In the documentary Truth or Dare, Warren Beatty, then Madonna’s lover, said, “She doesn’t want to live off-camera.” Yet Madonna does have her private zones, which I discovered after we had had a frank discussion of her birth control. Two days later she summoned me to her dressing room, and I found myself in the strange position of having Madonna as a supplicant. “I’ve been thinking about something I said to you the other day, and it’s really bothering me,” she said, looking impossibly glamorous in a long white silk robe and high-heeled pink satin slippers, her hair brows and short to play Evita as a teenager. “The whole discussion of birth control, which I think is nobody’s business. Everything I say gets distorted. Forrest Sawyer asks me on television if I want to get pregnant, and I say yes. Then, as a joke, I say I’m going to put an ad in the newspaper, and this becomes fact.
“I’m asking you to respect what little privacy I have,” she said. “Why is the kind of brith control I use a matter of public interest?”
It seemed incredible that birth control, a subject pregnant yuppies discuss with strangers in the obstetrician’s waiting room, made Madonna squeamish. Was it really a privacy issue, or was it something else: the onetime sexual renegade trying on a new hat – that of the ladylike mother-to-be? It’s hard to understand how this woman, so disciplined and controlled about every other aspect of her life, could have been so cavalier and reckless about sex.
A conversation with Madonna, almost always brings you around to one of those incongruities. She can seem warm and even confiding, then she pounces, sneers, calls you to task for a rude question (though it’s hard to understand where the boundaries are for the author of Sex). She can be thoughtful and intellectual, talking about Matisse with the authority of someone who’s thought it out for herself, then the vengeful bitch – neatly lacerating ex-lovers, whining about the press, coolly dismissing Normal Mailer, who interviewed her for Esquire, as a “dirty old man,” even as she says she found him interesting. All these faces seem genuine, including the vulnerable face of the pregnant woman carrying on an arduous task without complaining much. But somehow they don’t make an explicable whole.
As the product of a solidly middle-class home, Madonna is worried that her fabulously wealthy child with her very famous mother is going to be spoiled. “I can think of lots of people who were raised with money who are lazy, shiftless people who don’t seem to value money in any way, shape, or form,” she said. “But they also had parents who didn’t pay attention to them in a lot of ways I intend to pay attention to my child. I hope to instill a respect for money and that whole process of working hard and being rewarded for it.
“The last thing I’m going to do is raise my children the way I see a lot of celebrities raising their children now,” she continued. “I don’t want to traipse around with nannies and tutors. I think it’s really important for children to stay in one place, to socialize with other children. I had that, and I want my child to have it. I’m not saying I don’t want to go on tour or make movies anymore, but I realize I’m going to have to make a lot of compromises, and I’m comfortable with that.”
Will she be a tough mother? “Yup, yes definitely,” She laughs and puts on a “mom” voice: “Why are you sitting still with nothing to do for ten minutes?”
She also plans to tell her children (she often uses the plural) that she believes in God and to introduce them to Catholicism, though she doesn’t agree with man of the church’s principles. And though she insists that she has no regrets about Sex, she would prefer that her children didn’t see it. “They’d have to be older and understand society’s expectations, sexuality to a certain extent, what I was trying to do,” she said. “If you look at the book at face value and think it’s just a collection of really hot fantasies meant to turn somebody on, you’re not going to get it all. I never made that book for children.” She doesn’t seem to understand (or won’t allow herself to) that many, many readers missed the “statement” she was making in Sex (“a challenge to the hypocrisy of the world,” as she puts it). They were too busy getting off on the really hot fantasies.
She says she will probably raise her children in Los Angeles, to shield them from the paparazzi who form a gentler outside her Manhattan apartment building. “In L.A. there are so many famous people, everyone cancels everyone else out.”
It’s hard to think of Madonna as middle-aged, but that is what she has become. How does she feel about turning 38, still trying to break into movies at an age when most successful actresses are looking around for character roles?
“Why does everyone always ask that question?” she asked, annoyed.
Why does she think?
“I think they want to watch somebody fall apart, ” Then: “Why don’t they ask men those questions?”