Hey Girlfriend. There are certain things you can only tell another girl. Like what you look for in a man. And why you want to have another baby. Madonna gets together with her close friend Juliette Hohnen to talk about love, London, liking a pint and keeping Lourdes level-headed.
I was 17 when I first contracted a serious case of the Madonnas. From then on, she sang the soundtrack of my life. I vacationed to Holiday, cleared the dance floor to Into The Groove and got over many a broken heart to Express Yourself. Like many other girls growing up in the late Eighties in London. I felt Madonna spoke to me. I never thought I’d ever actually meet her, let alone become friends with her. But then, life is strange that way.
Perhaps I should have taken my chance sighting of Madonna and Sean during a visit to Los Angeles when I was 20 as a sign. The pair drove right past me on Pacific Coast Highway in a sparkling blue Mercedes. What are the chances of that, after all ? I filed my remarkable Madonna sighting in a mental drawer marked ‘Flukes’. But at least I now knew that she really did exist (and that Sean Penn had really, really shinny hair).
I finally met Madonna quite by chance in 1990 when, having just moved to Los Angeles, I was asked by a friend to accompany him to a rather swanky party in the Hollywood Hills. On arrival, I found myself in a room crammed with celebrities: Michelle Pfeiffer, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Richard Harris… I was the only person I didn’t recognize. And there, squeezed in on a sofa between Sandra Bernhard and Warren Beatty sat – you guessed it – Madonna.
I had vowed that if I ever found myself in her company, I would be frightfully unEnglish and just walk up and introduce myself. Starstruck, I panicked and headed for the empty buffet. Distracted by the tasty pickings, I hardly noticed that someone else was also now heaping food onto her plate until, suddenly, I turned and found I was standing face to face with Madonna.
‘How can you eat so much and stay so thin?’ I blurted. And, instead of treating me like Kathy Bates’s character from the movie Misery (I believe the phrase ‘I’m your biggest fan’ did escape my lips later on in the conversation). Madonna told me she’s disciplined during the week but ate what she wanted on weekends, before inviting me to sit with her and her friends.
And so, there I sat, cross-legged, eating my dinner at the feet of Madonna, although that is not to say that this is where I have stayed during my friendship with her.
It has now been over 10 years since I met Madonna, or M as she is referred to by her good friends. For some reason, that girl from Detroit and this girl from London hit it off immediately. Perhaps it was because we bonded instantly over our host’s questionable taste in music. But when I asked Madonna years later why she didn’t swat me away like a fly that first night, she jokingly replied: ‘I liked the way you smelled and you had a nice dress on (a cream-colored Alaia, if you are interested).’ More likely, it was because she sensed in me someone who likes to have fun. For the simple truth is that Madonna is a giggle and, in her personal life doesn’t take herself too seriously. Whatever the reason, she welcomed me into her world and displayed none of the paranoia or guarded behavior one might expect from someone of whom everyone wants a piece.
In the early days of our friendship, Madonna and I would go out to obscure LA dance clubs or perhaps an Aids danceathon. Sometimes I’d be dancing away happily and then suddenly realize: ‘My God, I’m dancing with Madonna!’ It was really very odd in the beginning. I also visited her in Miami for short vacations and, looking up to her as I do, would try to follow the ‘Madonna regime’. This was in her preyoga days, when she ran 8 miles a day. ‘I’m giving up smoking.’ I would announce as we set off on one of our runs. ‘You’d better!’ would be her surprisingly puritanical response.
Over the years I have found myself in the most surreal situations with Madonna. like the time we decided to go to an art exhibition when she was nine months pregnant. In order to avoid the ever-present paparazzi, we had to lie down in the back of a dirty mini-van. So much for glamorous transportation.
Once she had finished making Evita and was five months pregnant, we got to spend a lot of time together. It was probably the first time in years she was forced to stay in one place for a while. We giggled when we went on our trial runs from the house to the hospital (in unfashionable downtown LA) in preparation for the big moment. No matter how many times we practiced, we always made a wrong turn somewhere and then, like a couple of squibbing sisters, we would blame each other for bad driving or bad navigating.
Having kept my friendship with Madonna as private as possible over the years, it is strange suddenly to be interviewing her as a professional journalist. The occasion is the British release of her first film since Evita, The Next Best Thing which co-stars Rupert Everett. In it they play two best friends – he is gay and she single – who raise a child together, until her character falls in love with another man (played by the tasty Benjamin Bratt). She is then forced to decide wheather she and her child should stay with Everett or start a new life in New York with her new love.