There’s another pause. “Sandra is a brilliant woman who has a lot of talent and I had some great times with her. And in the end the reason that most friendships fall apart is envy, jealousy, those kinds of things. But I’m not going to fall into the same trap that she has and slag her off. There are a lot of instincts in me that want to, because she’s said some really nasty things, but I can only tell you that there was a huge misunderstanding.”
I ask if she regrets revealing so much of herself, whether she’d have been better retreating from public view as Prince and Michael Jackson did in the ’80s.
“Prince’s demure behavior and Michael Jackson’s running away from the truth is much more revealing about them than any of the things that I’ve told. I could talk to you for hours and you could read all my interviews, but you’d never feel you completely knew me. That’s just another thing that people do to punish me for being honest. ‘How much further can she go, what more can be revealed?’ Because I’ve taken my clothes off in public doesn’t mean that I’ve revealed every inch of my soul.”
Madonna was 25 before she released a record. She says this is important to understand. Prince signed to Warners in his teens. Michael Jackson could see himself as a cartoon on TV as a child. Madonna had 25 years to live without scrutiny.
“They isolate themselves too much,” she says. “If they would just come outside and mingle with humanity, everything would benefit–their art, and whatever relationships they may have. They’ve made such a big deal about being secretive that now it’s going to be even harder for them, because the more you say, ‘I’m not going to show you, you can’t see’, the more everybody wants to see. It’s just the way it is.
“I could never say that either of them were friends. I’ve spent a good deal of time with both of them. They’re very different people, but I felt the same with both. I felt like a peasant next to them, like this big clumsy farm girl. Like, when I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m thirsty, I drink. When I feel like saying something, I say it. And they have these manners and they’re just so careful about what they eat and what they say. I had dinner with Prince once, and he was just sipping tea, very daintily. I was stuffing food down my face and I was like, ‘Aren’t you going to eat?’ ” She mimics a delicate, whispered “no.” “And I thought, ‘Oh my God!’ I have this theory about people who don’t eat. They annoy me. It’s something about being in control.”
But people say you don’t eat.
“Honey! I have flesh. You could grab any part of my body and come up with a handful, so that’s absurd. It goes with the thing that I’m lonely, I can’t get a man and I’m suffering. But going back to Prince and Michael Jackson, it’s never too late to start being a human being. If they could just try being something close to that, then that would be the way to . . . I mean, (forget) salvation in the public eye, I’m just talking about being happy in your private life. Just being able to go to a basketball game or for a bike ride. I can’t imagine either of those guys putting on sweat pants and sneakers and going for a run, playing outside with a dog or just being silly and hanging out with your friends without your make-up on. You know what I mean? I don’t think they do that.”
The deals struck by Madonna and Michael Jackson at the start of the ’90s are the deals most pop stars now use as a benchmark, the reason why someone like George Michael can feel that his own deal is “professional slavery.” It is unclear how much either deal is worth even to those involved, as so much of it is dependent on the performance of the companies that were set up as a result. Ever since Madonna opened Maverick’s plush offices in West Hollywood, there have been whispers of impending bankruptcy. Madonna herself is claiming no great successes, but says it’s early yet.
The film company has so far produced one film–“Dangerous Game.” “Canadian Bacon,” the first feature film directed by Michael Moore (“Roger and Me”), is scheduled for release in February. Other films are in development and Madonna says Susan Sarandon has committed to one of them, “The Year of Frank Sinatra.” “I love her, she’s the best. It’s about a mother and a child and it’s a great story, and we’re just trying to find the perfect director.”