Yet for all the domestic flurry, Madonna the Artist is never far from view. “Last night I dreamt I was teaching poetry to very young girls and the lesson for the day was haiku,” she recounts, sounding slightly mystified. “Five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. They were really young, so we did it in dance steps, like you stomped out of rhythm of the haiku.” Here she is, then: Madonna as teacher-poet, not to mention miner of cultures (Hispanic, Indian, ghetto, gay), channeler of exotica (“last night I dreamt of San Pedro”) and erotica, who finds sex in religion, religion in disco, the chic in shanti. Now her roaming artistic vision is aligning on japan, even as she sleeps. “Just don’t use that damn ‘reinvention’ word,” she pleads. Oh, yeah, Madonna the Blunt.
But also, perhaps, Madonna the Happy. Today she emanates an ease. A quickness to laugh. And shrugs off those who might just as soon put her in the piece-of-work diva category. “I can’t remember what the misconceptions are anymore,” says the most famous, and famously provocative, woman on the planet. “That I’m cold? That I’m calculating? Well, maybe it just means I’m highly organized, ambitious and focused, and those are traits people feel more comfortable attributing to men.”
Madonna focused on Richie, 32, a couple of years ago at a party thrown by Sting’s wife, Trudie Styler. “He’s gorgeous,” says Madonna. And “talented. He’s English. He’s got a sophisticated sense of humor.” His sexiness, she maintains, comes from “his intelligence, his humor… his super-macho ways.” A macho Englishman. “Give me macho or give me death,” she declares without even thinking. Perhaps, it’s suggested, Guy needs to get more in touch with his feminine side. Her scoff is percussive. “No – that’s my idea of expertise. He can get in touch with my feminine side!”
After Madonna fell for Ritchie, she took a big shine to his homeland. “Sometimes I feel like I’m in an Avengers episode,” she says of London, referring to sleek sixties TV series. “You drive around and see the old taxicabs or down Saville Row and see the old shops with custom-made suits for men and bowler hats and hunting shops. It’s just charming.”
She in turn has been embraced by the English, her every crumper chronicled by Fleet Street, and that has had its downside. “Unless you want to be in Hello magazine, you don’t go shopping.” She had tried dropping into a few nightclubs, “but the problem is, as soon as I get to the floor everything starts to move over; then I get crushed and it’s no fun – and I can’t really look at anybody. But I can look at people on the street. That’s where I do my people-watching.” She wouldn’t mind checking out boutiques, “but I don’t have time. When I do video shoots and photo shoots, designers make me things and that sort of comprises my wardrobe for the season.” She can’t, however resist the bountiful English antiques shops or the pubs. “We love pubs!” she says. “The house we’ve been renting has a really cute one around the corner.” Guy appears again on the patio and Madonna enlists his support on this: “C’mon, tell him what’s so great about a pub.”
Guy males a randy joke instead that cracks her up.
“Well, pubs are dark,” he says, moving on. “They’re just conducive to drinking and socializing.”
“Drinking and talking,” says Madonna. “It’s not like a bar where people just get sloshed and try to pick up people to shag. That’s boring. Families go to pubs, little kids. I brought Lola. She loved it.”
Besides, where better to meet the English? “I like the English. They’re eccentric. They’re just living to avoid confrontation. But they appreciate subtlety and itony.” She has dined with Prince Charles, whom she found “tres charmant… funny, dry. A naughty little boy.” Naughty like dishing other people in the room? “It was more like self-deprecation, making fun of pomp and circumstance and being royal, in a way.” Certainly the proper pop queen knows how to genuflect in a foreign court.. “I think it’s great that there’s a monarchy. People should stop slagging them off,” she says, continuing to slip into Britspeak. “I like good old queens and kings. They hark back to a time … I mean, you know, long live the Queen.”
Whom she hasn’t met. Yet. “I’d like to. Lola wants to go over to her house. It’s so funny – every time we go to Buckingham Palace I go, ‘See that? That’s where the Queen lives,” and she says, ‘But, Mummy, can’t we visit the Queen?’ I say, ‘Yeah, let’s go ring the doorbell.'” For all her fame and fortune, Madonna is still, deep down, that scrappy girl from Bay City, Mich., who as a teen was grounded for a whole summer for sneaking out to a David Bowie concert. “No matter how much money I have, I’m always going to have middle-class, Midwestern, puritanical aspirations and spending habits,” she says, almost convincingly.