She’s bold! She’s bright! She’s breezy! She’s brassy! And she is – naturellement – back! Madonna, we’re talking about, mister; la belle dame de pop who is, even as we speak, fitting in the charts once more with “La Isla Bonita”, a sweet song of Spanish sentiment which comes complete with a video in which Ms Ciccone is dressed as a flamenco dancer – a sad, young girl in a bright, red dress. Putting the miserable flop of Shanghai Surprise behind her, Madonna is about to spring once more into action, bounding fearlessly onto the concert stages of the world for the first time in ages (she’ll be touring Japan in June and plans to come to Britain in the summer), and appearing in her third feature film, Who’s That Girl?.
In Who’s That Girl? Madonna plays Nikki Finn, a girl sent to prison for crime she didn’t commit. The film begins with Nikki/Madonna being released from prison and follows her experiences’n’scrapes trying to clear her name. She meets up with a lawyer! She meets up with a cougar! She chews some gum! It’s a romantic comedy! It’s a caper! It’s … um, well, we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?
She’s also recording some music for the film – four new songs in all which will appear on the soundtrack LP later in the year. The recently rumored dance LP You Can Dance, supposedly including remixes of her “groovier” songs and a new “number” called “Spotlight” has been “put on hold” – a posh record company was of saying they haven’t the foggiest when it’ll be released.
In the meantime Smash Hits thought “cripes! Madonna’s quite a famous pop star! Time for an interview!!” So we tracked the elusive, reclusive, vixette down to film studios and “engaged” her in conversation and general merriment. Read on…
If you had to explain what you’re like to someone, what would you say?
Well, they used to say that I was a slut, a pig, an easy lay, a sex bomb, Minnie Mouse (?) or even Marlene Dietrich’s daughter (??), but I’d rather say that I’m just a hyperactive adult. And the reason for that is I’ve always been full of confidence. I’m strong, ambitious and I know exactly what I want. Now, if that makes me a bitch, okay. I don’t care.
Tell us about your background.
I come from a very modest Italian family of eight children. My mother died of breast cancer when I was five and I was brought up in a very strict and Catholic manner. My grandmother taught me to cherish Jesus and not to go out with boys and while I went to the Catholic school, I was made to wear a uniform. Everything was decided and cut out for me and I grew up with two images of woman – the virgin and the whore. I felt like Cinderella and couldn’t wait to escape from all that. I hated it all. So I had my hair cut and at dancing lessons I used to wear unbelievable tights and gaudy clothes. I suppose that without even thinking about it, I was creating a look for myself.
When did you decide to go into music?
On the very day that I came to understand I’d never be a star in the dancing field. I quit Michigan University where I was taking classical dance lessons and went to New York. And I thought “now, wait a minute. You must be crazy. You’re quitting your classes for something you don’t even know. You haven’y got a red cent in the world. What will happen to you?” But that’s the only time I ever asked myself question about the future. My feelings were much stronger than my self doubt. So with 35 dollars in my pocket – and my conviction – I came to the point where I stand now.
Why did you choose music?
Because music is the main vector of celebrity. When it’s a success, it’s impact is just strong as a bullet bitting the target.
Your appeal isn’t just based on your voice, is it?
So what! I’m young, I’m not too plain. And if it amuses me to play the vamp by exaggerating things, then that’s no problem. If I had that sex-bomb look, it was because I liked it; and if I’ve done away with all that, it’s because I’d had a bellyful of it. I’m not Dr Freud (strange old bod who pioneered modern “psychoanalysis”) – I don’t go into the why or the how of everything. Especially as the power of seduction of any person doesn’t depend on the outside appearance but what’s inside. Barbara Streisand or Bette Midler don’t need to wear veils over their faces for their existence to be recognized. Well, it’s the same with me.
Each time you change your look, thousands of young people around the world copy you. How do you feel about that?
I just think it’s funny. It’s funny to influence an entire generation by getting them all to dream. Helping the young to have confidence in themselves and to do it with a laugh – I just love that. And, anyway the young are more pure, they have no prejudice, no cynicism, they’re less mixed up in their choices. They’re full of love for life and they almost always aim for perfection.
A year ago, you had long hair and you were covered in crosses and trinkets. What happened to all that?
Well, I act out of instinct, just like an animal. Suddenly, I couldn’t stand that hair of mine and all those baubles any more. That image had to be cleaned thoroughly. My new look is innocent, straightforward and feminine. I feel perfectly at home in this new “skin”.
Was the “new you” inspired by Marilyn Monroe?
Well, since a child I’ve always been fascinated by Marilyn’s glamour, as well as the glamour of Rita Hayworth, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Brigitte Bardot. But the difference is that Marilyn had a death wish: she was attracted by the fall and the succession of her depressive fits finally got stronger than her lack of stability. So in that way I’m not like her at all. But the image she was projecting was great.
Do you believe in fate?
I am both fatalistic and determined. When your name is Madonna, it’s best to become one.
Even though you can afford anything you still seem very down to earth.
That’s my nature and I shall never change. Though if I’d always had to do it alone I probably wouldn’t have made it. Our lives are like whirlwinds and therefore our bases need to be well anchored.
Has your vast wealth changed you?
Ha ha! No, the only thing that’s changed is that I no longer have to travel on the subway. I still think that bubblegum’s getting more and more expensive and that’s a pity because I’m a true munching cow. (??)
What do you spend your money on?
I bought Olivia Newton John’s house in Malibu, California and and an apartment in New York, because I just couldn’t live in hotels any longer. In everyday life, I am quiet and reserved. Not the housekeeper type, but rather cool and relaxed. I don’t get up in the morning wearing false eyelashes and I don’t wear fancy underwear when I’m cooking my pop corn. I am a nice little ducky! The Madonna you see on the scream, that’s only a dream. Professionally, I keep bursting out but the atom bomb disappears at the end of the song. And if you keep starring at me like mad, that only means I won.
What do you think people say about you behind your back?
Oh God, I don’t want to think about it.
Do you still remember the hard years?
Of course I do. Some of them were real fun. They were certainly more intense. I knew I would become a star and I believed in it like mad. I had a lot of drive even when I was poor. I never agreed to do just anything.
What about the nude photographs?
Well, I don’t care at all. They exist and they belong to the past.
Were you pleased with the success of Desperately Seeking Susan?
Well, when it opened in Hollywood, on that first night I really felt like a little girl. All the cameras, the flashes, the crowd that applauded, it was just great.
Your second film, Shanghai Surprise, was an appalling flop.
That’s a pitty because I like the film a lot. Oh, well, it’s all a grand experience for me.
You seem to have quite a large ego.
It’s more that an ego. It’s an overwhelming interior light which I let shine without control. (?) I am guided by the instinct – it’s both my faith and conscience.
When you’re at home do you only listen to your own records?
Oh, my God, no. Ha ha! I like Billie Holiday (old “blues” singer played by Diana Ross in Lady Sings The Blues), Prince, of course, and I’m a great fan of Chaka Khan. Her voice is absolutely incredible. I only wish I could sing like her. How did she even manage to get that quality of tone? A true Godsend!
The “back to the ’60s” style of songs like “True Blue” has come in for a fair bit of criticism in the last few months.
Well, I grew up loving the voices of innocent children like Diana Ross when she was in the Supremes or Stevie Wonder when he was young. That style has always attracted me. I don’t sing like a woman, I sing like a girl – and that’s a quality I mean to keep.
But you started out as a disco singer.
That’s true. My first records were disco and that style pleased the public. Frankly, I don’t know how I got into that style — it’s just that the themes used to come naturally. Later on, I played with rock bands and I certainly imbibed their style. Now, as a rule I write all my own songs. If not, then I supervise. I express my opinion and adaptations are then brought about. That happened with “Papa Don’t Preach.” And I also write for other singers: I wrote one for Bryan Ferry. And I’m producing my own records – to be as free as possible. For “True Blue” I gathered the same team as for “Like A Virgin”, the best musicians and the best studios in town. We were perfectly matched. To give the best of myself I must feel confidence without stress or outside pressure.
Is there anything else in life you want or need?
Yes. One more hour per day. To sleep!
What would you take if you were stranded on a desert island?
Pop corn, bubblegum, water melon juice, my jogging outfit, books, and two movies: It’s A Wonderful Life with James Stewart and A Place In The Sun with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.
Bruce Springsteen was born to run, were you born to flirt?
Oh, yes. With life, of course…
© Smash Hits