Celebrating the Erotica and SEX anniversary with Dave Delano: “SEX was supposed to look like a big condom in a foil wrapper”
October 21, 2012 Interviews, News

Celebrating the Erotica and SEX anniversary with Dave Delano: “SEX was supposed to look like a big condom in a foil wrapper”

This weekend it’s the anniversary of Madonna’s Erotica album and the incredible SEX book that were both released 20 years ago!

What better way to celebrate this than an exclusive interview with Dave Delano, who worked on the production of the SEX book, revealing some never before heard details!!

Huge thanks to Lucky Star Magazine and Amber Flynn!

What was your role in the production process of Madonna’s Sex Book?
I was the VP, Global Accounts at R.R. Donnelley, responsible for Time Warner. I worked with the sales rep and the production team to develop the specs and the manufacturing plan.

Back then, had you ever worked on projects that required such a complex production process?
Actually I had worked on a few multi-media projects for the educational markets that had more complex components, but never such a high-profile author.

What was the deadline for the production of the book? How much time did you have to work on it?
We had about 10-11 months to get the job produced, and it was complicated even further by all the foreign language versions that had to be produced. This was NOT a digital file that could be easily manipulated. The book was produced in litho film, and each language had to be produced separately.

Did Madonna originally want the book to be of an oval shape? Had the production team rejected the idea right from the beginning or did it try to make it happen but had to eventually give up the idea?
Madonna wanted the book to be round, not oval. It was supposed to look like a big condom in a foil wrapper. She also insisted on the WIRO binding and aluminum covers. The round or oval book was not possible because the bind edge would have been too small to hold the book together. We were finally able to convince Madonna’s people that the round book would be impossible to produce.

What aspect of the production process was the most challenging?
The binding was very difficult. R.R.Donnelley could produce a WIRO book, but the schedule fell during the production schedule normally dedicated to text books. In addition, the technical people in the bindery were very concerned about possible failures of the WIRO binding. In the end, we decided to out-source the mechanical binding to Nicholstone Bindery.

Was Madonna’s feedback helpful (if you got any)? How many back-and-forth were necessary before she was finally happy with the results?
I don’t think Madonna or her team was ever really satisfied; they seemed to want to review and revise every aspect of the project. In the end, the pub date won out and we went to press.

Most Madonna fans are collectors. Could you confirm this prototype recently sold on Ebay is a real one, and could you give us an idea of how many prototypes were created?
I think we only made a few dummy books, because Madonna and her team had a very specific vision from the start.
We made one of the round books to prove that the format was unworkable, and then only a couple of the upright dummy books for approval and testing.
It is hard to say if the book in the photo is one of our originals, but it looks like one of the four or five that
were produced.

The metal cover is not very convenient to go through the pages of the book. Fingerprints are easily left on it and the cover needs to be cleaned after each use in order to remain in good shape throughout the years.
Who had the idea of using metal for the cover? Was it the production department or was it a wish the editor and authors had from the beginning?

I seem to remember that the aluminum covers were part of the original concept, and the creative team never wavered from the spec, even though we had many discussions about how unwieldy and cumbersome the binding was. I do remember one exchange where I pointed out that the covers were so heavy that they would cause the WIRO bind to come loose, and possibly allow pages to fall out. Someone on the creative team said that it was going to be a final sale, no returns, so it was the buyers problem.

Do you have any exciting memories to share about this experience?
Not so much exciting as sad. The first 5000 books were sequentially numbered, on the outside of the foil wrapper. I had one unopened copy that was my personal souvenir of the project; number 119. It was stolen from my home during a rather large party I had a few years later.

This interview is featured in the first issue of Lucky Star Magazine by Amber Flynn available HERE!