Madonna Addressed AIDS Hysteria In 1985 “SNL” Sketch

MadonnaSNLSay what you will about Madonna’s acting chops, but the icon has always had our backs and never been afraid to push the envelope. Take, for example, the clip below (which has been cyber-shared a bit this week) from her only hosting stint on Saturday Night Live back in 1985 when she was indisputably the most famous entertainer woman on the planet. In the sketch, which was clearly inspired by the anxiety and, in some cases, furor that surrounded an episode of Dynasty. Superstar actor Rock Hudson had joined the cast as a love interest to series regular Linda Evans. In one episode Hudson kissed Evans on the mouth. Not a big deal, you’re thinking but by the time the episode aired Hudson was revealed to be battling AIDS and had known at the time it was filmed but hadn’t disclosed the information to his costar. It was a different era, friends, an AIDS diagnosis was thought to be a death sentence and there were even tabloid reports that Evans had contracted the disease from a mere smooch. Evans, for the record, bore no grudge against the late superstar.

Anyway, in the skit titled “Pinklisting,” Madge dons a dark wig to resemble Evans’ other costar Joan Collins and a clipped British accent (a harbinger of things to come!) to play a TV actress unwilling to do scenes with a costar “she doesn’t know” due to her fear of AIDS. The joke, if it can be referred to as one, is that the costar is played by Terry Sweeney (still the only openly gay male SNL player), as a super-femme gay actor who tries to butch it up but he loses his cool when confronted by a snarky Judy-Liza headline.

While the sketch isn’t exactly a rib-tickler it’s surprising in hindsight that it was a comic skit built around AIDS at a time when it was still considered a fatal disease, and broadcast in November 1985, less than a month after Hudson’s death. While that may seem insensitive, remember that this was the year Larry Kramer’s landmark AIDS-themed play The Normal Heart was first produced — and President Reagan hadn’t even uttered the word in public. So let’s hear it again for Madonna, forever at the forefront of progress, bringing a public discourse on the disease into the homes of millions of TV viewers. Watch “Pinklisting” here.

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  • jonjct

    OMG, why are you bringing up an ancient prehistoric clip of Madonna? I mean, this wasn’t even covered in my history of TV class it’s so obscure. The Queerty editors are really desperate for material to raise this kind of crap from the dead.

  • ED49

    @jonjct: Madonna these days is an old crow acting like she was 17, sticking her tongue out like a fool. She makes stupid videos pretending she is saving the world and bringing solutions . After all this years Madonna has been exposed and has lived with the best of the world, yet, she is vulgar, a filthy mouth and unpleasant to watch . Everytime I see her I cringe to see her wearing grills and saying something stupid and I wonder what happened to her? where is the smart woman that had something interesting to say? It’s refreshing to see her on this video. She was not hero though; the only heros when it comes to HIV in the 80’s were Elizabeth Taylor and Doris Day, they stood by Rock Hudson in an era of homophobia, hate and despair. Let’s remind the young that in the 80’s we were not sure how Aids was transmitted, we sure did know this virus would attack your body so quickly that you didn’t have time to plan your own funeral.

  • Kidomega123

    FYI, current SNL player Kate McKinnon is openly gay. She’s been on the show for two seasons now.

  • rickh710

    As someone who lived through the epidemic in the 80s and 90s, it’s shocking to me that Madonna’s efforts on behalf of the gay community are now being shunned by our latest generation. Really kids, get a clue – she and Elizabeth Taylor were among the few celebrity voices speaking out for gay men at the time (most AIDS causes were couched in politically-correct love for the suffering children – see Elton John / Ryan White et al.) Yes, she’s old and pretentiously mannered now, but her efforts to keep us from dying were sincere and deserve respect.

  • Lookyloo

    That was Al Franken’s voice narrating the opening. Perhaps he wrote the sketch. He’s been an ally since forever and now he’s a Senator.

    Plus – and I’m surprised the article didn’t mention this – Robert Downey Jr and, of a lesser note, Anthony Michael Hall were bit players in the sketch – notably as crew members making out at the end.

    Also, the makeup lady was Joan Cusack who’s awesome these days in ‘Shameless’ (showtime).

  • Patrick Cremeans

    Gaga’s Little Monsters: “Flop hasbeen! QWEEN GAGA invented AIDS awareness! And Saturday Night Live! And music!”

  • Michael Craig

    Many people feel that Lady Gaga is already a has been. Let’s see if we are still talking about her when she’s Madonna’s age. Somehow I doubt it.

  • Robert Wilson

    i’ve always been more of a cyndi guy.

  • BrandonB

    Madonna has always been at the forefront of the AIDS crisis. She put a face to a plague that had so many victims. I will always respect her for her contributions and awareness she brought.

  • Donald Kirby

    So not true about Madonna having our backs. She said nothing about Eminem’s homophobic lyrics. She applauded him. When was the last time she attended a gay pride? She has done nothing for the gays.

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