SANDRA: What happened when you woke up?
MADONNA: I’d just be sweating and afraid and I’d have to go sleep with my father.
SANDRA: Was that before he got remarried? [Madonna indicates yes.] And how was it when you slept with him?
MADONNA: Fine. I went right to sleep — after he f###ed me. [Close-up, biggrin.] No, just kidding.
MADONNA: I never think of my stepmother as my mother. Just as a woman who raised me, a dominant female figure in my life. I went through adolescence kind of ignoring her — as do most children with stepparents. I always consider myself an absolutely motherless child, and I’m sure that has something to do with my openness.
MAILER: You must have been a tough kid.
MADONNA: Well, I wasn’t actually the troublemaker in my family. I had a younger sister who was a real tomboy, and my two older brothers were always getting into fights. I went the other way.
MAILER: You were the bright kid?
MADONNA: I was obsessed with getting straight A’s. I was obsessed with impressing my father and manipulating my father, but in a very feminine way.
MAILER: And he adored you.
MADONNA: Well, I like to think that.
MAILER: Were you singing at an early age?
MADONNA: NO. Oh, no.
MAILER: So you had nothing to give you a sense you were going to be a singer.
MADONNA: Absolutely not. Had no particular sense I was going to be anything. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a professional dancer. That was my dream: to get into Alvin Ailey’s company.
MAILER: You did.
MADONNA: The junior company, not the main company. I got a scholarship to the school there, and dance just led to music and singing, but I did not grow up wanting to be a singer or thinking of myself that way. Someone taught me how to play a guitar, and I started writing music like I was possessed. Writing songs. It was the strangest thing. I didn’t know I was going to be a singer until I was twenty-four.
He could have dwelled a little longer on her development, but it interested him less than her state of mind today. He was bemused by the essential confidence of her speaking voice, for it contrasted with the subtle depression he had encountered on their first meeting, a depression, he felt, that was still present today, although he had no firm sense that it was anything more than a reaction to how she had been trashed over Letterman.
MADONNA: The funny thing is, David Letterman’s been asking me to do the show — forever. I kept saying, “I don’t have anything to promote; what’s the point?” And he said, Just come on the show and we’ll have a good time, just be silly and have fun.” And I said, “Oh, what the hell,” just the kind of mood I was in. Before I went on the show, all his writers were coming in my dressing room, giving me tons of stuff they wanted me to say, and it was all insulting. Rag on this, make fun of his hair, and this and that. They gave me a list of insults, basically. So in my mind, he knew that that’s what the game plan was, that we were going to f### with each other on TV. I told some of the writers I was going to swear, and they went, “Oh, great, do it, we’ll bleep it and it’ll be hysterical.” I just had the best time, and I actually thought he was having a good time, too. But he’s kind of like a yuppie version of Beavis and Butthead, you know, “Ooooooh, gross.” I don’t think he knew what he was getting into, but once he realized how the show went, the next day, instead of just saying, “We had a good time; it was all good fun and completely consensual,” maybe the networks freaked out and he didn’t want to fall from grace with them, so he went with the gestalt of the media and said, “Yeah, it was really disgusting and, yes, she really behaved badly,” and turned it into something to save face.
MAILER: And how do you feel about that?
MADONNA: I don’t think there’s anything someone could say that would hurt me or shock me. Everyone already thinks I’m insane.
MAILER: Well, my idea for this interview is to prove that if you have a fault, it’s that you’re so levelheaded.
MADONNA: Oh. Oh, dear.