San Pedro's "Blonde" Roots

by Angela Romero

This month Madonna launched her new album, Rebel Heart, announced a world tour of the same name and graces the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. It’s safe to say that Madonna is en vogue, again. But did she ever stop vogue-ing?

April marks the 25th Anniversary of the Blonde Ambition Tour- a tour that Rolling Stone dubbed the greatest concert of the 90’s. Earlier that year, in 1990, a little photo-shoot would forever tie San Pedro to the iconic show and its star.

This story was told to me by my friend Ray Kaufman, the former community liaison for the Warner Grand Theater.

Ray was standing out on 6th Street and a beautiful young woman with short black hair pulled up and politely asked him where she could park for the Warner Grand. He had no idea that he had just spoken with Madonna. She was there to shoot photos for her upcoming tour booklet and promotional shots that would eventually make the cover of Interview Magazine. Her photographer was famous fashion photographer Herb Ritts and the collection of photos would become known as ‘Madonna, San Pedro’.

Herb Ritts and Madonna had full run of the Warner Grand. They took pictures on the stage against the shimmery curtain that, sadly, is no longer with us. There are photos just outside the stage door with a wave pattern in the background- and, yes those waves are still there. The group spent quite some time up on the roof above the storefronts connected to the theater (where Sacred Grounds is now). Rumor has it that Madonna didn’t want to waste time running to the dressing rooms for costume changes so she just changed right there. Madonna and Herb made good use of the entire building, even venturing to the downstairs men’s bathroom where she took the very famous photo with a hand mirror and a urinal.

This photo-shoot at the Warner Grand Theater was not Madonna’s first experience in San Pedro. When she was married to Sean Penn, she would come with him to visit Charles Bukowski and in 1989 she filmed part of her ‘Like a Prayer’ music video at Battery Osgood-Farley, including the controversial cross burning scenes.

Ray Kaufman remembers Madonna and the photo-shoot very fondly. If you aren’t one of the lucky Madonna fans with a Blonde Ambition Tour book hiding in your closet, you can still find some on eBay but the June 1990 issue of Interview is a little harder to find. Lucky for us, many of the photos can still be found on the internet, keeping Madonna’s connection to San Pedro a vivid piece of history.

Angela Romero is a San Pedro historian, blogger and ambassador. She celebrates positive San Pedro stories on her website, That’s So Pedro (

Article Posted: 4/1/2015