One afternoon last month, Madonna invited Q Magazine to her Los Angeles home. We accepted. “People always overreact to everything I do,” she told Adrian Deevoy. “I’m a very sexual, very spiritual person. What’s the problem?”
On the very morning that the word wanna-be is officially included in Webster’s Dictionary, the subject of this ungainly compound noun is putting on her make-up blissfully unaware that the phrase falls alphabetically, and somehow poetically, between wank and want.
She lashes on mascara with budget-defying abandon, applies the merest hint of shadow to her famous beauty spot and paints livid scarlet on to her full lips – lips, if tabloid reports are to be believed, stuffed with fresh monkey giblets or somesuch. Finally, she daubs a little flesh-toned cream upon two small blemishes which the pimple-fairy has unkindly deposited upon her left cheek during the night.
She is preparing for a rare event in her airtight schedule: an interview. She does not like interviews and therefore grants them less frequently than panda bears achieve sexual congress. But now that she has decided to speak, she will characteristically – with just a suggestion of Hollywood star – give the conversation her all.
The reason for this rare meeting with a gentleperson of the British press is that she wishes to discuss her latest film. This is not, movie snobs will be relieved to hear, the newest instalment of her Oscar-untroubling acting career, but a feature-length, general release documentary called Truth Or Dare and saucily subtitled On The Road, Behind The Scenes And In Bed With Madonna.
It is a remarkably revealing film, shot during last year’s six-month Blond Ambition Tour. Despite the inevitable self-anointment as executive producer. Madonna is not always shown in a flattering light, often appearing unreasonable, selfabsorbed, ungrateful, a person unseasoned by the condiment of modesty. But as the candid footage rolls on, a more thoughtful and, indeed, vulnerable side of Madonna is unveiled. The film, which is in turns moving, rudely amusing, exciting and emotionally raw, could well be among the best music documentaries ever made: it shares the wit and intensity of Dylan’s Don’t Look Back: the pathos of Marvin Gaye In Ostend and the fly-on-the-wall intimacy of Elvis’s That’s The Way It is.
Essentially it is a study of Madonna’s ships with fame, family, friends and sex. The sub-plot concerns itself with the ups and downs of her almost exclusively gay and camp-as-bottled-coffee-gay-dancers. There are more than enough arresting and potentially “controversial” scenes in Truth Or Dare. The Top 10 will, upon its release, probably, run thus:
– She visits her mother’s grave.
– She watches gleefully as two of her dancers kiss during a game of Truth Or Dare.
– She gets told off by her father for emulating masturbation on stage.
– She avoids meeting her inebriated brother after a concert.
– She comforts a woman in her entourage who has just been drugged and sexually assaulted.
– She attempts to seduce a Spaniard.
– She shows the camera her chests.
– She asks a bloke to expose himself.
– She performs fellatio on the neck of a bottle.
– She winds up in bed with seven men in various stages of undress.
This is standard shocking Madonna fare that will doubtless be the focus of much pause button abuse and fevered moralising, but the moment when she is emotionally, as opposed to literaly, naked are by far the most stimulating: sick and unmade up she discusses the merits of fame with her friend Sandra Bernhard; wired after a show she bawls out a hapless tour manager; clearing up after the end-of-tour party she wonders what it’s all about; flustered and upset she meets her “hero”, her best childhood friend, Moira, and silently mourns the gulf that now, almost inevitably, exists between them.
Truth Or Dare throws up a lot of questions about Madonna: from her motives to her ethics, from the credibility of her public persona to the accessibility of her private parts. To ask these questions you must drive up lo the highest point in Beverly Hills – where the second most common profession is gardener, the first being pan-galactic celebrity. Once a series of meticulously manicured lanes has been negotiated you arrive at two forbidding, over-wrought iron gates, through which can just be seen a low, whitewashed and relatively modest eight-room bungalow. Announce yourself into an elaborate car-window-level entryphone and wait for the designer drawbridge to sigh reluctantly open.
A Mercedes sports car and a sturdy jeep sit at the top of a steep drive. The woman standing at the open door is not immediately familiar. The hair is dark and long, the face unexpectedly round. She is barely recognisable. That, it dawns, is because she is Melissa, a personal assistant, and you’ve never seen her before in your life.
At the end of a hallway festooned with nude black and white photographs and curious Cubist-like works of art is a large white lounge. Dominating the room is a luxurious antique sofa and a dark-stained grand piano. Above the fireplace is a work by Leger from the ’30s, on the opposite wall hangs a disturbing self-portait by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Look directly upwards from the centre of the room and you see an original 17th century Langlois ceiling painting, the vast frame almost as much of a masterpiece as the three delicately depicted nudes it contains. Gaze out through the fourth glass wall, beyond the regular-shaped pool, and drink in a truly heartstopping view of what seems to be the whole of Los Angeles.
Wander through the lounge, past a few casually arranged sticks of 18th century French and Italian furniture into the adjoining office area and study a collection of photographs on the walls and cabinets. Madonna – who has earned an estimated £36.5 million in the last two years – has plainly been investing in art. Photos by Man Ray, Kertesz, Weegee and Weston begin to blur into one, a huge, chain-strewn, bronze crucifix rests against the wall, a Herb Ritts close-up of Madonna laughing, open-mouthed, screams across the room, a shadowy portrait of the other Madonna lurks in an alcove and above the desk there is a huge, bleak portrait of a dour little man in a party hat sitting by an open door that beckons him out into black nothingness. It’s enough to make a grown man need the bathroom.
The lavatory is immaculately white. A wide, shallow bowl of orchids sits to one side of the sink. Beside this is a Catholic candle with an attendant book of matches from Paris. Providing a little toilet-side reading is a hardback copy of the Warhol Diaries. The two pictures in this, the smallest room of the house, are probably worth more than most mortals earn in a lifetime. Madonna, it can be exclusively revealed, uses white, super soft toilet tissue. “Wow,” as Andy Warhol would no doubt have said.