Madonna used to charge dancers $100 a minute for being late

Carrie Ann Inaba was on The Jennifer Hudson Show this week, presumably plugging Dancing With The Stars which is currently airing its Season 827, after an inauspicious start. Keeping with the dance theme, Carrie fondly spoke about being a backup dancer in her twenties for Madonna — who began her Celebration Tour in London this month after recovering from an emergency stay in the ICU this summer. No surprise, Madge ran a tight ship. Case in point: she deducted $100 from your paycheck for every minute you were late.

“Dancing With the Stars” judge Carrie Ann Inaba reflected on her career on “The Jennifer Hudson Show” Monday and spoke about being hired as a backup dancer for one of Madonna’s tours when she was just 23 years old.

And although Inaba had pretty positive things to say about her experience working with the “Vogue” singer, she did say that Madonna had one outrageous rule that would make many want to express themselves to the HR department.

“Back in the day she was very strict,” Inaba said. “She gave us this one rule — which I’m so grateful she did. It was, for every minute you’re late, you have to pay her $100 out of your paycheck.”

“I ain’t going to lie, I’d be broke,” Hudson said exasperated. “Cause I’m always late.”

Inaba then shared how following that costly rule affected her the rest of her life — and she doesn’t sound traumatized at all.

“I’m never late,” Inaba said. “I’m always early, in fact so much so, that I waste half my day … showing up too early.”

Despite the rule, Inaba told Hudson that it was a dream come true to work for Madonna.

“There was like Michael [Jackson], Prince, and Madonna at the time. Right?” Inaba said. “I got on Madonna’s tour, and I was like, ‘That’s all I need!’”

In fact, after Inaba was done with the tour, she said she “retired” from dancing and went back to school.

“As a dancer, you’re kind of put out to pasture when you’re 25,” Inaba said.

Madonna is currently embarked on her Celebration Tour, so fingers crossed that her current and likely very young backup dancers have plenty of emergency funds in their savings account.

[From HuffPost]

I’d like to start my commentary by commending the author for the line, “Madonna had one outrageous rule that would make many want to express themselves to the HR department.” The lyric inclusion is so unsmooth that it swings back to being fabulous, non? Love it. While $100/minute is a bit excessive, especially considering this tour was a couple decades ago, I don’t think this overall vibe is actually all that outrageous in the performing arts arena. At the Atlantic Theater Company — the group David Mamet and William H. Macy founded — they lock you out if you aren’t there 15 minutes ahead of class or rehearsal. Are these methods harsh? For sure. But Carrie sure sounds genuinely grateful for the standard it set to show up on time. On the other hand, she did retire from dancing right after that tour with Madge, so take from it what you will! I went back to the original interview cause I was dying to find out how much money Carrie had to fork over, but she was cheeky and only said “I learned quickly.” Oh c’mon, Carrie, don’t be a tease. Tell us!

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34 Responses to “Madonna used to charge dancers $100 a minute for being late”

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  1. Bettyrose says:

    In an environment where being late snowballs into late rehearsals, delayed production, and teams of people being inconvenienced, seems appropriate, TBH.

    • FancyPants says:

      Right, and this story doesn’t have any context about whether this was an ongoing problem for the production at the time and strict deterrent was necessary (not that I would need a reason- chronic lateness is my hugest peeve and people who brag about it are jerks).

    • Yup, Me says:

      This doesn’t seem outrageous to me. It ensures that people don’t repeatedly test the boundary.

      I was a dancer in college and was just explaining this principle to my sons (we’ve been watching Spellbound) – If X is the start time, that means you need to be there ready to START. Not showing up to put on gear and start warming up.

    • Renstewart says:

      Agree. Her house her rules.

  2. Bonnie says:

    I get why someone would want to implement this, but I doubt the dancers were being paid $100 per hour. You can run a tight ship and not be financially abusive to your employees.

    As for forcing people to be early and creating that mindset, I think that devalues other people’s time. Plus it is so paternalistic. So, I’ll be right on time, but you don’t have a right to the 15 minutes before that. If you want me there 15 minutes early, make that the start time.

    And FTR I’ve spent a good 40 years doing theatre.

    • equality says:

      Agree. This woman now says she “wastes half her day” being early. How is that good? Workers today likely would be striking on her. This is the same mindset that now has writers and actors walking out.

    • Kate says:

      When I read that, I thought I hope the dancers are getting paid bank because otherwise that’s an unnecessarily punitive amount. I can see the importance of running a tight ship and keeping people on time, but having a non-toxic work environment is ALSO important and unnecessarily punitive measures like this verge into toxicity IMO.

  3. Prairiegirl says:

    Meh, this isn’t news. Pretty sure this tidbit came out in Randy Taraborrelli’s biography of Madge a couple of decades ago.

  4. HandforthParish says:

    Funnily enough Madonna is quite happy being habitually late at her own concerts, making her fans (some of who pay thousands for the privilege) wait sometimes in the hours, and playing shorter sets as a result.

    • Flamingo says:

      Came here to say the same thing. I went to her MDNA concert in 2012 early September hot and humid as can be at Yankee Stadium. Sweating like a pig. She was supposed to start around 8pm. I don’t think she went on stage until after 10pm. I was dying and miserable. She clearly lip synched 90% of the songs and maybe sang 1 song live acapella. And rejected American Idol contestants could have sung it better.

      Only upside she did have Avicii as an opening act. Though no one seemed to really care it was him. And he was just going through the motions and left. RIP Avicii.

      Madonna, please Venmo me my $12,000 at your earliest convenience, tvym.

    • pollyv says:

      Ditto. Do as I say not as I do.

    • Deering24 says:

      One of the most irritating things about the mega-wealthy is that they can control when and how fast they show up. But they run late quite a bit…and want to blame us for being late when we don’t have nearly the control they do.

  5. dlc says:

    lateness is my pet peeve!

    • KBeth says:

      Same, it’s rude.

    • Flamingo says:

      Then Madonna should respect her audience and start her concert on time when the ticket time starts. Not two-three hours later. Madonna is more than happy to inconvenience others. As long as she isn’t inconvenienced. Follow your own rules.

  6. SarahCS says:

    I was giving psychometric feedback to someone yesterday who hates rules, gets bored with details, does everything on the fly, etc. and said that she used to pay very little attention to time so was late a lot until she heard someone talking about how you being late is not about you, it’s about the person you’re keeping waiting. Something switched in her thinking and since then she’s not late to anything.

    • MaryContrary says:

      I keep harping on this very point with my teen. Like, if you want to be late for school, that’s on you. But it’s beyond rude and selfish to do this to the other people in the carpool.

  7. AnneL says:

    I get what Carrie is saying about being on time to the point you waste time. I can’t stand to be late, which means I am getting ready and planning my route earlier than I really need to quite often. It’s not the most efficient method, but it does make me reliably prompt!

    So dancers are done at 25? That’s not really true is it? I assume it depends on the type of dance.

    • Flamingo says:

      I think it is true, not due to age or discrimination/ageism. Just the wear and tear it does on their body. Leading to injuries so many retire in their mid-twenties or early thirties. Or move to teaching or starting a dance company.

  8. LynZe says:

    It is understood and seen as being professional in the theater that if a rehearsal is called for let’s say 7:00 pm that you arrive early to prepare since rehearsal BEGINS at 7:00 pm. It is insulting to the director, actors and crew to arrive late. Having said that Madonna is notoriously late for her shows which is insulting to the audience. Their time and money are as valuable as hers. She just did a show in London where she was late and because of rules as to when shows must end 6 minutes had to be removed from the show. Very unprofessional!

    • equality says:

      Maybe these dancers need a better union then. You shouldn’t be expected to give free prep-for-work time to the employer. If you are expecting someone to arrive early, pay them. It’s not like she couldn’t afford to. It is insulting to your employees to expect FREE time donated. This type of abuse of power and thoughts that certain people are more valuable to the production than others is why writers and actors are striking.

      • Dara says:

        That’s the question, isn’t it? Were the dancers paid by the hour, or a set salary?

        Decades ago, I worked at a call center. This was pre-internet so there were multiple calls every minute we were open, so we were expected to be seated and accepting calls exactly when our shift started. Finding said seat, headphones that worked (we shared them, yuck!), checking the break schedule, familiarizing yourself with any script or procedure updates, were all expected to happen before your start time. That company took 15-20 minutes of free work from me for every day I worked there. A five day week was an hour of unpaid time. I’m still mad about it.

      • equality says:

        Whichever way they were paid, you can’t dock someone’s pay to the point that it puts them making less than minimum wage. That’s illegal. I think the entertainment industry needs a lot of reform even yet. The Me Too movement is just part of the abuses.

  9. Boxy Lady says:

    Both James Brown and Prince used to fine their musicians for various things, including tardiness, so this is nothing new. She was sending the message that time was valuable and not to be wasted. I grew up military and the philosophy is similar: if you’re 15 minutes early, you’re on time but if you’re on time, then you’re late. I can’t account for her starting her shows late, though 😂

  10. Ihatepeople says:

    Being late is rude as F. Especially people who are chronically late. I had a friend in HS like that and after years I would still invite her but would never wait, never rely on her and stopped caring if she showed or not. No body has time for that.

    • Yup, Me says:

      Being late is hella rude but some people are legitimately time blind. I had a friend who was TERRIBLE about showing up on time to anything and I just stopped inviting her to things one on one. If I was hosting something, I would invite her (with no expectations) and then be happy if/when she showed up, but I released myself from any attachment to her presence or absence (and the story I had going that her lateness was an insult to me).

      • sparrow says:

        They’re called time optimists. I’m living with one and he drives me mad. It is so stressful and it means I have taken on sole responsibility for getting the kids to appts, inc really important ones for the doctor etc. There is such arrogance: ‘someone else doesn’t matter’ or ‘it doesn’t matter that someone is desperate to see their GP on time and I’m holding them all up’. It causes huge levels of frustration and worry; well, it used to before I became Mrs Take Control of everything to do with the children. I used to trick him by pretending appts were 20 minutes before they were but it didn’t work all that well, and when I was eventually rumbled I stopped bothering.

      • Ihatepeople says:

        @Sparrow exactly what I did as well. Invited her and just accepted that was who she was and didn’t take it personal. That being said a part of our friendship faded away in the process when you can’t count on someone to be there for you. Ya know?

  11. Ameerah M says:

    As someone who acted for a good period of time and who had colleagues who were perpetually late to rehearsals, etc. I appreciate this. I went to a performing arts school when I was a teen and the two things they always held us accountable for were 1- Being on time and 2- Being prepared. It’s just part of being a professional. And I can see, if you had a huge tour full of young folks who probably spent the prior night out or who would oversleep, having to implement something like this. Don’t waste other people’s time. And if you do – you have to pay for it. Their being late would hold the entire rehearsal or performance up. Not cool. So I think it’s perfectly fine she did this.

  12. Mrs.Krabapple says:

    Anyone else remember when a woman in Madonna’s entourage was raped, and Madonna lectured the victim as if it was *her* fault, then made a snarky comment about how the men probably just wanted to use the woman to get closer to HER (Madonna)? Madonna is garbage, as a human being and as a no-talent “singer.”

    • equality says:

      Don’t forget the cultural appropriation and offending different cultures and other people’s religious beliefs and being rude to fans.

  13. idontlie123 says:

    If only celebraties would use these rules for themselves.

  14. Lily says:

    Feeling snarky tonight. So did she pay them an extra $100 for every minute they were early up to ten minutes early? Of course not.