To her, it explains a lot about the Ciccone’s clan’s problems. When her mother Madonna died, no one talked about it. At the time, her father was so devastated that he couldn’t, and they were all told to be strong and not to cry. “Which isn’t to say we didn’t cry, but we didn’t know what we were crying about. We were all confused, these grief-stricken children wondering when our mom is coming back. And then three years later, he just married our housekeeper and said, ‘This is your new mother. Call her mom.’ And we were all thrown into more confusion because it wasn’t clear where the first one went. Everyone has dealt with their grief in different ways, some by becoming over-achievers, some by becoming under-achievers. It was all manic behaviour to deal with what was inside us.”
When she moved to New York, she says she spent five years ignoring the fact that she even had a family, but then she started to understand, to call her father and talk about it all.” But even now he has a hard time accepting that this, my fame and celebrity, was a resault of that. A lot of it has to do with the fact that he can’t go to that place in his life wife without falling to pieces and that’s his way of surviving. So I talk with him as much as I can without feeling like I’m torturing him.”
But losing her mother cannot explain everything.
“No, but I think that was the most powerful influence on my life. Dealing with death and a sense of loss, and the fact that I didn’t have a mother raising me. I never even aknowledged my stepmother as a mother, I kept thinking of her as the housekeeper, so I was raised with only my father’s influences. I tend to have what is traditionally thought of as a male point of view about a lot of things. I never grew up with a mother telling me I’d got to get married, have children and cook certain dishes, so I’m probably not as domestic and nurturing as other women. And I’m sure it gave me the balls to do a lot of things that I did, to set out for New York without money or connections. So while it’s certainly not the only reason that I am what I am, I know it has a lot to do with it, absolutely.”
After the interview, we walk through the garden and down to the dock where she once hung naked from two rings for her Sex book, but where her boat Lola Lola (named after Marlene Dietrich’s character in Blue Angel) now hangs, similarly suspended over the ocean. “You know how I found this place?” volunteers Madonna. “We were scounting locations for Sex, and when we came here I knew I just had to have it.” It took considerable time and money to bribe the owners to leave, she laughs. She points out the route she takes running every morning, the cranes where her near-neighbour Sylvester Stallone is building a new dock, and the roof of Vizcaya, the estate of which her own home was once part. “He was like a zillionare or something,” she says of yje originalowner. “The house is beautiful – you should go there.”
Albert, her affable caretaker, drives me back to my hotel. I ask what it’s like working with Madonna, and he says that when he tells them where he works, most of his friends think he’s saying “McDonald’s”. He’s learned not to correct them – it’s easier, it saves having to explain why they can’t have an autograph or come to visit. “When I first met her, I expected her to look like the ‘Vogue’ video,” he says, but she’s generally more casual: cut-off jeans, T-shirts, no make-up. “She dressed up for you today,” he says accordingly. “She never did that for me.”
Killing time before one flight home the next day, I take Madonna’s advice and wander around Vizcaya. She was right – it’s beautiful. And I’m thinking about how impressively ordinary she seemed compared to many people I’ve interviewed, how many of the problems she faces are very similiar to those that me, my friends and probably any person with a busy life and sense of fun have. Then I walk through the gardens to the ocean, where the zillionair created his own mini-Venice, striped poles, Reneisance-styled statues and all. I join a small, curious srowd staring out at Stallone’s building work and the little dock beyond it, where Lola Lola hangs ready above the water. There’s a gondola tour of the area, and I pick up leaflet. See Madonna’s house! it cries. Miami is her refuge, the place where she apperently feels most relaxed and at ease, yet there are still people dragging past her gardens and electric gondolas, desperate for a glimpse. And I realise that for Madonna, being ordinary is an option long gone.
© The Face