Meeting Madonna at Selfridges
“The Adventures of Abdi” book signing
November 11, 2004 (London)
I felt the earth move when I was browsing the internet on Friday November 5th and read some incredible news. To promote her new children’s book “The Adventures Of Abdi” Madonna had agreed to make a personal appearance and meet the first 250 customers. This was in just a few days time…I completely lost it and panicked! I always said that if Madonna would do a signing in Europe that I would do everything in my power to be able to attend. For “The English Roses” and “Mr. Peabody’s Apples” Madonna made personal appearances in order to meet her customers, but that was in America. So I thought it only fair that this time she would be making a personal appearance in Europe for a change. I was determined to attend and started to plan the trip instantly. My friend Simon immediately agreed to join me. Just the thought of being face to face with MADONNA was something so unreal that I was scared I was about to lose my mind. Hans couldn’t make it due to store commitments.
We booked the trip to travel to London by bus, by airplane would be too expensive and any excuse not to get on that damn thing was fine by me. We found it hard to believe, was it really going to finally happen? My biggest dream was to meet Madonna, would it become reality? It was just too absurd to even think about it. Madonna is probably the one artist that is the hardest to reach. I remember for years people asking me if I had ever met her in person, unfortunately I always had to say no. Would I now be able to answer that question differently? I had dreamed many times of possible meetings with Madonna and had thought a lot about what I was going to say. The ironic part was that just that same week I had dreamed of meeting Madonna at a signing, so nobody tell me that dreams don’t come true! I had spent the entire Summer following Madonna throughout Europe during the Re-Invention World Tour and was convinced that this year couldn’t have been better…..now THIS was TRULY the icing on the cake!
WHAT A YEAR!!
November 9, 2004
We traveled to the Amstel Station in Amsterdam in order to catch the late night bus to London. I remember when I got on the bus fantasizing on how on the trip back home I’d already have met Madonna! I was already worrying on how I could possibly keep my signed book safe, maybe wrap it in plastic? Maybe holding on to it for the entire trip, just to make sure nobody would steal it. That signed book was the ultimate lottery ticket for me and in my mind it was something the entire world craved for……
I don’t remember much from the trip to London, just that I woke up early morning and seeing the familiar streets of London. Felt like coming home.
November 10, 2004
Right before we arrived at Victoria Station I recognized the area, so I knew that we were almost there. We arrived earlier than scheduled, it was only 6:30am! I was crossing my fingers hoping that the hotel staff would be a little sympathetic and would grant us a very early check-in. Getting off the bus we first took the tube to Bond Street Station. Oxford Street was completely deserted, what kind of zombie movie did I get my ass into? We were trying to find the Selfridges store but failed of course. After an early morning work out of walking back and forth, we finally found it. It was not just a ‘store’ but a freaking BUILDING, similar to De Bijenkorf (The Beehive in Amsterdam.)
We noticed a large promotional billboard for the event with Madonna displayed on the front of the store. As happy as I was seeing the ACTUAL confirmation in front of me of the event, it worried me as I knew it would slim my chances of getting inside. Literally everyone walking past could see the billboard and as Madonna was just about the most popular woman in the world, I basically wanted to rip the damn thing off the wall (right MJ?) The billboard said that Madonna would be meeting the first 250 customers at the Designer Room on 2 at 3pm. We however were still unaware what the ‘rules’ were of the event, where and when to queue?! I got nauseous with nerves…..
All the stores were closed but we were able to eat breakfast at McDonald’s before heading over to Marble Arch to find our hotel. We were going to share our room with two friends, Sharon and Tas. They would be joining us later on the day. The hotel staff was indeed very friendly and yes the finger-crossing had helped as we were granted an early check-in. The hotel room was huge, especially knowing we’d been staying in rooms the size of closets previously. Later that day we finally learned the rules of the event. The staff at Selfridges told us that there would be a queue inside on the second floor. However later on we started receiving text messages that the rules at Selfridges for the meeting had changed once again. We paid our bills at the restaurant we were at and made our way to Selfridges immediately.
When we got there we asked a few people working there about the supposed new rules. We heard that they had indeed changed due to the huge demand. The staff at Selfridges told us to queue at the back of the building, sort of like an ‘out of sight out of mind’ idea. Which I understood completely as a store such as Selfridges wouldn’t be too happy with a bunch of Madonna fans acting like homeless people sleeping on their pavement. The first 250 customers would be receiving pre-signed books personally given to them by Madonna. At 1pm you would be let inside the store and at 3pm the meet & greet was to start, those were the new rules. We decided to go around to the back of Selfridges and see where the queue would be. To our surprise (or not) there were already people there in the freezing cold! It was only 7pm the night before, so there were quite some freezing hours to go. Even though we understood why, we just couldn’t bare the thought of getting frostbite already. So we went back to the hotel to set up a queuing plan.
November 11, 2004
The alarm woke us at 3:30am. I put on about five shirts, three pants and two jackets. We then dumped our stuff in the hotel lobby and went to the queue at Selfridges, which was thankfully just a little around the corner. Upon arriving there were just about 30 people in front of us, so we were right on time. We used newspapers to keep our asses from getting dirty and we brought a blanket to keep us warm. After a while some more friends arrived so we had some fun in the cold London temperatures of November. As we were with a large group some of us could leave the queue every once in a while to buy some hot chocolate at McDonalds or go and do the needful things on their toilet. We were cracking jokes, imitating Nikki Finn and annoying each other just to pass the time. A few hours later security came and handed out tickets that would serve as proof for your spot in the queue, I was Lucky Number 45.
Staff from Selfridges came over to explain the rules to us and confirmed that the people standing in the queue at that point were guaranteed of a meeting with Madonna. Still I just couldn’t believe it, it was still too surreal to even imagine it. Of course I couldn’t deny the thousands of scenarios in my mind of what I would say and what would happen. I had no clue what the meeting would look like or how we were to behave? I just had a vision of Madonna looking all English-ish, sipping her tea with her left hand sitting at a table while the right hand was outstretched so all 250 fans could walk by and shake it….and that was it.
Finally after 8 hours of the freezing cold, it was 1pm and the queue started to move towards the back/staff entrance. Little groups of 4 were allowed inside the store at the same time, your ticket with your number on it was checked by security and then you could enter and defrost. Finally it was our turn, I almost couldn’t move, I was so stiff due to the cold. We (me, Simon, Sharon, Tas, Steve and Tony) then got inside. We all paid for the book in advance and were given a new receipt that served as a ticket to our meeting with Madonna. We were so glad to be in a heated area again that meeting Madonna was almost a secondary thought (almost!) I basically stripped off most of my clothes, which felt very good and liberating and I couldn’t give a rat’s ass that people were staring at me. I have to admit though, I actually looked like I had robbed the place carrying around so many layers of clothes with me. We decided to walk up to the second floor for (yay) more queuing.
Arriving there (for some silly reason I still remember that Salt ‘n Pepa’s ‘Push It’ was playing on the radio) we saw that a little queue had already formed at the Women’s Designer clothes section. We were now literally queuing in between women’s underwear and the queue led up to a small room sealed off by curtains. Yup anxiety kicked in big time! Now we started to become extremely nervous, and discussing what the hell we were going to say to her. No matter how much we talked about it, or thought about it, we still couldn’t believe all of this. Honestly though it painted a strange picture, these Madonna fans looking like death surrounded by women’s lingerie…… There were moments when I just thought I couldn’t bare the wait any longer, it was just becoming too much. All I was wearing now was my birthday suit, no just kidding. I was wearing my blue pants and black sleeveless Madonna shirt, so of course my (half-arsed) Madonna tattoo got lots of attention. We tried to calm each other down, but we were actually just making it worse. Suddenly we heard that Madonna had arrived and was reading her book to children, so we were told to stay quiet. I tried to reassure myself that I was just on a shopping-spree and that Madonna was nowhere in sight, but yet again it didn’t help. Because of my nerves I suddenly had a craving and ate Snickers, liquorice and a sandwich all at the same time. Thankfully the sane part of my brain still worked and I chewed on some fresh chewing gum for dessert, or the breath would have been a killer.
At 3:30pm the queue suddenly started to move, my heart was in my throat. Suddenly a guy returned from behind the curtains and the area where Madonna was at with the book in his hands and a shocked expression on his face. He told us that Madonna had signed the book for him with his name in it. When Sharon and me heard that, we just lost it, looked at each other and tried to keep ourselves together. A lady that worked there had a worried look on her face and asked us if we were okay, we said we were and she left (obviously relieved). I decided to no longer look at the fans returning from their meeting with Madonna as they greatly increased my axiety. My heart was beating like a maniac, I was sincerely having a panic attack. We moved closer and closer to the black curtains, and we knew who was sitting behind them… We were told to hand over our personal belongings to the staff and I am sure they were really pleased with my entire wardrobe. We were told to enter the area empty handed and to not ask for pictures or autographs. Once more I saw fans coming out of the room, all teary eyed and filled with joy. Someone from the security told me ‘you must be a real big fan, to have a tattoo of her’ to which I agreed. Honestly explain to me why someone would tattoo an artist on their skin if they would absolute hate their guts? Another lady working there told me that Madonna was going to love my tattoo (sure Jan).
The moment had come, the curtain was pulled back for me, Simon and Sharon and we were let inside the area. The first thing I remember was that the atmosphere completely changed from the highest form of anxiety to a completely chilled out vibe. I just remember white walls everywhere. And then I saw her. Right in front of us, a little to my right behind a table (as I had visualized) sat the absolute picture of perfection. No outstretched hands or sipping tea, no rushed vibe, no annoying security but a very calm and stunningly beautiful Madonna. She was sitting right beside a large stack of “The Adventures of Abdi” books. Oh boy was there anyone really here for the book? She could have written ‘I am Madonna and I like to fart’ for all I cared and I would’ve eaten it up. My heart nearly dropped, I was standing in the same room as Madonna, minutes away from actually meeting her. I noticed just how tiny and fragile she seems, like this porcelain little doll. Her skin is truly like porcelain, is that why she always swims with clothes on? She wore her blond hair straight in a center-part with a light curl. She was dressed in a black top with a skirt and some great shoes, she was EXACTLY as I had imagined her. I recognized her assistant Angela sitting beside her.
First it was Simon’s turn and he walked up to Madonna. Simon wanted to ask Madonna to sign his arm (even though we had just been told not to ask for more personal signatures.) When Simon was face to face with Madonna, he just froze and completely lost his voice. Madonna asked for his name, and Simon tried his best to answer. Madonna asked him how long he had been waiting so he replied “since 5am this morning” and she answered with “really? You’re crazy”. Then Simon told her he had a tattoo of her and if she wanted to sign her name below it. Madonna asked him if he had a pen, but he didn’t hear her (he lost his cool again) so she repeated the question. Simon then handed her a black marker, Madonna grabbed his arm and signed her name boldly beneath his tattoo. While she did this she asked “do you know what you’re doing?” Simon said that yes he did and smiled. He thanked Madonna and wanted to walk away, until Madonna found out that she had forgotten to hand him a book, laughed, grabbed one and gave it to Simon.
Completely blinded by the fact that it now was my turn, I slowly made my way up to Her Madgesty. You know when you carefully walk somewhere and you don’t want to make any noise? As in sneaking around? I distinctly remember that is how I made my entrance. I saw that she was sneakily looking at me from the corners of her eyes while I tried to walk on water. When I approached her, she never even gave me a chance to greet her as she tilted her head and said ‘WOW, let me see that!’ seeing as her eyes were focused on the tattoo, I turned to move as stiff as a board to my left so she could see my right arm. Then she looked me straight into my eyes and it was like an electric shock shot through me. Something like ‘Electrified at first sight.’ Her EYES!! It’s true what they say, no picture, video or film in any form what so ever will every do those eyes justice. I truly was living my greatest dream right there at that moment, and the word surreal really doesn’t even come close to describe it. Madonna was so strikingly beautiful that my breath got caught in my throat and I was totally considering the fact that I might as well drop dead right there. There are NO WORDS to describe what it was like to be face to face with Madonna. Like a wax work that had come to life, she was really real!! I couldn’t help but stare right back at her. I had completely forgotten my surroundings and it was just me and her. It was the strangest thing.
Madonna suddenly asked me ‘what’s your name?’, so I told her. Then she said ‘when did you had it done?’, I didn’t quite understand her as I was such a nervous wreck and said ‘excuse me?’ while kicking myself for it, so she repeated ‘when did you had it done?’ while focusing her eyes on my tattoos. Now I understood, I pointed at my ‘Madonna’ tattoo from the Drowned World Tour logo and said that I had that one done in 2001, and that her portrait was done recently. I asked her, and God knows where I got the courage from ‘do you like it?’ about my tattoos, she looked me in the eyes, got the most funny expression ever on her face and said ‘I’m not too sure how I feel about tattoos, but yours is great!’ and while she said that all I could stare at was that infamous gap between her teeth……. I laughed and instantly relaxed just a bit, so I just went on a rambling while at it ‘well I think you should get a tattoo of something that is very important to you, and you are very important to me’. THERE! I had said it! I finally said the words that I truly wanted to say to her for sooooooo many years! But the way I told her was a bit funny (of course), as I got all emotional and was suddenly struggling to hold back tears, I kind of choked on the ‘me’ part. She noticed that I was about to break down as it was quite obvious, and she got this very warm and friendly expression on her face and nodded as if trying to say ‘I know how you feel, but it’s okay’. Or maybe she was just trying to avoid a crying fan that reeked of peanut butter mixed with liquorice.
Courage re-entered and I asked ‘can you sign it?’ and she said ‘no I can’t, I am already breaking all the rules today’. Then it occurred to me that she thought I was talking about the book (they were pre-signed before the event) I felt silly and didn’t want to ask it again, I just let it be. I nodded and tried to hide my stupidity and then she said ‘would you like a book?’ and I answered ‘of course I would like a book’ and then we both laughed while she handed me one. I asked her ‘can I shake your hand?’, she replied ‘sure’ and gave me a firm handshake. Honestly to this day I think I gained quite some balls asking what I asked. I looked into those gorgeous hazel eyes one last time, thanked her and said goodbye, she said ‘bye’ to me.
I turned to walk away and did just in time as I literally burst into tears right there on the spot. I felt so ashamed! I put my hands over my face so that no one could see me crying and literally like a blind person stumbled back into the area where our bags were. Thank God Simon was there to catch me and he had already collected our stuff. Through my tears I looked at some of the fans still waiting and I just couldn’t believe what had just happened and was in complete shock. I tried telling Simon while sobbing that she didn’t understand me when I asked for a signature, and that I did tell her how important she was to me. Still crying I opened my ‘The Adventures Of Abdi’ book and discovered a beautiful signature from Madonna on the inside. I was so happy but so emotional at the same time. Then our friends started coming back from their meetings. At first they were all pretty cool about it, but once we left the store and everyone called their friends to tell them about the meeting, we all suffered from a major cry.
It was such a funny scene a couple of Madonna fans right in front of Selfridges, all crying. We all were just so surprised at how lovely and friendly and beautiful Madonna had been to each and everyone of us. She had exceeded all our expectations, she was such a lovely lady. Also the way she completely focused on you, and only you when you were talking to her, made us feel like a million dollars. I had met her, I had spoken to her and I had told her what I had wanted to tell her. I was very proud of myself and even more so of my tattoos. We went to get something to drink and eat and share our experiences with each other. Afterwards we said goodbye to our friends and returned to Victoria Station as we had to catch the bus back to Amsterdam that same evening.
It had all been worth it, the hours of waiting, the freezing cold, the long trip in the bus. Madonna was truly wonderful and so down to earth, so lovely. I had spoken to the most famous woman on the planet, a true living legend, but most of all a very sweet and lovely person. I now truly knew why I was such a huge fan of hers and why I would always continue to be one.
Madonna thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Kimberly van Pinxteren