Bobby Woods worked for Madonna during her most glorious days. He talks with us about his duties as Boy Toy's Executive Producer and shares some tidbits from the set of Deeper and Deeper video he directed.
Bobby Woods is a man behind Madonna's video for Deeper and Deeper and he used to be the Executive Producer of her Boy Toy Inc. He shares with us how it was working with the Queen of Pop during her peak and why he thinks there's no one like her!
You were an executive producer of Madonna's Boy Toy Inc. How did that happen and what were your duties?
I originally met Madonna during the "Express Yourself" music video. I was working as Creative Director at Propaganda Films with the director, David Fincher. I was also around for "Vogue," and "Oh Father." Alek Keshishian was with us at the company, and when his great film "Truth Or Dare" began, I came to be the Executive Producer at Boy Toy, Inc., which was Madonna's company at the time. Madonna and Alek trusted my opinion, and I was able to help in many aspects of the film, including the worldwide marketing. That led to work on other things such as her deal with Time/Warner, which was the beginning of Maverick, her new company.
Bobby Woods and Madonna on the set of "Erotica" video.
We can only imagine that working for Madonna must be very challenging. What qualities about her as your business partner you appreciated the most?
For me, working with her was a lot of fun. First off, she's extremely smart. Secondly, it's all her doing. Thirdly, nobody is more professional. And most importantly, she has the great ability to bring together very talented people, and make them want to do their very best for her. This is true of all the stylists, musicians, dancers, filmmakers, photographers…, everybody. Many of them do the best work of their careers during their time with her. It's a great and rare talent. Years later I became the President of Martha Stewart television because Martha has this ability as well. Also, I have seen it with the fashion designer Rick Owens. These are very creative worlds where talented people are encouraged to do their very best. It is my belief that this spirit carries over to the fans, who are also lifted up by this talent. There is a strong message running through much, if not all, of Madonna's art which is about empowerment and belief in one's self. This is no idle message, she's come a long way from the suburbs of Detroit, and she's brought a lot of people along on the journey with her. I'm one of them.
Now you are even closer to the music since you are orchestra's leader! How and when did that happen?
Most of my life I have played music and had bands. I was making records while working with Madonna. Also, I was doing music for television with David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti. Things like commercials for Calvin Klein, and Yves Saint Laurent. Also the television show Twin Peaks. People often ask me why Madonna and I never did music together, and I guess the answer is, we never thought of it. She was a big supporter of my songs. I have a lovely note she wrote me once. It says, "You are my favorite writer. Why don't you write a novel, and dedicate it to me." One day I will write that novel.
Bobby Woods, Susan Becker and Madonna on set of "Deeper and Deeper" video.
Aww that's sweet! Now you are working with Les Deux Orchestra. What's amazing about it?
Les Deux Love Orchestra is very eclectic. We try to make it feel like the soundtrack to a romantic dream. We have many members, of all ages, all sexes. We play with some of the original members of Frank Sinatra's orchestra, as well as Henry Mancini's, and Nelson Riddle's. We've had Joni Mitchell sing with us many times. We perform a wide variety of styles. We play film scores, electronica, cabaret music. It's great fun to lead an orchestra. Also, everyone in the audience dresses very glamorously for the performances, which is nice. Listen to one of our records, I think you'll like it.
Madonna's handwritten notes about "Deeper and Deeper" video concept.
Les Deux Love Orchestra posted a photo of you and Madonna on the set of Erotica video for its 20th anniversary. While being there and making a video for this song did you imagine this whole era will be one of the most shocking one in the pop culture history?
Well, at this time several of her videos had already been banned. "Justify My Love," directed by my pal and hero, the great Jean-Baptiste Mondino, was not allowed on MTV. Also the sheer top she wore in "Vogue" made the censors nervous. She was pushing the boundaries of what was allowed. She always has. Fabien Baron had shot Super 8 footage while he was working on the book. It was obvious that this footage should be used as the video for the song, "Erotica." It was pretty clear MTV was going to ban it. Every time I see that video I forget we had all those great people in it. Eric Liekefet produced it. We were very secretive about it. We edited the video in my house.
Some say that people were not ready for exploring Dita's world. Some journalists wrote that Madonna is over. On the other hand she blazed a trail for the rest - there has been lots of nudity in music since Erotica. What's your opinion?
First off, anyone who counts Madonna out is a fool. You'd think they would have learned that by now. In any case the negative critics don't really matter. They always seem to me to be very sad people.
As far as her trailblazing goes, I have seen some of the modern pop singers today, and have been asked to work with a few. But for me, they are missing a certain important element which Madonna always had. I think it may be humor, or the ability to laugh at oneself. I feel that, perhaps, many of these modern singers harbor the desperate secret doubt that they are not everything they are pretending to be. Madonna does not have that problem. She can have fun with herself, and share that fun with the audience. The audience gets to share in the pretending. "You're a Superstar. That's what you are." That's the message of "Vogue." That's my opinion, anyway.
You directed a video for Erotica's follow up single – Deeper & Deeper. It's a visual tribute to Andy Warhol style, Studio 54 and classic disco. Could you tell us more about the whole creative process and that specific mood you've created? Was it fun to be on the set of such videoclip?
Madonna wanted to do an Andy Warhol/Edie Sedgwick styled video. She believed, and I think this is accurate, that there was a similar feel to the times of America in the 'Roaring '20's' and the Disco '70's. A wildness. The video was made very quickly. "Deeper and Deeper" is a great song, one of her best dance records for sure, thanks to Shep Pettibone. The dance sequences in the video are 100% spontaneous. We loaded a dance floor with people, put her record on, and the dancing began. I have danced with Madonna many times. So I can understand why those people wanted to dance with her as well. It's a thrill. She also brought along Udo Kier and Holly Woodlawn who were part of the original Warhol crowd. Her pal Sofia Coppola (who I adore) came along, too, as well as Debi Mazar and Ingrid Casares.
We can definitely see Sofia Coppola there! Do you remember how she got the role?
We called her up and said, "We'll see you down there on Thursday." She said, "Great, see you there." That was it.
You also produced, along with Joel Silver, this hilarious video celebrating 10thAnniversary of MTV directed by Alek Keshishian . Did you have an initial script for it or it was all spontaneous?
I had this idea where Madonna would speak directly to the camera, and talk to MTV as if it were her longtime lover celebrating their 10th anniversary together. Madonna and Alek made it come alive with their intimate friendship and creativity. He could get her to relax and be herself. Most of the piece is ad-libbed, with Alek working off a few notes. It was edited by Jim Haygood. I love that film. I feel that one could really see her and her true personality in that piece. It's one of my favorite things we did together.
Of course, all the well-known fabulous glamour, all the global impact, all the music, films, scandal and all the faces of Madonna are awesome when looked at overall. Clearly, there's no one like her. But, for me, the most interesting thing about the whole thing has always been the girl herself. Don't you think so?
We couldn't agree more! So now we can just invite you to come and play in Poland! By the way, have you ever been to Poland?
I would love to bring Les Deux Love Orchestra to Poland. What time's the flight?
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