What makes a mega fan? A massive collection of memorabilia? Going to tons of concerts? A vast knowledge of the artist? If you’re Wilfredo Rivera, it’s all of the above — and then some. Hands down, Rivera is Puerto Rico’s most dedicated Madonna devotee.
His stockpile of Madonna goods is spread throughout his house. Since the 90s, he’s added to it relentlessly, and now estimates the total has reached between three and four thousand individual items. Posters, magazines, books, rare 7-inches, CDs, promotional miscellany — you name it, he owns it.
Ticket stubs, of course, are an important part of his arsenal, and Rivera has 52. The oldest dates back to 1993 — October 26, to be exact, he readily tells me. Madonna performed in Bayamón, Puerto Rico when he was 15 years old. It’s a milestone of his fandom, but he’s not sure exactly when he officially made it to diehard territory.
“I started buying all the other records, this single, this one has a nice cover…” Rivera trails off. “You don’t have in mind that you are a collector or you want to collect. That’s something that happens. When you realize that you have a lot of stuff, then you realize you are collecting.”
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“I like Madonna because [of] her personality and how she [has been able to] control her image for more than 30 years.”
He’s traveled all over (Germany, Prague, Italy, Denmark, Belgium, and more) to see Madonna. First the Confessions Tour in 2006, then the Sticky & Sweet Tour a couple years after, the MDNA Tour in 2012, plus lots of one-offs in between. Most recently, he took three trips during her Rebel Heart Tour.
“I need to count, really. Let me check,” he pauses. “I started in Montreal, then went to New York for three shows. In Europe I did seven shows, then USA, I did three, Puerto Rico two, Australia two. So I did…cinco, siete, diez…eh, like 19, only.”
His intense commitment is more than impressive; it’s bewildering. How can he afford it?
“You need discipline, first of all,” he says. “When I started traveling on a really low budget, I just quit hanging out. I rarely go to the movies. I don’t buy any designer clothes or expensive shoes. I just quit drinking during tour season, and there was a time when I didn’t have a cell phone for two years.”
Of all the sacrifices made in the name of Madonna, opting out of nightlife seems to be his most financially effective. That couldn’t have been easy: Rivera, aka DJ Willie Wanker, is a mainstay in the city’s longstanding goth scene. Yes, a bona fide goth is one of Madonna’s most loyal fans. But Rivera doesn’t follow her strictly for the music.
“I don’t like Madonna because I’m a pop music fan. I like Madonna because [of] her personality and how she [has been able to] control her image for more than 30 years,” he explains. “There’s not many artists in the mainstream that have total control of their careers; they’re always manipulated by record labels…In other fields of music, like goth or punk, artists have total control over their careers. They’re not as successful in money because their music doesn’t appeal to a mass culture, but this is the music that is more interesting to me in style and aesthetic.”
Rivera is not only committed to Madonna, though. He’s traveled to see other artists and bands too, like Bauhaus and Siouxsie and the Banshees. He once explored the goth scene in Germany for two whole weeks.
“You cannot replay this experience with anything you can do with your local friends weekend after weekend,” he says. “They’re always going to be here for you.”
A few years ago, Rivera launched a Facebook group, Madonna Garage Sale, for fellow aficionados to buy and sell items.
“I have almost 2,000 members. Let me check,” he pauses. A few seconds later: “I have almost 3,000 members— 2,981.”
One item Rivera is currently selling is one of his multiple copies of a limited-run book from the Rebel Heart Tour.
“You don’t have in mind that you are a collector or you want to collect. That’s something that happens.”
“It’s a really, really amazing book. I think it’s the best item ever created for a VIP for any group or artist. It’s a hardcover book,” he gushes. “Color and glossy, and has a recount of all of her tours. All of her tours have copies from the ticket stubs, vouchers, pictures, history, set lists, and even a sample for one of the fabrics for one of her costumes. It comes in a really, really nice box; it has pieces you can take out from the middle of the book. It’s really well made.”
In 2005, Rivera was featured in the tour doc I’m Going to Tell You a Secret. Madonna’s then-husband Guy Ritchie interviewed him. He’s also made pals with her manager — he’s front row at basically every show, after all. Somehow, though, he’s still never met Madonna in person.
“There’s many people like me,” he says. “But she knows who I am.”