Once again, Madonna has the world watching – her style, her body-and dancing to her disco beat. She reflects on her role as revolutionary, how marriage calms her, and why physicality is power.
Drones, the private London club Madonna has picked for tea, is a paneled, oaky affair with mirrored concertina screens at the back, suggestive of very grand adulteries, the muffled hum of elegantly wicked luncheon conversation, and supersize glitter balls like small planets suspended from the ceiling. Decorum with a generous scoop of disco stirred in – just as the lady likes it.
Madonna is a regular at Drones. She threw a birthday party here for her old man, film director Guy Ritchie-35 guests, four acoustic guitars, and jam sessions until two in the morning. For tea, however, the staff knows to prepare the table she likes at the back, beneath a treacly oil painting which I assume is an original Dufy, but which Madonna assures me (flirtatious smile, huge amused eyes, mobile brows) is absolutely “fake.”
If I’d been hoping for Madonna to show up in one of the Saturday Night Fever-esque spandex ensembles she’s been sporting of late, my expectations would be dashed. Rather, she’s dressed as chic as can be in black velvet custom Roberto Cavalli knickerbockers “made for me in every color-I’m obsessed with pants that go just below your knee,” a sexy little black sweater with keyhole decollete, a black Russian-looking Versace riding coat, striped Alice in Wonderlandover-the-knee “disco socks,” and black Louis-heel Miu Miu character shoes, which she twirls for both of us to admire. Her hair, worn smooth and close to the head with a side-parted ponytail tucked into the back of her coat, recalls the Eton crop of another Madonna, in her sometime androgyne Erotica days-much edgier than the soft Farrah flicks she has recently been fond of. Overall, I observe, the look is very Prince Charming, very principal boy. “Okay. Good,” she smiles, flashing the famous gap in her teeth. “I like chat.”
Today is Madonnas first day back in London after spending Christmas at Ashcombe, her country home on were a rough-and-tumble family time, affording fewer sleep-ins than she had banked on (sublime interludes: horse-riding lessons with her new instructor, William Fox-Pitt, a celebrated Olympic eventer). Still, Madonna is clearly glad to be back in the work saddle. “That’s the beauty of holidays, isn’t it? You suddenly remember why you left home in the first place.”
Madonnas 2006 schedule is as ambitious as you would expect. She wants to tour this year, and while this is by no means confirmed, she’s already met with conical-bra maestro Jean Paul Gaultier to talk costumes (inspiration: “English riding clothes, lots of black, black riding coats”). She’s also keen to direct a feature film and is at work on a script about the dancers she’s been working with lately, charismatic personalities whom, as the two show-and-tell documentaries of her career attest (1991s Truth or Dare and I’m Going to Tell You a Secret, released on DVD next month), she can’t help falling in love with. And tomorrow she starts roller-skating lessons in preparation for her video for “Sorry,” the second single from Confessions on a Dance Floor. “IVe got one of my assistants breaking in my roller skates for me right now,” she grins, “roller-skating all over the house.”
There is something very joyous and spirit lifting about Madonnas 21st-century disco reinvention. Her nonstop, unironicdanceathon is a glittering love letter not just to her own early career but to the kings and queens of sexy, thumping, many-beats-per-minute euphoric pop: ABBA, Giorgio Moroder, Donna Summer, the Bee Gees. No wonder its irresistible.
As for Madonnas victorious comeback performance at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Lisbon last November-less than three months after she broke nine bones in a horse-riding accident on her birthday and 23 years after her first single, “Everybody,” became a hit in the New York clubs-it has justifiably earned its own chapter in the iconic history of disco, an “I Will Survive” for 2005. “Yeah. Well, I did survive 2005,” she smiles wryly. “It was a very tumultuous year. I felt like I came out of my disco bail like most people get shot out of a cannon. Forget about riding a horse again-I didn’t know if I was going to be able to dance again. When I shot the video [for “Hung Up”] none of the bones had gone together. Pharmaceuticals and my will got me through the shoot. So to come out of that, I felt so much inspiration and so much joy just to have my body back and to feel strong again.”