NY Conversation February 2012

It seems to be one of the unwritten rules of NYC party planning that the bigger the celebrity attending a given event, the more inexplicably badly organised and generally anarchic that event has to be. So it is that NY Conversation finds itself standing amidst a scrum of ticket-waving men in hot pants outside New York’s Roseland Ballroom, waiting to be let into a Smirnoff-sponsored shindig where the guest of honour is to be one Madonna Ciccone.

The event is apparently some kind of dance-off between a series of hopefuls for a spot as a dancer on Madonna’s next tour. We’re notionally in attendance to occupy something called a “blogger station”, which we’re told to be set up on the side of the stage and will provide those in situ with a prime view of Madge making her momentous decision.

At the moment, though, the blogger station looks to be the last thing on anyone’s mind — a scrum of harassed looking publicists and organizational types are attempting to juggle multiple doorlists and placate increasingly restive VIPs, while police are urging the horde of people with “exclusive” fanclub tickets to clear the sidewalk. And then, in an almost impossibly filmic manner, a white limousine pulls up kerbside, and out steps… No, not Madonna. It’s Jocelyn bloody Wildenstein! In the flesh. Honestly. (Or if it’s not, it’s a dead ringer for her, and surely there can’t be many of those around.) As we fumble for our camera, she’s escorted straight back past the vulgus and into the venue. Plastic surgery has its benefits, clearly. Or perhaps she just can’t be exposed to the night air for long.

Anyway, once La Wildenstein has been ushered to the VVVIP section, your correspondent manages to attract the attention of the right person and sneaks into the auditorium, where more chaos is ensuing. Everyone is clustered around a couple of desks where drink tickets are being distributed. It’s like feeding time at the zoo. Meanwhile, we’re passed around several administrative types before someone breaks the entirely predictable news that the blogger station doesn’t actually exist, and that we’re going to have to watch proceedings from the floor like everyone else.

In any case, there’s not much happening at the moment — the main point of interest is the cameraman wandering the venue with a contraption that involves a bottle of vodka affixed to the front of a video camera, filming noteworthy members of the crowd. He’s hardly spoilt for choice — we spy an eight-foot drag queen with a towering blonde wig that’s probably about another three feet high, a person of indeterminate gender in a jacket that’s like a mirrorball made into something you can wear, and a semi-naked dude who clearly got the only good pingers left on planet Earth, and took them all. At once.

There’s meant to be a dance performance at 10pm, but instead, there’s a good two and a half hours’ worth of the sort of interminable dicking around that a travelling hip hop act would be proud of before anything starts happening on stage. Finally, a series of dance troupes are introduced for a show organised along national lines of questionable geographic accuracy (A is for Argentina, B is for… um, Bangkok). It looks for a moment that we’re going to work our way through the entire alphabet, at which point your correspondent starts to lose the will do live… but no, after a desultory trip around the globe, the national stereotypes are replaced by a series of pneumatic-looking people who look like characters from a ’90s martial arts video game (and have names to match — Skorpion, Maya Chino, Latesha, Lil Buck, Princess Lockeroo). These, apparently, are our contestants.

What follows is basically a reality TV show on stage — the dancers are put through their paces, both solo and in group routines, and reduced in number to a shortlist of four for Madonna to choose from. And wait, here she is! The gossip rags the next day will gush excitedly that Madonna’s sporting an “entirely new look”, but she looks suspiciously like, um, Madonna to us, instantly recognizable even from several parsecs away (which is the closest we can get to the stage).

She joins the contestants for a slick dance routine, and then makes what appears a pretty arbitrary choice — the dancers are all intimidatingly good, and it’s hard to see how you could choose any one of them over the others. But, the deed needs to be done, and so it is that Lil Buck of Memphis, Tennessee, becomes Madonna’s newest backup dancer. He’s clearly over the moon, and makes a charmingly incoherent speech about how his entire life has led up to this point.

Madonna, meanwhile, gives the crowd a regal wave and exits stage left. She’s been on show for about half an hour, tops. Nice work if you can get it, eh?

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