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Madonna Interview : The Face

But she has kids

“She could take them with her.”

She can’t

“She can’t take the kids?”

They’re the heirs.

“Oh f***! I forgot. She’s in the blind. I don’t envy her at all. You’ve got to sympathize with her, they’re torturing the f*** out of her. And you know she just don’t have the wherewithal to cope. I mean I can fight people, but she’s had a completely different life. My God! What a horrible situation. I just hope that she does have friends that are really strong and intelligent and that she can deal with it, find a way to survive. I really do.”

Madonna stops, and laughs again. “I don’t even know this woman, and I’m sitting here having conversation about her. But of course I feel for her, because she’s tortured the way I am in the press. I can go out, I can go anywhere I want, but she can’t, she’s got these children, that man… oh my God!”

There’s a theory, I say, that female icons are only really loved if they have suffered. Diana, Jackie Onasis, Marilyn Monroe. And Madonna refuses to be a victim. “Absolutely. I’m not an orphan, I wasn’t sexually abused as a child, I don’t let people take advantage of me, I don’t drink myself into a stupor, and I’m not beholden to a man. Listen, I could cut my heart open and give people a million reasons to feel sorry for me, I haven’t had an easy life. But I’m a survivor.”

Madonna’s death is often discussed. It is assumed that she will die young, but she says that’s wishful thinking. She plans to get old, and she’s prepared for the fame to fade. “I think what’s important changes for you. For me. Your values change. I know what it’s like to be incredibly famous. I know what it’s like to be on top, and there are great things about it and there are horrible things about it and I know that I can never be in that place and at that time again in my life – my fame will take a different shape, a different form, and it will be what it will be. All I hope is that I will be happy in my personal life with my friends, my family and the person I’m in love with. That’s the most important thing. If people are buying my records that’s good, but if they’re not it’s not the end of the world.

“I want to be good to my body. I don’t want to stay in the sun too much and eat lots of crappy food and I want to exercise because I want to stay healthy and look good for as long as possible. But I don’t sit here wondering if I’ll still be making videos when I’m 50. I hope that I’ll have three children and that they’ll be the center of my life, not being on MTV.”

Will you have a face lift when the time comes?

“I’ve thought about it, and I can’t decide if I would because I hate being put to sleep, I’m really scared. And there’s that one in a million chance that they might f**** up. Then there’s this other thing, which is I am what I am, take it or leave it. Look at Jack Nicholson, look at all the movie stars. They’re allowed to have pot bellies and lines on their faces and that’s fine. But where’s Jessica Lange and Meryl Streep, who are beautiful women and great actresses and no one’s giving them parts? But even women don’t want to see women growing old – it’s just the way we’re programmed to think, and it’s awful. And an older man could be with a 16-year-old woman and no one thinks anything of it, whereas if an older woman is with a younger man, she is the trollop of the universe, just desperate and pathetic and disgusting. It’s all wrong but what are you going to do?”

There’s a telling moment in In Bed With Madonna – which in retrospect, is more than a movie about Madonna on tour; it’s about the nature of celebrity, and it’s probably one of the best insights into the nature of modern fame you’re likely to see – in which her father and step-mother walk into the dressing room after the show. We have already heard Madonna on the phone to her father, she asks him which nights he wants to come to the show, he asks which night she can get tickets, apparently to the fact that she can get any night she damn well pleases, since she’s running the show. When he meets her in the dressing room, there’s this sense that most of got from our parents, the sense they’ll think she’s still 12 years old, and need a telling off for showing her knickers in public. But watching the film again, away from the hype and mock outrage about Madonna sucking a bottle, there’s something else you see. Her parents look like they want to ask for her autograph. “Absolutely!” agrees Madonna. “You’re this other being that they’re in awe of.”

But it’s not something her dad even mentions. Months after “I’ll Remember” went to number one in America, her father rang her. He couldn’t remember the title of the song, but he’d seen the video on TV, and wanted to tell her she looked nice in it. “Dad, it’s been out for six months now,” said his daughter, “you just saw it for the first time?” “Oh well, we don’t watch much TV,” he replied. And Madonna decided not to fight him anymore, finally realizing that she wasn’t going to get the pat on the head she had wanted, and realizing too that perhaps she didn’t need it any more. “I just accept it now. But before, it used to send me into rages. I’m so envious of other people whose parents are like sophisticated enough to be right there with them and understand them, but you can’t have everything. It’s annoying, but then because my father refuses to acknowledge who I am and what I’ve accomplished, it makes it easier for me to go home and be around my brothers and sisters and not feel like a freak. I think he does it on purpose so that everyone gets treated the same.”

One of the most beautiful songs on the new album is “Inside of Me”, a yearning ballad about coming tp terms with a love lost, and learning to cherish its memory. I had assumed it was about Sean Penn, instead, it turns out to be about Madonna’s mother. Her early death is still a subject close to Madonna’s heart, something she talks about a lot with her brothers and sisters, and with her father on the rare occasions she catches him alone.