We talk about her gay fans and gay fandom in general, why it’s so in- tense and why some gay fans feel the need to imagine rivalries between pop stars. Why do some Madonna fans, for example, feel the need to be so hyper critical of Lady Gaga, and vice versa? One woman gets a text from her dad, who took her to her first Madonna concert when she was in mid- dle school and is as excited about the interview as she is. We discuss which Madonna songs everyone’s dads like, and I remember my dad watching the Blonde Ambition Tour on HBO when I was really little. And at some point the conversation takes an extremely random turn and, no joke, we’re all dis- cussing Sex and the City.
There’s plenty of time to chat after all. Because Madonna is, well, I wouldn’t say late exactly; more like running a little behind schedule.
It must be after 9pm when Liz Rosenberg finally summons the six of us to a room just down the hall where Madonna is waiting.
What is Madonna like in person? She’s smaller than you’d expect, but then all celebrities are in person. She wears fingerless lace gloves and more statement rings than she has fingers, possibly to hide her hands, possibly just because she likes them. Her famously blond hair is braided to the side and spills loose over her right shoulder. There’s a slight oddness to her dic- tion, as if she’s got a lozenge tucked inside her cheek. But that’s probably just the grille she’s wearing—an odd choice for an evening when she’ll be answering questions.
She definitely doesn’t look like she does in photos. She resembles nei-ther the ageless mannequin that appears in her album art nor the woman in red carpet photos and paparazzi candids whose oddly puffy and creased features get picked apart online. In reality, she just looks like a well-preserved 56-year-old rich lady. But then, that doesn’t do her justice either. You could describe any Bravo Housewife that way, and there’s definitely something singularly captivating about Madonna. She was never simply pretty, but even now she’s sternly beautiful, like a statue or the face of a mountain. She’s impressive. She radiates power; never for a minute does she let you think you’re her equal.
“I don’t like people at my back,” she says almost immediately when someone tries to take a seat behind her. “Come over here. It’s better if we all can look each other in the eyes. I’m Italian. I don’t like anyone behind me.” We’re on her turf, and she controls the seating arrangements in this room.
At the same time there’s an adolescent impishness about her; she relishes provocation for provocation’s sake. Someone asks her about the gauzy black dress she’s wearing. It’s by “a young designer that you’ve never heard of. No one famous,” she says. “Let me take it off and look inside!”
Her favorite kind of questions, she says, are rapid-fire, short answer questions, and with six journalists who could potentially take the conversation in any direction with each question, those are the kinds that work best in this setting:
What are you reading right now?
“I’m trying to get through two different books. One is The Goldfinch and the other is a Bob Fosse biography.”
Do your kids have a favorite song of yours?
“They really love ‘Bitch, I’m Madonna.’ Yeah. That’s my teenagers’ favorite song. My son David, he plays guitar and he likes ‘Devil Pray.’ That’s his favorite.”
At this stage in your career, what still frightens you?
What do you love the most about pop music?
“I love how accessible it is.”