“You mean you’re going to ask me if they’re true or not?” she laughs, settling back into the sofa. “OK.”
You’re having a torrid affair with your neighbour Sylvester Stallone.
You’re having a torrid affair with model Jenny Shimizu.
You pestered Hugh Grant for a date, but he turned you down.
You’re HIV positive.
You haven’t had sex with a man for three years.
She laughs. “False.”
You’re about to buy a basketball team.
You were dating John Kennedy Jr until Jackie Onassis put a stop to it.
You slept with Mick Jagger as a groupie before you were famous.
You often pick up young Puerto Rican boys for the night.
A sigh. “False.”
You’ve placed ads to find a baby to adopt.
You’ve had several abortions.
You’ve had a boob job.
Warners is in serious trouble because of Maverick.
“What? Because of funding Maverick?” Another laugh. “False!”
I set the rules to this game, so it seemed unfair and intrusive to ask more about the one true story here. But there is this to consider: in some parts of America, they shoot doctors who perform abortions. In America, then, it
takes considerable courage to give an honest answer to a prying journalist.
Madonna says she still wants a child. Soon. She says she feels the clock ticking now. “Oh yes, Definitely. There’s anxiety.” She also agrees that it comes as a shock to find out that, after all, the biology is this strong. That it’s not just conditioning, this feeling. It’s physical. I didn’t expect that to happen to me, I say. “Uh, I know! Me neither. I’m right there with you, totally.” I ask if she would bring the child up a Catholic, and there’s a long pause. “I don’t know. I reek of Catholicism, and I’m sure that even if I didn’t make it go to church, it would be influenced in a Catholic way. But I don’t think it would be devoutly about being a Catholic.”
How can you bring up a kid in anything like normality?
“In theory, I could probably bring up a child as normal as I can live my life. I think that I surround myself with people who don’t treat me like a celebrity or a freak or whatever, and I would do the same with my child.”
I’m curious as to how the affairs with women fit into all this, and Madonna says that they don’t. “What it boils down to is very good friends who happen to be lesbians and the public automatically assuming that I’m sleeping with them because I have this sexual image. I never bothered to say I’m not, because my attitude is, ‘What if I am? Do you have a problem with it?’ It’s irrelevant. I’m not a lesbian, but I thought it was undignified to say so. I’m not going to say that I’ve never slept with a woman, but” — and here she interrupts herself with her own laughter — “I love men.”
I bring up the vexed question of Sandra Bernhard, once Madonna’s official best friend, now so bitter that the comedienne included a version of “Erotica” in her last stage show, reworking its chorus as “Neurotic”. There’s a long sigh, and what follows is punctuated with long pauses, more sighs, and then reluctant spillages of words. “Ever since our friendship fell apart, I’ve never really spoken about it. She’s spoken so much about it that I felt it would be more dignified if I said nothing. Um… and every year that goes by, I think she’s finally going to be sick of talking about it. But then I just read something today. Obviously I’m still very important in her life — which is quite the opposite of what she’s saying — or she wouldn’t talk about me. It’s like, she doth protest too much.”
There’s another pause. “Sandra is a brilliant woman who has a lot of talent and I had some great times with her. And in the end the reason that most friendships fall apart is envy, jealousy, those kinds of things. But I’m not going to fall into the same trap that she has and slag her off. There are a lot of instincts in me that want to, because she’s said some really nasty things, but I can only tell you that there was a huge misunderstanding.”
I ask if it involved Ingrid Casares, the woman most often named as Madonna’s lover, and there’s another pause. “Absolutely. But only as a friend. When I met her she was Sandra’s girlfriend and I thought she was the sweetest girl. Sandra was on the verge of breaking up with her, and I felt sorry for Ingrid. She likes to work out the way I do, so I started to ring her up and we’d go for a run or whatever. But Sandra assumed that I was trying to — whether she thought it was true or not, the way it came out in the press made it sound like I was trying to steal her girlfriend. I’ve never had a sexual relationship with Ingrid, that’s the irony. But she is a very good friend, and I’ve grown to love her. So it’s a tragedy what happened with me and Sandra, but I got a good friend out of it. You win some, you lose some.”
If you’ve real all the books and articles, it’s easy to think you know Madonna. You know, for instance, that a girl called Moira MacFarland taught her to insert her first tampon, and that she lost her virginity with a boy called Russell Long – facts you may not know about your closest friends. It’s easy to make assumptions. I ask if she regrets revealing so much of herself, whether she’d have been better retreating from public view as Prince and Michael Jackson did in the Eighties. “Prince’s demure behaviour and Michael Jackson’s running away from the truth is much more revealing about them than any of the things that I’ve told. I could talk to you for hours and you could read all my interviews, but you’d never feel you completely knew me. That’s just another thing that people do to punish me for being honest. ‘How much further can she go, what more can be revealed?’ Because I’ve taken my clothes off in public doesn’t mean that I’ve revealed every inch of my soul.”