While everyone else was busy oohing and ahhing -- and, let's face it, giggling -- over Shaun Sperling's rendition of Madonna's "Vogue" as performed at his Bar Mitzvah circa 1992 and helping it go viral on YouTube, I received an instant message from a friend of mine. What was so important? He told me, no kidding, that's his friend from college.
An hour later, I was on the phone with the guy who, for a day at least, made us forget the masterful gyrations of Casper Smart.
Me: Hey, Shaun. It's Michael Cohen.
Shaun: Hey! Can I call you back? I'm at Nordstrom's getting a shirt for some interviews! Just give me 15 minutes.
Me: Should I be surprised?
Shaun: (Laughs) Call you right back.
Me: So tell me everything. How did this video suddenly reemerge from Bar Mitzvah land and go viral?
Shaun: Well, I just finished a performance show here in Chicago, where I'm from, at place called The Upstairs. It's called Madonna & Me, and it's a coming-of-age story about my love for Madonna. Within it I also included some of this video, and my friend sent it to Perez Hilton, who immediately posted it. Then things started getting really crazy.
Me: Um, I have to ask you, because it could change the direction of our conversation, do you have a partner? I guess what I'm asking is tell me about your life now...
Shaun: (chuckle) Yes, I'm gay.
Me: Okay honey, now we are on the same page. So, I'm dying. How did you get those moves down at 13? Tell me everything.
Shaun: It was crazy. Everyday after school I'd rush home and me and my sister would watch the "Vogue" video. We would practice for hours in the dinning room right up until dinner. It took a couple of months to get it right. I spent more time practicing that dance than I did on the Torah.
Me: Tell me about that shirt you are wearing. Truly, it's amazing.
Shaun: Actually, the morning of my Bar Mitzvah my mom walked in my room holding a white shirt and it was that shirt! She had it made for me. I loved it. You know, it's really funny that I went through the ritual of reading the Torah and becoming a man wearing a shirt with Madonna's face.
Me: I think she'd be proud.
Shaun: I hope so!
Me: So, were you at all self-conscious during that dance? I mean, most boys have sports as a Bar Mitzvah theme. Yours was seemingly Madonna.
Shaun: I didn't feel the slightest self-conscious. There was no apprehension at all. I have the most supportive family and friends in the world. Truly.
Me: Wait, were you out at 13 in 1992? Progressive!
Shaun: No, at 15 I came out. There was no reason not to. It's all about having supportive people in your life and being honest with who you are.
Me: So tell me, what has been the reaction of people in your life today after they have seen this, and I'm especially curious about your coworkers.
Shaun: Well, I'm an attorney.
Me: You're a what?!?
Shaun: (Laughs) Yeah. Seriously. I'm a commercial litigator in downtown Chicago and I work for a somewhat conservative law firm. They have been incredible. They have been very enthusiastic and completely supportive. And, not only them. Strangers have been contacting from all around the world. This experience has been mind-blowing.
Me: Hmm, I guess lawyers do have a sense of humor after all. So now that I have seen this tape, spoke to you, what's next?
Shaun: Well, you won't believe this, but there have been calls to book me to 'vogue' at charities, events and Bar Mitzvah's. Plus, I want to turn my Madonna & Me show into something much bigger, like a play.
Me: Wait, what?!? Okay, I get you want to turn your gig into something bigger - but appearances at Bar Mitzvah's?
Shaun: I swear. I'm here to spread a message anyway I have to, whether it's my play, at events, public speaking, whatever. The message is that life really gets better when you respect yourself. I respected myself at 15 when I came out, and in return people respected me. It's true. Respect yourself and all else follows.
Me: Amen! Wait, I mean Mazel Tov! And in the mortal words of Madonna, I like how you "Express Yourself."
Shaun: (Laughs) Thanks. Okay, I have to catch a flight! I'm going to be on a big morning show. Can't say which one.
Me: Please, please do a reenactment.
Shaun: For sure. Just need to brush up on some moves.
Me: OMG. Just when I thought it couldn't get better.
Me: I will take your word. Trust me. Speak soon.
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