“They’re going to edit a good performance out of her,” says someone who was on the set of Body of Evidence. Madonna says she found simulating sex on-camera more difficult than she had imagined. “It’s hard enough to bare your soul in front of the camera. But it’s even harder, I think, to be baring your ass at the same time.” Immediately following the movie’s U.S. premiere, Madonna, a frequent insomniac who seems almost pathologically driven, will personally promote it internationally. Does she ever slow down? Not really. “After two weeks of being naked simulating sex with Willem Dafoe on the hood of a car,” she says, “I just want to go home for a week and not take my clothes off.”
Freddy DeMann, Madonna’s manager, speaks very quietly and pads around in soft velvet slippers. It is the sound of money talking. Together, he and Madonna are planning to build an entertainment colossus — “I already have an empire,” says Madonna and you wouldn’t necessarily bet against them. A self-described “Brooklyn Jewboy,” the tanned, 53year-old Freddy DeMann, who once managed Michael Jackson, is one of a small, tight knot of people who have been with Madonna since the beginning, which was almost a decade ago.
When the breadth of Madonna’s amazing worldwide celebrity is measured, people such as DeMann, who early recognized the power of MTV and videos, as opposed to radio airplay, to sell Madonna’s image, and Liz Rosenberg, who taught her to cultivate the press, not hide from it, and Seymour Stein, the godfather of New Wave music and the head of her longtime record label, Sire Records, have to be included prominently on the yardstick.
DeMann in Los Angeles and Rosenberg in New York are “the grown-ups,” the surrogate parents, who freely admit they devote more time to Madonna than to their own families. “My husband has to compete for my time with Madonna,” Rosenberg says. “At the very moment my husband proposed to me, I said, ‘Yes, I’ll marry you, but I have to go on Madonna’s tour.'” “She has a way of demanding that compels you to give her your undivided attention,” says DeMann.
Even today, the normally taciturn DeMann can sit in a massive suite at the St. Regis hotel in New York and go ballistic with adjectives when recalling his first meeting with the sexy little urchin from Pontiac, Michigan, the product of a strict Catholic household, whose mother had died when she was six. “She had the most unbelievable physicality I’ve ever seen in any human,” DeMann says. “She was enrapturing, she was just captivating, she had the same moxie she has today. She was just unique, wearing her rags and her safety pins.”
Liz Rosenberg was similarly seduced and captivated. “Before I met her, I had a premonition I’d meet an artist who’d play a big part in my life, that I’d be very devoted to.” Then Madonna walked in, in rags again, with 100 rubber bracelets up her arm. “I loved her energy. She was an original. I was a big believer.” But Rosenberg’s polished pitch letters aside, back then no self-respecting pop-music writer was about to give space to a little one-hit dance diva.
Rosenberg finally got a reporter from Newsday to interview Madonna, and at that first interview the great manipulator gave all her answers looking at Rosenberg. Today, it’s amazing to think that Madonna ever needed a second’s coaching about the media. “I had to tell her to look at the writer instead of me.” How about today? “She’s brilliant and frustrating and part of the fabric of my life at this point. I have to tell her to eat — I’m like her Jewish mother.” Rosenberg even admits, “I dream about her constantly.” But the one thing Liz Rosenberg won’t do for Madonna is leave Warner Bros., where she supervises the publicity for 100 other recording artists, to go to Maverick, Madonna’s new, multimedia, multimillion-dollar company.
Last April, after a solid year of negotiations overseen by Freddy DeMann and orchestrated by attorney Allen Grubman, Time Warner announced a joint venture with Madonna that gave her her own record label, also named Maverick, and a two-book deal with Warner Books (Sex is the first), as well as a music-publishing company, plans for HBO specials, and TV and film divisions. The deal is so complex and operates on so many levels that DeMann says putting zeros after its worth is just pure speculation, since all figures — such as the $60 million that has been thrown around in the press — will be based upon how its eventual products perform. Certainly, Maverick is being given more than sufficient start-up money by Time Warner, which it must recoup in a few years or, Madonna says, she must pay back out of her record royalties.
“Warner’s didn’t hand me this money so I could go off and go shopping at Bergdorf’s. I have to work, I have to come up with the goods,” Madonna says. “The deal with Warner’s isn’t necessarily about me. It’s about developing other talent. There’s tons of talent out there, and the idea of finding it and nurturing it and shaping it and giving it life is very exciting to me.” To that end Maverick has recently signed its first act, Proper Grounds, five L.A.-based black “anguished rock rappers,” according to DeMann, who was busy all summer hiring executives to head Maverick’s various divisions. Naturally, Madonna is keeping close tabs on everything. “There’s the bands I have to go see and the tapes I have to listen to, and there’s the publishing deals I have to approve of, and there’s the employees that I have to hire to run the company and the interviews that have to take place and the scripts I have to read for movies that I would like to act in. And there’s the books I’d like to read that I would consider buying to make movies out of as a producer, and the list is endless.”
There is no question that Madonna wants to be a movie star, but so far she has been scorched by the critics, and she’s hampered, she says, by having to find parts that her strong offscreen personality won’t overwhelm She currently, has a script in the works on the life of dance pioneer Martha Graham to star in. Dino De Laurentiis, who produced Body of Evidence, wants her to play Marilyn Monroe in The Immortals, Michael Korda’s fictionalized, if exploitive, version of the last days of Monroe and her relationship with the Kennedy brothers. But Madonna feels that trying to play Monroe, from whom she has borrowed so much, is “probably a stupid idea.”