Suddenly Donald Trump appeared, hustling between the seats toward Madonna.
‘I’ve better seats for you,’ Trump said.
‘We can’t go,’ Madonna said. ‘I have a guest.’
‘G0o ahead,’ I said. ‘This is a great seat. I’ll be fine.’
Still Madonna refused. ‘We can’t. He’s my guest.’
Trump touched my shoulder. ‘Come on. It’s all right.’
So the three of us, with Trump leading the way, went down to the aisle situated directly on the ring, Trump waved his hand and a gofer in a tuxedo appeared with two chairs. Trump said I could sit two rows behind them, but Sean and Madonna were having none of that either. Sean took Madonna on his lap, and Madonna motioned for me to take the chair beside them.
Later I told her it would have been fine to have left me where I had been sitting initially.
‘Would you have left me if I had been your guest?’ she asked.
‘Well, no, but…’
‘I don’t leave my guests either.’
When Spinks went down, we went out, led by the indefatigable Lou. To wait for the car and escape, we were forced to take refuge in a kitchen. When the steel doors slammed behind us, the sudden silence was like going under water.
And out of the dim recesses of the kitchen came six or seven young men, all black or Hispanic, wearing garbage-spattered aprons and walked-over shoes.
‘Could I have your autograph?’ one of them asked, holding a napkin and a well-chewed pencil out to Madonna.
She stood there, harassed, tired, regarding the napkin for a moment and then said, ‘Sure. Of course.’
They were the first and last autographs she gave that evening. Later, I asked her why.
‘These guys that work back in the kitchen don’t see a hell of a lot. They’re just back there doing a bad job. They sure as hell didn’t see the fight, did they? And they weren’t like most people wanting an autograph, coming up to you and demanding it. It’s that impertinence that bothers you more than anything else. And I didn’t get that feeling from them, not at all.’
On the three-hour ride back to Manhattan, Madonna put on a tape and dozed with her head in her husbands lap. At the Parker Meridien Hotel I thanked them and said good night.
‘You’re coming to the play tomorrow night,’ she said.
‘I’ll be there.’
‘I’ll send someone to get you.’
‘That isn’t necessary.’
‘I’ll send someone anyway,’ she said.
‘In that case,’ I said, ‘thank you.’
The Madonna Play
The next evening at 7.30, Madonna’s personal assistant, a cheerful young woman named Melissa, picked me up and delivered me to Lou, who took me inside the Royale Theatre where David Mamet’s play, ‘Speed-the-Plow’ — or as it was universally known, the Madonna play — was being performed.
The theatre was packed, and stitched through the low buzz of conversation was the single word: Madonna… Madonna… Madonna.
I greatly admire David Mamet’s work, but ‘Speed-the-Plow’ is badly flawed. Madonna’s is the pivotal role, and her character makes less dramatic sense than does the play. But I thought her exceptional, given what she had to work with.
She was sitting, a rather pensive look on her face when I came into her dressing room backstage.
‘Sometirnes it feels like being in jail,’ she said. ‘It’s the monotony, for one thing. It’s having to do the same thing every night.
It’s like you wake up in the morning and even if you have your afternoons free, you still have to do this thing at the end of the day. I’ve never felt so stationary in my life. So in one place.
‘On the road doing my own show everything changes every day – different city, different feel for the audience because the people are always different wherever you go and there’s always something new to pique your interest. Plus it’s my show. I can take great liberties and change whatever I want. I can’t do that here. I’m interpreting somebody else’s work in the same theatre at the same time every night on 45th Street. I get followed back and forth every day. I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle, banging my head against the wall. And it’s almost a hundred fucking degrees every day in this dirty-ass city.’
Perhaps, I thought, it had all just been a bad idea, something she had fallen into. Surely she had not actively pursued the role?
‘I pursued it like a motherfucker. I was at a lunch with some people and one of them was a director and he mentioned that David Mamet had written a new play. I was a fan of his so I just started bugging my agents and people I knew. I met the director and the writer and it finally came to a reading. We read in one room, then we went to another room and we read. And then he took me to another room and read. And I thought, Jesus-fucking-Christ, am I being put through the wringer or what?
‘Finally the director called me up and said, “David really liked you.” I said, “Yeah, what does that mean?” And he said, “He didn’t expect to like you.” “Well, okay.” I said, “What does that mean?” ‘He’s thinking about it. He’s riding his Lifecycle right now and he’s going to make a decision.” Just putting me through the wringer, you know? But, anyway, he finally called me back a couple of hours later and said, “You want to do this play?” And that’s how I got it. But believe me, it was hard fucking work.’
What was there in this particular role that attracted her, made her want to do it?
“The character is so unlike me, dresses so unlike me, takes shit so unlike me. ‘That’s what I had to do because people kept on saying, she’s just playing herself. So I said, okay, for six months I’m not going to play myself. And I feel like I’m kind of paying my dues right now in this play. But if you asked “Would you ever do it again?” I’d say definitely, I would love to do it again. But I think I’d like to do a part in a play where I didn’t feel like I was surrounded by misogynists and womanhaters, a part where I got to play a little more flamboyant a character. And I’d definitely like to do a shorter run.’
She stood up, ready to leave the theatre. Lou appeared in the corridor to walk us to the car. When he opened the stage door, there were the ubiquitous photographers with their blinding flashes and behind the photographers, her fans, pressing forward trying to see her, hoping to touch her.