Jesus, it’s Madonna. She’s got new hair and loads of religion, she knows what ketamine is and the hippest DJ’s in the world think her new record is swell. “You guys are still taking ecstasy?” she enquires of pharmaceutically retarded Danny Eccleston.
According to the ever-reliable Sunday People, Madonna throws one hell of a dinner party. Foie Gras, it seems, is for the plebs. Prenatally engorged veal is off the menu. Lark’s tongues, otter’s noses – the comestible exotica of the merely-rich and hyper-lofty – a dreary commonplace.
No, the favored delicacy chez Madonna, we’re told, is Japanese Kobe beef. Kobe beef costs roughly ?100 a pound and comprises bits of cattle fred entirely on beer and massaged constantly every day of their yet heady existences. Even Madonna’s food has a great life.
Consequently, Q is feeling sheepish about the Yuletide gift it has brought for the high-living health freak – a lowly Christmas pudding, albeit from Harrods. It’s looking a little sad, too. US Customs have prodded it a bit, wondering if it harbours some apocalyptic strain of fruit fly.
We already know there isn’t a sixpence in it [cheers, cheapskate Al Fayeds] since the pudding has sailed through the metal detector. “What is it?” ask the uniform. It’s a Christmas pudding. “Has it got any meat in it?” Cue further manhandling and, finally, the all clear. Q makes a mental note to bring smack through Customs next time for an easier ride.
Twenty hours later, the beleaguered dessert sits in a Beverly Hills hotel room, awaiting the terrible judgement of the most famous woman in the world.
This being Los Angeles, fame means something rather different than it does in Oldham, Nuneaton, Chelsea or Belgravia. In the Four Seasons Hotel, Beverly Hills, Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham is a permanent resident.
But he’s not famous. Recognisable American sportscasters breakfast downstairs, but they’re not famous either. This is the only city in the world that the words “wow” and “Lyle Lovett” can be heard spoken at the same sentence [and in a lift], but the Mr-Whippy-headed one is but fame’s footman in proper, that is to say Los Angeleno, terms. Now, Madonna – Madonna is famous.
1997 was a “quiet” year for La Ciccone. She made an album, the imminent Ray Of Light, and she brought up baby – the now 14-month-old Lourdes. The sabbatical seemed to chip away at her magnificence. Tabloid terror that the columnfilling diva might [whisper it] be about to retire from the fray sparked a feeding frenzy [Lourdes father dubbed “A Sperm Donor”, brief interest in “Madonna’s New Eglish Love”, Andrew Bird] and then, just a trickle remained. The scraps made desperate, comical reading. Fees paid to brilliantly named dog psychiatrist Shelby Marlow became newsworthy [apparently, little Chuicita the chihuahua was “jealous” of Lourdes].
Last summer, the fact that Madonna’s answering service is staffed entirely by homosexuals [“We’re all gay”, preended manager Dale Jaques, “we have a certain gene for talking on the telephone”] was the best anyone could come up with. There was half-hearted talk of her moving to England. Madonna remained as famous as she’s ever been, but there didn’t seem very much to say about her anymore.
That, as we’ll see, is set to change, and not only because Ray Of Light – Madonna’s pumping, psychedelic, deeply personal collaboration with UK ambient dance specialist William Orbit – is her best collection of new material since 1989’s Like A Prayer. Throbbing, backwards guitars, mantric rhythms, fuck-off strings, a voice barely recognizable from the limited yet accessible girl-next-door squek of yore: there’s a surprise in every groove.
“Wow, free tea!” giggles Madonna, dunking her own bags as the flustered room service waiter exits without proffering the bill. “Well, we’d better make the most of it.”