Disclaimer: My thoughts on W.E. will not be published until the week of release (February 3.)

Now and then, there are some moments when I’m invited to cover an event, a concert or simply spacing out mid-interview with somebody important and/or pretty where I completely lose focus of everything happening in my head and ask myself: “I’m sorry, but what the fuck is my life right now?”

Last night, as I was walking down the aisle of the Ziegfeld Theater to take my seat in the front row at the premiere of Madonna‘s new film W.E., I had that moment.

I’ve never been to a movie premiere in my life, so when I picked up my tickets at Will Call and saw that I was seated in Row A of the orchestra, I was utterly ecstatic: Front row?! INSANE! It was only when I took to my seat however, that I quickly realized as I massaged my neck worriedly: Front row at a concert? INSANE! Front row at a movie premiere? Not exactly prime real estate. That is–except for a perfect view of whoever introduces the film.

For that, it would soon be worth all the eye straining.

After entering the theater at around 7 P.M. on Monday night, my friend Martin and I began anxiously squirming in our seats trying to predict when and where she would appear. From behind the curtain? From the ceiling? Who could be sure?

A few minutes later, Camille of Hard Candy Music began eagerly texting me from outside to tell me that the stars were began drifting through the red carpet, which meant that Madonna’s arrival was only moments away. She suggested that I make a run for the door.

Here, I knew I had two real options: I could stay seated because of my crippling social anxiety and deep-seated fear of rule-breaking and/or shenanigans, or take a chance, make a change…and breakaway. So I booked it, passing through the lobby and heading straight for the front–until the intimidating security guard stopped me. “Sir, you can wait out here,” he offered harshly. Well, so much for that.

A brief moment of bravery now squashed, I stood by the Vita Coco refreshment table, pretending as though I was anxiously awaiting someone to appear (or serving Vita Coco juice boxes).


Left: DVF. Right: A very shoddy photo of Brahim (Lola on far right–black hair).

Now, I’m not one to get too fussed about celebrity spotting (that is, unless it’s Madonna–foreshadowing!). After all, they’re just people (stars–they’re just like us!), and often so devastatingly normal. Yet the assortment of celebrities waltzing into the lobby at the Ziegfeld weren’t exactly D-listers.

Before I returned to my seat, Diane Von Furstenburg suddenly came trudging into the lobby with a bevy of other-worldly models, merrily making the rounds with guests right in front of the concession stand. She was all smiles, and almost reminded me of a distant relative I only see around Christmas. Had I a few drinks in my system, I might have even tried to give her a hug. Mercifully, that didn’t happen.

More models walked in. As I stood faux-texting and watching with bated breath, a quick whisp of black hair passed by. Before I could react for a photo, I recognized the hushed state of the lobby immediately: It was Lourdes, Madonna’s gorgeous daughter, and it was far too late for me to prove it. I did capture a moment of her walking away alongside Madge’s hunky beau, Brahim, but otherwise, I failed.

Other familiar faces walked in afterward, including Martha Stewart, Ivanka Trump, Project Runway winner Christian Siriano, his boyfriend Brad Walsh, and Real Housewives of New York‘s Kelly Bensimon (who, for the record, was the biggest stunt queen. Not only did she stay seated and smiling as everyone passed by once the movie was over, but she stood against the exit doors like an usher, beaming hungrily at each pair of eyes passing by as we left. I see you, fame-hungry housewife. I SEE YOU.)

At some point, the usher announced that the movie was about to begin. I wasn’t about to get locked out to continue watching the celebrities parading by, so I dashed back to my seat to get settled.

Several more minutes passed before a few friends excitedly came over and pointed out that she was in the far back of the theater preparing to head to the front. An announcer took to the center of the theater, quieting the audience as he prepared to introduce Madonna. And then I realized: She was coming down my aisle.

A bright light shone down the entire walkway as she glided down amidst deafening cries, people audibly gasping, cheering or–at a loss for words, simply shouting “Beautiful!” As she grew closer to the front, the crowd slowly died down to an equally deafening silence. At that point, everyone was simply staring, seemingly stunned.

She was just a few feet away at that point. I saw a tuft of blonde hair bouncing, and then her face. My mind started racing. There she is–the woman who brought us everything from “Lucky Star” to “Vogue” to “Frozen” to “Hung Up”–standing right there, and then…my mind went blank. She was a mere inches away from me. I think I let out a whimper, or perhaps a sharp gasp. If I tried to say something, nothing came out. I wouldn’t remember even if I did.

Before anyone could react, she was already strolling past to the front of the room. With the train of her dress gripped in her right hand, she quickly turned and surveyed the audience. She looked remarkably iconic–classic Old Hollywood glamour. At once, she thrust the train to the ground. The entire theater shook. She had arrived.

I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic when I say that the train toss itself was arguably better than most pop performances in 2011.

Standing poised, Madonna began her speech by thanking all of the actors, cast and crew of W.E. for their work. She discussed the making the film, her commitment to telling a story, and her own interpretation of the movie. In usual Madonna form, it was all very dramatic, remarkably enunciated and occasionally pretentious, yet her passion for the project was palpable.

At a point, she seemed to tire out from all the speaking. “I’m sorry that I’m so tired,” she said, pained. “I’ve been working my ass off for the Superbowl!” The crowd immediately erupted in cheers.

She warned us that when she gets tired, she gets emotional and often cries. And in the last few moments, it actually happened: “Finally, I’d like to thank my mother…” she began to say, suddenly choked up. A devastating quiet filled the room. “because really…this story,” her voice began to break in between tears as she pulled at her dress. “This story is the journey of a female’s soul, and…my mother gave me life. So thank you, and enjoy the film,” she announced, before quickly heading stage right as the crowd stood and clapped. The Queen, ladies and gentlemen.

So now, a quick pop quiz: One of your biggest idols–if not THE biggest (remember–Britney‘s my favorite, but Madonna is The Queen), just sashayed past you, delivered a speech no more than 10 or 15 feet away, broke into tears, and then glided away into a sea of flashing lights. What do you do when the lights dim and the film reel begins to spin?

The answer, as I learned: Cry very quietly in the darkness.