Madonna asks Everett.
“Yeah,” he replies, eyes flickering with recognition. “Yeah. Fifteen years ago. You had red hair.”
“Yeah.” Pause. “Actually, I’m not sure. Sean Penn asked me to go to dinner and there was Madonna.” They both dissolve into laughter. Everett explains: “It was right in the middle of Madonna’s first big wave of success-around ‘Like a Virgin.’ I loved it.”
Madonna, needless to say, was not intimidated by her newfound celebrity. “It was just at the beginning of my fame,” she recalls. “My record had just come out and was doing really well and I’d just met Sean and begun dating him. I’d just come up to Hollywood for the first time. I was like a kid in a candy store, and my head was spinning. My mouth was hanging open-”
“Actually,” Everett whispers, “it was usually attached to his, as I recall.”
She pretends to ignore him. “I was in awe of Sean as an actor and”-she winks at Everett, who nods obligingly-“you as well. To me, it was an honor.” She shrugs. “So, whatever.”
When, they are asked, did they truly become friends? “Never,” Everett says.
“Last week,” Madonna says. “Last week. Last night.”
“I don’t know. There was a chunk of time when we really didn’t see each other very much.”
“Because you’d moved back to Europe and you were there pretty much most of the time.”
“I went to be miserable.”
“Yeah,” Madonna explains, referring to the period when Everett, frustrated that his success in Europe hadn’t translated to success in Hollywood, absconded to Paris, where he would eventually write two semi-autobiographical, gay-themed novels-Hello Darling, Are You Working? and The Hairdressers of St. Tropez notable for their sexual candor and ferocious wit. (The opening line of the former novel reads, “By the time he was eight he knew he would never be a Great Actress.”)
Madonna says, “He kind of disappeared to be this kind of, you know, wandering, tortured artist and writer.”
“I was depressed,” says Everett, who until his mid-20s had played down his now celebrated homosexuality. (During his early adulthood, he briefly worked as a male escort “rent boy,” as they say in England.) “All through this time, I was a miserable, whiny kind of character. 1 never enjoyed my 20s at all, really …. The 80s in Hollywood were very, very American. There was nothing in The Breakfast Club or St. Elmo’s Fire for me, so I think that in Hollywood I kind of crashed.”
“Era of John Hughes,” Madonna says. “Yeah. You get so affected by the rejection,” Everett explains. “I was excessively egocentric. Too wimpy. 1 was too wimpy.”
Madonna, despite her runaway success as a pop singer, was then experiencing her own Hollywood fin de siecle. Her film career began promisingly with her winning performance as the streetwise hussy opposite Rosanna Arquette in the 1985 hit Desperately Seeking Susan. Then the wheels fell off. She stumbled through a series of god-awful messes, including Who’s That Girl? and Shanghai Surprise, the disastrous adventure picture she filmed with the irascible Penn, whom she married in 1985 and divorced after three combustible, well-publicized years. The latter movie was the nadir of her Hollywood life. “1 had just gotten married,” Madonna recalls. “It was still really new to me, and my ex-husband was really kind of railroading his way into the whole project.” She laughs nervously. “Because 1 was in such awe of him, 1 kind of let him make a lot of the decisions that 1 shouldn’t have allowed him to make. 1 was so green. 1 just found myself in a situation where 1 felt completely bullied and out of control, and 1 didn’t know what was going on, and it was not pleasant.”