Knickers up, Madam. Cease and desist with your oaken thespianism. Curtail your wrist-strengthening publicatory activities. And while you’re at it, knock off the self-absorbed psycho-navel analysis. All we ever wanted Madonna to do was make great pop music. And talk sense. Well, now she has. And she is Interview by Paul Du Noyer.
Mmm. Now. Yeah. Let me see if I remember …
‘My love is a glorious, something, of song
A fabulous … extemporanea.
And love is a thing that can never go wrong …
And I am the Queen of Romania.’
“Ha! Ha! Oh I do love Dorothy Parker’s poems.
They’re so bitter. And so true …”
Her version of the words is not far out. But she is not the Queen of Romania. She is perhaps the world’s most famous woman, and her name is spelt on a golden necklace that rests upon her chest. “Madonna” it announces, dangling over what the French would term her “decolletage”, meaning that her outfit is very low-cut. And she flaunts a cleavage like the barmids all had when beer was tuppence a pint.
Madonna looks both older and younger than she does in the photos and the videos: a little more lined and possibly tired, but also less mature and grand. Her manner is quite teenaged, not femme fatale. She seems up for mischief, and yet quite conscious of her power. At the same time, her very frankness is almost innocent. These combinations are odd, and they give her the air of a prematurely wise child. Her current style is 1930s Hollywood meets early ’70s flash: Jean Harlow and Angie Bowie. She is not bewitching, but is certainly beautiful. She wears the nose stud that so troubled Norman Mailer in a recent interview. If you saw her in the street, you’d think she looks like a girl who looks a bit like Madonna.
She is receiving visitors in a suite at the Ritz Hotel, always favoured by Americans of means – and a place that Ernest Hemingway saw fit to get pissed in – here in the Place VendOme, in Paris. A gaggle of fans is standing outside the revolving doors. The room is down a dark, narrow corridor. Halfway along there sits an athletic young black man: he tenses at your approach, relaxes when you’re cleared. In the ante-room is a stack of PR photos in case you want one autographed, and copies of Madonna’s US press biography. (It begins, “We have been here before – on the cusp of discovery, the crux of delight, the crucible where true artistry and mass appeal entwine.” It ends, five pages later, with “We know her. We love her. And we will follow her anywhere.” You’re right. It’s a load of bollocks.)
The common observation that writers make after meeting Madonna is that she is small. (Just as they come back from Sting interviews reporting that, guess what, he’s not a complete wanker after all.) Rut actually, she isn’t tiny. So why this sense of dislocation?
It’s partly because she is not so steely and Amazonian as the pictures suggest – in fact, she seems rather delicate. But mostly it’s her global fame and reputation. It’s like the proverbial butterfly wing that displaces a little air in Peking, and triggers tidal waves the other side of the world. Madonna speaks and she causes explosions in outer space. All that, from this little person here?
And there is one more purzle, which we will shortly investigate. Why is she wearing Betty Boo’s clothes?