Friday, August 23, 2013

MadonnaTribe meet George DuBose

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.

MadonnaTribe: 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 keeping deadlines. 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, Gerard.

MadonnaTribe: 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?

George DuBose: 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.

MadonnaTribe: 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?

George DuBose: 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.

MadonnaTribe: How did Camille want to use those images?

George DuBose: 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.

MadonnaTribe: Was that Madonna's first gig ever?

George DuBose: 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.

MadonnaTribe: 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?

George DuBose: Madonna 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.

MadonnaTribe: How was the performance in terms of production, costumes and type of music?

George DuBose: 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.

MadonnaTribe: 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?

George DuBose: Where 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... working.

MadonnaTribe: 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 Underground. What do you remember of those later performaces?

George DuBose: Madonna's 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 the gig. 

MadonnaTribe: 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?

George DuBose: 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 would do.

MadonnaTribe: 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 died. What do you remember about this project in which you appear as a bar patron?

George DuBose: 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.

MadonnaTribe: 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?

George DuBose: 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.

MadonnaTribe: What do you think of the way Madonna has been using her images through the years?

George DuBose: 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?

MadonnaTribe: How would you photograph her today?

George DuBose: 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.

MadonnaTribe: 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?

George DuBose: 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.

MadonnaTribe: What are you working on today and which are your future plans?

George DuBose: 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 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" images.

MadonnaTribe: Thanks a lot for being with us, George. We wish you all the best for everything coming up!

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