At one point I was living in New York and eating out of garbage cans. Actually, it was not a garbage can on the street; it was the garbage can in the Music Building on Eighth Avenue where I lived with Steve Bray, the guy I write songs with. (He’s Useful Male #2 or #3, depending upon which article you read.)
I had been squatting in a loft, living there illegally, but it burned down. There was no heat or hot water, so I had all these electric space heaters around this little piece of carpeting I slept on. I woke up in the middle of the night surrounded by a ring of fire. One of the heaters had set fire to the rug and it was spreading. I jumped up and dumped water on the fire, which made it spread more. Then my nightgown caught fire. So I took it off, got dressed, grabbed a few things, like underpants and stuff—all my important things like tapes and instruments were already over at the Music Building, three blocks away—and I went over to the Music Building and started sleeping there.
I had a band at the time and was playing places like Max’s and C.B.G.B.’s. All the money we made paid for the van that transported our equipment. We shared our rehearsal loft with another band, so they practically paid the rent for us, and all our equipment was in that one room. Steve and I slept between amplifiers. We budgeted what little money we had to about $1 a day. We had credit in all the Korean delis within a five-block radius of the Music Building and with our dollar we’d get some yogurt and peanuts. Then Steve and I would fight over whether we should mix the peanuts with the yogurt. He liked to eat them together and I liked to eat them separately When we’d run out of money, I’d pass by the garbage can in the lobby of the Music Building, and if it smelled really good—like if there was a Burger King bag sitting on top that someone had just deposited—I’d open it up, and if I was lucky, there would be french fries that hadn’t been eaten. I’m a vegetarian, which is why I didn’t eat the burger.
The first real money I ever got was $5000 from Sire Records, and the first expensive thing I bought was a Roland synthesizer. The next big money I got was publishing money for writing songs. I would get $1000 for every song I wrote. I wrote most of the songs on my first album, so I got what seemed like a lot of money at the time, and I moved to the East Village and got my first apartment. With the next money I moved to a loft in Soho, which was triple the rent I was paying in the East Village. These were all necessary things. The first most extravagant thing I ever bought — that I felt really guilty about buying — was a color TV. I never had a TV before in the seven years that I had lived in New York. When I grew up I didn’t even have a color TV. So I got a color TV, a VHS machine and a push-button remote control.
My favorite button is my belly button. I have the most perfect belly button: an inny, and there’s no lint in it. I never wore a jewel in my belly, but if I did it would be a ruby or an emerald, but not a diamond. When I stick my finger in my belly button, I feel a nerve in the center of my body shoot up my spine. If 100 belly buttons were lined up against a wall, I could definitely pick out which one is mine.
Crucifixes are sexy because there’s a naked man on them. When I was a little girl, we had crucifixes all over the house, as a reminder that Jesus Christ died on the cross for us. Crucifixes are something left over from my childhood, like a security blanket. I liked the way they look and what they symbolized, even before they were fashionable. I buy mine in Spanish bodegas, where they have rosaries in lots of colors. I have a really long one that looks white in the light, but glows in the dark. Every new-wave designer has crucifixes in their line. Calvin Klein doesn’t, but he’s Mr. Mainstream. Girls who buy Calvin Klein jeans don’t wear crucifixes.
I have to wear a bra. I’m the only one in my family with breasts. Bras that open in the front are best and torpedo bras are the sexiest. On my Like A Virgin record cover and in all the photographs, like when I did the MTV show, I’m in my bustier. Bustiers are very restricting. They have ribs that make you feel you’re suffocating and zip up the back. They’re tight and squeeze you in. I wear them because they’re very 19th centuryish. They have that really svelte look. I like the way it makes my body look. It’s very sexual. I have about five of them. I go to a regular lingerie store and get the basic nylon bustier, with no frills, and have it customized with lace or tulle. I wish I was flat-chested and didn’t have to wear a bra.
It’s one extra piece of clothing to worry about.
I used to call different management companies, agencies, A&R people, club owners, you name it, and no one ever returned my calls. If someone did, ten-to-one it was some horny old man who was in charge of listening to tapes and when he’d hear my voice, he’d want me to come in and bring the tapes, and then he’d put the make on me. Now when I call people they come right to the phone. Everyone except John Peters, the big Hollywood producer who did Flashdance and my movie Visionquest. He’s a real schemer—wheeling and dealing all the time — and the only one who doesn’t call me back.
If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing, I would be a nun. The reason I’m not a nun is because you can’t take your own name. How could I change my name? I have the most holy name a woman can have. But if I had to change my name, I’d use my confirmation name, Veronica. I chose her because she wiped the face of Jesus, which I thought was really dramatic.