MAILER: As you know, I’m not in love with your book, Sex.
MADONNA: I didn’t know.
MAILER: I told you the other day that I thought the metal covers were tacky, and the spiral binding kept jamming when you tried to open and close the thing.
MADONNA: You’re talking about the way it was packaged. I’m saying: Look beyond, read the text. You’re telling me you don’t like the book because it has metal covers.
MAILER: NO, I started to tell you …
MADONNA: And I rudely interrupted you…. Go on with your list. I’m curious.
MAILER: Well, let me begin with smaller things and work toward larger ones. I thought your text, while it was funny, was either too much or not enough. There could have been more, and that would have balanced the photographs. Or there should have been less. But the way it was, turned out arch and cute. Besides, the book was a misery to hold.
MADONNA: That’s part of it. It was meant to be a piece of pop art.
MAILER: Yes, but I have the idea — correct me if I’m wrong — that the idea of metal covers did not come from you.
MADONNA: It absolutely came from me. What we originally wanted was something completely encased in metal with a lock you couldn’t get into….
MAILER: Now, that’s an idea….
MADONNA: We couldn’t manufacture it because it was too costly. The best thing we could come up with as a cony promise was that.
MAILER: Well, there you go. Once you have to compromise an idea, maybe it’s better to do without it. I thought you were going to say, as you did in Sex, “I’m not interested in porno movies because everybody is ugly and faking it and it’s just silly,” and yet you were going to attempt to shock people, then you should have had a beaver shot yourself. Given the number of nude and seminude pictures of you in costume, I thought that was an evasion, as if you or your advisers were saying, “Beaver shots could hurt us comercially. What we want is soft porn.” So, the fact that Sex was designedly commercial got a lot of people’s backs up. They felt you were promoting yourself without large enough commitment. This sets up a dismissal of the reader.
MADONNA: Then why did everyone buy it?
MAILER: That’s not the measure. People bought it because of everything you’d done up to then. You were saying, “You’ve seen me in my music videos, you’ve seen me suggesting aspects of nudity, now you’re really going to see something.” But if Richard Avedon had ever been able to take a picture of Ronald Reagan’s Cabinet while they were all mooning and put it in book form, that would have sold out, too.
MADONNA [laughs]: I see your point.
MAILER: So I think the sales are irrelevant. But the way you pay for it is in the crap you’re running into now.
He had been married six times, and this was the first occasion on which he had won an argument with an intelligent lady. It was enough to contemplate becoming a Madonna fan.
MAILER: In Sex, you say, “Condoms are not only necessery but mandatory.” I really want to talk about that. The only thing you can depend on with condoms is that they will take 20 to 50 percent off your f###. Safe sex is part of the insanity of this country. We are always looking for one simple tool or program with which to solve a serious problem.
MADONNA: A Band-Aid. You don’t think they’re useful?
MAILER: They’re terrible.
MADONNA: I’ll agree with you, they feel terrible; but you don’t think their usefulness is valid in terms of preventing sexually transmitted diseases?