Madonna’s Truth or Dare documentary will be magnified on the big screen this Monday July 13, for the 2015 Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival, as part of the Legacy Project 10th Anniversary Series.
The last time I saw Madonna’s Truth or Dare documentary in the big screen was back in 1991, during the tail end of its run. The movie was playing at a shitty theater in Manhattan Beach and my friends and I simply HAD to devour those Madonna moments one last time to engrave whatever we had missed from the previous five times that we watched the movie.
Truth or Dare didn’t just inspire me to practice fellatio on an Evian bottle (I’m gagging miss thing)—she didn’t just teach me the difference between a poll and a pole (ram it up your ass)—the documentary also altered my way of thinking (about Kevin Costner), how to throw a diva tantrum (“Somebody stuck some big fat man up in the front to give me dirty looks.”), and of course, it changed the way we gay kids spoke and “blah, blah, blah.”
We loved it–all of it. We wanted to be in it.
Choreographer, dancer and overall entertainer Luis Comacho, was in it. He influenced a lot of Madonna’s dance moves of that moment (he basically taught Madonna how to vogue) and had the life-changing opportunity to strike a pose all over the globe.
Never in my wildest young Inglewood dreams did I ever imagine I would one day meet one of M’s main backup dancers, and that I would also interview him for a magazine to discuss some tidbits about the big M and what life was like behind the scenes of Madonna’s notorious Blond Ambition World Tour.
My piece “Madonna & Luis” was published in The Fight Magazine this month to promote the Outfest screening of TOD. I sat with Camacho for a look back at the documentary that changed the face of concert documentaries and continues to titillate almost two-and-a-half decades later.
Space is limited in print media. Below is the full transcript of my Q&A
Do you remember when Truth or Dare first premiered?
Oh yeah. It was in New York. That moment was everything–the flashing lights, the cameras, being there with Madonna. It was everything I wanted to be. It was how I always thought my life should be. It was great.
What was it like when you saw the documentary for the first time?
To be honest, I wish there was more of me in the film [laughs]. My ego at the time wouldn’t let me–you know–be alright with what was shown on the film, so my immediate reaction was, I wish I had more face time on the film.
When was the last time you saw Truth or Dare in its entirety?
I think I saw it about a year ago. The last time I looked at it, I felt very nostalgic. A lot of memories come flooding back and most of them–about 95 percent of them–were good memories. I don’t like looking at it too often—especially with friends, because it turns into a performance piece for them and it becomes a Q&A session.
Do you view it differently now that you’re more umm, grown?
I was very excited when I first saw it. Of course, I wished there was more of me, but looking back, I’m like Luis, you’re in it plenty, don’t worry about it. I realize the impact that it has now on people and it’s a gift. The best things that I took away from that film and the whole experience was this impact it had on other people—and not only gay guys that were coming out, it was women too–women would come up to us to say, ‘You don’t know what you did for me and my family. My brother was afraid to come out to our parents and we saw this film together and we bonded and were able to tell our parents about my brother and he was able to basically release himself from himself and it was amazing. That was the biggest takeaway and the gift that this whole experience has given to me. It’s so profound to hear people say that to you.
Did you have any a sense that you’d become like a role model for young gay kids by being so openly gay in the film?
Nope, not at all, we were just having a good time and we were just doing us.
How did you approach the entire experience going into it?
Speaking for myself, I was really focused on getting as much out of it as I could. There was a consciousness within myself to really be aware and be very in the moment at every moment–whether I was being naughty off stage, or being fantastic on stage—I wanted to see everything, I wanted to taste everything, I wanted to experience it all. If there was an excursion going to wherever, I had to be on it, no matter how tired I was.
There is a moment in the movie where we’re in Amsterdam on a boat. I think Vogue was playing in the background and there’s a shot of me where I kind of turn and smile half-assed into the camera. I was so tired and for a lack of a better word, hungover at that time. I had only gone to bed like 3 or 4 hours before that, but I was damned if I was not going to see the canals in Venice and get on this boat ride in Amsterdam. I would be damned if that was not me on that boat. I wanted to see everything. If there was jet skiing in Portofino, I was on a jet ski. If there was a Mercedes limo ride in Paris at dawn with Madonna, you know I was there. Those are the sort of things that happened where I made sure I was there. I was real hungry—not just for the performances and the dancing, which loved to do anyways, but to see the whole world and to see that world in particular, because for so long, I thought that is where I belonged or at least it’s where I wanted to belong. Every time I stepped in front of a mirror with a hair brush on my hand—that was me. I wanted to take it all in, because I never knew when I would have that again.
What is your proudest moment in the movie?
Well, my two favorite songs in the whole tour were Papa Don’t Preach and Like a Virgin. The Like a Virgin number was special to me, because it was just me Jose and Madonna on stage. What was so great about that was that even though we were in front of 30-40-50 thousand people, the moment was so intimate, that it was like we were in this bell jar. We could see everybody, but we really couldn’t hear them because everything was so loud. I was so focused on this bed, on her, and our movements. It felt like were were alone up there–it was great.
And I loved the ballet sequence in Papa Don’t Preach. It really took to that element of we were voguers, we were street dancers. It really took us to our training, which she didn’t really know that we had, you know, classical, ballet, and modern training. It was another reason why she really liked us and it solidified why she chose us.
Did you get to keep the costumes from the concert?
Not all of them, no. I got ‘Keep it Together,’ ‘Where’s the Party,’ and the ‘Holiday’ costume.
Was there a moment in the tour that you wish had been included?
Oh my God yes, there was a part when we were in Spain, when she met Antonio Banderas. I did a drag show for them. That would’ve been fun to see [laughs]. I just dressed in drag–I didn’t dress up as a character, but I remember we were in London and they got my wig. It was called the Isadora Duncan Wig. They got it from Vidal Sassoon and the people at Vidal Sassoon cut the wig themselves. It was amazing. They did my hair, it was jet black and that’s when I felt like, ooh child, I’ve arrived. There was a photographer, we went up on this balcony and he took my picture—it was fantastic. I couldn’t believe it. There was a designer and went to her shop and picked out a dress and I was like, this is fabulous.
At what point did you realize you had reached a level of fame?
When we got back from Japan–we did Japan first and came back to the states, and that’s when things started to change for us. Then we went to Europe and it was a frenzy.
It appears that you Jose maintained a friendship with Madonna after the tour, did you think that would ever happen after you got the gig?
No. But I’m glad it did.
What was it like having cameras follow you around?
You know, I would really like to say that it was weird, but it was everything I dreamed about. I loved it. I loved all of that. There were moments after the tour where I would go visit Madonna at her house. We went down to a magazine store to look through fashion magazine and kind of hang out. And we were followed by paparazzi from her house all the way to the magazine store and all the way back. Oh my god, I liked it. I liked acting annoyed by it.
Do you agree when people say Truth or Dare is the first reality show ever?
I totally agree with that, yes. I mean, there was nothing reality-based before that, at least not to my knowledge anyway. It was the first time that anything like that was ever documented in that way for a tour. I think that’s what sets her apart from all these other artists. She really had the sense that this was going to be something successful–And I’m just talking about the idea of shooting the documentary. Nobody had seen that before. It was fascinating to watch.
Have you kept in contact with some of the dancers?
I just saw all of them…not too long ago. I did.
Really? You had like a get together or what?
Umm. All I’m saying is that I saw them all not too long ago. I gotta leave it at that [laughs].
How do you think the documentary holds up today?
This documentary has proven to everybody that it has legs, it has teeth. I think it’s still a benchmark for all documentary projects that have followed it. It has set a really high bar, because it was the first of its kind. It was so revealing and there were no holds barred. It’s hard to really come up with a better idea today. She did it first, so anybody who does it after, will always be compared to–oh this is like a Truth or Dare-type documentary. There was ultimate access. You saw things that you still don’t get in concert documentaries today. Others have not been able to match those intimate moments—not even her own follow-up documentary [‘I’m Going to Tell You a Secret’]. It’s all about that first one. The show was fantastic and that show was also the first of its kind, where you see this cathartic theater play out with big-ass sets coming out of the floor and from the ceiling–it was theater, and this documentary gave you access to everything in front and behind the show. It was monumental. All the stars were aligned on this project. She caught lightning in a bottle with that one honey. It was the moment when she went from rubber bracelets to Gaultier bustiers. Everybody gagged. It was the ultimate backstage pass.
If you ran into Madonna tomorrow, what would you say to her?
I would say, ‘Hey girl!’ And you know what she would say–she’d say, “Hey queen! What’s up?” The last time I saw her–that’s what she said to me.
When was the last time her you saw her?
It was backstage at one of her concerts before she went out. They cleared the hallway and let me stay and as she made her way to the stage, she saw me and we had a chance to chat for a moment. It was really fantastic.
Luis Camacho will join Truth or Dare director Alek Keshishian and others for a Q&A after the Outfest screening. Tickets can be purchased at: outfest.org