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Madonna Interview : People

Madonna - People / March 11 1985

With new management Madonna went after Nile Rodgers, who crafted David Bowie’s best-seller Let’s Dance, to produce her second album. Then after cutting Virgin last spring, she turned her energies to film. She landed a plum role as the title character in Desperately Seeking Susan, directed by Susan (Smithereens) Seidelman and co-starring coquettish Rosanna Arquette. “At first it was hard to get producers to take me seriously because I was a rock star,” she complains. “I guess they thought I would throw fits or do blow [cocaine] on the set or something. I think they were shocked when I showed up every morning like clockwork.” Seidelman concurs: “She is an incredibly disciplined person. During the [nine-week] shoot we’d often get home at 11 or 12 at night and have to be back on the set by 6 or 7 the next morning. Half the time the driver would pick Madonna up at her health club. She’d get up at 4:30 in the morning to work out first.”

Madonna says part of the allure of playing Susan was her identification with the character. “She’s this really crazy, lively, wild girl who kind of wreaks havoc in everyone’s life. I can relate to that. She drifts in and out of guys’ lives and they fall in love with her and she says ‘later’ and stuff like that. The difference is she was kind of a drifter and I am very focused.”

The difference in romantic affairs is subtle. Already Madonna has left a long register of boyfriends in her jet stream. Her longest romance has been a stormy two-year live-in relationship with New York deejay “Jellybean” Benitez. Lately, though, she’s been seen with actor Sean Penn, currently perking at the box office in The Falcon & the Snowman. The pair met when Penn showed up on the set of her Material Girl video, and since then friendship has blossomed into courtship. “I don’t feel swept off my feet,” she says, “but he is somebody whose work I have admired for a long time. He’s wild, though. He’ll probably die young. We have so much in common—we were born one day apart—and have such similar temperaments. I feel like he is my brother or something. In fact when I squint my eyes, he almost looks like my father when he was young.” Besides sharing shoptalk, Penn recently took Madonna to the Westwood, Calif. cemetery to visit Marilyn Monroe’s grave. “Joe DiMaggio’s rose was there,” she says breathlessly. “He really loved her.”

Madonna is currently in California rehearsing for her concert tour. “She’ll be playing small venues [3,000-5,000 seaters],” explains DeMann. “I want fans to be able to see Madonna sweat.” That means more nomadic living. “Right now I am living out of a suitcase in a hotel room,” she says. “It’s a little bit disconcerting.”

Madonna thus far has avoided conspicuous consumption. No mansion, yacht or impressive stock portfolio is hers yet. “I did buy a TV set and a 10-speed bike,” she says. “I always said I wanted to be famous. I never said I wanted to be rich.” DeMann reports that when he informed her of the gigantic royalty check she would be getting from her record company, all she said was, “Great! Now I don’t have to take the subway anymore.” But she’s hardly unmindful of her cachet among Hollywood power brokers. In a cute display of upmanship, she recently dropped William Morris as her agents. “I’m making a list and checking it twice,” she says, shopping for new representation. Then she laughingly finishes the rhyme, “Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.”

One irritation is her vanishing privacy. The weird phone calls from “nut cases” have started. “When I was in Japan, somebody called up and said my father had died, just to get me on the phone,” she says shaking her head. “People get these psychotic fixations on you. It’s scary. Strangers feel like they know you because you are a public figure. I’ve had guys I’ve never seen before come up to me on the street and try to kiss me.” To reduce the hassles of fame, she has engaged a bodyguard, rides first-class in airplanes and no longer hangs out in dance clubs. Yet she refuses to dress incognito—or even a little less like a Christmas tree. “The attention can be very tiresome,” she says. “But it can also be a rush when some kids in the balcony shout out your name.”

To keep her ample figure in shape, she does daily aerobic drills and she swims. Her intellectual palate is as eclectic as her taste in snacks, which runs to Tab, sugarless gum and cheese-flavored popcorn. She is currently savoring the works of poet Charles Bukowski, Czech novelist Milan Kundera and the latest lurid Marilyn biography, but she’ll just as quickly pick up a movie magazine, French Vogue or the steamy tabloid Weekly World News. “Hey, I’m a sponge,” she says smacking her bubble gum. “I soaked up everything in my life and this is how it manifested itself.”

Fans aren’t complaining. Less saintly than her name, less sinful than her reputation, the Boy Toy bad girl has become the sponge a great many people would most like to squeeze. “Her playful devil-may-care attitude is mixed with sex appeal and a rebelliousness that give her a lot of credibility in the youth market,” concludes Sire president Seymour Stein. The creator of the Boy Toy puts it more simply. “Bruce Springsteen was born to run,” she says. “I was born to flirt.”