“Sean was very protective of me,” she says, rather sadly, as she walks by the newsstand at Columbus Circle. “He was like my father in a way. He patrolled what I wore. He’s say, ‘You’re not wearing that dress. You can see everything in that.’ But at least he was paying attention to me. At least he had the balls. And I liked his public demonstrations of protecting me. In retrospect. I understand why he dealt with the press the way he did, but you have to realize it’s a losing battle. It’s not going to get you anywhere, and I don’t think Sean can give that up. He’ll defend you to the death — it’s irrational, hut also noble.”
Madonna says she misses being married, misses the constancy, the ongoing domesticity. “When I was married, I did the wash a lot,” she says almost wistfully. “I liked folding Sean’s underwear. I liked mating socks. You know what I love? I love taking the lint out of the lint screen.”
Friends claim that Penn truly loved her, hut he could not tolerate her unshakable drive, her absolute dedication to her career. When Madonna speaks about the breakup, she is careful, rather guarded. She is clearly somewhat conflicted on the subject — Madonna’s enough of a good Catholic girl to view her divorce as a sacrilege, but she also know, the relationship was impossible. “It’s a big loss,” she says. “But let’s face it — Sean and I had problems. We had this high-visibility life, and that had a lot to do with the demise of the marriage. When you’re always being watched, you almost want to kill each other.”
Madonna pauses a moment, “I still go to see his movies, though,” she says. “I have to see his movies because sometimes that’s the only way I can see him. It’s peculiar — especially with the last one, State of Grace, the one he did with his girlfriend – future mother of his child.” (Penn is engaged to actress Robin Wright and their baby is due this month.) “I really wanted to see it and I felt so embarrassed because I thought. Everyone’s going to see me going into the movie – is this pathetic? I don’t know. I had to rub my nose in it.
“And I could go. It’s just a movie, they’re just acting,” Madonna continues. “Until it got to the kissing-nipple scene. And then I was like, I can’t watch this. I am going to throw up. I still feel territorial — it’s like, Hands off, bitch! I was married to him!”
In 1989, as she was going through her divorce proceedings, Madonna was approached by Warren Beatty to c-ostar in Dick Tracy. She was flattered, and accepted, even though she was offered only scale ($1,440 a week) for her performance as Breathless Mahoney. “I was not convinced she should do it,” says Freddy DeMann. “But Warren Beatty promised me — he said ‘1 will photograph her better than anyone has before.'”
While making Dick Tracy, Madonna and Beatty became an item, but the romance fizzled when the movie was reIeased. Friends offer up reasons why: Beatty was unfaithful, Madonna felt used. Beatty lied about his trysts, Madonna had some flings of her own, the press drove them craazy. Madonna wanted a commitment. In the end Madonna gave up on the relationship breaking off with Beatty in a “You’re fired!” “I quit!” scenario.
Although they are still friendly, Beatty is a sore subject with Madonna. She’s prickly about him. “It’s a real, hard thing to accept in life that no matter what you do you can’t change a person,” she says, heading up Central Park West. “If you say, ‘I don’t want you looking that woman,’ they’re going to do it anyway. It doesn’t matter what you say. You want to think that if this person is in love with you, you have control over them. But you don’t. And to accept that in life is next to impossible.” Madonna pauses. “Then again,” she says, “I want to be a fly on the wall for all of Warren Beatty’s conversation, but I wouldn’t want the reverse.”
She smiles — she understands the basic contradiction here, but she doesn’t care; she still wants her way. It is an endlessly frustrating fact that the stubbornness and singlemundedness that make a career go are the same traits that can destroy a relationship. One works, the other doesn’t.
“I’d go. ‘Warren. did you really chase that girl for a year?!?’ And he’d say, ‘Nah, it’s all lies.’ I should have known better. I was unrealistic, but then, you always think you’re going to he the one.”
Madonna has arrived at her apartment building. As she approaches. a photographer jumps out, assumes a low angle, and starts shooting. He is also talking — “Ma-donna. I’m sorry. Madonna, look at me. I’m sorry. Just a picture.” Madonna doesn’t look ot stop – she just keeps walking. The photographer, who is crouching, loses his balance and falls over.
“This year I couldn’t do anything to stay out of trouble,” says Madonna. She is eating minestrone soup and Caesar salad in a small Italian restaurant in Manhattan. She sounds genuinely exasperated. “I know I like to provoke, but this year has been like a train out of control.”
Madonna has her schoolboy cap firmly in place, and no one in the restaurant looks up from his pasta. Blondness, she says, would be a dead giveaway. But even without the hat, she might escape notice — tonight. Madonna doesn’t look like the sex siren the world is used to ogling. She looks, instead, a bit weary — it’s been an exhausting few months, what with her “Justify My Love” video being banned from MTV, and accusations from the Simon Wiesenthal Center that the lyrics of “The Beast Within,” the remix of “Justify My Love,” are anti-Semitic. Then there are the charges that if you play the single backward there’s a hidden message for worshipers of Satan.