Never afraid of talking about sex, Madonna changed the way people perceived gay sex and vastly improved the lives of those having it by campaigning to publicise preventative measures for Aids. Darren Scott shows how she became a gay icon, without even trying
There are many scents that transport me to another place and time. But there’s one that’s so important that its message has stuck with me for almost 30 years.
In 1989, Madonna ruled the world. Her rise to fame had been fairly rapid since her first single, Everybody, in 1982. By 1985, she had released True Blue, which went on to become one of the biggest selling albums by a female artist. But in March of 1989, she released the album Like A Prayer and it seemed as though Madonna-mania had gripped the planet.
While that masterpiece – with its relentless stream of coming-of-age anthems and dramas – evokes many memories, it’s the smell of the packaging that, to paraphrase HRH, “takes me there”.
Doused in patchouli oil, it was intended to simulate church incense. But in my mind, it’s forever associated with a card insert that came with every copy.
It was called “The Facts About Aids”.
Now, in those days – in fact, pretty much as in 2018 – sex education at school wasn’t that great for a baby gay like myself. But that was probably fine, because by this point I had been put off it for life after being terrified by government adverts with icebergs, and subsequently school contemporaries telling me I was going to die of Aids – and this was before I even knew I was gay, let alone having bleached my hair or had anything pierced.
Madonna – who I had inexplicably been drawn to since offerings such as Gambler and Dress You Up, those contemporaries seeing the signs before I did – was now changing my life in a different way, by teaching me a lesson I would never forget.
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