WHEN Madonna released her album Like A Virgin in 1984, she could never have dreamed that her music would strike the most incredible chord with a teenager several thousands of kilometres away.
Ashley Newman from Grassy Park was 13 at the time. From the moment he heard the song at a friend's party, he was hooked.
“I went to the DJ and asked about the song. And I went home and I sat at my radio every day for the next few days with my TDK cassette, to record any song of Madonna that came on. After that she released Material Girl, Into The Groove and all these tracks, and everything was just so appealing to me,” he said.
Newman turns 50 at the end of this month. He's as crazy about the American pop star now as he was back then.
He spent most of his childhood in Grassy and his later years in Kenwyn.
Newman is an architectural project manager by day, a master baker at night and weekends, and incredibly still manages to find time to feed his other passion – collecting Madonna memorabilia.
Ask him one question about her, and you're guaranteed a detailed answer stretching a good 10 minutes at a minimum. Once Newman starts talking about Madonna, it's a little tough to get a word in edgeways. Such is the level of commitment to his long-time idol.
Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone's journey into the world of entertainment is made up of interesting strands too.
Madonna was born in Michigan to an Italian-American family. In her teenage years she dabbled in ballet, cheerleading and dancing.The singing and performing became her main feature in 1979. Then it was an almost straight path to stardom.
Like A Virgin would not only become one of the most overplayed songs in the Newman household, it would go on to become one of 12 Madonna tracks to reach number one on the Billboard 100 charts.
As the singing sensation churned more and more quality hits, so Newman's “Madonna addiction” grew. “Every time she released a new album and when it was sold at music outlets here in South Africa, I would wait at the stores for them to open the boxes so I could get my first copy of the CD or whatever they had available,” he explained.
Newman's collection of memorabilia is pretty impressive. Cassettes, records, CDs, calendars, books and movies on DVD.
“I have some Madonna records from the 80s. I've got every single album. What I also used to do is get a European copy and a South African copy of her latest releases. Because sometimes the European copies have two additional remixes on them. And on my travels I used to buy a lot of her singles.”
Over the years Newman has worked tirelessly to expand his music collection.
“I've met up with other Madonna fans across the world through the internet. They used to post music on their sites. So I used to get all the different remixes and all the rare albums. I have a file on my music drive about 300 gigs of just Madonna.”
Newman has been to seven Madonna concerts. And it's the one in London he speaks most passionately about.
“I won a radio competition in 2000 to see her live at Brixton Academy. That was the best show ever. I was listening to Ian F on 5FM, who had been advertising this Madonna competition for three weeks. And I always said to my colleagues in the office that this one is mine, I've got this in the bag.
“And I told all my co-workers, this is the number, dial it, put your phones on speed dial, and if he (Ian F) answers, just give the phone to me. And then I got through and I answered all the questions. And I was one of the finalists who went through to the Friday competition (a few days later).
“They threw all the names in a hat and chose only two, and I was one of them. I went head to head with another girl from Cape Town. In the end we were tied at three points each. And with the tie-breaker they played a one second snippet of a song from her new album, which was Music. This girl answered first – she said it was American Pie and I knew she was wrong. I said it's Don't Tell Me. And Ian F just went quiet for a few seconds, and he said to me - Ashley you're going to London! And by Tuesday evening I was watching her live.”
Madonna has never toured South Africa. That hasn't stopped her number one fan in Mzansi from extending an invite. “Get yourself down here to South Africa and come and perform for us. I believe you'll be able to fill an arena here easily,” Newman said enthusiastically.
Newman has his own bespoke cake business, serving up the most decadent treats to order. His company is called #Ydnacdrah. It's “Hard Candy” spelled backwards, one of his favourite Madonna albums.
Asked to single out his favourite Madonna song of all time, he said it was just too hard to choose just one. “It’s a toss up between two – Frozen and Like a prayer.”