You don’t have to be a diehard Madonna fan to recognize images from the famous “healthy” photoshoot showing a young Madonna Louise Ciccone standing against a flaming red backdrop while wearing a “Healthy Swimmer” crop top. Many may not know this, but the photoshoot by photographer Ken Regan actually took place in the City of West Hollywood, shortly after the city’s incorporation. From her first People Magazine cover on March 11, 1985, to the more famous (or infamous) shot on the cover of the September ’85 issue of Penthouse– “MADONNA IN THE NUDE”, photos from the shoot have graced several magazine covers in the 80s–many of them highly collectible import magazines from around the world.
It all happened on February 22, 1985. The location was the Le Mondrian Hotel (now known as the Mondrian Los Angeles) located on The Sunset Strip, at 8440 Sunset Blvd. Legend has it that, prior to the photo session, Regan confused Madonna for a prostitute, or a “lady of the evening,” as he put it, when he ran into her in the hotel elevator at 4 o’clock in the morning. “She wasn’t that big then,” he said, even though her single, “Like a Virgin,” had recently hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on December 22, 1984, where it remained for six weeks, and she had already rolled around on the floor in a wedding dress at the first MTV Video Awards, which some say catapulted her to superstardom.
Regan shot Madonna wearing the crop top, a single rosary crucifix, rubber bracelets, white lace peeking out of a white tube skirt, and a beauty mark and wild lion’s mane that would be copied by young girls (and some boys) around the globe. He also shot her sitting on a bed inside her hotel room and at the gym of the Le Mondrian Hotel for the People magazine cover feature. “What was great was that no publicist was there, no manager,” he said. “She was there by herself…..she walks in, and I go, ‘Oh my God, it’s the lady of the evening’….and that was the most successful shoot that I’ve ever had. Twenty-four magazine covers around the world.”
Aside from the Ken Regan photoshoot in West Hollywood, Madonna also wore the “Healthy Swimmer” top to a shoot in Paris with Tony Frank in June 1984, a shoot in Japan with Kenji Wakasugi in January 23, 1985, and she wore it in a performance of Like a Virgin on Japanese TV during an album promo tour of Japan in January 1985.
Madonna 80s Archive reports that on May 17, 2014, the top, and a pair of black chain shoes she owned, were auctioned at Julien’s Auctions. The winning bid came in at $15,000. Madonna gave the items to Pilar DeMann, one of the daughters of her then manager Freddie DeMann, who later sold these items to the highest bidder.
The Mondrian Los Angeles structure was built in 1959 as an apartment building. It was later renovated and reopened in 1985 as the Le Mondrian hotel by the L’Ermitage Hotel Group. The outside of Le Mondrian featured a commissioned work by Yaacov Agam entitled L’Hommage a Mondrian which covered the hotel’s 9 story exterior.
Le Mondrian was later purchased by Ian Schrager and his Morgans Hotel Group in 1996 and renamed Mondrian Hotel Los Angeles.
In 2008, Morgans Hotel Group commissioned designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz to update the hotel.
In April 2011, Morgans Hotel Group reached a deal to sell the Mondrian Los Angeles to Pebblebrook Hotel Trust for $137 million. Morgans Hotel Group will continue to manage the hotel under a 20-year agreement.
On November 30, 2016, Morgans Hotel Group, including the Mondrian Los Angeles, was acquired by SBE Entertainment Group for $805 million.
From a Britney Spears documentary, to appearing in the lyrics of an Eminem song, the hotel has plenty of pop culture references, but the Madonna “healthy” photoshoot is one for the West Hollywood history books.