The house tour is over and Madonna wants me to listen to her latest creative effort, the songs she has written for the Dick Tracy sound track. Though Stephen Sondheim has written three songs for her character, Breathless Mahoney, her own contribution is, according to her, “the real shit.” She plans to include the songs in her upcoming stage show, which she describes as a combination of a Busby Berkeley musical, Cabaret, A Clockwork Orange, and Frederick’s of Hollywood.
She turns her stereo system up full blast and her voice blares through the house, a brassy number titled “Hanky Panky.” It is specifically about the kind that involves getting her butt spanked and her hands tied behind her back. She perches on the chair behind me and, grinning, watches my shocked reaction. “I think that’s the single I’m going to release from the movie,” she says when the number is over.
But why would a woman who admits to wanting total control in her life once again sing about being a stereotypical victim? Isn’t she over that? “I admit I have this feeling that I’m a bad girl and I need to be punished,” she shrugs, in total acceptance of herself. “The part of me that goes around saying ‘Fuck you! Fuck you! I’m throwing this in your face!’ is the part that’s covering up the part that’s saying ‘I’m hurt. And I’ve been abandoned and I will never need anyone again. So, here – have a stereotype.'” She searches for the next song she wants to play. “I have not resolved my Electra complex. The end of the ‘Oh Father’ video, where I’m dancing on my mother’s grave, is an attempt to embrace and accept my mother’s death. I had to deal with the loss of my mother and then I had to deal with the guilt of her being gone and then I had to deal with the loss of my father when he married my stepmother. So I was just one angry, abandoned little girl. I’m still angry. Geffen sent me to a shrink. A woman, of course. It’s very helpful. I don’t know if going to a shrink cures your loneliness, but it sure helps you understand it. It helps you not to hypewentilate. It’s absolutely helped me. And God! It’s really helped my work.”
She finds what she was looking for. A duet, not written by her, but sung with Beatty, fills the room. Called “I’m Following You,” it has been cut from the film because Beatty didn’t feel that the character of Tracy should break into song.
But Madonna is going to put it on her sound track. As their voices float from the speakers, she sits back down and listens. Her whole demeanor changes as the song plays. Her posture becomes even more perfect, her hands folded daintily in her lap, like a little girl on her best self-satisfied behavior because she’s just told you somebody else’s secret.
Her hairdresser arrives as the duet ends, and the little girl becomes a teenager. The woman who has been sitting across from me all afternoon has been a brunette and it is now time to peroxide her hair back to the blonde Madonna we first came to know. She goes to her pantry and grabs a big bag of barbecue potato chips and retrieves a couple of trashy magazines from her bathroom. She then sits on a stool in her kitchen and the hairdresser goes to work.
“l`m afraid if we do this one more time it’s going to fall out,” he warns her.
“Shut up and do it,” she tells him, taking a big bite of potato chip. “Oh, look!” she squcals, reading the magazine in her lap. “Here are some of those ‘IN’ and ‘OUT’ lists. See: blondes are ‘IN’ and redheads are ‘OUT,'” she says, pointing at the page.
I look at the photos she’s pointing to and see two of Madonna herself — one from a blonde period, one from a reddish one.
“I’m about to be ‘IN’ again,” she laughs.
© Vanity Fair