The University of Chicago Magazine June 1995
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Blonde Faith

A U of C grad who actually admits he likes Madonna? Matthew Rettenmund's obsession is bound in softcover for the whole wide world to see.

By Jaclyn H. Park

SOME PEOPLE LOVE MADONNA. Some people loathe Madonna. And then there's Matthew Rettenmund, who can tell you the first boy the pop singer ever planted her pre-collagen-enhanced lips on, a lad named Tommy Marshowitz. The dirty deed came to pass in the fifth grade. Behind St. Andrew's School in Michigan. Tommy had bad teeth. And later died in a fall. No connection to the kiss. Or his teeth. Why does Rettenmund, a '91 graduate of the College, know all this? For that matter, why does anyone know this? Because it's just so much darn fun, Rettenmund chirps. Being able to list Madonna's first smooch, her first band (The Breakfast Club), her first major purchase with record earnings (a $5,000 Roland synthesizer), and her first U.S. talk-show appearance (The Tonight Show) is as refreshingly silly as treasuring a Madonna place mat from Japan -- which Rettenmund also does. Although the promotional piece, circa 1986, commemorates the release of the Live to Tell album, he's the first to admit it's basically a piece of trash.

"There's no good reason that I, in 1995, should have this," Rettenmund says over chicken salad and Diet Coke in a Manhattan restaurant near his apartment in Chelsea. "This is something that should have died."

But it lives on, thanks to Rettenmund, who works a day job as a news assistant at Reuters in New York and published Encyclopedia Madonnica this spring. In 200-some pages of dizzying, cross-referenced trivia, rare photos, and artwork, the 26-year-old former English major chronicles "The Woman and the Icon" from A to Z, with the unabashed devotion to camp and kitsch that Rettenmund has fostered since growing up in a small Michigan town.

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