Madonna Tribe had the chance to meet another great artist
who got to meet Madonna in her rising years.
George DuBose is the photographer who documented
Madonna's first gig ever at Uncle
Sam's Blues, a club in Long Island, at the time
when Camille Barbone was her manager and in this exclusive
interview he has to share with our readers some interesting
stories about the young and rough artist that would have soon
conquered the world.
Mr DuBose, who like Maripol had the chance to experience that
unique New York's downtown scene of the Eighties when you
could have the chance to have Andy Warhol as a friend, will
also be discussing with us those amazing times.
We are also happy we can show you, with the author's permission,
George DuBose's exclusive images of Madonna
from those nights.
Hi George, welcome to MadonnaTribe.
For many years you have documented with your photos the emerging
culture in New York City, being a part of one of the most
exciting periods in American culture.
What do you remember from those years when your friends were
Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat?
George DuBose: I worked for Interview
Magazine and also developed Andy's 35mm films from his nocturnal
activities. Andy once taught me a very important lesson about
He also "stole" many concepts from his assistants,
which taught me that it is OK to steal... Indeed, I have stolen
tricks and techniques from other artists myself, but I prefer
to credit those who I have "borrowed" from.
Basquiat and I didn't have a connection, he was always too
stoned. I had a better relationship with Basquiat's father,
MT: As you
say you have been staff photographer for the original Interview
magazine run by Andy Warhol in 70's.
Interview used to be a very large format and arty
magazine. Which is the photoshoot you did for that magazine
that you are most fond of?
GDB: My favorite photo shoot commissioned by Interview?
One was my shot of Dieter Meier of Yello and the second was
my photo shoot of Man Parrish, Manny's photo shoot was probably
the only portrait shoot that captured him solo during his
first LP era.
MT: In the early 80's you were contacted
by Camille Barbone of Empire Management to shoot some photos
of one of her new artists: Madonna. At the time Madonna had
a group called The Breakfast Club, but Camille told
you to take photographs only of her.
Did that sound strange to you?
GDB: It sounded
really strange. Only later when Madonna went solo did I understand
what Camille had in mind. The Breakfast Club was not Madonna's
band, rather she was the vocalist.
MT: How did Camille want to use those images?
GDB: I think
she only needed the shots for publicity, but after she threw
me out of the dressing room for talking to Madonna in a professional
way, Camille never contacted me again and never paid for or
used those photos.
MT: Was that Madonna's first gig ever?
GDB: As far as
I know. I continued to document Madonna's subsequent performance
(now with dance tracks and dancers, no band) at Danceteria,
The Roxy and a club in Boston, where I recommended Madonna
to the Boston promoters.
MT: That night Madonna was performing at
Uncle Sam's Blues, a club in Roslyn, Long Island.
What do you remember of her on stage performance? Was she
already a consumate performer or was she somehow shy?
made several costume changes and some of the outfits were
a little risqué, she seemed a little nervous during
the first set and when I went back to her dressing room, introduced
myself and gave her some encouraging words, Camille heard
a bit of the conversation and got pissed at me for speaking
to Madonna regarding her performance.
MT: How was the performance in terms of production,
costumes and type of music?
GDB: All I remember
was that she made a unique presentation. She was something
new and exciting. She was and is a passionate artist, this
came across during this debut.
MT: Going back to your brief meeting with
Madonna in her dressing room, legend tells that, in a move
to be supportive, you left her a note with suggestions and
feedback regarding her performance, but apparently Camille
didn't like that effort.
What were you exacly suggesting to Madonna
on that piece of paper?
did you hear this bit about the note? I don't remember, but
often when I am working with "new" artists, I try
to give them constructive criticism about their recordings
or live performances. It is quite possible that I made notes
about what I wanted to discuss with Madonna. I recall telling
her that she was presenting a sexy image, but seemed nervous
about whether it was working. I assured her that it was...
MT: As we know things between Camille and
Madonna didn't turn out as planned and Madonna soon left her
management to pursue other ways. You even gave around good
shouts about her to NY club promoters and she lated performed
as a solo artist at Danceteria, Roxy, the
What do you remember of those later performaces?
first gig was as vocalist with the Breakfast Club as a backup
band. The next time I saw Madonna was on the roof of Danceteria,
I had brought along promoters who were booking NY underground
acts to Boston.
When Madonna performed at Danceteria, she had two dancers
and no band, performingt to prerecorded tracks. The show was
excellent and I didn't miss the live backup band at all.
By the time Madonna was booked in Boston, the promoters
made a three camera video shoot. This video is probably
the first performance video of Madonna ever. She has to
date refuse to allow the video from that evening in Boston
to be released.
Madonna was now running on full power during her shows and
I believe that one of the dancers in Boston was her brother.
After her Boston gig at the Metro, I went backstage to introduce
her to the promoters. Madonna saw me and asked me what I
was doing in Boston. I told her that it was I who got her
MT: The stories about your collaborations
with rock and pop stars on your website
are very interesting.
I read that when you were at SPIN magazine, you
wanted REM to get the debut cover, but lost out to Madonna.
What do you remember about that?
GDB: I agreed
to work for SPIN, because I thought that Rolling
Stone magazine was losing its relevance in the music
scene and only covered major artists.
SPIN promised to be more innovative. When the publisher
asked the staff who was the most interesting of the new
artists, several of us on the staff suggested REM. Perhaps
due to the publisher's background, he went with Madonna.
I thought that Madonna was "too big" and putting
Madonna on the cover was something that Rolling Stone
MT: You can be seen in the great Downtown81
documentary directed by Edo Bertoglio and produced by Maripol
about one day in the life of young artist, Jean Michel Basquiat.
He really wanted the documentary to be finished before he
What do you remember about this project in which you appear
as a bar patron?
GDB: I was
close friends with Maripol, Edo and Glenn O'Brien. Since
I was sporting a short haircut at the time, Glenn asked
me if I would be an extra in his film project, playing the
role of a banker in a strip club.
What I remember most about the strip club scene was Steve
Mass the owner of the Mudd Club having a "drink"
thrown in his face a dozen times for all the camera takes.
I was also a photographer in the scenes at the Peppermint
Lounge during James Chance's performance, but I think I
was left on the cutting room floor.
The bit about Basquiat wanting the film released before
he died is interesting to me, as he overdosed on heroin.
The film was tied up with Rizzoli publishing empire's financial
problems that took 20 years to resolve, before the film
could be released.
MT: Yes, I mean that Basquiat, as Maripol
told us, really wanted the film to be completed before he
happened to suddently die. In the end Maripol did a great
gesture of love and friendship to complete the production
on the film more than 20 years later.
Going back to your work as a photographer what kind of images
you prefer shooting? Studio portraits or live shots?
GDB: Although capturing powerful moments
of an artist's performance is great, I prefer working in
my studio together with the artist and creating images that
fulfill a need for the artist. My whole career is founded
on the ground of making my subjects look better than reality.
MT: What do you think of the way Madonna
has been using her images through the years?
GDB: Madonna is a true artist and uses all
aspects of her image and personality to be creative.
Although I wouldn't personally go the direction that Madonna
chose, hey, it is her life and she is free to present herself
as she likes. If she wants to be scandalous, shocking, tempermental
in order to further her career, those decisions are hers
and hers alone.
Who am I to judge others?
MT: How would you photograph her today?
: Carefully... Actually
I wouldn't care to fantasize about a possible Madonna shoot.
If she ever wanted to work with me, then I would think about
a collaboration and concept.
: You have worked with many artists over the years,
do you have a favourite one and is there someone you admire
that you haven't worked with yet?
: I have been lucky and worked with most of my
musical heroes. ZZ Top, REM, B-52's, Tom Waits, Marianne Faithfull,
Ramones and so on.
: What are you working on today
and which are your future plans?
: I have just released my first photo book
about my 10 year relationship photographing and designing
most of the covers from the second half of the Ramones career.
This book is available at www.Lulu.com
and will soon be available from Amazon.
This book is being followed by two volumes of the Old School
Hip Hop artists, then two volumes of the New School Hip Hop
artists. Then I am releasing 4-6 books about all the artists
I have worked with that weren't Ramones or hip hop. These
are not "how-to" books. These are behind the scene
looks at the creative process and events that occured during
my photo shoots and will include mostly never-before-seen"
: Thanks a lot for being with us, George.
We wish you all the best for everything coming up!
For more info about George
DuBose and his work please visit www.george-dubose.com
All images © George-DuBose.com - used by permission.
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