The last time I spoke with Madonna—and believe me, I never partic- ularly set out to be someone who has chatted with the biggest living pop star in the history of the world more than once, to have taken her small, bony, birdlike hand in my own on multiple occasions—was just be- fore the release of her film W.E. It was a roundtable interview at the Wal- dorf Astoria with mostly gay media outlets—there was one very handsome straight guy from Spain who, if I remember correctly, Madonna paid particular attention to. This was fall 2011, a couple months before her 2012 Super Bowl halftime show, and on top of that and the film pro- motion, she was also busy prepping her last album, MDNA. To say she had a lot on her plate is definitely an understatement.
So, Madonna was late. Like, two hours late.
When she finally arrived, her long-time publicist Liz Rosenberg re- minded her that this was a room full of gay guys. She seemed to sigh with relief. “So, we’ll end the day with some levity.”
At some point, she apologized for keeping us waiting. “You know, Mar- ilyn Monroe was always late,” an older gay journalist told her.
“Was she?” Madonna asked, unimpressed and maybe even a little an- noyed by the reference to one of her purported early idols.
We’d been talking for the past 30 minutes or so about the ways that history and popular culture rewrite women’s stories, distorting their lives with sensational gossip, one of W.E.’s major themes. Women like the film’s heroine, Wallis Simpson—and Marilyn Monroe. “Maybe that’s another woman whose story has been distorted,” I said.
Madonna turned to me across the huge round table. She looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Yeah.”
I tell people that story all the time because—well, because it’s an awesome story. But it’s an awesome story because it felt like we connected at that moment in this way that isn’t usually possible at press junkets. It was like she was saying to me, Yeah, you get it. And, while I probably wouldn’t have admitted this a few weeks ago, if I’m being completely hon- est, part of me was kind of hoping for a similar interaction earlier this month when I came face-to-face with the self-anointed queen of Pop for the second time.
In his 2008 Vanity Fair cover story, Rich Cohen compared the hoops he had to jump through in order to sit down for a one-on-one with Madonna to being brainwashed by a cult. This isn’t anything like that. The atmos- phere is relatively relaxed in the dimly lit room at Interscope Records where journalists from various online media outlets are hanging out, waiting for their audience with Madonna. There’s a bowl of mini chocolate bars and crudité and cheese on the table. A nice lady from Liz Rosenberg’s office keeps encouraging us all to drink more wine, and some of us do.
What does a room full of gay bloggers talk about while waiting to meet Madonna? Mostly how excited they are. Every now and then some- one who’s just finished up an interview returns to collect his coat, trem- bling with residual adrenaline, clearly trying with every once of professional dignity he can summon not to jump up and down and squeal like a pre- teen fangirl.
“I’m glad she’s being really frank about the ageism stuff. That needed to happen,” someone says, referring to comments Madonna made in Rolling Stone earlier this month comparing the criticism she gets as a 56-year-old pop star to racism and homophobia.