It's been a while since Madonna performed in Pittsburgh.
In fact, the last time she was here, let's see, Ronald Reagan was president, Molly Ringwald movies were hot, Windows 1.0 was still in the works and gas was $1.20 a gallon (you always have to mention the gas prices, right?). Not only that, her opening act for the tour, the Beastie Boys, didn't even have an album out yet.
That was 1985, The Virgin Tour, when Madonna was still the "Material Girl," and her young fans, to the shock and dismay of their parents, were leaving the house wearing corsets, crucifixes and torn fishnets.
Since then, Madonna has released 10 more albums, appeared in more than two dozen films, and launched seven tours, many of which zeroed in on just "the BIG cities."
In other words, Madonna Louise Ciccone has been very busy, becoming one of the biggest-selling artists of all time and stirring controversy at just about every step. "I know I'm not the greatest singer or dancer," she famously said, "but that doesn't interest me, I'm interested in being provocative and pushing people's buttons."
In advance of her long-awaited return, to Consol Energy Center on Tuesday, let's take a look at how she's done that and what she has been up to since May 28, 1985.
1985: Those nude photos taken of Madonna when she worked at Dunkin' Donuts in 1978 (for $25) turned up raw in Penthouse and Playboy. Madonna tried to stop it, then changed her tune to a simple "So what?" In that hectic Virgin Tour year, she also appeared at Live Aid, made her movie debut in "Desperately Seeking Susan" and spent her 27th birthday (Aug. 16) marrying Sean Penn.
1986: From album three, "True Blue," Madonna rolled out "Papa Don't Preach," accompanied by a video that was criticized by some as "a commercial for teen pregnancy" and hailed by others for being "pro-life." Everyone was confused. Most agreed, though, that the movie "Shanghai Surprise," with Mr. Penn, was god-awful, and it won Madonna the first of five Golden Raspberrys for Worst Actress.
1987: "Who's That Girl" was another box office bust, but the Who's That Girl World Tour was a smash, with a more high-tech production and "the new Madonna" being hailed for portraying a more confident, sexually mature image. Her sarcastic dedication of "Papa Don't Preach" to Pope John Paul II was just one reason he urged Italian fans to boycott her concerts.
1989: Back in '84, Michael Jackson's hair famously caught on fire making a Pepsi commercial. For Madonna, it was crosses burning. Pepsi signed a $5 million deal with her, which would include premiering her new song, "Like a Prayer," in a commercial. But the video, with its mix of sex and religion (including the disturbing burning cross imagery) riled the Vatican and church groups, and Pepsi broke the contract. Madonna still got paid. Earlier in the year, the marriage contract with Mr. Penn was broken.
1990: From Sean Penn to Warren Beatty ... Along with appearing in the movie "Dick Tracy," she had a brief fling with the film's star. She also went on her Blond Ambition World Tour, which included an erotic performance of "Like a Virgin" that drew more protests from Catholic groups. She was quoted as saying, "The tour's goal is to break useless taboos." Late in the year, she continued that campaign with a "Justify My Love" video that was banned from MTV for its S&M footage.
1991: Madonna scored a hit with the tour documentary "Truth or Dare" (known outside the U.S. as "In Bed With Madonna") and was enjoying some Vanilla Ice, but that romance went bad because of ...
1992: ... "Sex." That was her coffee-table book, of which Mr. Ice said he "was hurt to be an unwitting part of this slutty package." Madonna managed to keep her clothes on and not offend anyone playing on Tom Hanks' team in "A League of Their Own," but she complained about having to spend so much time playing in the dirt.
1993: After the Blond Ambition Tour, she had declared she would never go on tour again. Three years later, to coincide with "Erotica," she did the Girlie Show World Tour, where she cracked the whip as a dominatrix. People in Puerto Rico got mad when she rubbed the island's flag between her legs, and Orthodox Jews in Israel protested her mere presence in the Holy Land.
1994: She put the whip away to soften her image with the tamer sixth album, "Bedtime Stories," while also dating maverick NBA star Dennis Rodman and causing a stir on "Late Show With David Letterman" where she smoked a cigar, swore like a sailor, flirted with Dave and said the f-word 13 times.
1996: During the filming of the critically acclaimed "Evita," Madonna learned she was pregnant, with fitness trainer Carlos Leon, and gave birth to daughter Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon in October. They split up less than a year later, but being a mom would send her on a spiritual journey ...
1997-98: Along with Demi Moore, Roseanne Barr and Sandra Bernhard, Madonna became immersed in Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, fueling her seventh album, "Ray of Light," winner of four Grammys and hailed for its innovative electronica.
2000: Madonna sported cowgirl garb on the cover of her eclectic "Music," which coincided with her having a son, Rocco, with filmmaker Guy Ritchie (whom she met through Sting). They married soon after, and were together until 2008, around the time she was linked with Yankees star Alex Rodriguez.
2001: Madonna went out on her Drowned World Tour, her first in eight years, and released the Ritchie-directed video for "What It Feels Like for a Girl," which was banned by MTV and VH1 for its scenes of a chic Madonna carrying out vehicular murder fantasies against the opposite sex.
2003: Madonna topped the charts with her almost-folky ninth album, "American Life," but the most memorable moment from the year came on the MTV Video Music Awards when she locked lips with Britney Spears AND Christina Aguilera.
2004: Madonna went throwback, all the way to the sexual revolution of the 1700s, with the Re-Invention World Tour, the highest-grossing tour of the year. It included an anti-war statement with "Imagine" sung over a montage of war imagery.
2005: She joined the Live 8 benefit concert in London, where she let the f-word slip on the BBC broadcast, and late in the year released "Confessions on a Dance Floor," winning the Grammy for Best Electronic/Dance Album.
2006: For the "Confessions" tour, Madonna acted out a crucifixion, sparking protests from the Russian Orthodox Church, the Federation of Jewish Communities, the Vatican and prosecutors in Dusseldorf. During her set at Coachella, she made a profane, oral-sex reference to then-President Bush.
2007: After 10 albums, Madonna parted ways with Warner Bros., and struck a $120 million, 10-year 360 deal with Live Nation. Along with producing a documentary called "I Am Because We Are," about the problems faced by Malawians, she adopted a Malawian child (and later a second) and has worked toward building schools in the African nation. She also directed her first film, "Filth and Wisdom."
2008: Despite not being a rock artist by most measures, Madonna was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where she did something really cool: She had Iggy Pop and the Stooges -- who wouldn't be inducted until 2010 -- stand in for her on the performance. She celebrated by passing Elvis Presley as the artist with the most top-10 hits (37), with "4 Minutes" from her 11th album, "Hard Candy." The Sticky & Sweet Tour, her highest-grossing, had her taking time out to rip on the McCain/Palin ticket.
2009: Madonna ended the '00s as the best-selling single artist and third top-touring artist of the decade, behind The Rolling Stones and U2.
2011: Madonna's second feature film, "W.E.," a biopic about the affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, was panned, but she still got a Golden Globe -- Best Original Song for the ballad "Masterpiece."
2012: A month before issuing her 12th studio album (and eighth chart-topper) "MDNA," she performed the most watched Super Bowl Halftime Show in history, joined by LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, Cee Lo Green and M.I.A. (who caused the controversy this time by flipping off the camera).
The MDNA Tour launched in Tel Aviv in May, proving that, Madonna, now 54, is still in fighting shape as a singer-dancer and is still the agent provocateur. So far on the tour, she's shown a video that includes a swastika on the forehead of right-wing French politician Marine Le Pen, flashed her breast in Istanbul, angered people near Aurora, Colo., by putting a fake gun to her head and drawn boos for calling out support for Obama.
In response to current controversies, a member of her staff told the Huffington Post, "Madonna would rather cancel her show than censor her art. Her entire career, she has fought against people telling her what she can and cannot do. She's not about to start listening to them now."
As it happens, she's in Pittsburgh, finally, after 27 years, on Election Night -- when emotions are fully charged.
Scott Mervis: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg. First Published November 4, 2012 4:00 AM