The Penns do not have a large domestic stuff. A cleaning lady comes in a couple of times a week, and every once in a while, Madonna finds herself in the laundry room washing clothes, or at a sink. “I like washing dishes,” she says, “I have this cleaning impulse sometimes. I think I got it from my stepmother, who cleaned everything at sight all the time.”
The stepmother of whom Madonna was once resentful is now accepted by her; she attributes the improved relationship to her own growing up. “Ever since I was ten years old, I wanted to leave my house, get out, be my own person. And my father was at all behind me when I came to New York. To him, it was the unknown, and I had no money and I had no job. And I was angry at him for not being supportive of me, and for a long time, I lost contact with my family.”
“I think it’s because coming from such a big family, I had to share everything, and I wanted to establish my identity and be separate. Now I’ve grown close to them again, which is great.”
In 1985, Madonna says, her father finally got an idea of what she does for living. When the Virgin tour came to Detroit, she put him in the act. “I said, ‘Dad, I want you to come on and act like you did when I was little. You want me to get off that stage because you think I’m being naughty. Now, really yank me, because I’m going to give you a fight.'”
“Well, he came on, and he pulled me so hard, he almost dismembered me. When we got off, I fell down on the floor laughing. But he was completely unfazed by it all. My father is not easily impressed.”
Or shocked, either, one assumes, considering the way his little girl used to take on – and put on – the whole uptight world. She told reporters crucifixes were fun because they had naked men on them – “I thought it was funny,” she says – and she wore safety pins in her pierced ears, and a buckle on her belt that said “Boy Toy.”
She no longer dressed like that. In the last couple of years, Madonna has changed her style, along with her body. She jogs, she works out, she eats fruits and vegetables – “I’ve been a vegeterian for years” – and worries her lawyer. “I had lunch with him, and he’s like, ‘You’ve lost weight, my daughter’s going to be so upset. You finally gave girls who are voluptuous a new lease on life, don’t get any skinnier, okay?'”
Foolish lawyer. If Madonna wants to get skinnier, she will get skinnier. Her music won’t stay the same, either. “I’m changing as a songwriter, and as a person. I’m not going to stay the same, and the voice will change too.”
Considering the incredible popularity of the voice, is Madonna miffed that she’s never won a Grammy? She says not.
“I don’t like those award ceremonies. They’re boring, and they don’t mean anything. I mean, if you think about the people who get awards, they’re not the people I would have thought deserved them. When you come right down to it, pitting people’s products against each other, it’s so weird. Because everything’s good in its own way. If I got an award I’d probably be really grateful and everything. On the other hand, I don’t know.”
Madonna and Sean Penn were married by a priest, which would seem to indicate a serious commitment. (“I think the church pretty much stays with you,” she says. “Whatever was drilled into you when you were growing up, whatever your picture of God was, I think you die with that image in your head.”) Still, right from the start, there have been rumors that the marriage was in trouble – columnist Liz Smith wrote Sean might be “Sean with the wind” – but if this is the case, Madonna is a genius actress. Because when she speaks of her husband, she sounds like a women in love. “I was crazy about him from the beginning,” she says. “He has the most captivating, intelligent look in his eyes. And he seemed to know so many things about me, we liked many of the same things, I felt he was my family already.”
Does she worry that it may affect the marriage if she continues to be enormous star and he, despite the esteen in which his talent is helf, continues to work in movies more honored than attended?
“I think the problems that would arise from something like that are inescapable,” she says. “But I think you learn to deal with insecurity and feeling threatened. I think the longer we’re together, and the more we grow to love each other, the more stable we’ll feel. And if I start not doing well, or whatever it is that happens, we’ll have the basis of strenght. I can’t say nothing will ever go wrong, but I would hope that ultimately our love would be stronger than anything that happens on the outside.”
Madonna says she and Sean have changed each other. “I’m an impulsive person, and he thinks about things for a long time. And he broods, and he’s very suspicious in a lot of ways, and I’m trusting and guillable. He’s made me more tolerant. I think I’ve helped him to be funny.”
Does Madonna want a baby? “I would love to have a child,” she says. “But once I had it, I would probably be a very anxious to get back to work.”
When she first blazed on to the music scene, and into the public conciousness, people said she was too hot not cool down, that she would burn out. She hasn’t, but just for the sake of discourse, if everything she’s achieved were to dissapear tommorow, would the ride have been worth it?
“Oh, yeah,” she says. “Definitely.”