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Madonna Interview : ELLE

Madonna - Elle / February 2001

With Music, Guy Ritchie, and motherhood, Madonna has reinvented herself again. and has always, it’s OK to adore her. Just ask.
Equipment Manifest:

1. Three Sony TCM-313 tape recorders.
2. Six 90-minute HF Sony tapes.
3. Extra AA Energizer Advanced Formula batteries.
4. One Canon ZR10 digital camcorder, loaded.
5. Extra batteries for that.

6. One notebook.
7. One CIA spy pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, underwater, over grease, and in all weather conditions.
8. Four Sharpie Ultra Fine Points in blue, red, black, and green.
9. One can of mace.

I am ready to interview Madonna. Yes, I’ve got so much recording stuff strapped to me, I look like an S&M experiment run amok, but so what?

Soon after this magazine goes to press, I hear, Madonna is going to don a white dress designed by Stella McCartney, walk down the aisle, and exchange vows with bekilted British film director Guy Ritchie. I believe it is my duty as ELLE’s advice columnist, therefore, not only to interview Madonna for three or for days, but to advise her about the institution of wedlock.

So here I am waiting for her in the Blue Bar at the Berkeley Hotel in London. Advice-columning is a profession full of nutballs, dimwits, hacks, hysterics, romantic lunatics, and outright idiots. So naturally I did not expect to be invited to interview Madonna at her New York apartment, or her majestic $6.5 million estate in Beverly Hills, or her house in London, or the two-million-year-old Scottish castle where she’s reputed to be soon honeymooning, or her…ye gods–a short, slim girl wearing a shiny black coat is saying hello to me. Her strange, low, melodious voice is so familiar…

Holy crap! It’s Madonna! (Note: Because it is a rule of celebrity journalism, I will be italicizing as much as possible in this story. Also, due to my crazed worship of her, I want my words to look as if they are about to keel over.)

She breezes on into the blue Bar laughing in wonderment at herself for being nearly on time, skips to her chair, and announces she is “falling-down tired.” I gape at her. “You look twenty-six,” I say. “I feel eighty-six,” says Madonna. “I just stopped breast-feeding. I flew in night before last. As soon as I got off the stage [at the Roseland Ballroom in New York, where she’d brought down the house at her first live show in five years], I got on a plane and came here. I didn’t even sleep on the plane. And except for one hour last night, I have not slept in two days.”

I’ve always suspected famous people need less sleep than the rest of us, and here’s the proof. I contemplate her as we order cosmopolitans. I intend to study Madonna from all sides, like the Tower of London, and the first thing that strikes me (besides the crushing sense of my own pygmyness) is that the more children she gives birth to (her second child, Master Rocco Ritchie, arrived in August), and the more weddings she plans, the younger and prettier she looks.

To warm her up, I yammer about how great she was on Letterman four nights ago when she played guitar and sang “Don’t Tell Me” from her new album, Music. “Up until the moment I went onstage,” says Madonna, “I kept saying to myself, ‘What am I f–ing doing? Who am I kidding? I just learned how to play guitar! Why am I doing this? Why am I challenging myself? Why am I torturing myself? If I play one chord wrong, I’m gonna look like an idiot. Why am I doing it?’ My guitar teacher showed up. And I kept saying to myself, ‘At any minute I can pull out. At any minute I can say I don’t want to do it.’ And I just went with it.”

Madonna is so different from her rough, rude, wild-woman stage persona, it’s actually hard to believe she’s the same human being. “She’s just as interesting, God knows. Everything Madonna does is interesting. You know why? Because what she is doing 92% of the time is saying “Screw you,” and the world trembles at a woman who says “Screw you.” Frankly, it’s difficult for me to sit and look at her without wishing I’d spent my life saying “Screw you” so I could be rich and famous, too.

It also turns out she is small and quite beautiful. Madonna’s smallness is a big surprise. After watching her change images so rapidly through the years–reinventing herself with every new video, putting herself through an atom-smasher with every new album–she’s become like a giantess tromping across the continents, tall as a skyscraper, scattering cowgirl hats as big as soccer stadiums. It’s as if I have never seen her until this moment.