The best thing a mom can do after spending a night out snorting her kid’s Adderall and trying to sell herself as “20” to a bunch of Wrigleyville bros is to shirk her responsibilities and lay on a couch for a Sunday afternoon full of Netflix. The catalog of movies on Netflix seems deeper than my ratty old vagina. Similarly, it’s also unwieldy with questionable items inside so you must proceed with care.
On this particular Sunday, with the blinds drawn and my shakes under control, I noticed a documentary aptly named Strike a Pose. It was appropriate because the cover of this movie actually has someone on it “striking a pose”, which is term that references a person striking a pose, but not to be confused with Prince’s note that “animals strike curious poses” from When Doves Cry. That’s a totally different thing.
At this point of my “oh my fucking god my head is going to explode” moment, all I wanted to do is sleep until I died. Documentaries are basically like taking Ambien and drinking a High Life, about 15 minutes in, I’m either passing out or crying about where my life went wrong. Turns out, in this case, it was the latter.
The focus of this flick is about the backup dancers from Madonna’s Blond Ambition Tour and the Truth or Dare (contrived) documentary from 1990/1991, when I was about 16 years of age then, or just in case there are Wriglyeville bros reading this, I was closer to negative 7 years of age. The film introduces us to all the dancers: Luis, Oliver, Salim, Jose, Kevin, Carlton, and Oliver, who passed away but is burned deeply into the hearts of the other dancers.
I was shocked to be suddenly propelled to the days where I masturbated to the idea of Lloyd Dobler, smoked crayons on a dare, and downed Crystal Pepsi like it was crack. Just kidding. I never drank Crystal Pepsi. Gross. But, it did remind me how much things have changed since then, like how Madonna was a revolution and today, there are a million Madonnas. The soulful sound of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s voice came rushing into my brain because I was working at Record Time when he died, which happened to be right around the time her Blond Ambition Tour was wrapping up, so our store was filled with a constant rotation of both the singers. Then, I remembered AIDS - a subject that no story stemming from the 80s about gay men could be told without.
Of course, I didn’t forget AIDS, but I did forget my paralyzing fear of it when I was a little girl. In the early 80s, it was called GRID or Gay Related Infectious Disease, indicating that you could only get it as a punishment from God; that is until Ryan White, a 13-year-old kid, contracted it through contaminated blood. The buried memories of the endless news clips of what HIV/AIDS looked like then flooded my memory. The memories of friends who had to pretend that their sibling or cousin or father died of pneumonia flashed through me. The weight of all those deaths, all the hate, the fear, the confusion, the misinformation, the culture sunk me and I found myself crying until my stupid dehydrated ass had not a drop of moisture left in me.
Then, there is the idea of a history that bonds people forever. These kids, now grown men, had an opportunity and adventure that only they know. As they grew older and apart, the decisions they made then follow them through everything they did or did not become. You see the weight of their relationships to each other, the film, and Madonna through vignettes of dramatic dances set in quiet backgrounds; a stark difference from the clips of screaming fans holding signs while Madonna makes jokes about condoms on stage. The story is successful in revealing secrets, controversy, and regret as any decent documentary should.
Above all these things, with a pillow over my head and a fierce desire for a icy cold bourbon to make all the pain go away, I cried because I was reminded about how old and out of shape I had become. Near the end of the documentary, the dancers are reunited and one says to another, “Look at you! You’re a man now.” I would tell you who said it to who, but they are all so good looking, they blend in as one. That quote struck me the hardest as I realized how much of my youth has washed away and how there was this strange wiry hair growing out of my chin and that my dreams are dead. These fellas, on the other hand, will forever be commemorated in their youth and bonded in a love that I hope all of us will have the privilege to experience.