Madonna stands in the lobby of one of New York’s fancy East Side hotels. She is a study in black, black jacket, black skirt, black mood. “I’m here less than twenty-four hours,” she wails, “and I go running in the Park, and when I get back to my room, my jewelry’s gone!”
She seems smaller in person than she looks on film or tape. The skin is porcelain, the eyes as blue as the sapphires that glittered in her stolen bracelet. “Sean just baught that bracelet for me,” she says, and sighs, “They took my engagement ring at the last hotel I was at.”
Maybe one day she’ll learn to put her valuables in the safe; then again, maybe not. I’ve heard “Papa Don’t Preach.” I don’t want to be the one to tell Madonna what she ought to do. Her husband, the actor Sean Penn, isn’t of a mind to lecture her either. Over the phone from Los Angeles (where he’s making the film Colors under Dennis Hopper’s direction) he promises he’ll replace the bracelet. Still, there is more frustration in the offing. Sean reports that nobody will be able to take Madonna’s car to the shop. Why not? Because she’s got the keys with her.
Later, over lunch, she describes the car. Her husband. the demon giver, bought it for her twenty-seventh birthday. “It’s a white-and-coral fifty-six convertable Thunderbird. Absolutely beautiful.” So why does it have to go into the shop? “Because,” she says, “I ran into something while I was talking on the phone.”
A car phone?
She grins. “Yeah,” she says. “Kind of disgusting.”
The black mood has passed. Madonna has the gift – and it’s one gift her husband didn’t buy her – of self-mockery. You can see and hear her laughing at herself on the video version of her 1985 live concert tour. The titles come up on the screen – MADONNA LIVE THE VIRGIN TOUR – and over them Madonna chants in a pseudo-Brooklyn accent: “I went to Noo Yawk… I didn’t know anybody, I wanted to dance, I wanted to sing… I wanted to make people happy, I wanted to be famous, I wanted everybody to love me, I wanted to be a star, I worked very hard and my dream came true.”
The real joke is, her dream did come true. Now she’s so famous she can’t eat her asparagus without strangers interrupting. Even the staff of the elegant hotel dinning room gets into the act. “The chef would like an autograph for his daughter,” says the maitre d’.
“Okay,” Madonna says, “but you gotta give me a lot of cookies?”
The maitre d’ is amused. “But the autograph is not for me, it’s for the chef.”
“Well, then,” says Madonna scrawling her name on piece of paper, “tell the chef to give me a lot of cookies.”
Dreamer, dancer, singer, actress (coming next month: Who’s That Girl with Griffin Dunne), cookie eater, she may just be the biggest star in the entertainment world today. Her first album (Madonna), made in 1983, sold over six million copies, her second (Like A Virgin) sold fourteen million, her third (True Blue) has yielded three number one singles – “Papa Don’t Preach,” “Live To Tell” and “Open Your Heart.” She is also the only female vocalist – so far – to have had five number one hits in the eighties. Many people may have been surprised by this. Madonna wasn’t one of them.
She is bored with rehashing the old stories, she doesn’t want to talk about coming to New York in 1978 with thirty-five dollars in her pocket, she doesn’t want to hear about how she stepped on the fingers of every man who offered her a hand up on her way to the top. She never, she says, slept with anybody just because he could do something for her. “Whatever I learned or got from a man or a boyfriend, they got plenty from me. I don’t feel like I ever took advantage of anyone.” (This would appear to be true. Steve Bray, a musician she picked up in a disco when she was seventeen, is still writing songs for her, eleven years later.)
That she always had ambition, and that many whom she left behind are resentful, she doesn’t deny. “You can’t suceed unless you move,” she says, “and you can’t take the whole world with you.”
She’s been moving from the day she was born Madonna Louise Ciccone, in Bay City, Michigan, the oldest girl in a family of six children. Her father was engineer in Chrysler. When Madonna was six years old, her mother, for whom she was named, died of cancer. When she was eight years old, her father married again. Both of these events infuriated Madonna, who perceived herself as abandoned. She says her mother’s death left her with “a certain kind of loneliness, an incredible longing for something. If I hadn’t had that emptiness, I wouldn’t have been so driven.”