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Madonna Interview : ELLE

Madonna - ELLE / May 2008

Enlisting Timbaland, Pharrell and Justin Timberlake to help craft her boundary-burning record Hard Candy Madonna sits down with fanboy and fashion maven Simon Doonan to discuss the state-of-the-art dance album, her new film that will save the world, and why Lourdes loves to shop with mom.

Wednesday, February 20, is quite possibly one of the most surreal days of my life. Things get off to a wacky start when my cabdriver – I am barreling toward JFK at some ungodly hour — insists on calling me “ma’am”, throughout the journey. In an effort to generate it bit of respek, I tell him the purpose of my trip. “I’m off to L.A. today, to interview Madonna,” I say in a manly, confident kind of way.

“That, nice for you, ma,am,” he replies in a skeptical tone revealing that he believes me to be not just a woman, but it thoroughly deluded woman.

The surrealism continues: On the plane, I make a complete spectacle of myself by sobbing all the way, through the 80-minute documentary I Am Because We Are. Madonna produced this devastatingly powerful film to highlight the plight of the orphaned and HIV-afflicted population of Malawi, in southeastern Africa. If her goal has always been to engage the emotions of her public, this may be Madge’s most successful venture ever.

Madonna - ELLE / May 2008

After a recuperative nap, I plug in Hard Candy, Madonna’s new CD, and indulge in a session of age-inappropriate jiggling. As I groove and shimmy and sing along – “My sugar is raw / sticky and sweet” – and contemplate the increasingly multifaceted tour de force that is Madonna Louise Ciccone, a serious thought occurs to me: Could it be that Madge has made the transition from diva to deity?

My admiration for La Ciccone is long-standing. Her trajectory and desire for glamour and self-expression have inspired and awed me for more than two decades. What irks some writers about Madonna – her discipline, her drive, her lack of self-destructive tendencies — is exactly what makes me love that little spitfire more and more. By clawing her way to the top, she gave me, and millions of marginalized freaks just like me, permission to claw our way to the lower half of the middle – and I, for one, am hugely grateful. In an era when downward aspiration is applauded and rewarded, Madonna, thrusting, szooshy positivity remains an exhilarating force.

This year, Madonnaworld is reaching a bewildering apotheosis that has even die-hard Madge-ophiles like me reeling backward on our disco roller skates. In addition to her documentary, she has directed an independent movie titled Filth and Wisdom. Girlfriend has also become a globally respected philanthropist. One more hit song and she could beat Elvis’ record for racking up the most top-I0 singles of all time. Diva to deity.

As I drive down Sunset to rendezvous with our lady, of the cone bras, I realize that 1 am insanely nervous. Even though I have met her, albeit briefly, on a couple of occasions, I feel as if I am about to encounter God – or have a colonoscopy, or both. I try to stay calm, but it’s not easy. I am a big, screaming gay fan who, if he doesn’t get a grip on himself, runs the risk of making Kathy Bates’ character in Misery look like a happy, well-balanced enthusiast.

Madonna - ELLE / May 2008

Madonna lives in an incredibly glum Gloria Swanson-esque Hollywood mansion, and when I say lives, I mean lives! The chicly opulent decor, the paintings (some of which, like my day, are extremely, surreal), the landscaping, and the bustling retinue reveal that Mr. and Mrs. Guy Ritchie are totally large-ing it. We’re talking Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The lady of the house appears in the doorway of her music room.