For two of the four walls, there was only a Picasso of Dora Maar and a Leger, a third wall had windows on the park, and to the rear, a full bar of mirrors, chromium, glass, and black trim—a for midably cold room.
One might find its equivalent in the best hotel suites of the most dictatorial countries in South America: Black brown, and white are hues to emphasize that power also has its color scheme. Mailer could not help but think that Mussolini would have been happy in a room like this.
Of course, he did catch a glimpse down a long hall of other rooms with hints of pink and rose, but not the upstairs living room! How it all contrasted with the fine, rich colors of her music videos!
Mailer had been greeted by Madonna’s assistant, Carisse, pronounced Careese, a small, jovial girl who escorted him up the spiral stairway, offered him a drink, and left. Fifteen minutes later, Madonna joined him. Not five minutes after, as if unrecorded preliminaries might waste good dialogue, he was invited to turn on his tape, and hours of questions and answers commenced.
If her apartment belonged to a dictatorial spirit, her candor in the interviews proved agreeable. Never had he met a celebrity who could speak so openly about herself.
He was not altogether surprised. When one is talented enough to become a phenomenon, that sensation that the psyche is divided into two halves (with which all of us are more or less familiar) becomes so pronounced that one lives with it as a condition of existence. One is world-famous, but one is still (and in only slightly decreasing degree) a little girl from a lower-middle-class family in Detroit. That little girl is there with every breath. She is the person whom people have to meet in order to encounter Madonna. It is as if she is secretary to herself.
MADONNA: When I’m onstage performing, or even when I was on the David Letterman show, I detach from myself. I have no control over that person. Though I know it’s connected to my psyche and my soul, there’s really nothing I can do about it.
MAILER: Well, the artist is a separate person from the one who does all the daily things. Each tells the other, “I will permit you, under these terms and conditions …” And the other side says, “Let me do my thing, and I won’t bother you most of the time.”
MADONNA: Exactly. That’s interesting.
MAILER: As one gets older, the halves come together.
MADONNA: Really? I’m looking forward to getting together with myself.
Even before Mailer came with his tape recorder, he had arrived at some sense of how to do his story. It would not be necessary to interview her family, her friends, or those who worked for her. They would understand her less well than she could comprehend herself. Besides, they were all on record. As part of the effort Madonna was always making to explore into the profound enigma of herself — how indeed had this girl from an ordinary street emerged as supernova of celebrity? — of course she would study herself. So had Picasso. Secretive as a bivalve in the mud about his private life, he nonetheless dated every drawing he made; if he did twenty drawings in a day, their sequence was numbered. It was a scientific matter as far as Picasso was concerned. By his own reckoning, he was a prodigious talent and so should be available for close study by the art critics and scientists of the future—nature might be expressing herself through him.
Similarly, Madonna was dedicated to examining herself. You could obtain insights from Madonna on every side. Toward the end of Truth or Dare, the documentary film that had taken the tour with Blonde Ambition, a concert safari through America, Canada, and Europe, one is offered a chorus of voice-overs from her dancers and crew.
WOMAN: Sometimes I feel like she really trusts me, and sometimes I think she’s not looking at me.
MAN: I don’t think that anybody is really honest with her except for maybe me.
WOMAN: She has a lot to do. She’s definitely in a race against time.
MALE DANCER: She can be very mean when she wants – I mean, we all can.
ANOTHER MALE DANCER: I love it when she’s mean.
ANOTHER MAN: I feel she’s a little girl lost in a storm…
The sequence reminds us: To interview a number of persons is to view the protagonist through 360 degrees; one rabulates around the outside circle.
Something of the same can be said concerning Madonna’s family. We will learn more about the diva by observing few of her relations to her father, which she considerately presents in the same documentary.
The camera shows her on a long-distance call from her hotel room in Toronto.
FATHER [voice-over]: Well…
MADONNA: Well, Dad, I’d love if you’d come to both shows, I don’t know — I mean, it’s pretty racy in some sections; don’t know if you could take it two nights in a row…