth Schwartz called the law "blatantly
Lisa Bennett, who tracks gay-related family issues for the Human Rights
Campaign, a Washington, D.C. gay lobby, said numerous studies have shown
that adopted children raised by gays are just as likely to become happy
and healthy adults as those raised by heterosexuals.
"This was a decision based on prejudice, not facts," she said.
The Rev. Louis Sheldon, chairman of the anti-gay Traditional Values Coalition,
applauded the ruling, saying, "We cannot risk creating a nation of
sexually confused children by experimenting with homosexual adoptions
or homosexual marriages."
The state had argued that it is in a child�s best interest to be raised
in home with a married mother and father.
The judge noted that state officials consider families with a mother
and a father to be important for a child�s well-rounded growth and development.
He also said primary consideration is given to couples who have been married
a "sufficient length of time."
The judge did discount the state�s argument that the ban is legitimate
because it reflects the state�s disapproval of homosexuality. "The
court cannot accept that moral disapproval of homosexuals or homosexuality
serves a legitimate state interest," he wrote.
Opponents have little hope that the Florida Legislature will revoke the
"The legislature could remedy this the first day they meet in the
next session, but given the level of hostility toward gay people by members
of our legislature, I frankly don�t expect that," said Howard Simon,
executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
master will decide if
Maryland will vote on rights
by Anthony Glassman
Annapolis, Md.�An Anne Arundel County judge on August 28 ordered
a special court master to review petitions and signatures collected to
force a referendum on a gay civil rights law.
Circuit Court Judge Eugene M. Lerner will appoint the court master to
check the petitions and signatures for legality and validity and make
a recommendation to the court. If the state election officials and the
plaintiffs in the case agree on the recommendations, the contentious battle
over the petitions will be over.
The fight started July 19, when takebackmaryland.org, a group opposed
to a gay-inclusive antidiscrimination law signed by the governor in May,
turned in over 56,500 signatures to force a referendum on it. Election
officials certified 47,539 of them, about 1,400 more than was required.
Proponents of the law filed suit against the petitions, alleging several
irregularities with them. Witnesses, who are suppose to sign completed
petitions, had signatures dated earlier than voter signatures, the suit
claims; petitions did not contain all the information legally required,
and signatures were obtained under false pretenses.
The suit also says that, while the county boards of elections certified
their signatures, the state board of elections simply accepted the county
numbers without independently verifying the petitions.
Secretary of State John T. Willis held the law, which was slated to take
effect October 1, until after the 2002 referendum or the outcome of the
The special master will rule on which petitions and signatures are legally
viable. Charles J. Butler, a Washington, D.C. lawyer representing 25 plaintiffs
from across the state, and Assistant Attorney General Michael Berman were
ordered by the judge to confer and select a special master for Lerner�s
approval. If the two sides cannot agree, each will submit a list of candidates
to the judge.
According to Butler, there are no limits on who could be selected as
Tres Kerns, the head of the organization behind the petition drive, has
repeatedly denied the allegations of wrongdoing. He also says that his
group may try to join the suit as an interested party to insure the fairness
of the proceedings, since Gov. Parris N. Glendening favors the law and
the attorney general�s office is part of the executive branch.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti
A half-year later, police speak with bashing victim
Rifle, Colo.�Seven months after the incident, police were set
to interview a 17-year-old boy who says he was beaten by four assailants
because he is gay.
The interview was to take place the week of September 3, said Calvin
Lee, an attorney hired by the boy�s family. Kyle Skyock and his mother
so far have declined police requests that he be interviewed without any
family members present.
Skyock was found unconscious along U.S. 6 early on February 11. He had
a fractured skull, burn blisters, a black eye, three broken ribs and a
bruise on his stomach in the shape of a two-by-four.
"From the extensive, brutal injuries that Kyle sustained, the fact
that he was left in the road by his assailants to die in the middle of
winter and along with the fact that the assailants� motivation was gay-bashing--all
this makes for a case that cries out for prosecution," Lee said.
District Attorney Mac Myers said it is standard police procedure for
a potential victim to be interviewed outside the presence of family members.
Myers said Skyock�s family has refused to cooperate with police.
He was optimistic that Lee could help the family and police make some
Skyock told police he left the Elks lodge in Rifle, where he works, to
party with four boys--two pairs of brothers--on the night of February
10. He said the boys suddenly turned on him as they drove around drinking
and smoking marijuana.
Rifle police say that a drunk Skyock left a party at the boys� house
at 12:30 a.m. and fell about a half mile into his walk home. The side
of the road where Skyock fell is rocky and he could have been hurt by
his fall, police said.
The brothers are not suspects, police said.
HIV came from chimps
Yaounde, Cameroon�Scientists believe they have pinpointed the
start of the AIDS epidemic, finding further evidence that HIV was first
introduced into the human population in west-central Africa seventy years
ago, from chimpanzees.
Dr. Beatrice Hahn, studying the origins of the disease at the University
of Alabama at Birmingham, was given organs from a chimpanzee that died
ten years ago, and found close similarities between a virus in the chimp�s
organs and HIV-1 in humans.
For the last decade, scientists have gotten conflicting evidence on primates
and HIV. Some chimpanzees had been infected with viruses almost identical
to HIV-1, while others had viruses distantly related to HIV-1, leading
researchers to question whether chimps had spread the disease to humans,
or whether both chimps and humans had been infected by a third animal.
This third chimpanzee, coupled with two more infected chimps found in
the wild in Cameroon, has convinced much of the medical community.
Researchers, noting that the virus mutates steadily over time, have also
looked at the diversity of the virus to estimate that the first transmission
in the current epidemic occurred about 1931, with a fifteen-year margin
According to researchers, since people in the area have eaten chimpanzees
for centuries, there could have been numerous transmissions to humans
that never spread beyond a few people. The late 20th-century urbanization
of parts of Africa allowed the virus to take hold and grow into the epidemic
first noticed 20 years ago. The earliest human HIV sample dates to 1959,
from a man living in Kinshasa, Congo.
Gay judge may seek Helms� seat
Charlotte, N.C.�Superior Court Judge Ray Warren, who came out
two years ago and then quit the Republican Party, said August 31 he plans
to join the race to succeed Sen. Jesse Helms.
Warren, now a Democrat, was elected to a term that runs until the end
of 2002. He said he will resign from the bench in about a month. Until
then, rules of judicial conduct bar him from officially announcing his
candidacy for another office.
The Charlotte resident began his political career in 1985 as a conservative
Republican member of the state House of Representatives.
In 1996, he nearly unseated Burley Mitchell as chief justice of the state
Supreme Court. Two years later, Warren lost another close race for the
state court of appeals.
Soon afterward, Warren came out, making him the first openly gay judge
and Republican officeholder in the state�s history.
Warren said he doesn�t think his sexual orientation will be a major issue.
"I would think it would be of some interest to some people, but
less in the Democratic primary," he said. "While we are thinking
about the November race, our focus right now is on the May primary."
Sodomy law is out for whole state
Minneapolis�The Minnesota attorney general�s office will not appeal
a district judge�s ruling that every adult in Minnesota is covered by
her decision that the state�s sodomy law is unconstitutional.
The deadline to appeal was August 31.
"Because of the non-appeal, it�s over," said Chuck Samuelson,
executive director of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union.
Hennepin County District Judge Delila Pierce ruled in May that the state�s
ban on oral sex and other intimacy between consenting adults violated
privacy rights under the Minnesota Constitution.
Alan Gilbert, chief deputy attorney general, said they consulted with
Gov. Jesse Ventura�s office and decided an appeal would be "lacking
The plaintiffs in the case were a group of gay and straight Minnesotans
whose jobs, homes or relationships with their children were threatened
by the sodomy law.
In July, Pierce certified her ruling as a class action so there would
be no doubt that it applied throughout the state.
However, Jordan Lorence, who said he was acting as attorney for the Minnesota
Family Council, said the class-action status will not necessarily keep
city and county attorneys from prosecuting sodomy cases.
"I don� t think they�ve knocked the law off the books the way they�ve
intended to do," he said.
Minneapolis attorney Timothy Branson, who represented the eight people
who challenged the law, agreed that local prosecutors are not barred from
bringing sodomy cases. But he said the Hennepin County ruling will give
defendants "more than a 90 percent chance" of prevailing.
Slain officer�s partner denied pension
Tampa, Fla.�The police pension board denied a slain lesbian officer�s
pension benefits to her partner, opting instead to pay $50,000 to the
The board voted 8-0 on August 28against Mickie Mashburn�s claim to the
pension of Lois Marrero. The women had been together for ten years, and
both were officers on the Tampa police force.
Marrero was shot July 6 by a fleeing bank robber, setting off a chain
of events that has the city re-examining the way it handles the pensions
of gay and lesbian officers.
Kevin Durkin, the president-elect of the police union, is said to support
in principle allowing officers to select a beneficiary for their pensions,
who would receive lifetime benefits following the death of the officer.
Currently, lacking a "surviving spouse" under Florida law, the
pension plan repays the officer�s contribution to his or her estate.
Marrero�s mother, who was present but did not speak at the meeting, opposed
Mashburn�s claim to the funds. Marrero�s family have claimed that the
women�s relationship was failing and that Marrero was in love with a woman
Mashburn said she would appeal the board�s decision, which she described
as a minor setback.
In July, Florida attorney general Bob Butterworth awarded $25,000 from
a crime victim�s compensation fund to Mashburn.
Virginia GOP gay-baits opponent
Richmond, Va.�The races for governor and lieutenant governor in
Virginia have become bitter, with the Republican candidates making accusations
that their Democratic opponents are in favor of gay marriage and against
the Boy Scouts.
The Republican campaign, using direct mail and radio ads in rural areas,
accuses Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Timothy M. Kaine of wanting
to kick the Boy Scouts out of Richmond schools, favoring gay-straight
alliances in public schools, and promoting gay marriage in Virginia. The
latter accusation sparked a Republican motto, "Virginia values, not
Vermont values," referring to Vermont�s civil unions for same-sex
Keane, the Richmond mayor, has said that gay couples should have the
same property and inheritance rights as heterosexual couples, but has
also spoken publicly against changing the state law to allow gay couples
to marry or unite in civil unions. Keane also has two children in the
Scouts and has said that their ban on gays is "not an issue for the
common 10- and 8-year-old," according to the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.
Log Cabin Republicans in Virginia have expressed concern to the state
party�s leadership, stressing that the Republican Party must be inclusive
if it is to grow.
Madonna admits she may not be the best singer,
but she does
put on the best performance
by Kaizaad Kotwal
"She is the original size queen!" proclaimed David Frego, who
gathered with friends to watch Madonna�s "Drowned World Tour."
It is true. If nothing else, Madonna has never known what it is to live
life pint-size. In her world, from punk girl and geisha girl to cowgirl
and beyond, the Material Girl has always lived life in its largest dimensions.
Her most recent tour is no exception. Spanning 48 concert dates in over
20 cities across Europe and the United States and a live HBO special,
her show is a theatrical extravaganza.
Sold out within hours, the Material Girl�s tour has lived up to her nom
de guerre, raking in the big bucks, with ticket prices ranging from $65
to $250 via legitimate ticket outlets, and reportedly between $5,000 and
$50,000 from scalpers.
Her August 28 show at the United Center in Chicago drew fans from as
far away as Maryland. (The tour has no Ohio performances.) In true diva
style the show began almost an hour late, but some of that delay was due
to a malfunctioning spotlight. After all, what self-respecting star would
go on stage with her visage only half lit? A member of her entourage confided
that she was regularly late by about an hour and sometimes even more.
The only show that started on time was the concert in Detroit, her birthplace,
which was broadcast live on HBO on August 26.
But true fans would wait as long as she would ask them to. Besides, if
you�ve plunked down several hundred dollars to get you and your loved
ones there, you really don�t have much choice but to wait for the Material
Girl to materialize. When she did, she put on a show that had the audience
on their feet for almost the entire hour and forty-five minutes that she
Madonna has admitted that she is not the greatest singer in the world,
saving critics from the embarrassment of pointing that out. But what she
is the best at, bar none, is putting on a performance.
Her concert, like some classical theatrical epic, was divided into four
distinct acts, each with its own theme, its own aesthetic and its own
style, substance and significance.
In homage to her punk days and her bad girl persona, also as a tribute
to her recent marriage to Scotsman Guy Ritchie, she emerged at the start
of the show in what can be best described as Mad Max meets Rob Roy.
Adorned in a ragged kilt of gray plaid encrusted with rhinestones, her
legs snuggled into bondage-style pants, her feet in black boots and her
torso sheathed in a tartan top with a sheer back, she emerged from under
the stage on a rising platform, wreathed in clouds of swirling mist. The
opening number, "Drowned World," allowed her to showcase her
now-mature and well-honed voice.
The first set included "Impressive Instant," "Candy Perfume
Girl," and "Beautiful Stranger." She ended her opening
act with her popular dance tune "Ray of Light." This set of
five numbers harked back to her days as the bad girl of pop and the modern
diva of dance as she stomped about the stage and interacted with her dancers
dressed in what can be best described as apocalyptic punk with dark garb
and black gas masks with lights mounted on the skull. In a sort of parody
of Courtney Love, she banged on her guitar, slammed her head around and
proclaimed the expletives that are Love�s trademark.
The transition to the second act, her paean to all things geisha, was
a long recording of "Paradise Not For Me" in which four dancers,
suspended by their ankles from the rafters, emerged from fabric cocoons
and did some amazing acrobatics--sort of Cirque de Soliel. This overly
long break was to give Madonna enough time to transform into Geisha Girl.
She emerged from the bowels of the stage in a stunning black kimono with
red highlights designed by Arianne Phillips and Jean Paul Gaultier. Each
sleeve was a gargantuan 26 feet long, spanning almost the entire width
of the stage, eventually detaching and being carried across the stage
like some revolutionary flags and banners.
This set included "Nobody�s Perfect," "Mer Girl,"
and "Sky Fits Heaven." One of her best renditions of the evening
was given in "Frozen." In this set she also paid tribute to
Japanese anime, used on the rear projection and the video screens strewn
across the stage. In a segment that could be called "Crouching Diva,
Hidden Virgin," Madonna performed a ballet-like dance sequence, heavily
influenced by martial arts, suspended and floating via a Peter Pan-style
Her third, and probably most motionless sequence, except for her riding
a mechanical bull, was dedicated to her most recent musical persona--that
of urban cowgirl. Dan and Dean Caten designed the look for these six songs,
including "Human Nature," "Secret," "You�ll See,"
and "Don�t Tell Me." Dressed in jeans with stretch suede chaps
encrusted in rhinestones and a sequined American flag tank top under a
leather shirt, she blended the trashy with the chic, something she pulls
off with style and grace.
At the end of this segment she said that she was previewing a new song
with the audience. Speaking in an over-the-top southern drawl, she sang
about not grieving the killing of her daddy who had made her what she
was today. Madonna clarified that the song, although true, was not about
her father. It was the show�s most puzzling moment and yet it was quintessentially
Madonna. Was she embracing the audience in her humor and humanity or was
she slyly telling them to fuck off with a smirk and a wink?
For the final act, Madonna slipped into her Spanish/Ghetto Girl incarnations.
Dressed in a gorgeous John Paul Gaultier outfit, her hair pulled back
into a bun, she embodied the ancient and the modern all in one. Her costume
change was enabled by an instrumental interlude of "Don�t Cry For
Me," from her star turn in Evita. It was too bad that she
didn�t sing that number, but she more than made up for it with an all-Spanish
rendition of her controversial song "What It Feels Like For a Girl"
("Lo Que Siente la Mujer"), one of the highlights of the evening.
Her male dancers adorned in bras and her female dancers in the sleek
and sexy aesthetic of drag kings, Madonna brought a freshness for the
nostalgia of years past when she shocked and subverted the status quo.
In the show�s sexiest and most romantic moment, she tangoed magically
with two of her female dancers dressed as men. It was nice to see that
marriage and motherhood has not completely sobered up this radically chic
maven of modernity.
She followed that up with one of her old dance favorites, "La Isla
Bonita," accompanied by a male flamenco dancer who stunningly stomped
his way into the audience�s hearts.
The old, dancing and gleeful Madonna was back for the last number, "Holiday,"
and the encore, "Music."
Overall, the concert was more a theatrical experience than it was musical
one. The tour, which carts around over 100 tons of equipment with a traveling
crew of over 200 people, makes Les Miserables and Phantom of
the Opera look like mini-tours by comparison. Eight years after her
last tour, fans were ready to see her again and for the most part she
delivered with great gusto and gumption.
However, for the kind of money she was charging she could have done a
few more numbers, especially from her older oeuvre, and satisfied those
craving for Madonna nostalgia.
Also, while the dancers were uniformly good, the show could have used
more choreography to keep the energy up and moving. Finally, the show
was so tightly scripted that it didn�t allow her to banter more with her
fans. It would have been nice to have seen more moments where she allowed
herself to ad lib, to go off the beaten path and to truly connect with
the audience. It was so tightly scripted that at times it just seemed
like it was another day at the office for her, business as usual--punch
in, punch out and pick up the paycheck on the way to tuck Lourdes and
Rocco into bed.
Nevertheless, Madonna has always thrived by reinventing herself. Here
her reinvention seems to be saying, "There�s little bit of the old,
here�s quite a bit of the new. If you don�t like what you�re sold, well
then fuck you!"
Thibault Schilt, originally from Nancy, France, now living in Columbus,
found that the experience was very intense and left him speechless. "I
am always wondering what she�s going to do next," said Schilt.
"I have seen all her concerts and it�s been eight years since her
last one so I was waiting to see if she was going to be able to meet all
For him "she really did. I was mostly impressed with the Japanese
tableaux which was flawless." For this fan, "she is the best
entertainer in history," something most of her true-blue fans would
agree with one million percent.
Sean Gaddis, originally from Columbus and recently back from a year away
in Japan, was among the few who wasn�t quite as blown away. He said, "One
of the things is that her voice has definitely gotten better, it has matured
over the years. However, I wasn�t that impressed with the concert."
Gaddis added, "She is now the mother of two and she�s still trying
to be an angst-filled youth." He was also turned off by the "faux
Texas accent, which was pretty awful." Gaddis agrees with David Frego
that she had "put more effort into the costume designs than into
her guitar lessons."
Paul Gillilan liked the whole fake Southern bit. "I�m not a huge
Madonna fan," he said, "but I came to watch the concert because
I like her music." For Gillilan, Madonna "puts on a great concert"
and "she�s so in charge of her own world doing exactly what she wants
to do. She played exactly what she wanted to even though her fans might
have wanted to see her do different stuff."
Doubtless, Madonna will continue to dance to the beat of her own drummer
for years to come.