On the couch with Madonna
What happened when the Prince of Patter met the Queen of Hype? As Terry Wogan recalls, it was a match fit to celebrate 1,000 editions of Wogan
The first strong sun of the summer glints on the warm waters that lap the Eden Roc… Eden Roc on the Cap d’Antibes, the Koh-I-Noor in the diadem of precious stones that twinkle on this, the most expensive 50 miles of coastline in the world, the Cote d’Azur. St Tropez, Cannes, Juan-les-Pins, Nice, Villefranche, Menton, Monte Carlo… names that reek of money, glamour, sophistication. The Croisette, the promenade des Anglais, the Sporting club, the Hotel de Paris, the Carlton, the Negresco… But the place to see, and be seen, is Eden Roc. So naturally, She’s there. And so are we. With a small ‘w’.
It’s a small suite, as they go, looking out on to a little patio, and then to the white rocks that form a breakwater to the gentle Mediterranean. You can’t see much of the rocks today – they’re alive with telefoto-toting paparazzi. They’ve been there all day, probably all week, straining and scampering for The Shot. The one shot of Her that will go around the world and get some lucky paparazzo on the glossies’ gravy train.
So far though, nada, Zippo. Not a sausage. The only time She emerges from the Stygian fastness of the Roc is early in the morning to jog around the Cap d’Antibes with a hundred minders. And we’ve seen all that before.
White flash of provocative nightie, a homely morning cuppa on the patio, cocktails for two as the sun sets over the hills of Provence – that’s what the public wanna see, boy!
If you have to ask the price of this small sitting-room/bedroom and ballroom, with its view of rocks, sea and scorched cameramen, you can’t afford it. It’s a little crowded at the moment anyway, with cameras, soundmen, monitors, electricians, directors, producers and all the personnel and paraphernalia of filming. For today’s the day. She has graciously consented to be interviewed. Hallelujah!
The atmosphere is anticipatory, tense. She’s coming. The biggest thing to hit the Cannes Film Festival in years. It’s been dying, slowly, and, in one bound, she’s got the corpse back on its feet, making headlines around the world. Schwarzenegger, De Niro, Eddie Murphy: they’re all here. And in a normal year, they’d make the tabloids. Not this year. It’s her year.
The Mistress of Hype’s in town. Last night, she went to a party in a corset. Outside her clothes. Wherever she goes, it’s a near riot. Even the legendary Bardot never got the French this worked up. They seek her here, they seek her there. She’s on a yacht, in a helicopter, eating bouillabaisse along the coast. But she’s not. Mostly, she’s in her room with the blinds drawn.
And soon now, she’ll be here. With little ol’ us. Imagine. We know she’s coming, because her out-riders have been making forays. A formidable American woman has checked four times in five minutes that there are no photographers, the seating’s comfortable, the lights are OK, but mostly that we’re all going to be properly respectful in the Presence.
I’m sitting in the bathroom, out of the way, when suddenly, in a flurry of bodyguards, PR hairdressers, make-up men and assorted best boys and gofers – she’s here! I go to meet her. Luckily, someone recognises me. ‘Oh, Madonna. This is Terry Wogan.’ The little pale face turns disinterestedly. The eyes flicker. The bee-stung lips part imperceptibly. ‘Hi’ says Madonna, and walks past me…
The day had started early on the Croisette of Cannes, outside the Carlton. The elegant facade of one of the world’s grandest hotels is obliterated by hoardings advertising the latest cinematic treats. We’re recording ‘trails’, brief vignettes of television shrewdly crafted to drive the public wild in anticipation of future delights. You ought to try it some time, with the good burghers of Cannes walking determinedly into shot, tourists lolling in the background, urchins charging in for your autograph on the off-chance that you might be somebody famous, and your flies open. The final straw I only discovered after we’d finished…
Back to Eden Roc for a reviving noggin. Th representatives of the British Press are hanging about the bar trying to stretch their expenses to another half of lager. I’m manna from Heaven. At last! Something to write about! They buzz around me. ‘What did Madonna say?’; ‘What’s she like?’; ‘Did she mention Warren Beatty/Sean Penn/anybody?’; ‘What’s she wearing?’ I hold them down to a dull roar, pointing out that I haven’t met her yet. I’m seeing her at 3.30pm precisely.
Next day. the great British Press rises yet again to the occasion. TERRY WOGAN FUMES AS HE’S KEPT WAITING BY MADONNA…
At 3.30pm right on the button, there she is. She sits on the settee, small, not exactly pretty, wary. She gives off no warmth, she doesn’t smile a lot, she doesn’t trust anybody in the whole, wide world. She seems embattled, cornered, caged by a circus of her own creating. She’s defensive, tough, articulate and honest. You can see that she’s impatient and quick to anger, but we talk for nearly an hour.
It’s 4.30pm and she’s got another nine interviews with TV comperes from all over the world. We make our goodbyes and outside the door is the Australian TV presenter. He’s got a huge bouquet of flowers, he’s just flown in from Sydney, and he’s getting ten minutes …
© Radio Times