Vanity Fair (April 1991)
On New Year’s Eve, Madonna had her fortune told. She was giving a party in her Nanhattan apartment for forty friends, including her brother Christopher and her then boyfriend Tony Ward, and one of the guests was a palm reader. The first time this woman looked at Madorina’s hand, she would not read it. She said, I am affraid of your hand, your hand, reveals too much. But Madonna pressed the woman to tell her what she saw.
“She looked at my palm.” Madonna says a month later, “and she said I’m never going to have any children. She said that I had my heart broken really badly once and it was a really important relationship in my life and it was going to happen again. I asked her, ‘What about my current relatronship?’ She said, ‘That’s just a passing thing, it’s not lasting.’ I said. ‘What about my career?’ She said. ‘Whatever you’re working on now, you’re not well suited for.’ And was just like. Get the fuck out of here. I was devastated.”
So Madonna, who is thirty-two, did something she never does — she got drunk. Two martinis may not sound like a knockout punch, but Madonna’s body is a temple — she exercises two and a half hours every day and is a strict vegetarian. She hadn’t eaten and she had to see to the caterers and her friends and her family, and by 9:30 the room was spinning. She disappeared into her bedroom and lay down on the bed and then went into her bathroom. “I puked and puked and puked,” she says. “And then I passed out on the marble floor. For the first time in my life, I got sick. I lost control. And I missed my party. When I woke up. I was in my bed. It was four A.M. I called everyone the next day and asked them how my party went.
“They all had a good time,” she continues, “but that woman…” Madonna opens her palm and eyes it suspiciously. “That woman said things that made me believe her. And I kept thinking. What a way to start the New Year.”
My fantasy was always, Oh, God. I’d love to be Madonna’s best friend,” says A. Keshishian, the director of Truth or Dare: On the Road, Behind the Scenes, and in Bed with Madonna, the destined-to-be-controversial documentary about her Blond Ambition tour. “If I became her best friend, suddenly the world would be my oyster. And now we are good friends, and it’s like, yeah, the world will be my oyster — in a little fishtank – Keshishian laughs. “Just thank God she’s the pearl,” he adds. “But her life is hardly as glamorous as you might think.”
Keshishian takes a puff on his cigarette — he is strikingly handsome, with long black hair (“Madonna won’t let me cut it”) and large brown eyes. Last night, here in Los Angeles, he showed a rough cut of Truth or Dare, scheduled for May release, to a small industry audience. The movie, which incorporates concert footage from last year’s tour and behind-the-scenes moments with Madonna, her dancers, and the rest of the entourage, is remarkably candid and extremely entertaining. Truth or Dare has a voyeuristic appeal — Madonna allowed Keshishian (and his camera) to spend almost every waking moment with her. She is seen without makeup, stripped down, and (quite literally) bare. He deftly juxtaposes her “real life,” which seems rather solitary, with her onstage life. which is quite electrifying, thereby demystifying the razzle-dazzle of stardom while simultaneously showing Madonna to be a larger-than-life performer. Oh and, just for fun, you get to see her go down on a water bottle.
This Madonna is different from the sex-bomb, shock-baby persona she usually pushes in public. In the movie, and recently in interviews, she appears more vulnerable, much warmer, than the steely vixen she seemed even six month ago. Her mood appears to have changed, and, as always, when Madonna’s mood shifts, so does her image.
Which isn’t to say that Madonna’s previous incarnations have been false — they’ve all been manifestations of her feelings at the time. The Madonna of 1991 appears to be devoutly hardworking, more accessible, and rather maternal. Gone is the boy-toy guise, although vestiges still remain. “My sister is her own masterpiece,” says Christopher Ciccone. “Is there any other way to do it right?”
Keshishian agrees. A Harvard graduate, he met Madonna two and a half years ago, but had been fascinated by her since the beginning of her career. “And at Harvard,” Keshishiar says, “I can’t say that was always considered that cool.”
For his thesis, Keshishian mounted a production of Wuthering Heights, set entirely to pre-recorded pop music. “The voice of Cathy was Kate Bush — until she marries Linton,” he explains. “And then her voice changes to Madonna.” Wuthering Height, was a smash and Keshishian moved to L.A. He wanted to direct, and got his start directing music videos, most notably for Bobby Brown. Through a friend from Harvard who had become an agent at CAA, Keshishian met Jane Berliner, who is, along with her boss, Ron Meyer, Madonna’s agent. “Jane convinced me to show this tape of Wuthering Heights to Madonna,” Keshishian recalls. “And at the end, she said. ‘I love it. O.K., what do we do?’”
Despite her enthusiasm, Keshishian didn’t hear from Madonna for quite a while. She didn’t call to ask him to direct “Vogue” or any of her other music videos. “I said to myself, Go on with your life, Alek. You are not going to work with Madonna. And then, out of the blue, one afternoon at the end of March last year, the phone rings and it’s Madonna asking me to make this documentary.”
The film, which ended up costing Madonna around million (it will be distributed domestically by Miramax), was originally conceived as a concert film about the tour. David Fincher, who directed some of Madonna’s best videos (“Express Yourself,” “Vogue”) was scheduled to make the movie, but reportedly he and Madonna were romantically involved, and when their personal relationship cooled, so did their professional alliance.
When Madonna contacted Keshishian, it was three days before the start of the tour, in Japan. “I found Alek quite attractive,” she recalls. “But I had kept my distance because I never like to have a crush on somebody everybody else has a crush on.”
Keshishian was given total access, but instead his crew never to speak to Madonna — and to wear only black so as to be unobtrusive. “I would say, ‘We are not human beings,’” Keshishain recalls. “‘We are just here to report.’” He got some remarkable footage: Madonna eating breakfast in her European hotel room, saying, “Even when I feel like shit, they still love me,” as fans scream wildly outside her window; a depressed Madonna having coffee with pal Sandra Bernhard who tries to cheer her up by asking, “Who would you most want to meet?,” to which Madonna replies, “I think I’ve met everybody”; Madonna visiting the grave of her mother, whose death when she was six seems have been the seminal event in her life; and a guest appearance by Warren Beatty as the Voice of Reason. “This is crazy,” he says. “Does anyone make a comment when you’re doing this film about the insanity of doing this in front of the camera?” “Who’s anyone?” Madonna demands. “Well anyone who comes into this insane atmosphere,” he says. Beatty gets the last word when Madonna’s doctor asks if she would prefer to discuss throat malady off-camera. “Turn the camera off?” Beatty says in mock horror. “She doesn’t want to live off-camera, much less talk.”
Truth or Dare is also racy, and Freddy DeMann, Madonna’s manager, was initially appalled by the idea of it. “I thought she was exposing too much of herself,” he says. “But Madonna didn’t agree, and when she doesn’t agree she has a doll and she squizees it in all the right places, and I feel pain.” DeMann laughs, although he is clearly only half joking. “But I was wrong about the movie. It works. The makeup is off and all the gloves are off, and it’s the real real.”
Apparently, part of DeMann’s nervousness had to do with the fact that all but one of Madonna’s dancers are openly gay and their sexuality is very much a part of the movie. In one scene, two men kiss passionately while Madonna looks on enthusiastically. “This is my favorite scene in the movie,” she says. “I love that people are going to watch that and go home and talk about it all night long. I live for things like that.”
The larger question that the movie, like most documentaries, raises is: What is real and what is for the benefit of the camera? “People will say, ‘She knows the camera is on. she’s just acting,’” says Madonna rather defiantly. “But even if I am acting, there’s a truth in my acting. It’s like when you go into a psychiatrist’s office and you don’t really tell them what you did. You lie, but even the lie you’ve chosen to tell is revealing. I wanted people to see that my life isn’t so easy, and one step further than that is, the movie’s not completely me. You could watch it and say, I still don’t know Madonna, and good. Because you will never know the real me. Ever.”
“Whether it’s real or whether it’s Memorex is only important for her to know,” says DeMann. “The fact that it keeps you guessing — well, she’s already succeeded.”
It’s 10:30 on a Friday night and Madonna is walking home after dinner. She is small and pale, and tonight she is dressed like a street urchin — a schoolboy’s cap covers her hair completely and she wears no makeup. “Straight from the cast of Oliver,” says Keshishian. “When Madonna puts on her cap and overcoat, she looks like a twelve-year-old boy. She wore that one day in Los Angeles and we went to the Body Shop, this go-go-dancer place, and when we left, the valet guy goes, ‘Are you leaving so soon? I here Madonna’s in there.’ He was looking right at her when he said it.”
Madonna stares at the ground when she walks, careful not to make eye contact with passersby. The strategy works: ever though the streets are relatively crowded Madonna walks home without causing commotion.
“It’s not always this easy,” she says. In Europe she is mobbed no matter how she dresses, and outside her New York apartment building there are nearly always paparazzi and fans lying in wait. The photographers seem to upset her the most — their constant presence certaanly wreaked havoc during her three-and-a-half-year marriage to Sean Penn.
“Sean was very protective of me,” she says, rather sadly, as she walks by the newsstand at Columbus Circle. “He was like my father in a way. He patrolled what I wore. He’s say, ‘You’re not wearing that dress. You can see everything in that.’ But at least he was paying attention to me. At least he had the balls. And I liked his public demonstrations of protecting me. In retrospect. I understand why he dealt with the press the way he did, but you have to realize it’s a losing battle. It’s not going to get you anywhere, and I don’t think Sean can give that up. He’ll defend you to the death — it’s irrational, hut also noble.”
Madonna says she misses being married, misses the constancy, the ongoing domesticity. “When I was married, I did the wash a lot,” she says almost wistfully. “I liked folding Sean’s underwear. I liked mating socks. You know what I love? I love taking the lint out of the lint screen.”
Friends claim that Penn truly loved her, hut he could not tolerate her unshakable drive, her absolute dedication to her career. When Madonna speaks about the breakup, she is careful, rather guarded. She is clearly somewhat conflicted on the subject — Madonna’s enough of a good Catholic girl to view her divorce as a sacrilege, but she also know, the relationship was impossible. “It’s a big loss,” she says. “But let’s face it — Sean and I had problems. We had this high-visibility life, and that had a lot to do with the demise of the marriage. When you’re always being watched, you almost want to kill each other.”
Madonna pauses a moment, “I still go to see his movies, though,” she says. “I have to see his movies because sometimes that’s the only way I can see him. It’s peculiar — especially with the last one, State of Grace, the one he did with his girlfriend – future mother of his child.” (Penn is engaged to actress Robin Wright and their baby is due this month.) “I really wanted to see it and I felt so embarrassed because I thought. Everyone’s going to see me going into the movie – is this pathetic? I don’t know. I had to rub my nose in it.
“And I could go. It’s just a movie, they’re just acting,” Madonna continues. “Until it got to the kissing-nipple scene. And then I was like, I can’t watch this. I am going to throw up. I still feel territorial — it’s like, Hands off, bitch! I was married to him!”
In 1989, as she was going through her divorce proceedings, Madonna was approached by Warren Beatty to c-ostar in Dick Tracy. She was flattered, and accepted, even though she was offered only scale ($1,440 a week) for her performance as Breathless Mahoney. “I was not convinced she should do it,” says Freddy DeMann. “But Warren Beatty promised me — he said ’1 will photograph her better than anyone has before.’”
While making Dick Tracy, Madonna and Beatty became an item, but the romance fizzled when the movie was reIeased. Friends offer up reasons why: Beatty was unfaithful, Madonna felt used. Beatty lied about his trysts, Madonna had some flings of her own, the press drove them craazy. Madonna wanted a commitment. In the end Madonna gave up on the relationship breaking off with Beatty in a “You’re fired!” “I quit!” scenario.
Although they are still friendly, Beatty is a sore subject with Madonna. She’s prickly about him. “It’s a real, hard thing to accept in life that no matter what you do you can’t change a person,” she says, heading up Central Park West. “If you say, ‘I don’t want you looking that woman,’ they’re going to do it anyway. It doesn’t matter what you say. You want to think that if this person is in love with you, you have control over them. But you don’t. And to accept that in life is next to impossible.” Madonna pauses. “Then again,” she says, “I want to be a fly on the wall for all of Warren Beatty’s conversation, but I wouldn’t want the reverse.”
She smiles — she understands the basic contradiction here, but she doesn’t care; she still wants her way. It is an endlessly frustrating fact that the stubbornness and singlemundedness that make a career go are the same traits that can destroy a relationship. One works, the other doesn’t.
“I’d go. ‘Warren. did you really chase that girl for a year?!?’ And he’d say, ‘Nah, it’s all lies.’ I should have known better. I was unrealistic, but then, you always think you’re going to he the one.”
Madonna has arrived at her apartment building. As she approaches. a photographer jumps out, assumes a low angle, and starts shooting. He is also talking — “Ma-donna. I’m sorry. Madonna, look at me. I’m sorry. Just a picture.” Madonna doesn’t look ot stop – she just keeps walking. The photographer, who is crouching, loses his balance and falls over.
“This year I couldn’t do anything to stay out of trouble,” says Madonna. She is eating minestrone soup and Caesar salad in a small Italian restaurant in Manhattan. She sounds genuinely exasperated. “I know I like to provoke, but this year has been like a train out of control.”
Madonna has her schoolboy cap firmly in place, and no one in the restaurant looks up from his pasta. Blondness, she says, would be a dead giveaway. But even without the hat, she might escape notice — tonight. Madonna doesn’t look like the sex siren the world is used to ogling. She looks, instead, a bit weary — it’s been an exhausting few months, what with her “Justify My Love” video being banned from MTV, and accusations from the Simon Wiesenthal Center that the lyrics of “The Beast Within,” the remix of “Justify My Love,” are anti-Semitic. Then there are the charges that if you play the single backward there’s a hidden message for worshipers of Satan.
And yet the controversies have resulted in huge exposure and even huger profits. “Madonna can turn catastrophes into triumphs,” says Seymour Stein, president of Sire, her record company. “When I saw the ‘Justify My Love’ video, I went, ‘Ohhhhhh.’ I knew there would be problems. But it’s turned out to he the biggest-selling video of its type.”
Which is what usually happens with Madonna. In 1990, Forbes estimated her pre-tax income at $39 million (and her earnings since 1991 at $125 million); her Blond Ambition tour sold out in twenty – seven cities; her concert on HBO was the highest-rated nonsports event ever on that network; and her albums went double-platinum. “But at what cost?” asks Christopher Ciccone, who was also the art director of the Blond Ambition tour. “People who don’t think the controversies and the press affect her are wrong. She doesn’t work up a strategy for all this attention. It’s just who she is and what she does. And there is definitely a cost.”
Which isn’t to say that Madonna has any real regrets. Or, to he exact, “I have so many,” she says, “and I have none. I wish I hadn’t done a lot of things, but, on the other hand, if I hadn’t I wouldn’t be here.” She pauses. “But, then again, nobody works the way I work.”
It’s that discipline, matched with talent, drive and ambition, that propels her “I have an iron will,” she says, eating her Caesar. “And all of my will has always been to conquer some horrible feeling of inadequacy. I’m always struggling with that fear. I push past one spell of it and discover myself as a special human being and then I get to another stage and think I’m mediocre and uninteresting. And I find a way to get myself out of that. Again and again. My drive in life is from this horrible fear of being mediocre. And that’s always pushing me, pushing me. Because even though I’ve become Somebody. I still have to prove that Somebody. My struggle has never ended and it probably never will.”
That struggle has a great deal to do with maintaining control, control being Madonna’s primary desire. And these days she’s feeling somewhat out of control. The “Justify My Love” ruckus went much further than she had anticipated, and for most of 1991 she will be making movies, a medium that has been risky for her in the past. Since the beginning of her career, Madonna has longed for movie stardom. It’s a land she has yet to conquer, and there have been some rather stunning missteps along the way — Shanghat Surprise and Who’s That Girl?, for instance. It isn’t clear whether she can successfully play a character other than herself. She is surprisingly self-conscious in movies, although later this year she will star in Evita, directed by Glenn Gordon Caron (who created the TV show Moonlighting), which would seem like perfect casting. In Woody Allen’s latest movie she plays an acrobat, which is a notion that both flatters and frustrates her.
“To me, the whole process of being a brushstroke in someone else’s painting is a little difficult,” Madonna says. “I’m used to being in charge of everything. So on this movie it’s hard for me to shut up and do my job and, well, O.K., I have this stupid little part and I have to sit around on the set and wait all day and then say a few lines and blah. blah, blah… I can feel all the grips and electricians looking at me — I’m painfully aware of it. They don’t see me as an actress, they see me as an icon, and it makes me extremely exhausted.”
Madonna pauses a moment. “Just looking back at the last couple weeks, where I’ve felt completely suicidal and totally unable to sleep. I think I may have teamed some things.” Like patience? “No. I’ll never learn patience. But I’ve learned, watching Woody, how a real artist works. Woody is a master of getting things out of people in a really gentle way. He’s not a tyrant, and that’s good for me to learn because I can be something of a tyrant. In a working situation.” Madonna smiles. “Well,” she says, “in a living situation, too.”
She laughs. She knows that her self-discipline drives people mad, but she also believes that it’s the key to her sanity. And her success. “I’m hardest on myself,” she says with great conviction. And there is a very definite and imposed order in the Madonna universe. For instance, her workouts. “If I have a 7 o’clock call for Woody’s movie, I’ll get up at 4:30 to exercise,” she says. “If I don’t. I’ll never forgive myselt. A lot of people say it’s really sick and an obsession. Warren used to say I exercised to avoid depression. And he thought I should just go ahead and stop exercising and allow myself to be depressed. And I’d say. ‘Warren, I’ll just he depressed about not exercising!’ “
Madonna takes a sip of white wine. “My whole life is in a constant state of disarray, and the one thing that doesn’t change is the workout. If I had nothing to do. I would stay in the gym forever. It’s a great place to work out aggression, or, if you’re feeling depressed about something, you get on the Lifecycle and you forget it. If you’ve failed in every way in your day, you’ve accomplished one thing — you’ve gotten through your workout and you’re not a total piece of shit.”
And then there are the lists. When she can’t sleep, Madonna makes lists of whom to call, what to do, mapped out in half-hour segments that include slots for personal phone calls — “two hours on the phone every morning or I wouldn’t have any friends” — as well as the business calls to her lawyer, manager, publicist. It’s a ritual that borders on the obsessive. “I never take any time off if I can help it,” says Madonna. “I’ve taken three vacations in the last ten years. All of them lasted about a week, and they were all in some tropical place. My boyfriend or husband at the time would want to go, and I’d agree. Actually, I’d finally give in.”
But even on vacation Madonna is a fiend for order. “I have to schedule everything,” she says. “And that drives everyone I’m with insane. Everyone. They go, ‘Can’t you just wake up in the morning and not plan your day? Can’t you just he spontaneous?’ And I just can’t.”
Madonna laughs and takes a few more bites of salad. A man at a nearby table looks over, stares at her a second, then realizes it’s not Madonna after all. “I need to have an organized life,” she is saying. “And I do. I probably pay a price for that, but this is what I wanted.”
Madonna is perplexed. “Damn it!” she says after a moment’s reflection. “Why can’t I think of my most recent happiest moment?” She stares a second. “0.K. — I know. It could be right after the maid has left for the day. That’s my favorite time in the world. Everything’s perfect — no one’s allowed on the bed, no one’s allowed to drink out of a glass. I don’t want anyone to come over, and I just stand around and look. And I think I’m in a church, that I’m surrounded by holiness. And then it’s destroyed.” Madonna laughs. “So I guess that’s not my happiest moment.”
She thinks some more. “O.K. — my most happiest moment recently was when I went home to visit my family for Christmas. And I was sitting on my father’s lap and a lot of my brothers and sisters were there. And just hanging out and sitting on his lap and feeling like a little girl again. And knowing that I was making my father happy. That was my last happiest moment.”
“And at home, nobody brings up the fact that I’m a star,” she continues. “Not one word. At first I thought, Well, how come I’m not getting any special treatment? But even though I had to sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag, even though I didn’t know who else had slept in that sleeping bag, the trip was really such a joyous thing for my father.”
Madonna beams — she likes this memory. Family — whether natural, meaning her father and seven brothers and sisters (two are half-siblings), or extended, meaning the dancers on her tour and her assistant/agent/publicist/manager/lawyer team — is extremely important to her. In fact, her business associates are some of her closest friends. “People comment on it,” she says. “They say, ‘Do you realize all of your friends are on salary to you?’ And I say, ‘Oh, my, I really hadn’t thought of that, but maybe you could flip it around and think, Well, maybe I only work with people I really like.’”
And trust. A large part of the reason for Madonna’s success has been her faith in the people she works with. “She’s in control of that group,” says Jane Berliner. “She’s the matriarch of the family.”
Madonna structured it that way from the jump — her gilt has always been to make herself the center of the action. As a child growing up outside Detroit, she dreamed of being either an international superstar or a nun. “I would say I’m gonna be a nun’ like you would say I’m going to be famous.’ Then the nuns announced to me that a girl who wanted to be a nun was very modest and not interested in boys. After that, my role model was my ballet teacher, who was fabulous and demonstrative and extravagant. I wanted to be like him.
“I sometimes think I was born to live up to my name,” continues Madonna, who was named after her mother. “How could I be anything else but what I am having been named Madonna? I would either have ended up a nun or this.” When she left home at seventeen and moved to New York, she planned to be a professional dancer. “I sort of got tired of that after a while,” she says now, “because it was very difficult and there was no money in it.” She became interested in acting and was taking classes when she decided to become a singer. The rest is well documented: she started writing songs, she joined her then boyfriend’s band, she befriended a D.J., he became her boyfriend, she met this person, then another, and the pace started to pick up. From the moment she began performing, her goal was clear: Madonna wanted to conquer the world. And her clarity of vision was compelling.
“Madonna is more sophisticated than she was eight years ago,” says DeMann, her manager from the start, “but she has the same sensibilities as she had on the first day I met her. She had balls then and she has them now. I remember when she first walked into my office. I managed Michael Jackson then. She came in and I was absolutely smitten by her. She had three problems that day, three pressing problems, and I said, ‘I’ll make three calls and take care of your problems.’ And I did. The next day she called with five problems. The next day, she had eight The next day, ten. I said, ‘How can one person have all these problems?’ She said, ‘Well, I do.’ Madonna has that ability to grab you by the lapels and soon all you can think about is her.”
The rest of the “family” has a similar response – Madonna is not a passive star. She controls all aspects of her career, and she is integrally involved with every business decision, whether it be looking over a contract or choosing the plot and look of a video or deciding whether or not to endorse a product. “She’s a great businesswoman,” says Seymour Stein. “She’s very smart and she trusts her instincts, which are great. She also asks a million questions.”
And she’s stubborn. “I do what I want,” says Madonna. “I’m the boss. And, quite frankly, a lot of things I’ve wanted to do have met with adversity. I sort of cringe when I have to confront my manager, my publicist, whatever. I kind of think of them as parental figures. When I tried to explain my stage show to Freddy, I said, “I’m going to be on a bed and I’m going to have these two guys with bras on and…’ I could see he was just dying inside. I have to say, ‘I’m just going to do this and then you’ll see.’ But there’s always this preliminary shit that’s thrown and then there’s my shit fit and then I do what I have to do.” She smiles. “And then they like it.”
Madonna looks intent — she has very few doubts about her business acumen. She loves the game and she is almost completely immune to pressure from her advisers or anyone else. And they do pressure her — after all, there are massive sums of money at stake. Madonna reportedly pays DeMann 10 percent of her income, her business manager, Bert Paden, 5 percent, and her lawyers around 5 percent, each said to be capped at $1 million. When she is touring, a tour manager gets 10 percent of the concert revenues, and then there is Sire Records, a subsidiary of Time Warner, which has made an estimated half a billion on Madonna albums.
“There’s a lot of business stuff,” Madonna says. “But that didn’t come as a surprise. Besides, I love meetings with suits. I live for meetings with suits. I love them because I know they had a really boring week and I walk in there with my orange velvet leggings and drop popcorn in my cleavage and then fish it out and eat it I like that. I know I’m entertaining them and I know that they know. Obviously, the best meetings are with suits that are intelligent, because then things are operating on a whole other level.”
“What you have to understand with Madonna,” says DeMann, “is that she has substance. People forget that. Since she reinvents herself all the time and does these provocative things, people tend to concentrate on her image of the moment. But there is substance there. If you only resort to provocation. you don’t last long. Madonna is the biggest star in the universe. And she likes the view.”
It’s a Saturday night in early February and Madonna is sitting on a large dark-blue couch in the living room of her Manhattan apartment. She is discussing whether or not she would prefer to be male. “Fuck, yeah,” she says with great animation. “When I was a little girl. I was insanely jealous of my older brothers. They didn’t have curfews, they could pee standing up, they could take their shirts off in the summer, they got to do outdoor work, while we had to do the indoor work. They had so much more freedom and I would just mope about that. And mope and mope and mope about how I wished I was a boy. And then when I was in the ballet world I went through another period where I wished I was a boy because I just wanted somebody to ask me out on a date.” Madonna considers this notion for a moment. “Actually,” she continues, “it would be great to be both sexes. Effeminate men intrigue me more than anything in the world. I see them as my alter egos. I feel very drawn to them. I think like a guy, but I’m feminine. So I relate to feminine men.”
This analysis pleases Madonna and she stretches out on the sofa. She looks quite glamorous this evening — the androgynous look is out. She is dressed all in white — white Capri pants and a white sweater, and her hair, too, looks white-blond. Her lips provide the only spot of color — they are bright red. Madonna appears to be striking an elegant yet casual pose, perfectly attired for a low-key gathering at home. She is peppier tonight, more at ease. “Let me give you a tour,” she says, hopping up from the couch. “An art tour.”
Madonna’s home seems to cheer her enormously. The seven-and-a-half-room apartment was renovated and furnished by Christopher Ciccone, and it is lovely — simple, yet lush throughout. The furnishings are mostly early French Deco, and they complement the art, which is primarily Cubist; there are wonderful paintings by the likes of Tamara de Lempicka and Leger and photographs by, among others, Kertész and Weston. “There are a lot of naked women in my house,” says Madonna. In the hall she passes a Kertesz of a nude woman squeezing her stomach. “That’s like me,” she says. “Always looking for fat.”
Madonna is endearingly thorough about the tour (“This is my stereo,” she says, opening a closet). She is like a child showing off her favorite dolls. “This is my prize,” she says of a Picasso that hangs over her desk. “I don’t usually like Dali, but I love this one,” she says of a particularly beautiful painting. The Veiled Heart, which hangs in the living room.
Madonna’s bedroom, a pale jewel box of a room, is at the end of the hall. “Every girl’s dream,” she says, leading the way into an enormous and extremely well-organized closet. “When I lived with Sean, he loved to ball up clothes,” she says, looking at her neat rows of shoes. “I’d say, ‘You twisted a Versace suit into a ball and I can’t bear it.’ I would follow him and take his things and hang them up. He’d say, ‘Leave me alone. I want to do it this way.’ But I just couldn’t stand it.”
Madonna smiles and heads into her bathroom (“The shower has steam!”) and hack through the bedroom and down the hall to her gym, which, not surprisingly, is mutated with state-of-the-an equipment. She goes through the gym and into a small maid’s room and then it’s back into the kitchen, which is old-fashioned in a high-tech way. “Isn’t this great?” Madonna says, reaching for a bowl of popcorn on the kitchen counter. “I don’t cook, but other people do.”
The apartment was completed last summer, long after Madonna’s marriage broke up, and it seems very much a place for one person. It has the feel of a refuge, a controlled, beautiful environment where dirt is a memory and each detail is perfect. “Everything is the best,” says Keshishian, “but nothing is ostentatious.”
And yet, and yet, in every dream home a heartache. “It’s something of a cliche,” says Madonna, sitting on a stool in the kitchen, “but vou can have all the success in the world, and if you don’t have someone to love, it’s certainly not as rewarding. The fulfillment you get from another human being – a child, in particular — will always dwarf people recognizing you on the street.”
Madonna is quiet for a moment. There have been rumors floating about that she was pregnant with Tony Ward’s baby and had a miscarriage. Madonna’s spokesperson has emphatically denied this story. Still, motherhood is definitely on her mind. “I long for children,” she says. “I wish that I was married and in a situation where having a child would be possible. People say, ‘Well, have one on your own.’ I say, ‘Wait a minute. I’m not interested in raising a cripple. I want a father there. I want someone I can depend on.’”
It’s a problem — who is the right guy for Madonna? “We talk about that all the time,” says Keshishian. “I say, ‘Madonna, you could turn a gay man straight! You could have any man you want.’ And she goes, ‘No. I couldn’t. It’s easy for you to say, but it’s just not true. Who have I met?’”
Friends say that she was hopeful about Beatty, who is now going out with Stephanie Seymour, a twenty-two-year-old
model with a baby. And, on the surface, Beatty would seem an attractive prospect, assuming she could have snagged him: intelligent, successful, and unintimidated by Madonna’s fame. But friends say that she was too independent and that her stubbornness was destructive to the relationship. There are also those who say Beatty was only using her to promote his movie.
“I do wonder,” she says, alluding to her past romances. “You know, I can think of isolated moments where I could have given in and it would have made things better. But, all in all, I’m not with any of the people I’m not with for a much larger reason: we just weren’t meant to be. If I had changed and given in, or what I conceived to he giving in, to certain concessions that people had asked of maybe the relationships would have been successful on the one hand, but then I would have had to give up other things in my career. And then I would have been miserable. So it’s hard to say. I mean, I do look around and go, God, it’s great I have fame and fortune, but then I see Mia Farrow on the set with her baby, and I think she seems absolutely content. She has a huge family, and that just seems like the most important thing. And, you know, love and everything. I don’t really have that, but time hasn’t run out for me yet.”
Madonna smiles. “I’m not exactly sure who I’m looking for,” she says. “I wish I knew…” She laughs. “I wonder if I could ever find someone like me.”
She ponders this for a second and then breaks out laughing. “If I did,” she says. “I would probably kill them.”
© Vanity Fair