As she swans down the grand staircase of Manchester’s lavish Brittania Hotel, Madonna looks every inch a star. A rare quality in this day and age when pop stars can get away with a daft haircut, a rather arty video and very little else. In fact, a lot of people are labelling this 23-year-old from Detroit, America, as some sort of female equivalent to Michael Jackson. Not surprising when you consider she can sing, dance and act and once shared the same manager as Mr Jackson.
She’s just appeared on a ‘dance special’ edition of The Tube that featured a live link-up between its home base of Newcastle and the Hacienda club in Manchester. Outside a long, black limousine purrs in anticipation. The entire Madonna entourage — two dancers, one road manager-cum-minder, three record company executives, a chauffeur and me — pour through the hotel entrance and into the car. Record companies always seem convinced their American artists are going to be ‘difficult.’ “I just play up to that image to keep them on their toes,” she says cheekily.
She constantly has a ‘knowing’ look about her. Some people would call it an aura. This is obviously part of the reason people are frightened to answer her back. For instance, tonight she’s due to appear onstage at the Hacienda, but she’s having none of it. “I’m exhausted. I’ve had to cancel two phone interviews today already. I just haven’t had a second. Last night it was Top Of The Pops, today it was The Tube and tomorrow I’m going to Los Angeles.”
So she cancels. After a meal back at the hotel — salmon and generous helpings of Campari and Orange Juice — in which she laughs a lot, listens intently and makes more than her fair share of wisecracks, she slinks up to her suite, “to slip into something more comfortable!”
Madonna’s apartment’s not exactly run-of-the-mill. It’s in two tiers — a bed on the lower, a couch on the upper. In between answering the door and the phone, she runs through the day’s events.
“People seeing me for the first time today must have thought I was a fruitcake. No, seriously, they probably thought I was sexy. A real live wire. But I can’t come on and be sexy without humour.”
Don’t get the wrong impression. Although she appears to be in the mould of the typical blonde female singer, she’s certainly not dumb. Far from it. As she says, “there’s a lot more to me than can possibly be perceived in the beginning.” And, as I found out, she’s extremely bright, with a sharp business sense — a valuable asset for someone so ambitious.
It seems this ambition derives from the “competitive environment” in which she was raised. She comes from a big Italian family — the Ciccones; Madonna’s her real name — of eight brothers and sisters. She also went to Catholic school, which, “like all of America, gives an incentive to win — to aim for the top rung of the ladder”.