In her first interview for Out, the most celebrated pop star explains it all — or at least the gays, the tour, the hot new video, and daughter Lourdes as a homo-spotter.
“I’m wearing a full-lengt mohair coat over my beaded dress, and 3 1/2-inch heels.”
That’s Madonna answering my creepy question. “What are you wearing?” The Queen of Pop. ultimate survivor, and gay icon has just called from London. “Are you really wearing a beaded dress and heels? Or is that just for me?”
“Honey, everything I do is for you. I made this video [“Sorry”] for you!” That little exchange is typical of the relationship I’ve had with Madonna over the many years I’ve interviewed her for different publications. She’s not so daunting once you get past the fact that you are talking to Madonna. She’s warm without projecting a phony intimacy, funny, gracious–even if the situation might warrant otherwise. I always come away from every encounter feeling oddly protective. Though her fame has reached near-mythic status, she is really a good girl trying to make sense of her life, tend to her family, and satisfy her restless artistic instincts as well as the demands of her fans. At any rate, this has been my Madonna experience over the past t6 years. To others who have found her less tractable? Leave her to heaven.
We’re speaking on the eve of the premiere of her new music video for “Sorry” as she continues once again to ride the crest of her latest international success. Confessions on a Dance Floor, released late last year, rocketed to number 1 in 29 countries, and has already sold more than 7 million copies worldwide. After the relative disappointment of her 2003 album, American Life (despite a killer single, “Hollywood,” and a fabulously over-the-top accompanying video), the unqualified hit status of Confessions is rich in satisfaction, even for the likes of Madonna. She even admitted that when word reached her that the album debuted at number 1 in the United States, she cried.
“Sorry’ is an amazing song. I think ifs kind of a gay anthem for…
Spurned lovers! But all spurned lovers. I dont think it is necessarily gay. But I don’t mind that gay embrace–when have I ever?
Although Confessions was recorded before your horse-riding accident, the promotion and your public appearances came after. You seem almost renewed in your enthusiasm ?
In many ways that is the correct observation. Being so physically immobilized… I had never been injured before, strangely enough, considering all my years of dancing. But to find myself on my back, without the use of my left arm, my upper body and shoulder, and to be in so much pain, for, like, more than a month, it gives you a fresh perspective on life, doesn’t it? You lie in bed making your bargains with God: “I’ll never be pointlessly depressed again… I’ll never be ungrateful… I’m never going to complain.”
And have you lived up to your promises?
[laughs] Well, I sure try. But I was trying all that before the accident. Basically, I found a new gratitude for the fact that I can do what I do and I have the strength I have. The accident fueled my energy and my desire to dance and to connect with people, and to be in a positive frame of mind–and to take the people with me!
Speaking of “the people,” Evita-
If only I was there to slap you!
You are a modest mother and wife now–
Oh. such a slap!
You don’t party or go clubbing, so how do you get into the mind of club kids and keep up musically?
That’s why Stuart Price comes in handy. He is a DJ, and he produced Confessions, and he is always sending me stuff. We send music to each other via the Internet, trade information that way. He keeps my ear to the ground. He put my iPod together. which I listen to at the gym. Mostly remixes–Gwen Stefani, Depeche Mode. And a lot of my own remixes.
You don’t mind your work remixed– either as a dance song or by other artists?
No, I think it’s great. I never have a problem with that.
Has your renewed enthusiasm and the undeniable success of this album created a tension or strain in the family life?
Well, when the last tour ended, I did get a lot more time to spend with my kids. But life ebbs and flows ill cycles. And I feel you mustn’t fight that flow pointlessly. There are periods of time when I am with my family more, and then when I go through a lot of career concentration I am totally guilt-ridden. As for Guys reaction, I think, you know, he is really happy for me. But I think there is always going to be this kind of–like he said to me the other day, “Am I going to lose you again for another six months?” because of the tour this year. But I can say the same thing when he goes off and makes a movie. And he becomes “out of sight, out of mind,” whereas I am on the phone constantly, worrying and asking questions. Making sure the kids brush their teeth.
And when he’s away?
Oh. the typical male thing. I call and I feel it’s [him saying], “And you are? And I would know you from…?”
How do you feel about that?
Sometimes I’m amused. But it’s the compromise of marriage. He has his hands full with me too.
Your children, Lourdes [age 9] and Rocco  are still pretty young. But do you think now of having to explain yourself?
You mean artistically or my personal life?
A little bit, a little hit with my daughter. Rocco is still clueless. He is shocked when people on the street know his name. “Mommy. they know my name!” But my daughter! She watched the “Hung Up” video, the part where I’m in the tunnel and dancing with all the guys, and she is like. “Ugh, gross! This is disgusting, Mom. Why are you doing that?” And I am like, “Because I am having fun. This is what people do: they go out, when they are grown-ups, and dance and have fun.” I try not to make a big deal out of it. Oh, and she is really obsessed with who is gay!
And she even asked, “Mom, you know they say that you are gay?” And I’m, “Oh, do they? Why?” And she says, “Because you kissed Britney Spears” [onstage at the MIV Video Music Awards in 2003]. And I said, “No, it just means I kissed Britney Spears. I am the mommy pop star and she is the baby pop star. And I am kissing her and passing my energy on to her. Like, kind of a mythological fairy tale.”
And she looks at me like, “Yeah. whatever!” [Laughs] I said. “I’ll tell you more when you’re a little older.” which no intelligent child wants to hear, but there is only so much you can’t say and so much information you want your children to have. And I want my children–even though they exist in the shadow of my fame–to have their childhoods.
That must be hard, though.
It is. It’s called motherhood! Oh, and the other thing she likes to do when we go out, she says, “Mom, do you want me to point out who the gay men are?” And I say. “OK, but I think I already know.”
Mommy has gaydar.
Yes. But I let her go ahead.
Speaking of the gays, I think every gay guy–and gal too–has the iconic gay moment, some Madonna video, usually, that pushes the button. For me it was– “Material Girl” video.
I know your Marilyn thing. Denis.
Do you ever gear it toward that audience?
You mean. where I say, “This is the one the boys are really going to love?” No, not really. I think l am just wired that way. I kind of assume everything I do is going to appeal to the gay audience. I’m just a big queen.
Now you live in England, and a lot of people have placed a political significance to that–dissatisfaction with America…
Oh. please. I like living in England. I had my years in L.A. and in New York. I feel somehow freer here, because I am a foreigner. I heard Robbie Williams say the opposite–that he hated London and felt so much freer in L.A. I have a theory that wherever home is, it is haunted by ghosts. Though in my case the media will cover you in the same way, there is something liberating about being a foreigner.
And I suppose it’s convenient to be a foreigner in a place where people speak English, more or less.
Exactly. And people read books. And there is a bit more culture and history here, although there is plenty of that in New York. As for L.A., unless you drive. you are kind of like in a prison there. And you can never get away from the industry.
Look, who knows, maybe in a couple of years I’ll get bored and–
Move to Paris.
Oh, yes, such a beautiful city. No wonder they are so stuck-up! You just want to spray perfume all over yourself when you get there.
And the boys.
Maybe your boys, Denis.
I thought you’d never say it.
Now we have to talk about your apparently ageless appearance.
Must we, and what do you mean, “apparently”? [laughs] There is an obsession with the way people look, something beyond what was once a seminormal interest in how celebrities looked and aged. I just did an interview for Harper’s Bazaar and the lady is like, “So have you planned your big five-0?” and I say, “Honey, I haven’t even planned my next birthday party!”
They want to rush you into the next decade and [make you] admit to plastic surgery.
Listen, once you pass 35, your age becomes part of the first sentence of anything written. It’s a form of limiting your options and almost putting you in your place. For women, naturally. Men still get a free pass, more or less.
Try being a gay man over 40, honey! Oh, come on!
Oh, you come on. So how do you stay on your game physically?
The older you get, the more money you spend on facials.
I’m stopping the tape recorder! I want the truth!
Listen, that is true. And everybody knows my exercise regimen. And I avail myself of everything rejuvenating and moisturizing and good for the skin. I am not going to hold a press conference if I have plastic surgery. But as I have said many times, I think about it, like everybody. and I sure don’t rule it out.
OK. I know you’re not a “What if?” kind of person, but what if you were starting out today? Do you think you would have had similar success?
Honestly, I have no idea. Really. The climate is so different; the industry is different. I can only say for sure, I would have been too fat! Yes, yes. When I started out, I was kind of zaftig. I would have had to get anorexia. They would have said, “She is way too chubby.” Otherwise, if I had the same drive and ambition…but really it’s impossible to tell. Luck plays a part in every career too.
Right. And you’re too thin now, I think.
Oh, God, you always say that. You liked me zaftig.
[Laughs] Well. I’m not having more children just to please your aesthetic sensibilities.
How about a Danish?
I eat plenty. believe me.
In terms of movies, I think you are the world’s most famous dartboard. Will you make more films?
You know, and this is hard for me–me!-to say, but I have sort of let that go. There is too much resistance. What film can survive people saying it’s going to be a bomb from the second it’s announced to the day it is released? It is a self
fulfilling prophecy. Making movies is such an effort and I always put so much into them. And to do that over and over again, with the possibility that I am going to get the shit kicked out of me–and they really enjoy doing it–I mean, it doesn’t make sense. And, look, I might even direct. I want to do a film about my wonderful dancers.
I’ve always thought you should do a film about Dietrich.
Really? The older Diehich. obviously.
That’s when her life really got interesting. Performing for the American troops, turning on her own country, the hot midlife affairs, the concert years–she had incredible discipline, like you.
She didn’t make any bones about it either. Well, that’s an interesting idea. Hmm… I never say never, really. And every dog has his day.
You are such a good girl now, and you try not to dis anybody.
I’m not that good, really.
What’s the deal with Elton John?
What can I say? He seems to be angry. I seem to have become a target. It’s not very gentlemanly or gracious. But he did send me a letter apologizing for his last outburst, right before his wedding.
David must have made him do it.
It was the day before his wedding. I dont know.
Well, I know it’s not Elton, but have you ever in your life been totally and completely intimidated by another person?
Yes. My husband’s mother.
Whoa! OK, we’ll just let that one lie there. How about famous people?
Well. there have been some people who I’ve met who I kind of went “Wow, but wasn’t intimidated. Prince Charles. Bill Clinton, the first time I met him. He is pretty charismatic and formidable. He knows a lot. That is very attractive.
You like smart men.
I like smart people. But for sure, any man who really interests me–I mean really interests me–has to have it going on upstairs.
I can’t believe you’re doing another tour! Yes, this summer. A girl has to make a living. you know! [Laughs] It’s based on Confessions, and it’ll be one big disco club wherever we go. And I want to do small and large venues. Smaller gigs in big cities, and then stadiums in others. But no stadiums in America.
Marilyn Monroe once said that fame and success were like a long-distance race. You think you’ve made it, reached the finish line, but realize you never have– you have to keep proving yourself Do you feel that?
Yes, in a way. fame is both exhilarating and exhausting. For example, I was just editing the “making of’ special of my video, for which I had to learn to rollerskate, which was a major challenge. The whole thing was grueling. And at one point I’m hanging off a fence, and I think, Wait, what an I killing myself for? What more do I have to prove? And yet in the next moment I’m thinking how have to learn to perform on a trapeze! It’s my work, it’s what I love to do, it fulfills a lot of my fantasies, and…you have to reinvent to stay fresh, to stay in the game.
No retirement in sight?
Of course not! Dietrich never retired.
She just fell off the stage one too many times.
But she went on for as long as she wanted to. Why should there be a time limit on working or giving of yourself? Or on love and sex and looking attractive? Work isn’t everything, because if it was, I wouldn’t have children and I wouldn’t have married. But no one set of circumstances completes you. Maybe nothing ever does. So you work on your life, and you work on your work, and you try to live every single day like it’s your last. I don’t always succeed, but I try.
© Out Magazine