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Trove of 1980s Madonna pop culture awaits St. Petersburg auction

ST. PETERSBURG — Long before Newsweek called her a "tarted-up floozy," way before she married and had babies and adopted babies, and a lifetime before she opened an Instagram account, Madonna was a young woman in New York trying to make it big.

That ambition — and a good bit of innocence — can be seen in a collection of photos, art and drawings that are on the auction block Feb. 9 in St. Petersburg.

The collection is owned by the parents of Martin Burgoyne, an artist, Studio 54 bartender and Madonna's best friend during that time.

Burgoyne and Madonna befriended each other before she became famous. They were roommates and he played a huge role in Madonna's early career. He managed her first tour and drew the cover image of Madonna for her 1983 Burning Up EP album cover. They partied with artists Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and others. He was raised in England and went to New York to study art at the Pratt Institute.

Madonna and Burgoyne also supported each other emotionally and financially during hard times — after she was raped and when Burgoyne contracted AIDS.

Burgoyne died in 1986 when he was 23 and Madonna wrote a song about him called In This Life that was on her 1992 album Erotica.

For decades, his parents have kept their son's memorabilia from that era private — until now.

Mary Dowd, the co-owner of Myers Fine Art, said Burgoyne's parents live in the Tampa Bay area and are in their 80s. They are selling the collection at an auction.

"I think they came to a point in their lives where they figured that it was time to do something with the collection," Dowd said. "And so they phone us up and asked us if we would come take a look at it, which we did, and so we saw the breadth of the collection, it was really pretty incredible."

There's an original hand-drawn portrait of Burgoyne by Andy Warhol. There's an original invitation to a fundraiser for Burgoyne by Keith Haring — a party written about in the New York Times in September 1986 as AIDS was devastating a generation of mostly young gay men, including Burgoyne. The story is heartbreakingly sad, not only because of its foreshadowing of Burgoyne's death, but of prevalent attitudes in that era toward those with HIV and AIDS.

Studio 54 owner Steve Rubell noted in the story that "people could be in the same room with someone infected with the AIDS virus without contracting it." Madonna was at that party, the Times noted.

But in Burgoyne's collection in Florida, there are no photos from that party, only from the earlier, happier years.

And then there are the Madonna photos. Some are candid Polaroids of her making goofy faces with Burgoyne. Others are black and whites, intended for an album cover, of Madonna looking poised and fragile. There are also numerous photos of Burgoyne, a handsome young man in a white shirt and suspenders.

Some of the photos were taken by Burgoyne, said Dowd, while it's unclear who took others. She said it's possible that Andy Warhol took some of the Polaroids, because they date to same years that he experimented with Polaroid portraits.

Dowd said one of the more remarkable items in the collection is Burgoyne's sketchbook, in which he inked photo booth sessions of Madonna, and a full-color sketch for her Burning Up EP album cover. The image is totally '80s, all bright block colors. Madonna sports short hair and thick eyebrows.

"If you're an enthusiast of entertainment back in the early 80s - and that was a heyday and pivotal time I think — this is kind of a real step back in time to that period," Dowd said.

Dowd isn't sure how much each piece will go for — the original Warhol portrait of Burgoyne should fetch a good price, she thinks — but she's secretly hoping Madonna herself will hear about the auction and bid on some items.

"It seems like it's something she should have for her historical archives," said Dowd. "It's a big part of her life, from the beginning."

Trove of 1980s Madonna pop culture awaits St. Petersburg auction 01/22/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 1:10pm]
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