SAN DIEGO — Hours before Lady Gaga strutted across the stage at the San Diego Sports Arena, the show had already begun in the parking lot. Hundreds of her fiercest "monsters" — dressed in all manner of feathers, bubbles, crowns, lace and other Gaga-inspired finery — were already preparing themselves for the night's big show, practicing their runway walks, limbering up their vocal cords (after all, there would be much screaming ahead) and pulling on their knee-high patent leather boots.
It was a sight to behold: Gaga fans milling about in the shadow of the Sports Arena, taking over a nearby Chick-fil-A, hitting up the AM-PM for last-minute party supplies. They came from near and far — some as far as Vancouver or Brazil — to worship at the altar of their queen, MTV News' Woman of the Year. And needless to say, the mood was celebratory.
"We are really, really hot people in Brazil," Luciano Santos exclaimed. "So we love Lady Gaga's songs!"
"I love her ... she's an icon and an inspiration," Hugo Salazar said, showing off his customized Gaga T-shirt. "I would go anywhere or do anything for her."
And then after the show — a near two-hour spectacle of sights and sounds and costuming — the fans kept that celebratory mood going. Many testified that the events that transpired inside the Sports Arena were nothing short of life-altering.
"This was the best experience of my life. She is a wonderful performer; this is like my Madonna, my 'NSYNC, my Rolling Stones, all rolled together in one," Sandy Kennedy said. "The show was absolutely incredible. It was a three-sided stage, and she had dancers with half-skeleton heads and bodysuits on. ... She costume-changed about six times, and there were vibrant colors, and the light show was amazing, and she wore a Rapunzel wig for 'Paparazzi.' It was fantastic. She loves us, she's so grateful for her fans, and she understands that we love her too."
"It was awesome. I love the fact that her costume changes were all very different ... and she was really singing," Michelle Sees added. "I know that's kind of funny to say, but a lot of people at their shows, they fake sing. She didn't."
The talk eventually turned to where Gaga ranks among the elite of the pop world. To most of her fans, Gaga has already topped the likes of Britney and Beyoncé.
"Oh, she's above both of them," said Valerie Aparacio, who, it should be noted, was wearing not only a crown, but a bird named Mr. Fancyfeathers on top of her head.
"She's our generation's Madonna, and I really mean that," Aaron Heier said. "She's a freak. She lets everyone's freak come out. And you've got to love that."
"That's why I came tonight," Hazel Sandoval said, "because someone told me, 'You know what? Gaga is going to be remembered like Madonna.' And I'm going to be able to say I came to her concert way back when I was 20!"