MAILER: At least the half of yourself that you bring to this interview.
MADONNA: Well, I suppose I am. I’m extremely sort of regimented and anal in my thinking.
MAILER: Actually, if I didn’t know anything about you, I would think, “Well, she’s a lady …”
MADONNA: What do you mean by lady?
MAILER: One of the things I hate most about female liberationists is their expropriation of the language. Lady is a wonderful word. A lady is a woman who will do everything other women will do but with a little more style.
MADONNA: Okay, that’s nice.
MAILER: Yes. And the word is going out of existence.
MADONNA: That’s important. Having manners can be terribly important.
MAILER: Sometimes it’s the only way we can offer some warmth to another human being. There are a lot of people who are giving you the equivalent of love by expressing their good manners.
MADONNA: I agree.
MAILER: Anyway, if I saw you under those circumstances, I would say, “That’s a lonely lady”—
MADONNA: Why do you say I’m lonely?
MAILER: Just an air about you, an air of privacy.
MADONNA: But no one will believe that. They think I’ve revealed everything.
They were still talking, however, at arm’s length—marvelously polite, but he wished to push the interview.
MAILER: You’ve withstood attack. But now you’re living in a culture that is suffused with all the hatred that used to be funneled out into the cold war.
MADONNA: Right. We’ve turned it in on ourselves.
MAILER: And you go in and say, “f### you. I don’t care if you hate me.”
MADONNA: Well, I’ve certainly had enough time to think about the ins and outs of being famous and lots time to analyze people’s reactions to me. As a celebrity, or an unbelievably famous person, you are, in this country certainly, allowed to operate with everyone’s approval for a certain amount of time. People do live vicariously through you, and they have fantasies about being you and wanting to do what you do. But it can never last, because several things need to happen: You need to disappear, run out of steam, run out of ideas. You need to get married, have a lot of children, get fat or something. You need to have a drinking or a drug problem. You have to go in and out of rehabs so people can feel sorry for you. Or you need to kill yourself, basically. The fact is that none of those things have happened to me, and people go around making all these pronouncements. “Oh, her career’s over she’s finished now, she’s a failure.” It just sounds like so much wishful thinking.
MAILER: The people who have power in the media now there’s only one thing they really care about, other than obtaining a little more power. Its not money or sex or good food or pleasure, but their acumen. They are opinion makers. So their acumen is their hard-on. When they’re wrong it’s like they’re losing an erection. They hate you because you prove them wrong.
MADONNA: Since the David Letterman show, the news is that I’ve lost my mind.
MAILER: You’re also tilting with a huge social machine that no longer knows where it’s going and is afraid that it’s going to crash sometime in the next twenty or thirty years.
MADONNA: Yes. Its frightening.
There was only one way, he recognized, that he could take this interview further. He would have to sacrifice a bit of himself. Confessions — in good society — breed confessions.
MAILER: Certain people cannot live without promiscuity. There have been years of my life when I was young when that was absolutely true. I had this feeling that something was near death in me… that something was trapped, and it was symbolized by the word cancer. To break out of this trap, I had to take on many roles, because every time you make love with someone else, you are in a new role, you’re a new person.
When she was not immediately forthcoming, he changed the subject. He suggested that thirty years ago, his ego would have been on an elevator while talking to her. How was the Sex Queen of America relating to him? Up or down?