Much has been written about Madonna’s style transformations, the aesthetic stealing and borrowing from subcultures, and the constant discarding of looks like they were old kleenex. But there’s another story behind her perpetual rebirths, and it’s that pretty much every look Ms. Ciccone went through, she had a man to correspond and accessorize with, a dude that matched the identity she was trying to portray. Talk about a commodity fetish. Some of her trophy boys were famous in their own right—Basquiat, Jellybean Benitez—and some not so much, like Carlos Leon. Tony Ward was somewhere in the middle, a quiet stud horse that had been in one of her Herb Ritts-helmed music videos and went on to star in Bruce LaBruce’s incredible opus “Hustler White” all about hookers in Los Angeles.
Tony Ward’s style was incredible, the ying to Madonna’s crucifix, velvet, and tiny sunglasses-loving yang. There’s gender subversion going on here, too – women had often been the beautiful muses of artists, but Tony seemed to relish his role as inspiration, a guy who dressed and looked great and sat in the sidecar for Madonna’s early ’90s career, a male Anita Berber for the Material Girl’s pop art. His leather vests, sometimes worn over nothing, and giant oversized shirts buttoned all the way to the top continue to be on styleboards to this day, fucked up, haphazard looks that pre-dated Marc Jacobs’ embracing of grunge. Madonna has returned to the model-as-muse, plucking Jesus Luz from obscurity and parading him around town as arm candy. But no man will ever match Tony Ward for style.