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Watch Madonna honor two AIDS heroes at her NYC concert

Madonna Performing Fans Crowd
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The Queen of Pop saluted nurses Ellen Matzer and Valery Hughes, who were in the audience at Madison Square Garden.

Madonna paid tribute during her Tuesday night concert to two heroic nurses who treated and advocated for people with AIDS during the height of the epidemic in the 1980s and ’90s.

The nurses, Ellen Matzer and Valery Hughes, were in the audience for the pop icon’s Celebration Tour stop at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Madonna noted tht there were two very important people in attendance, and she gave a shout-out to Matzer and Hughes.

“I want you all to remember how shocking and horrifying it was in the early ’80s,” Madonna said, when being gay was not “cool” and people with AIDS were stigmatized. But the two nurses stepped up, she said.

“Thanks to them for being at the front line of the AIDS crisis so many years ago,” the singer said. “Thank you for your bravery and courage.” Many people avoided dealing with anyone who had AIDS, but “these amazing women, these angels, these heroes” were exceptions, she said. “Thank you for setting up AIDS wards in so many hospitals,” she added.

Matzer and Hughes recounted their experiences in the book Nurses on the Inside: Stories of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic In NYC, published in 2019. It is an “exquisitely moving narrative,” a Kirkus Reviewscritic commented when the book came out.

Madonna also told of her experiences visiting people with AIDS in New York hospitals. “I remember one young man, he was in another place, he wasn’t really conscious anymore, he was near death,” she recalled. “I laid down in the bed next to him, and he held my hand and said, ‘Mother, thank you for coming.’ It made me think, these women here tonight did this every fucking day and they got no praise, no thanks.”

During her Celebration Tour, which features songs from throughout Madonna’s career, photos of people who’ve died of AIDS complications are displayed when she performs the ballad “Live to Tell.” It’s “one of the tour’s finest and most impactful moments” and “also its saddest,” Billboardreports.

The Tuesday show was part of a three-night stop at Madison Square Garden.

On the lighter side, Bob the Drag Queen, a RuPaul’s Drag Race winner, “has proved to be a deft emcee” during the tour, according to Billboard. At the Tuesday concert, he joked that he’d most likely had sex with half of the people in attendance, while “Madonna’s probably had sex with the other half.”

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Trudy Ring

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Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.

Ryan is the Digital Director of The Advocate Channel, and a graduate of NYU Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing. She is also a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. While her specialties are television writing and comedy, Ryan is a young member of the LGBTQ+ community passionate about politics and advocating for all.