But her Oscar-night date with Jackson almost eclipsed her performance onstage. It was his idea, she recalled. “He goes, ‘Are you going with somebody?’ I said, ‘No, I’m not. I don’t have a date.’ He said, ‘Well, I’ll be your date.’ ”
Madonna describes Jackson as a man in need of a make-over. “This man is a genius in his own right, but only in terms of music,” she said. “He has lived his life with blinders on. And it’s hard for me to conceive of anybody who’s an artist living that way. I know this sounds trite, but I wanted to get him to love himself.” Jackson has undergone extensive plastic surgery, but Madonna says that he needs to change himself “from the inside out.” She adds: “A person who does all these things to himself is obviously not happy with himself. I think Michael sees himself as a freak to a certain extent. He’s lived a repressed life and knows it — he wants to change.”
She has tried to expand his horizons by getting him to read books and watch videos of foreign films. “I wanted him to see,” she said, “with my books and my point of view on life, that even if you are unusual, it doesn’t mean you can’t go out into the sunlight, or socialize, or drive without your sunglasses on and without a bodyguard.” She also suggested that he get a haircut. “That was my itching desire,” she said, “to take clippers and just buzz his hair off. I just wanted to open up his mind.”
But playing Pygmalion to the world’s most reclusive superstar promised to be such a demanding project that, although she considered recording a song with him, Madonna has decided to cut short their collaboration. Meanwhile, she rejects any suggestion of romantic involvement. “I think he’s very attractive in many ways,” she said, “but I’m trying to get out of my cycle of finding boys to mother. I’d rather just be his friend.”
Divorced since 1989 from actor Sean Penn, Madonna recently broke off her brief romance with 27-year-old model Tony Ward. She says that she is now unattached. “Can you imagine?” she giggled. “But there’s a really cute gardener over there,” she observed, glancing through the glass doors at a middle-aged Oriental man working by the pool—lust kidding.”
Most celebrities draw a strict line between their private and public selves. But Madonna has made her private life part of her act, which suggests that nothing is too personal for public consumption. In Truth or Dare, she confesses that Penn remains the love of her life. Asked by Maclean’s how she felt about the recent birth of a child to Penn and his girlfriend, actress Robin Wright, she seemed momentarily taken aback. “You are asking the dirt,” she said.