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Madonna’s Evita Diaries : Vanity Fair

Madonna - Vanity Fair / November 1996

This is a diary of sorts: a sketchbook of feelings, ideas and dreams, all relating to one subject – the making of Evita. By the time this movie comes out, I will have been living vicariously through her for two years. I remember sitting down during Christmas of ’94 and writing an impassioned letter to the director, Alan Parker, listing the reasons why I was the only one who could portray her, explaining that only I could understand her passion and her pain. I can honestly say that I did not write this letter of my own free will. It was as if some other force drove my hand across the page.

Soon afterward I heard from Alan and following several nerve-racking meeting the part was mine. This was only the beginning of what turned out to be a great adventure. I could kick myself for not starting my journal then, but there was so little time. I had to learn the score, train my voice, and master the tango before flying to London to record the sound track. Throughout the year I had the most extraordinary experiences, and we hadn’t even begun filming, so the month before shooting began I made a promise to myself that I would write everything down that happened to me. I had butterflies in my stomach and I knew I was in for the ride of my life. I wanted to remember every detail. And so I began…

New York [Saturday, January 13, 1996]:
After a series of delays I’ve finally been given the go-ahead to fly down to Buenos Aires. I desperately need the weeks before filming for rehearsals, wardrobe fittings, and camera tests. But, more important, I need to explore and investigate the myth of Eva Perón. An Argetinean journalist whom I met in London has agreed to meet me in B.A. and arrange interviews with people who knew or worked with Eva, as well as some anti-Peronists. Most are very old and I’m sure a good number will be quite suspiscious of me. I can hardly blame them if the me they know is the one they’ve read about in newspapers. I am prepared to disarm all and get them to share their deepest, darkest secrets about Eva.

Buenos Aires [Saturday, January 20, 1996]:
It’s morning and I’ve just arrived in my hotel. It is grand in a shabby way. High ceilings, big windows, and a lovely balcony. My only complaint is that my room is on the second floor and my fans are outside chanting “Eva/Madonna” and singing the words to my songs. This is very flattering during the day but not so great at night when I’ll be trying to sleep. On the drive from the airport I twice saw graffiti painted on the walls that said ‘Evita lives, get out, Madonna’. How’s that for a welcome? I have also read in the local newspapers that Alan Parker, Antonio Banderas, who plays Che, and myself have been declared personae non gratae, which is a nice way of saying we are dirty rotten scum. Of course this is all coming from a very small group of Peronists who are in desperate need of attention and aren’t really certain what they’re protesting against. I’m sure they’d all come over for tea if I invited them. None of this discourages me.

Buenos Aires [Sunday, January 21, 1996]:
Today I ventured out in the city for a series of interviews with people who knew Evita. The most interesting was with Tuco Paz, who was an Argentinean diplomat for more than 40 years. He met Eva when she was 29 and is the first person to tell me how shy she was. He says that her agressive behaviour was a nervous reaction to how insecure she felt around certain people. He says that she had great character but that many people were bored by her monolithic interest in politics. Nothing else interested her [that’s only because Prada hadn’t started making dresses!]. He said that Juan Perón coached her in public speaking. Perón would sit in a chair and have Eva go behind him and talk to the back of his head. Then he would throw out a series of subjects which she would have to expound on. Perón constantly changed the topic to keep her on her toes. So she wouldn’t be nervous, he would stay with his back to her. For some reason, I was very moved by this story. It seems like a real act of love and caring for him to have taken the time to do this. Tuco’s apartment was lovely – full of old books and beautiful Cubist art. Unfortunately, about 500 screaming fans made my departure next to impossible. The police are not terribly organized down here and I didn’t have enough security, so the three feet I walked from the building to the car were very scary. Somehow I got pulled down to the ground for about three seconds. I managed to crawl into the car and shut the door, only to find that one of my shoes was missing and the heel was broken on the other. They were Versace. Don’t worry. When everyone was in the car we sped away, only to discover that a young girl was holding on to the roof of the car for dear life. So we stopped and pulled her off as she kicked and screamed and cried that she loved me. I wanted to give her the business card of my shrink, but my driver drove away too fast.

Buenos Aires [Monday, January 22, 1996]:
Today I never left my prison cell so as to avoid any riots until the security situation has been worked out. It wasn’t so terrible. It rained all day and the shutters to my bedroom windows kept banging open and shut. I think the spirit of Eva was in my room. A wonderfully well-grommed, fantastic-looking older gentleman named Hector Villanueva came to talk to me. He met Evita when she was 19 and working at a radio station. He says he was very attracted to her, but didn’t do anything about it because he was married. [That doesn’t sound like any men I know.] It seems our dear Evita liked to drink beer and go to boxing matches. A girl after my own heart! He said that her favorite meal was breaded panfried veal with a fried egg on top and French fries. I’m going to try that tomorrow. The only way to eat sensibly in this country is not to eat. The concept of non-fat has not made its way here yet. I’m still trying to get used to my brown contacts, which make me feel dizzy, nauseated, and permanently in the dark. Or maybe this happens when you stay in your hotel room all day. I’ve got to get out more – I’m starting to talk to my dog too much. I could have sworn she said “Mama”.

Buenos Aires [Tuesday, January 23, 1996]:
Today was the day from hell. First, I slept like shit. The children outside my window came at two-hour intervals all through the night to beckon me to the balcony and profess undying love. Shakespeare this was not. And why should they sleep? Everyone is unemployed – no one has to get up and go to work in the morning. The only people making any money are the press and they will go to any extreme to get a picture or any information about me. I sometimes think my phones are tapped, and wonder if every employee in this hotel is on the take. There are camera lenses trained on me at every window and I have hidden everything of value in a secret place because the safe looks suspect. But just because I’m stuck in an uncivilized country doesn’t mean I can’t have a little fun. I was determined to go sight-seeing. We devised an elaborate plan where my assistant, Caresse, would go out in the car I usually ride around in and fake out the fans and the press. The idea was to get everyone to follow my car without me in it. Then I would leave in a van with my bodyguards, and all of us would lie on the floor until the coast was clear. The great news is that it worked and I went on with my sight-seeing trip unhassled. I went to Recoleta, the cemetry where Eva is buried. I have never seen such a beautiful, decadent, haunted place. There were hundreds of wild cats everywhere and each mausoleum was more grand and exquisite than the last – little tiny mansions with windows to view the caskets, which are surrounded by gargoyles and statues and religious paintings and plaques and wreaths and framed photographs. The dead live in style. The bad news is what happended to Caresse. She was arrested and called me on my cell phone from the police station completely hysterical. It seems that the press were furious when they discovered that I was not in the car. Caresse got out of the car and was attacked by paparazzi who proceeded to shove her around and call her a puta. So she told the driver to take her back to the hotel. After they’d gone about a mile, the police pulled her car over and started muttering about a crime which implicated her. Of course, she didn’t have her passport, which in this place is a crime punishable by death. Eventually Luciano, my Argentinean bodyguard, pulled some strings, and five hours later Caresse was returned to us very shaken up. Then we got the rest of the story. In Argentina, anyone can accuse another person of a wrongdoing and have his house or car or person searched. Very often the accused get hauled down to the station before they even know what they’ve done! In this case, some members of the press were apparently trying to frame me. Thank God I wasn’t in that car. They had paid off two teenagers to fall in front of the car when it drove out of the underground driveway, and then they set out in hot pursuit to apprehend the criminal [me, they thought], inform the police, and get some juicy headline news about the famous celebrity who goes around driving over unsuspecting fans. When they discovered that we had duped them they decided to torture Caresse. By the time she arrived at the station they were shouting, “Murderess! Murderess!” I called the producer and my manager and threatened to quit unless they got some secret-service guys down here to beef up security. Otherwise we’ll all be visiting police stations every time the papers want a story. Did I already say how scary it was to be here? I guess this is the closest thing to a dictatorship I’ll ever experience. Did I leave out the part about the horny cop that kept telling Caresse how beautiful she was and running his fingers through her hair?

Buenos Aires [Thursday, January 25, 1996]:
I continue to have bone-crushing entrances and exits whenever I go out. Top-notch security arrives today. Let’s see if that makes a difference. I’ve got to stop reading the papers. I am portrayed either as a stupid cunt who doesn’t deserve to play Santa Evita or a spoiled American movie star who has no interest in the truth. There are people who appreciate what I’m trying to do here, but they’re not very vocal. Kindness is timid and evil is a ham. Went to a cocktail party last night and collected everybody’s germs. The custom here is to kiss everyone hello instead of shaking hands. Was too tired to write. And too grouchy!

Buenos Aires [Friday, January 26, 1996]:
Went to dinner with the cinematographer of the movie. His name is Darius Khondji and he’s incredibly talented and completely lovable. We had a long discussion about how there needs to be more unity on the film and how people have to stop being negative and complaining about being here. Of course, that’s easy for him to say – people don’t jump him and attempt to rip off his clothes and strangle him every time he tries to go outside. Still, he has a good point in that there needs to be more positivity and togetherness among the people making this film or we will never survive the shoot. I came home feeling very upbeat, but the phone rang and it was Freddy, my manager, telling me that it was in the news in the U.S. that I was receving death threats and that I must immediately come home. He doesn’t understand that all Latinos exaggerate and are all over the top. If only people would report the good things. For instance, the Old Guard whom I have met have all spoken to the press, and there have been a lot of favorable articles. I think the tide is gradually turning. President Menem may finally agree to meet with me. I didn’t come all the way to Buenos Aires to sing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” on a soundstage. I told Freddy to relax, put in my earplugs, and went to sleep.