Okay, here’s a random one.
A few nights back, I found myself -– apropos of nothing -– sitting down to watch another airing of Susan Seidelman’s 1985 opus, “Desperately Seeking Susan,” the arguably star-making vehicle for “Like a Virgin”-era Madonna (although one could make the case that Madonna was going to be a star with or without the help of Seidelman’s film). One might wonder why I chose to watch this movie again, given the savaging I recently gave Seidelman’s earlier work, “Smithereens.” I didn’t have a great agenda, but I’ll maintain that “Desperately…” is a superior film on a number of different levels.
In any case, “Desperately Seeking Susan” remains a fine little movie, and an excellent time-capsule-worthy bit of 80’s NYC cinema. It’s got a suitably farcical plot that is thin but engaging, and for trivia-trainspotters, there’s a bevy of notable treasures (cameos by Richard Hell, Rockets Redglare, Anne Magnuson and Arto Lindsay, some interior footage of Danceteria and Love Saves the Day, and the inexplicable scene wherein Madonna is listening to “One Thing Leads to Another” by The Fixx on a pair of headphones). But there’s one little detail that’s always piqued my curiosity.
The film’s McGuffin, if you will, involves a pair of pilfered Egyptian earrings that Susan –- played by Madonna -- lifts from sleeping Richard Hell’s jacket in the beginning of the movie (Hell is later pushed out a window for having stolen them himself). She puts the earrings, along with the rest of her belongings in a very distinctive, round case that looks as if it were designed to carry a snare drum or a very large hat. She then stores this case in a Port Authority locker, but then loses the key for same when she leaves it in the pocket of the frankly ridiculous pyramid-themed jacket she trades for a pair of bejeweled boots at Love Saves The Day on Second Avenue. Shenanigans ensue.
The detail in question that’s been plaguing me, however, is the design motif on the case –- some stenciled, stylized skulls –- that also appear later in the film all over the van driven by Susan’s boyfriend Jimmy (see screengrab above), suggesting that Susan possibly appropriated the drum case from Jimmy’s band. Whatever.
Here’s the thing: I want to say that I remember that stenciled skullface pattern from outside of this movie, as if it was a bit of SoHo street art (not unlike the stenciled head I searched for a little while back). I also want to say that I’ve seen it on an album cover somewhere, but –- again -– I cannot specifically place it.
I did some searching online, but all I come up with are D.I.Y. fashion blogs, and P!nterest posts penned by fashionistas seeking to mimic Madonna’s style from that era.
Perhaps Susan Seidelman discloses its origin on the director commentary track on the DVD, but does anyone know who the artist is/was responsible for the skeletal motif? Is there a backstory here, or am I just imagining things and vainly projecting? Does anyone know?
Sing out, art-heads and Madonna-collectors.