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The Madonna Complex : You don't have to tell her it's been a rocky couple of years. 'Sex' fizzled, 'Erotica' disappointed, and the movies bombed. Does she think her grip on pop culture loosened?

October 23, 1994|Sheryl Garratt | Sheryl Garratt is the editor of the British magazine the Face

I suggest a game: I'll tell her a "fact" that appeared in the press or on the rumor mill, she'll answer in one word, with no need to comment further. "You mean you're going to ask me if they're true or not?" she laughs, settling back into the sofa. "OK."

You're having a torrid affair with your neighbor Sylvester Stallone.

"False."

You're having a torrid affair with model Jenny Shimizu.

"False."

You pestered Hugh Grant for a date, but he turned you down.

"False."

You're HIV-positive.

"False."

You haven't had sex with a man for three years.

She laughs. "False."

You're about to buy a basketball team.

"False."

You were dating John Kennedy Jr. until Jackie Onassis put a stop to it.

"False."

You slept with Mick Jagger as a groupie before you were famous.

"False."

You've placed ads to find a baby to adopt.

"False."

You've had several abortions.

"True."

Warners is in serious trouble because of Maverick, the entertainment company that houses a record label, her music publishing, as well as TV, film, merchandising and book publishing divisions.

"What? Because of funding Maverick?" Another laugh. "False!"

Madonna says she still wants a child. Soon. She says she feels the clock ticking now. "Oh yes, definitely. There's anxiety." Would she bring the child up a Catholic? There's a long pause. "I don't know. I reek of Catholicism, and I'm sure that even if I didn't make it go to church, (the child) it would be influenced in a Catholic way. But I don't think it would be devoutly about being a Catholic."

How can you bring up a kid in anything like normality?

"In theory, I could probably bring up a child as normal as I can live my life. I think that I surround myself with people who don't treat me like a celebrity or a freak or whatever, and I would do the same with my child."

She's asked about speculation that she's had affairs with women. "What it boils down to is very good friends who happen to be lesbians and the public automatically assuming that I'm sleeping with them because I have this sexual image. I never bothered to say I'm not, because my attitude is, 'What if I am? Do you have a problem with it?' It's irrelevant. I'm not a lesbian, but I thought it was undignified to say so. I'm not going to say that I've never slept with a woman, but"--and here she interrupts herself with her own laughter--"I love men."

Sandra Bernhard, once Madonna's official best friend, now is so bitter that the comedienne included a version of "Erotica" in her last stage show, reworking its chorus as "Neurotic." There's a long sigh, and what follows is punctuated with long pauses, more sighs, and then reluctant spillages of words. "Ever since our friendship fell apart, I've never really spoken about it. She's spoken so much about it that I felt it would be more dignified if I said nothing. Um. And every year that goes by, I think she's finally going to be sick of talking about it. But then I just read something today. Obviously I'm still very important in her life--which is quite the opposite of what she's saying--or she wouldn't talk about me."

There's another pause. "Sandra is a brilliant woman who has a lot of talent and I had some great times with her. And in the end the reason that most friendships fall apart is envy, jealousy, those kinds of things. But I'm not going to fall into the same trap that she has and slag her off. There are a lot of instincts in me that want to, because she's said some really nasty things, but I can only tell you that there was a huge misunderstanding."

I ask if she regrets revealing so much of herself, whether she'd have been better retreating from public view as Prince and Michael Jackson did in the '80s.

"Prince's demure behavior and Michael Jackson's running away from the truth is much more revealing about them than any of the things that I've told. I could talk to you for hours and you could read all my interviews, but you'd never feel you completely knew me. That's just another thing that people do to punish me for being honest. 'How much further can she go, what more can be revealed?' Because I've taken my clothes off in public doesn't mean that I've revealed every inch of my soul."

Madonna was 25 before she released a record. She says this is important to understand. Prince signed to Warners in his teens. Michael Jackson could see himself as a cartoon on TV as a child. Madonna had 25 years to live without scrutiny.

"They isolate themselves too much," she says. "If they would just come outside and mingle with humanity, everything would benefit--their art, and whatever relationships they may have. They've made such a big deal about being secretive that now it's going to be even harder for them, because the more you say, 'I'm not going to show you, you can't see', the more everybody wants to see. It's just the way it is.

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