Going to her beau’s house, a mere 10 minutes from her home, is less arduous. The son of a successful advertising executive, John, and a homemaker mother, Ritchie grew up in an affluent part of West London. Dyslexic, he struggled with classwork and poor grades until he was finally expelled, at age 15, from the Stanbridge Earl school. “Education was lost on me,” he told Britain’s Sunday Times in 1999. “I may as well have been sent out in a field to milk cows for 10 years.”
That might have been a step up from some of his early jobs, according to Ritchie’s own accounts. When he was about 18, wanderlust set in, and Ritchie was off to Africa and then Greece, where he dug sewers for a time before returning to England. He was a messenger at his father’s ad agency and, with little training, he began making music videos (“Eurotrash techno-rave bands,” he has said) and short films. “Guy works almost as hard as Madonna does,” says Everett. “That’s a good thing for her, definitely a change in her life, because he is not a boy toy. He has got a serious career going, so he’s dealing with all his own stuff.”
Madonna’s love affair with London preceded Ritchie by three years. In 1995, while working on the Evita movie and soundtrack, she began visiting the city regularly and became an Anglophile. She has not only acquired a slight British accent — peppered with such affectations as “True, that” — but last November she reportedly dropped nearly $6 million on a Chelsea townhouse she never lived in. “I wanted to put a big wall in front of my house, ” explains Madonna, “so I wasn’t so accessible and viewable by the public. Then I found out that I wasn’t allowed. I said no way can l live here.” (She sold it 12 weeks later for a reported $750,000 profit, adding to her estimated $200 million fortune.) For now, renting a tony pied-a-terre will do. She has enrolled Lourdes in a nearby half-day French school because her own late mother. Madonna Fortin Ciccone, was half-French Canadian. “I love it when Lola says, ‘Bonjour, Maman,'” Madonna boasts. The star has also cultivated, she says, “an eclectic infrastructure of friends–writers, painters, poets, art dealers and jewelry designers” she entertains at home.
Among her closest friends on either side of the Atlantic is Carlos Leon, 33, who travels to London and Los Angeles (where Madonna also has a home) to see Lourdes. The couple broke up within a year of Lola’s Oct. 14, 1996 birth, but Madonna remains fiercely loyal to him. “A lot of people have implied that I used Carlos as a sperm donor,” says Madonna. “But I had had a relationship with him for two years, and we had discussed having children. Then it didn’t work out, but it was my intention for it to work out. This was a child born out of love. I had a baby with somebody I loved and still love, actually.” (Leon declined to comment.) Rosie O’Donnel agrees. “It was a real relationship,” she says. “Madonna was very much in love. They made a valiant effort to stay together. They just grew apart. She knows what’s best for her and Lola, and so does Carlos. It was a group decision.”
Leon, a fitness trainer when he met Madonna jogging through New York’s Central Park in 1994, is now an aspiring actor living in Manhattan, where he grew up. He has appeared on Nash Bridges and had small parts in several movies, including The Big Lebowski and the 1999 straight-to-video Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies. “There was no nepotism, no attitude,” says Wishmaster 2 director Jack Sholder. “He got the job on his own. He had a gentleness to him and was very easy to like.”