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Madonna & Child --and Gossip

May 06, 1996|IRENE LACHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

No, she's not calling him Baby Jesus.

So much for Internet chatter about Madonna's next big production--her much-belabored blessed event. Even the pop monarch doesn't yet know whether it's going to be a boy or a girl, but one thing is certain: Everyone is weighing in on the Maternal Girl's pregnancy.

Here's the math: News hits in mid-April. Madonna's spokesperson, Liz Rosenberg, fields an avalanche of calls from the many-headed global press monster at her hotel in Budapest, where the star was on location for the film "Evita."

"My phone bill was $7,000 and I didn't make all the phone calls," Rosenberg says. "I mean that in a nice way."

Anyone for a pointy Gaultier nursing bra? Inquiring media minds want to know.

OK, so Madonna's "condition" was showing, journalistically speaking. As a wag at New York magazine put it, her pre-partum state was "merely announced from Page 1 of the New York Post because, as columnist Liz Smith explained, 'Madonna wanted the news released in as low-key a manner as possible.' "

That made the folks at NBC mighty mad, seeing as Madonna had given an interview to "Today" three days earlier and neglected to mention that wee fact.

"They had a complete fit," Rosenberg says. " 'How dare Madonna not tell Bryant Gumbel?' Why, is he the father? Why does she have to tell him?"

That's Day One.

Pretty soon the heavy commentary came pouring in. Editorial writers around the country chided the star for being a lousy role model.

"Get Married, Madonna," Newsweek blared in 42-point pique. "You told the press that you and the father of your baby, the now noted personal trainer Carlos Leon, won't be getting married," wrote Jonathan Alter. "How conventional! How predictable! How uncool! . . . If not Carlos, maybe you could marry a woman."

Shades of Murphy Brown.

Or not.

Super-traditionalist Arianna Huffington--conservative syndicated columnist, author and sometime political wife--wrote that she wasn't concerned about "the Murphy Brown question" (which is, as we know, somewhat different from that other conundrum of more recent vintage, the Divine Brown question).

"In Madonna's case, choosing to have a child at all is a definite improvement over the lifestyle of indiscriminate, polymorphic sexuality that the Material Girl has relentlessly glamorized," she wrote. "Now we are being asked to swallow a . . . pernicious lie: the virtual child [who] will not presume to interfere with its mother's sculpted figure or her hectic schedule."

"Why don't they tell Susan Sarandon to get married?" Rosenberg shoots back. Madonna is "just one of those artists people aren't neutral about."

Columnist Smith, who has been rapped for being a Madonna booster, agrees, adding that the singer is reluctant to get married again after her traumatic breakup with actor Sean Penn in 1989. "Madonna can't do anything right as far as most of the press is concerned," Smith says. "I think if she took the veil it would be criticized."

Another celebrity journalist, Mim Udovitch, chalks up the furor to the singer's refusal to temper her sex goddess-ness with a tragic je ne sais quoi, along the lines of the eminently palatable Marilyn Monroe. "That's one of the reasons people are always gunning for her so hard," says Udovitch, a contributing editor at Details magazine. "They're trying to knock her down so people can say, 'Oh my gosh, what a tragedy.' "

But noted Madonna analyst and essayist Camille Paglia says the hoo-ha reflects genuine concern about the baby's welfare.

"People are having a slight Joan Crawford 'Mommy Dearest' feeling about it," she says. "[Does] she want a child because she can't bond with a man? You get the feeling of a child trapped in a horror movie, a fabulous mansion where the child is the only emotional bond the mother has and the mother is a control freak, a tycoon of international standing. There's something vampiristic about it."

Hello.

Rosenberg says Madonna's 1 1/2-year relationship with the 29-year-old Leon is no sire-by-night thing. They were introduced in Central Park by her trainer, Ray Kybartas. The two were jogging along while Leon, a fellow gym aficionado and professional cycle racer, was on his bike.

"All I'm saying is they're going to live happily ever after," Rosenberg says. "I hope it's under one roof but I can't say. At the moment, he's in New York and she's working in London [on 'Evita']. I assume they have every intention of living together."

When the 37-year-old pop star delivers, around the end of October--probably in L.A.--the Madonna and Child Watch could reach a crescendo. And Rosenberg wouldn't comment on reports that the couple was spotted leaving the New York office of fertility specialist Dr. Hugh Melnick, who specializes in in vitro fertilization. Rosenberg also denied reports that Madonna had asked Leon to sign an agreement giving her custody in the event of a split.

What is known about Leon is that he's 6 feet tall and a trim 172 pounds, has modeled for Madonna cohort Gianni Versace and the press is driving his family nuts. "This is crazy, insane," said his mother, Maria, recently, ducking paparazzi thronging outside her New York apartment.

The baby will take Leon's last name, Rosenberg says. As for the father's first, Madonna likes to call him Carlito. Completing her domestic picture is Pepito, the singer's white pit bull terrier, but don't let that confuse you. Madonna has set the press straight on that one: "Carlito is the one who doesn't eat my shoes."

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