'blond Ambition' and Banzai Bustiers: Madonna Launches a Throbbing World Tour in Tokyo

updated 05/07/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/07/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

After routinely violating almost every taboo about sex, sacrilege and the public display of underwear, what's a girl to do for new material? Madonna revealed her answer in Japan, where she kicked off a four-month tour that will no doubt delight fans, fetishists, cross-dressers and topic-starved conservative columnists the world over. Mimed masturbation? Madonna's got it, during "Like a Virgin." Topless guys in foot-long pointy brassieres? They pop up a third of the way through the show. A hint of discipline? "You may not know the song, but you all know the pleasures of a good spanking," Madonna cooed after "Hanky Panky," an ode to the joy of the slap. Granted, there are quieter moments—Madonna as housewife in curlers, Madonna with fish-tailed mermen—but before you know it, there she goes again, confessing in song to a guy dressed as a priest. The 105-minute hullabaloo is amazing for its breadth of controversy. Perhaps even more remarkable is the fact that, so far as can be determined, not one of the show's seven dancers has been sidelined with a groin injury.

"She said, 'Let's break every rule we can,' " says choreographer Vince Paterson. "She wanted to make statements about sexuality, cross-sexuality, the church and the like. But the biggest thing we tried to do is change the shape of concerts. Instead of just presenting songs, we wanted to combine fashion, Broadway, rock and performance art."

Nature, unbidden but immutable, made a dramatic entrance on the third night of the nine-show Japan swing, when a rainstorm drenched the crowd of 30,000 at Chiba Marine Stadium, near Tokyo. Tour intimates urged Madonna to cancel—the front of the stage had turned into a Slip 'n Slide—but she refused. "When I saw the kids in front getting soaked, the decision was made," she said. After sloshing through a few numbers, the 31-year-old singer broke with the program, sliding across the wet stage and telling the audience, "You didn't know you were here for an ice-skating show. Well, I'm Dorothy Hamill."

Even if they didn't get the joke, the usually reserved Japanese showed their enthusiasm by rushing the stage and dancing in the aisles. Sports Nippon newspaper declared Madonna not only "supersexy" but also the "goddess of the '90s." Her brother, Christopher Ciccone, the tour's artistic director, pronounced her "delighted. She overcame rain, a full moon, Friday the 13th and put on a terrific show."

The eight-week, 36-performance U.S. leg of the tour, dubbed Blond Ambition, opens this week in Houston—just in time to promote a new Madonna album, I'm Breathless, comprised of "music from and inspired by the film Dick Tracy" The LP, in turn, will help promote that much-talked-about movie, starring Madonna and Warren Beatty and due in June. During her shows, Madonna pays tribute to the golden gumshoe with a three-song Dick Tracy suite, which features one number by Stephen Sondheim ("Sooner or Later") and much dancing by six gentlemen in yellow trench coats and G-strings.

Despite the contributions by other talents—including avant-garde fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, who created most of the costumes—there's no question that responsibility for the final product, controversy and all, rests with Madonna. Says her friend, songwriter Stephen Bray: "This is a woman who is in complete charge of her life. She calls her own shots." Or, as a no-nonsense Madonna put it to a technician who questioned one of her decisions during a Tokyo sound check, "Listen. Everyone is entitled to my opinion."

—Montgomery Brower, Todd Gold in Tokyo

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