Monday, April 22, 2024

Seymour Stein, On How He Met Madonna and Made Her a Star from His Hospital Bed: “And Now You Give Me the Money!”


In 1982, Seymour Stein wound up in Lenox Hill Hospital with a heart infection. But he’d sent his Sire Records scout Mark Kamins out into the world to find new acts, and Kamins, a deejay, came up with Madonna.

In his must read book, “Siren Song,” Stein wrote about their first meeting — in his room at Lenox Hill.

He recalled:

By the time Madonna walked in with Mark Kamins that evening, I had been fully briefed and tidied up by a team of ladies. My hair was good, I no longer smelled like a French farm laborer, windows had been opened, piles of magazines and tapes had been neatly stacked. All that was missing was the pipe, the monocle, the book, and the beagle asleep at my feet. Of course, Madonna took one look at the tube stuck into my skin and squirmed. Not that she really cared about my predicament. She’d come to get a record deal before some old record guy croaked, along with his check-signing hand. She was all dolled up in cheap punky gear, the kind of club kid who looked absurdly out of place in a cardiac ward. She wasn’t even interested in hearing me explain how much I liked her demo. “The thing to do now,” she said, “is sign me to a record deal.” She then opened her arms and laughed. “Take me, I’m yours!”

She was goofing around doing a Lolita routine because I was twice her age. Or maybe I really was smiling back at her like a dirty old man, because she didn’t take long to cut through all the small talk and go straight for the kill. Peering into the back of my head with those Madonna eyes, she said, “And now, you give me the money.” “What?” I snapped back, which was unusual for me. As a rule, I’m always careful around artists, but Madonna had bigger balls than the four men in the room put together. “Look, just tell me what I have to do to get a fucking record deal in this town!” she hit back, sounding deflated. “Don’t worry, you’ve got a deal,” I assured her.

And with that exchange, we finally met each other on level ground. Madonna had a power over men, a power over everyone that I think she was too young to control or even realize. For obvious reasons, her magic didn’t work the same way on me, which I think was a good thing for us both. I doubt she knew I was gay, and all I knew about her was the tape I’d heard. I had no idea she was stone broke and secretly hoping to leave the hospital with a check.

The pair went on to have a string of hits through the 80s, from “Lucky Star” to “Vogue,” making Madonna rich beyond even her wildest dreams. It was all due to Seymour Stein.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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