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Madonna Interview : In Style

Madonna - In Style / January 2001

Can a strict mommy, raving royalist and connoisseur of fine art still be a pop goddess and provocateur nonpareil?
Why else would we be so

Mad for Madonna

Norma Desmond doesn’t live here. There are no dead bodies in the swimming pool. Actually, there was hardly a swimming pool to speak of before this week, just a “birdbath,” according to the lady of the manor, until her boyfriends, the strapping athletic type, complained. Probably only once. Now they have a proper Beverly Hills swimming hole, which, in its unpainted state, the L.O.T.M. Thinks resembles “an Eastern-bloc pool.”

Still, the house is formidable, a 1926 classic California Spanish hacienda, two stories with white stucco walls, low ceilings, pitch-dark doors, porticos, tiles and a courtyard. Although it’s not on Sunset Boulevard, it’s close by, nestled in with other stately figures along a winding, well-known Old-Hollywood street once peopled with the likes of Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball and Agnes Moorehead. A visitor might deeply desire to see the baroque trappings of a true legend, but the playground equipment in the front yard suggests something more user-friendly. Instead of Norma’s dead monkey, there is a Chihuahua named Evita underfoot as one is led into the foyer, while an 18th-century painting of angels dominates the staircase, past a living room of gold upholster sofas and French antiques, by a wall with a famous self-portrait of Frida Kahlo, and out into a bright covered patio. A handsome man who might be the pool guy strides out in a white T-shirt and athletic pants. “Have you seen the missus?” He asks. This turns out to be Guy Ritchie, her guy, the British director (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels; Snatch) touted not only for his boyish good looks (how many blond hotties are there in England?) but also for his brazen charm and quick wit. “I need to find my bird.”

In time his bird appears, apologizing. “Sorry I’m late.” Then a pause. “I’m late in my own house. Can you imagine if I met you out in town somewhere?” She’s dressed down in a black sleeveless T and wild patchwork jeans, wearing light makeup, her soft blond hair very natural-looking. Firm handshake. For having just come off a four-day video shoot, Madonna, at 42, seems startlingly fresh. (“Really? I’m a good actress,”and she can’t resist adding, “contrary to what everyone says.”) She is still taking in the reality of this being her house – she and Richie moved in mere weeks ago. “We’ve been in renovation hell,” she says. Diane Keaton, the last owner, left behind not a stick of Stickley – “just a clock. A nice clock.” Madonna admires the restoration Keaton did on the Wallace Neff-designed house and fears “she’d probably be horrified now because I’ve got paintings of naked ladies everywhere. This house is quite masculine. I thought it needed to be more female-ified.” Having previously lived in the more secluded hills, Madonna adjusting to actually hearing her neighbours across the hedge. “It’s like proper suburbia,” she marvels, “just what I’ve been trying to get away from all this time!”

Madonna - In Style / January 2001

As if she could be confused with the girl next door. Or with the superstar next door, for that matter. To paraphrase Norma Desmond, it’s the videos that got small, but not hers: Madonna’s 14th album, Music, which fuses electronica and acoustic mood trips, has scaled charts worldwide and launched her on a promotional juggernaut including club gigs in New York and London, her first five performances in seven years. At the same time she embraced the twin personae of Lady Love and Material Girl, putting her considerable energies into raising daughter Lourdes, or Lola, 4, by her ex-boyfriend and onetime-trainer Carlos Leon, and baby Rocco, who arrived last August, her son by Ritchie. In a good groove? “Absolutely.” Recluse? No. Out there is more like it. And, frankly spread a little thin. “I live a highly scheduled lifr,” she says ruefully.

Home, inevitably, can seem as conceptual as her videos. “It’s where my family is,” she says. It shifts. Right now L.A. Is home because we just made this home, all of us together, and, you know, Rocco was born here. Once we find a place in England [where she has spent much of the past year and a half] and make that our own, then that will feel like home.” Rumors of an impending wedding have swirled about, but Madonna’s camp disavows knowledge of any plans.