Photographer Richard Corman is probably one of the few who can say he met Madonna through his mother. Cis Corman was a casting director who often worked with Martin Scorsese. In the early ’80s, she was casting “The Last Temptation of Christ,” and Madonna was brought in to audition for — what else? — the role of the Virgin Mary. “She didn’t get the part, but my mother told me I had to meet this woman,” Richard Corman says. “She was an absolute original.”
Corman spent a few days during the spring of ’83 shooting the singer in her East Village neighborhood, and the results capture the 24-year-old Madonna on the cusp of fame — just months before she released her self-titled debut album. The rarely seen photos are collected in his new book “Madonna NYC 83,” and are on display at Chelsea’s Milk Gallery through Dec. 15.
Corman, who hasn’t seen the Material Girl since then, tells the stories behind the shots for New York Post !
“This is her apartment. When I spoke to her, she said, ‘Come to my place on  East Fourth Street, but please call me from across the street on the pay phone before you walk into the building.’ There was a gang of men hanging out in front of her building, like the keepers of the castle. So I called and she said to come over. When I walked over, I told the 20-some-odd people hanging out that I was there to see Madonna, and the seas parted. Inside, I heard this woman’s voice yelling ‘Richard!,’ and even five floors up, I saw this amazing face and cat-like eyes.
“I walked into her kitchenette, and she sat me down. She came back around with a silver tray with espresso and bubble gum. That’s what she served me. Her apartment was very spartan and basic, from what I remember. Just a crash pad, as she spent most of her time out chasing her dreams. She was out at clubs every night.
“This is one of the first pictures I took of her. She leaned on a stove like no one else. I knew that I was in the hands of someone charismatic and special. There was just a sexy, funny quality to her.”
“After we shot around her building, we took a walk. We walked through her neighborhood and came across a group of elderly people sitting on this bench. They were all shoulder-to-shoulder. We just looked at each other as we passed, and there was a twinkle in her eye. She literally walked in and nuzzled herself in between these guys. She said nothing, they said nothing. They just looked at her, but I think they felt they were in the hands of this strange, beautiful alien. The picture was taken, it was funny and a bit irreverent. Then we got up and walked away.”
Girl in the ‘hood
“She was literally the pied piper of her neighborhood. This is her rooftop. She always had a boom box with her. When we took the picture by the stove, I offered to go up to the roof. She said OK, and yelled down the stairs that she was going up to the roof. Shortly after we got there, four or five kids came up and they started singing and dancing together. She said they did this all the time. She’s like a deity in the neighborhood. Everyone in that small circle knew her.”
Red velvet take
“We were walking through the neighborhood and this crushed velvet couch was being thrown out. She just owns it like it’s her throne. Everything about these pictures feel modern, whether it’s a sense of fashion or attitude. Everything she’s wearing from her head to her toes, the way she’s doing her hair. This is how women do their hair now, with the dark roots. And then the torn denim and the shoes. She’s so modern right there in terms of what’s happening in urban fashion today. This is what they’re wearing.”
“It’s her bodega down the street from where she lived. It looks like out of a comic strip. I might have prodded her to lean against it, and she just started laughing. The thing about these pictures is that it’s so simple. It’s just me and her and a little Rolleiflex camera. If we did these pictures today, there would be 80 people around: stylists and guards and assistants. Even if I had that entourage today, I don’t know if we could create something so beautiful.”
“This was another shoot. I met an editor who worked for Italian Condé Nast. They had some sweaters and they needed a model. We did this sweater story, and Madonna took a very quirky, weird group of sweaters and owned it. It was just this attitude. She made something out of what could have been a fairly uninteresting catalog shoot.
“It was clear every time I was with her that her signatures were there, whether it was crosses, bangles or lace under the torn jeans. She owned it and that was her thing. Nobody else was doing it at the time.”
“As I began to show a few pictures around, there became a little bit of a buzz. This was before her albums had come out. A producer asked me to go and take pictures of her because they were trying to do a remake of ‘Cinderella.’ I told her what they were doing, and she went out to a vintage shop and picked up this dress. It was perfection. It’s so sexy and beautiful, so simple. It was all her, in terms of her style. I think this is one of the most iconic images I’ve shot of her.
“In all of these pictures, you see her beauty. You also see her eyes. It was only recently, since I’ve been looking at these pictures closely, I noticed she matched the color of her mole with her eyeliner. It was like a purple tinge. It was wild.”