MADONNA: The Sex Queen of America — what a great title. [Laughs.] We couldn’t be talking about me.
MAILER: Well, there you are, and every time you feel empty inside, you say to yourself, “Sex Queen of America! Oh, brother, they should only know!”
MADONNA: Exactly. If they only knew.
MAILER: Yes, we pay a hell of a price for giving out, giving out…. Emptiness is the largest single factor in my life. I just work, work, work, and sometimes it’s all going out and nothing’s coming back.
MADONNA: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you really feel that when you perform and there’s a hundred thousand people in a stadium, and they’re all there because of you, and the responsibility of entertaining that many people in two hours is daunting and exhausting — there’s no way to describe it, but that’s the only word I can come up with now. Then you go up to your hotel room, and you can’t go out because you’re too famous to go out without everyone following you and twenty bodyguards, so you sit in your room while everyone else has fun being anonymous, and you sit there and you go, “This is f###ed. There’s something wrong with this picture.” Because now you feel the most unbelievable loneliness. Yes, everyone adores you in a kind of mass-energy way, but then you’re absolutely separated from humanity. It’s the most bizarre irony, don’t you think? In Truth or Dare, for instance, we worked for six months and we went around the world, and I saw the world and I would sit in my room all the time while everybody else was out, the dancers, the musicians, the bodyguards, and using me to get laid — you know, “I work with Madonna,” that type of thing. I was aware of how that works. The little thing everyone wore around their neck, the backstage pass, the laminated thing they use in airports — everyone had one, and I was well aware that that was their calling card, and I thought it was sort of unfair, you know, because everyone else was out having fun but me.
He had learned how to listen with full attention. It was an indispensable virtue for a decent interview. But now there seemed a spot to the side of his vision, a flaw in his concentration. Then he realized what was causing it.
MAILER: This is just a personal question, but I am curious. I don’t understand nostril earrings.
MADONNA: It’s just another adornment.
MAILER: Don’t you have practical problems? Don’t you need special makeup for that little red spot where it’s pierced?
MADONNA: No. You take it out and your nose heals really quickly. So I’m not worried about that.
MAILER: On my stuffy side, I thought: If I had a ring in my nose, it would take me two minutes to get it all cleaned out.
MADONNA: It doesn’t take me two minutes. I just have to blow my nose carefully. It’s nice to have to think about something you take for granted.
MAILER: But in kissing, you could get injured—slightly, but enough to shift the given.
MADONNA: That’s the beauty of it. You have to be careful. It’s like, well, someone could hurt my nose. It’s like riding a motorcycle without a helmet. It’s just a risk. In the most simplistic way, it’s just another way to take a chance.
He had the feeling that the cork was now out of the bottle, that they could talk about more.
MAILER: In one of your shows, you had these huge cones for breasts—
MADONNA: The Blonde Ambition tour.
MAILER: And I saw them and I said, “Why?”
MADONNA: Don’t look too far for any meaning.
MAILER: They’re ugly.
MADONNA: Well, I didn’t think so. There’s something kind of medieval and interesting about them. I asked Gaultier, who’s a French clothes designer, to do the costumes for my tour, and he already had these designs in one of his collections, but now I had two male dancers coming out in them. It’s very camp. Women used to wear those cones on their heads, but now they’ve become like a bra. The idea is to take something meant for one part of the body and place it on another part. Also, they’re pointed. So there’s something slightly dangerous about them. If you bump into them, you’ll cut yourself. Plus the idea that the men were wearing them, not the women. I was singing “Like a Virgin,” lying on this red velvet bed, and I reversed the whole Playboy Bunny thing, just two Playboy Bunnies in some costume that pushes their bodies into some unnatural shape, but now it’s the men.
MAILER: A woman with her breasts undulating over a man is very close to loveliness. Those cones smash expectation.
MADONNA: The idea behind it is that breasts are these soft things that men rely on to some extent, so it’s a way of saying, “f### off”
MAILER: But if the women truly succeed in telling men to f### off and they truly do, then the human race is going to come to an end.
MADONNA [laughing]: No, not f### off forever and ever; just think of my breasts in another way, that’s all, not something soft you can fall into. Believe me, I love to have my breasts touched by a man that I care for — I wouldn’t want it any other way — but it’s really important to me — don’t ask me why — that people look at life a different way, seeing that women can seduce and women can have sexual fantasies. Imagine Hugh Hefner with two Playboy Bunnies. I was having an inverted fantasy of that in my show … just another way of getting people to look at it.