Guts, you think. She’s right when she says she’s nothing like Marilyn, who tried to please, to placate, to be loved and therefore, saved through the grace of some man. Madonna saves herself. Coming top New York as a kid, living in the East Village, going to Paris wioth strangers, she had no fear.
Wrong, she says. “I had plenty of fear. Fear was my catalyst. It was the desire to get through all those things – I kept saying, Okay, this is hard, this is scary, but I’m going to make it – that kept me going.”
Is there anything she’s still scared of? “Oh, God, yeah, but it’s personal.” She’s quiet for a moment. Then: “The truth scares me,” she says. “Being alone scares me. Failure scares me. Dying scares me. I don’t think in that sense I’m different from anyone else.”
But her life is different from anyone else’s. Carol Lees recalls leaving a restaurant one night with Madonna and having a pack of photographers materialize out of the dark, and turn on their floods and flashes. “There was this white light on her platinum hair and her translucent face, and I have this image of this little vulnerable person, all white face and hair, waving good-bye. Sometimes you’d give a right arm to be Madonna, sometimes, you just want to take her in your arms and say, ‘Oh, you poor thing.’ At least I can get in my car and not have guys chasing me down the freeway.”
When guys start chasing Madonna down the freeway or anyplace else, her husband, as has been noticed, is inclined to fight back. Just last February, he was fined and put on a year’s probation for knocking a songwriter a chair in a nightclub. He thought the songwriter had been trying to kiss Madonna. In April, during the break in filming of Colors, he punched an extra who had been taking pictures of him with Robert Duvall, which attack caused city prosecutors to issue a warning for Penn’s arrest, charging him with viollating probation.
Is it fun to have your husband break cameras and whomp strangers while trying to protect you?
“No,” Madonna says. “It’s not fun. But I’ve been dealing with the media since the very beginning of my career, and Sean never really had to. I wanted it, and I was dort of ready to deal with it, and he wasn’t. That’s all there is to it. I would rather see some sort of harmony taking place than all the violence – and when I say violence. I don’t mean necessarily hitting, but people screaming and tugging at you. I don’t like any of that.”
Still, she isn’t ready to hire an army to shield her from press and public. “I’ve just pretty much made up my mind that I’m going to live as normal a life as possible, so I don’t go around in limousines, I don’t have bodyguards. I like to be pretty low key. I think when you have all that flash sort of stuff, it draws attention to you. When I’m shopping, and people in the stores say, ‘Oh, can we have your autograph?’ I give them autograph. If I had a bodyguard, the bodyguard would get rid of them, but then he’d follow me everywhere.”
“If I’m on tour, or making a movie, and people know where I am, they can bother me, but it’s never so much that I feel I can’t go on living, or I’m a prisoner. There’s a balance. You know, sometimes you get things if you don’t have other things.”
The things Madonna does are considerable. One of them is a Spanish-style villa in a canyon in Malibu surrounded by fifty acres. “We have a big gate,” she says, “so it’s pretty private, and we have a view of the ocean, and great mountains in the backyard. It’s wonderful, but until I got married, I never thought I would live in california, out by the ocean. I mean, I’m from Midwest. And I lived in New York City for ten years.”
“It’s great to be up there away from the madness of everything, but then I miss New York. So I come and get a taste of it, get everything stolen, get my nerves racked, get splashed by taxicabs, and then I go back to the nice weather.”
Sean’s family also lives in Malibu, where Sean grew up.
“We see his parents probably once a week,” Madonna says. “They’re great. They live right near the ocean, on a big bluff. We bring Hank down there to play with their dog.”
Hank, part wolf, part Akita, is the newest member of the younger Penns’ entourage. “I hate dogs,” Madonna says. “At least, I hated dogs. But I always have to confront things I hate, walk into things that bother me. And this woman who was doing Griffin Dunne’s hair on Who’s That Girl told me, ‘Oh, my dog just had puppies.’ And she’s showing everybody pictures, and I saw these little puppies, and they were so cute, and Sean was always saying, ‘Oh, I wish we could get a dog.'”
“I was always saying, ‘No, yuk, I don’t want a dog, it’s too much responsability. They pee in the house, and they get dog hair on your clothes.’ They pee in the house, and they get dog hair on your clothes.’ You know, it’s like having a kid, only kids wear diapers, and later on in life they learn how to say decipherable words.”
“But I saw these pictures, and I thought, that would probably be a great thing to do, buy Sean a dog. So I went and picked one out and brought it home to him. I said, ‘Come outside, there’s somebody out here wants to meet you.’ When he saw this dog, he looked like he was going to start crying. Hank is going to be absolutely huge, like a bear, but when we got him, he was a little ball of fur. It was like I’d just had a baby, and Sean saw it and just like died over it. He took it everywhere with him, he wanted to sleep with it, and I was like, uh, what have I done ?”