Leach puts heavy dose of hype in Madonna bio, 'Exposed'

March 13, 1993|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

If you can wade through hip-deep hype and abide the carniva barker whine that Robin Leach has refined to a high art, you will actually find a core of fascinating biography in "Madonna: Exposed," a two-hour special at 10 tonight on WNUV-Channel 54.

The most interesting moments come in contemplating a series of still photographs, a curiously static way to appreciate the pop star perhaps best known for the way she moves.

No, these are not the famous nude photos from her 1992 book "Sex" (although we see quite a few of these in the show), nor freeze-frame images of the early sex-film footage the special claims to be revealing to the world for the first time.

Instead, they are school pictures, from when young Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone was a parochial school girl in Pontiac, Mich.

One portrait in particular -- she looks about 12 -- seems to perfectly project the provocative figure she would become. There's something restive and determined in those blue eyes.

We also hear a guidance counselor tell tales of Madonna wearing short skirts and dancing in school plays in limit-testing ways. Other acquaintances and family members, including stepmother Joan Ciccone, do not seem terribly surprised to see where their little girl has gone.

For these brief moments, you feel you may have glimpsed some truth about the daring figure whose public image seems so far removed.

But then there's all that hype.

If possible, Mr. Leach has achieved a caricature status equal to that of the star he profiles.

Early in the program, he invites Madonna to phone the show to give her views, contending accusingly that she and her staff tried to thwart his investigations "at every turn."

But why would she want to block such priceless publicity?

Mr. Leach's suggestive accounts of the star's past do nothing but add to the myth -- especially some fascinating details about her life in New York City as a struggling 19-year-old wannabe, who did what she had to do to make the rent and food money.

And the show's gimmicky viewer-response poll -- it poses the question, "Has Madonna gone too far?" -- merely underlines her popularity. The live broadcast brought "a resounding no" from 90 percent of the respondents.

Viewers could be forgiven for imagining a more plausible scenario, in which the Material Girl and the "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" chef cooked up the whole stew.

Madonna. Leach. Hype. Synonyms?

That's entertainment.

NOSTALGIA TRIP -- Cable's Family Channel tonight offers journey back to the beginning of one of TV's most successful series.

"Ironside," the movie pilot for the 1967-75 series in which Raymond Burr portrayed a wheelchair-bound detective, can be seen at 9 o'clock on the basic-cable service.

Mr. Burr directed the film, too, and Don Galloway, Don Mitchell and Barbara Anderson all appear in the roles they'd play in the series.

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