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Q Magazine (March 1998)



Jesus, it’s Madonna. She’s got new hair and loads of religion, she knows what ketamine is and the hippest DJ’s in the world think her new record is swell. “You guys are still taking ecstasy?” she enquires of pharmaceutically retarded Danny Eccleston.

According to the ever-reliable Sunday People, Madonna throws one hell of a dinner party. Foie Gras, it seems, is for the plebs. Pre-natally engorged veal is off the menu. Lark’s tongues, otter’s noses – the comestible exotica of the merely-rich and hyper-lofty – a dreary commonplace.

No, the favoured delicacy chez Madonna, we’re told, is Japanese Kobe beef. Kobe beef costs roughly ?100 a pound and comprises bits of cattle fred entirely on beer and massaged constantly every day of their yet heady existences. Even Madonna’s food has a great life.

Consequently, Q is feeling sheepish about the Yuletide gift it has brought for the high-living health freak – a lowly Christmas pudding, albeit from Harrods. It’s looking a little sad, too. US Customs have prodded it a bit, wondering if it harbours some apocalyptic strain of fruit fly.

We already know there isn’t a sixpence in it [cheers, cheapskate Al Fayeds] since the pudding has sailed through the metal detector. “What is it?” ask the uniform. It’s a Christmas pudding. “Has it got any meat in it?” Cue further manhandling and, finally, the all clear. Q makes a mental note to bring smack through Customs next time for an easier ride.

Twenty hours later, the beleaguered dessert sits in a Beverly Hills hotel room, awaiting the terrible judgement of the most famous woman in the world.

This being Los Angeles, fame means something rather different than it does in Oldham, Nuneaton, Chelsea or Belgravia. In the Four Seasons Hotel, Beverly Hills, Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham is a permanent resident.

But he’s not famous. Recognisable American sportscasters breakfast downstairs, but they’re not famous either. This is the only city in the world that the words “wow” and “Lyle Lovett” can be heard spoken at the same sentence [and in a lift], but the Mr-Whippy-headed one is but fame’s footman in proper, that is to say Los Angeleno, terms. Now, Madonna – Madonna is famous.

1997 was a “quiet” year for La Ciccone. She made an album, the imminent Ray Of Light, and she brought up baby – the now 14-month-old Lourdes. The sabbatical seemed to chip away at her magnificence. Tabloid terror that the columnfilling diva might [whisper it] be about to retire from the fray sparked a feeding frenzy [Lourdes father dubbed "A Sperm Donor", brief interest in "Madonna's New Eglish Love", Andrew Bird] and then, just a trickle remained. The scraps made desperate, comical reading. Fees paid to brilliantly named dog psychiatrist Shelby Marlow became newsworthy [apparently, little Chuicita the chihuahua was "jealous" of Lourdes].

Last summer, the fact that Madonna’s answering service is staffed entirely by homosexuals ["We're all gay", preended manager Dale Jaques, "we have a certain gene for talking on the telephone"] was the best anyone could come up with. There was half-hearted talk of her moving to England. Madonna remained as famous as she’s ever been, but there didn’t seem very much to say about her anymore.

That, as we’ll see, is set to change, and not only because Ray Of Light – Madonna’s pumping, psychadelic, deeply personal colaboration with UK ambient dance specialist William Orbit – is her best collection of new material since 1989’s Like A Prayer. Throbbing, backwards guitars, mantric rhythms, ***CENSORED***-off strings, a voice barely recognisable from the limited yat accesible girl-next-door squek of yore: there’s a surprise in every groove.

“Wow, free tea!” giggles Madonna, dunking her own bags as the flustered room service waiter exits without proffering the bill. “Well, we’d better make the most of it.”

This is Madonna, but not quite as we know her. She is 39. Her hands are knuckly but useful, as they appeared in close-up on the cover of Like A Prayer. Her orange hair has the straggly, expensively unwashed look favoured by Alanis Morissette, Fiona Apple et al. Her attire, loose-fitting drapes – orange again – exposing about five inches of trim abdomen, wouldn’t look out of place lolloping up and down Oxford Street irritating a tambourine and handing out pamphlets. The famed upper-lip beauty spot has disappeared, perhaps surgically. There is a startling sense of unfamiliarity about her – that is, until she begins to move. When she moves, suddenly she is quite definetly Madonna.

As she tucks into the tea, we remark upon the absence of security, entourage even. “I drive myself in L.A.” she puffs. “It’s one of the only reasons I like living here.” Emboldened, we proffer the pudding. “I love Christmas pudding”, she coos, maybe just being polite. Whatever, polite is good. Polite is, frankly, a relief.

Q: Is Los Angeles a necessary evil – the place in the world where you feel least bothered?

Madonna: Unfortunately. It’s the dullest town, therefore there isn’t much going on, therefore there aren’t a lot of paparazzi hanging about. It’s the one place I totally get left alone in. There’s so many people who work in the industry here, it’s not shocking to see famous people about, going shopping.

Q: You’ve been in London a lot over the last couple of years. Does it swing?

Madonna: I’ve been there recently, and for ten days it was incredible. I thought after the Princess Diana thing it would be so great and that I was going to be left alone so I rented a house in Chelsea. Then I found out that it wasn’t that they were leaving me alone, they just didn’t know where I was. And when they found out and the fans found out, then… then it was a nightmare. Then I wished I was in a hotel, because at least in a hotel you’re so high that you can’t hear them on the street. I would love to live in London but I don’t think I could handle the whole press thing. It’s pretty intense. It’s more intense even than New York, where the attention kinda comes and goes. In London it’s every day.

Q: There was a brief feeling after the death of the Princess Of Wales that it would stop. That it would change. Did you believe it would change?

Madonna: Yeah. Do I think it has? No. Not at all.

Q: Coming out of filming Evita straight into that – the tragic ironies must have been overwhelming. An iconic woman vocally mistrusted by pockets of the society she lived in, and yet inspring this enourmous, popular…

Madonna: …Fandom! Following! Yes, there are a lot of interesting parallels. On the one hand there seemed to be many people against Princess Diana, outraged by her behaviour and constantly needing her, but when she died, how astonishing was that, the revelation of how truly loved she was by some? Which just goes to show you that meanness is a lot louder than kindness. You know what I mean? Because there really were a lot of people that loved her and supported her. It’s just that people who didn’t screamed the loudest. So that’s what you kinda got swept up in if you were reading the press and stuff.

Q: It caused a big debate about the British character. After being told for years, not at least by Americans, that we were tight-arsed and very bad at…

Madonna: …Expressing yourselves. Yes. Well, I mean no. I don’t think that at all. I know some really unhinged English people. But London’s great now – I’m good friends with Stella McCartney.

Q: The first words on the record are “I traded fame for love / Without a second thought”. You seem very ambivalent about fame and its cost. You’re not sure whether it’s been worth it or not.

Madonna: The ambivalence is true. I’m not going to sit here and say, Oh God, being famous is the worst thing that ever happened to me, but on the other hand it’s a real cross to bear, the real thorn in my side. I wouldn’t trade my life for anything – I’ve been blessed with so much. I’ve had so many privileges – but, being famous, it’s like agony and the ecstacy. You get to meet people and have experiences that no-one else gets to have. On the other hand, you don’t have any anonymity. What I am very clear about is the place it’s had in my life certainly, at the beginning of my career, what it sort of took the place of. At the end of the day, though, I’m not gonna stomp all over it and say, This is shit, but I think I have much better perspective on it all than I’ve ever had. I realise, and I’ve been realising this for years, that the approval, the headiness of being swept up and being popular and loved by people in universal ways is absolutely no substitute for truly being loved. But if you have to have a substitute, it’s about the best there is.

Q: There’s the line, “Had so many lovers / Who settled for the thrill of basking in my spotlight”. Was that a depressing realisation? Did they really have much of a choice?

Madonna: Well it’s not to say that they were only attracted to me for that, but I realise that that was a big part of it. Power is a great aphrodisiac and celebrity is a great aphrodisiac.

Q: Do you feel disappointed in those people?

Madonna: No. Not at all.

Q: You once said rejection is a great aphrodisiac.

Madonna: That too, haha!

Q: You need a lot of aphrodisiacs.

Madonna: I think everyone does. I’m speaking for everybody. I mean, rejection – doesn’t everybody want the thing they can’t have? For fleeting moments of madness, that’s all you want, and then you wake up, pull yourself together and you move on with your life.

Q: Is the conviction that you’ll never find a… well, a soul mate, a haunting one?

Madonna: It has been. When you think about what I do and the kind of life I lead and the fact that I’m famous, I don’t think it’s a lifystyle that’s very attractive to people, unless they like the idea of attracting attention, unless they’re really superficial. You find yourself in a strange position. I come with a lot of baggage and it takes a strong, courageous person to have a relationship with me. I have those moments when it seems impossible. The moments of thinking, Oh forget it.

Q: The song “Nothing Really Matters” must be about Lourdes. Are you trying to say that this is the first love of your life that has no side to it?

Madonna: It has no side. She doesn’t know about me being famous. She hasn’t got a clue. And it’s completely unconditional love, which I’ve never known because I grew up without a mother [Madonna Ciccone Snr died of breast cancer when her daughter was 6]. I mean I did have my father, but I think that the love that you got from a mother is quite different. It’s had a huge impact on me, as I suppose it has on everyone who has children. But definetly, when you have children you have to step outside of yourself. You can’t sit around feeling sorry for yourself, or feeling like you’re a victim in any way, shape or form. You really look at life from a totally different perspective.

Q: How is she coming along?

Madonna: She kisses everything. She kisses dogs, she kisses strange people on the playground. She says “dog” a lot, and “No”. She’s very good at saying no.

Q: You seemed to name her in the hope that she’d be some sort of healing influence.

Madonna: Absolutely. A healing influence on my life. Lourdes was a place that my mother had a connection to. People were always sending her holy water from there. She always wanted to go there but never did.

For someone who must be fairly certain that everyone she has a conversation with has already seen her naked, Madonna wears it well. Madonna, it is fair to say, has been a fruity. In her widely execrated Sex book, she wrote – and the prudish can change channels now – “Sometimes I stick my finger in my pussy and wiggle it around the dark wetness and feel what a cock or a tongue must feel when I’m sitting on it.” Perhaps we didn’t need to know this, but we all read it anyway.

Madonna’s relationship with the idea of intimacy is a unique one. Inside her Erotica album [an oddly coy record: its one "***CENSORED***" was bleeped] she is depicted licking her armpit, elsewhere bound and gagged and sucking a toe. The effect is strangewise distancing.

Equally, we can marvel at the woman that picked up lover Carlos Leon while jogging in Central Park, sympathise with the survivor of the media madness [and boose and fights] that enveloped her marriage with Sean Penn and feel her desperate would-be mother portrayed in ex-boyfriend Dennis Rodman’s [imaginative, she maintains] autobiography, but empathy is in short supply. Madonna, as we have come to think we know her, puts up barriers even as she sultrily beckons.

Remarkably, Ray Of Light blows all that out of the water. “Mer Girl” ends the album, but was one of the first things recorded for it, a one-take vocal whispered quietly while William Orbit’s portentous track bubbles delicately about her. Madonna mourns her mother and depicts herself fleeing head-long from her past. “I ran to the cemetery”, she intones, “and held my breath. And thought about your death.” Bingo, and at least, real intimacy.

“She stepped out of the vocal booth, and everybody was rooted to the spot”, recalls Orbit. “It was just one of those moments. Really spooky.”

Q: Have you done analysis?

Madonna: Yes.

Q: Do you still do it?

Madonna: Yes.

Q: Do you find it more or less helpful than before?

Madonna: I go back and forth. Sometimes I think there’s nothing new I’m going to figure out. Or that we’re retreading the same old territory and I’ll get fed up. And then a light bulb will turn on about something and I’ll have an epiphany. I don’t always go. I just go when I think I need to.

Q: Is it not tremendously expensive?

Madonna: It is in this town. Lawyers and shrinks… I’m in the wrong business.

Q: What’s your earliest memory?

Madonna: [What seems an interminable pause - actually, 29 seconds] I’ve got loads of memories from childhood, but I’m not sure which came first… Falling asleep between my parents bed… Stepping in a can of paint when my father was painting the fence… Sticking my finger in a cigarette lighter to see if it really was hot like my father told me.

Q: Is that what you’ve been doing ever since – sticking your hand in a flame to see if it’s hot?

Madonna: [Ruefully] Yes… But I have a very vivid memory of that. I remember my father kept saying, Look that’s really hot. See how red it is? So don’t put your finger in it. I was thinking, But how do I know if it’s really hot if I don’t put my finger in it? So I did and I got absolutely no sympathy. Nothings changed, ha ha!

Q: What’s the most hurtful thing that’s ever been written about you?

Madonna: Oh God, I’m sure there’s plenty of things that I don’t know about. [Long pause, she places her arms awkwardly between her knees]. I suppose the worst thing was people accusing me of having a baby for attention. That was pretty ridiculous. I phase it out.

Q: Than there was the speculation that Carlos Leon had been chosen as some sort of sperm donor.

Madonna: [Coldly] Rather than my lover, yes. Though that was probably more hurtful to him than me. They’re keen, with me, to ignore the possibility that it might have something to do with love or feeling and make it all seem planned or manipulated or calculated, which is a notion that a lot of people seem to have about me. But falling in love or having a baby, I’d have thought that was one of the more basic human things that anyone can relate to, and some people didn’t even want to let me have that. But that’s OK, because I have my beautiful baby and they don’t.

Q: And Carlos hasn’t been paid off in order to stay away?

Madonna: Absolutely not. He’s with her right now. She’s absolutely daddy’s little girl.

Q: Are you ever embarassed by old album covers?

Madonna: They’re a map of my life. But I do look at old photographs of myself and think, Someone should have arrested me, someone should have stopped me from doing my hair that way.

Q: What was your cruellest fashion error?

Madonna: All errors are cruel. They’re all great and they’re all crap. Everyone’s down on the ’80s right now, but I thought the ’80s was fabulous and I’m sure Boy George would agree with me.

Q: It was quite an unpretentious decade, in the sense that it’s pretensions were completely transparent. To hear some people talk, all it was was plastic music for a cocaine-addled generation.

Madonna: [Cracks up] Oh yeah! And what’s going on now? Nothing’s changed. Right now everyone’s into the ’70s, revisiting the ’70s whether it’s in music or movies and fashion.When we get further away from the ’80s we’ll do the same thing. It’ll be celebrated and analysed and perhaps appreciated.

Q: You were drumming in The Breakfast Club in 1979, in New York. Did you used to go to Studio 54?

Madonna: Ooh, that’s centuries ago, but what a cool era, what a cool club. The people there… I came in at the end of it so I missed Andy Warhol, Sterling Saint-Jaques [legendary New York club face], Liza Minnelli. For me the Danceteria and The Mudd Club were coming into their town.

Q: There’s a sense in a lot of your music of the dancefloor being a magical place.

Madonna: The dancefloor was quite a magical place for me. I started off wanting to be a dancer, so that had a lot to do with it. The freedom that I always feel when I’m dancing, that feeling of inhabiting your body, letting yourself go, expressing yourself through music. I always thought of it as a magical place… even if you’re not taking ecstasy.

Q: Though people will take ecstasy to Ray Of Light.

Madonna: But ecstasy’s been around for a hundred years. It was around when I was going to clubs. What’s the big deal?

Q: No, it’s still a big deal. In Britain ecstasy didn’t really happen until 1987, 1988 and it changed everything.

Madonna: [Regards Q as if studying Primitive Man] You guys are still taking ecstasy, not Special K? ‘Cos ketamine is the big drug over here now. You’re in the K Hole, swimming out of your body, and don’t imagine you’re gonna get up in the morning. I think the whole record would sound great on drugs. It’ll make you feel like you’re in the K Hole. It whips you in a frenzy. I took some remixes to Liquid in Miami and the DJ’s were just going mad for it. You can definetly imagine what it would be like to be high and listening to it. But I have to get there on my own. [Cod-angelic] I have a child now, I can’t do that sort of thing.

Q: The In Bed With Madonna film turned out to be the definitive piece of negative publicity, but no one had gambled like that before. There seemed to be no fear of appearing…

Madonna: Unattractive?

Q: Selfish…

Madonna: Narcissistic…

Q: …All those things. And you didn’t care who saw it.

Madonna: But what’s the point of making a documentary if you’re not going to show those sides? Then it wouldn’t be a documentary, right? Let’s face it, the life of a… of whatever-you-wanna-call-me… on the road, you’ve got to see all of that. It’s a real slice of life. It’s of an era, of a time, and it’s true of the insanity of performing and the insanity of performing and the insanity of travelling with this bunch of dysfunctional people. Even in a movie, how can you be sympathetic towards a fictional character if you don’t see their warts?

Q: That’s an awful lot of warts, though.

Madonna: I don’t think there were that many. I look at that movie and I think, My God how petulant was I? And, Oh God, What a brat! But I’m not horrified by it. That’s where I was and I’ve grown up a lot since.

Q: Who are the Madonna fans now?

Madonna: I haven’t a clue.

Q: What are the best Madonna records?

Madonna: Like A Prayer is pretty much up there. And I really like Bedtime Stories. I don’t think a lot of people “got” that record.

Q: It was better than Erotica. You hobbled yourself there, trying to make a concept album.

Madonna: Absolutely. I bit off more than I could chew. Bedtime Stories had better songs though the feel was similar. [Affects chat show wimper] But this record is my favourite record of all.

Despite the occasional hoot of laughter and slow, spreading smile [directed into the middle distance, rather than at you] we have stumbled upon a surprisingly earnest version of Madonna. Flippancies are sometimes engaged, oftener shot down in flames. The crinkled eyes are thrillingly familiar, but very good at doing “suspicious”.

Madonna’s current favourite words are “mystic” and “spiritual”. From the hare krishna garb to her current listening – dominated by Talvin Singh’s Anokha club compilation Soundz Of The Asian Underground – she is looking East, with a beats-enhanced Sanskrit prayer, “Shanti/Ashtangi,” taking pride of place on Ray Of Light.

Like the title track, and the churning, underwater “Skin,” it wouldn’t sound out of place booming out of bulging speakers at London’s Little Goa, Return To The Source. Instructively, she intends to perform a smattering of club dates in the States and Europe later in the year.

“Passion and sexuality and religion all bleed into one for me”, Madonna once told Q, and we are no strangers to the inventive theology of she who fondled a sexy black Christ in her “Like A Prayer” video.

The mystic talk may seem incongruous from the one-time personification of feckless ’80s fun – and her personal cocktail of Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism is certainly convenient – but hey, this is Los Angeles, where Madame Raza’s Psychic Help enjoys lucrative Beverly Hills shopfrontage on Wilshire Boulevard and shady guru Deepak Chopra’s influence is everywhere, represented here by Madonna’s red wristband. And after all, she doesn’t talk any more shit than The Verve.

Q: Is it best with religion to spread your bets?

Madonna: Absolutely. I do believe that all paths lead to God. It’s a shame that we end up having religious wars because so many of the messages are the same. The whole idea of karma and “do unto others”, it’s all the same. It really is.

Q: There’s a prevalence of water images on this record: “Swim,” “Mer Girl,” “Drowned World”…

Madonna: Well water is a very healing element, as you know.

Q: Er…

Madonna: Well, there’s water in birth and there’s water in baptism and when you go into the bath or in the ocean there’s a feeling of cleansing, a feeling of starting all over again. Being new, being healed. That’s sort of what’s going on in my life and I’m exploring that element in my songwriting.

Q: “Swim”’s all about redemption, but why are you so concerned with it? Have you been that bad?

Madonna: Well it’s not just about me. It’s imploring others to seek redemption too. Because it’s definetly a response to what’s going on in the world as well.

Q: What specifically?

Madonna: [With heavy sarcasm] You mean besides Galliano’s next collection? Well, let’s see. Lots of things concern me. I suppose the main thing is people’s obsession with negativity. People are so bitter and envious of other people doing well. People used to talk to one another and be a lot more resourceful and creative. But television and computers, this instant society we live in, has taken that ability away from most people. There are too many people resigned to their lot in life.

Q: Why are you thinking this way now?

Madonna: Well, maybe the same horrible horrors have always been happening in the world. Maybe I’m just paying more attention. It just seems to me that there’s more extreme bahaviour as we approach the year 2000. People seem to be divided into two camps – between people that are searching for something to anchor the spiritually, people who are trying to evolve their own conciousness and figure out the bigger meaning for life, rather than, OK, I’m here to make lots of money and have a good time and that’s it. On the other hand, I feel like I’m always reading about teenagers killing themselves or parents killing their children.

Q: Have you ever known black despair?

Madonna: Puh-lease! I’m the Queen Of Despair! Read the lyrics to my songs! I felt despair many times in my life, but I have very good survival mechanisms. No matter how bad it gets there’s something that stops me seeing life as completely hopeless. I still indulge myself in lots of melancholy.

Q: How do yu get over that?

Madonna: Sometimes I write. I spend time with people that I know will get me out of it. My daughter, or friends that will tell me what a wanker I’m being.

Q: Can you imagine how dark is must have been for Michael Hutchence?

Madonna: I know, I thought about that too. I don’t know what the real story is. It’s just tragic, so tragic. I can’t imagine getting to that place. I’ve tried to imagine but I can’t. It’s like trying to imagine what death is, you can’t. If you have a child I would think, no matter what, you could try and hang on for them. But I don’t know, I wasn’t in his shoes.

Two weeks later, a London flat, and Sheffield Wednesday are murdering Newcastle on Match Of The Day. The phone rings, “It’s Madonna,” barks Madonna.

A rain break in shooting for the video of “Frozen,” one of Ray Of Light’s lowering ballads [bearing the unmistakable, primary-coloured imprint of Madonna's longtime co-songwriter, Pat Leonard and an enourmous, gothic string score courtesy arranger du jour Craig Armstrong], has occasioned the call.

Along with “Nothing Really Matters” and “Power Of Good-Bye,” “Frozen” is Madonna fans’ Madonna, testament to her “reining in” of William Orbit’s more tangential instincts. “He’ll tell you I’m a taskmaster,” predicts Madonna, “that I like to crack the whip.”

For his part, Orbit is impressed by his new boss’s musical control-taking and recording wisdom. “She kept on telling me, Don’t gild the lily. And the other thing she’d say,” he adds ruefully, “just as I was ready to crawl home exhausted, was, You can sleep when you’re dead.”

“In the studio she’s totally sleeves-rolled-up,” continues the soundscaper. “You think of her as a performer, a pop icon, this force of entertainment. You don’t perceive Madonna as a great producer, but that’s exactly what she is.”

What Madonna describes as the more “tripped-out, ambient shit” from the Orbit sessions will emerge on a future “remix odyssey” record, putatively titled Veronica Electronica.

Q: Are you pissed off by the assumption that your producers do most of the work? Or, come to that, that Maverick is a plaything that you have little day-to-day involvment in?

Madonna: I don’t think about it very much. You know, the people that know, know, and that’s all that matters. The Prodigy know and everyone who comes to my label knows and everyone who works on my records knows what’s going on. The people that make assumptions like that are being chauvinistic. [smirks] I’m quite used to people saying things that aren’t entirely accurate.

Q: Your singing used to be criticised as “squeaky”. No-one could say that about this record.

Madonna: I found my voice in doing Evita, because I had to study extensively with a vocal coach. And I found range and parts of my voice that I never knew I had. I’d only been using this much of it. It’s a good find, by the way.

Q: Do you still drum? Do you see a kit set up in a studio and think, I’ll have a go?

Madonna: I have secret desires to. I’ve accidentally walked in on a band playing like a Holiday Inn or something and thought, I can play better drums than that.One of these days. If I go on tour and we’re doing rehearsals, you can believe I’ll be sitting behind the drums when everyone’s gone and there^s someone sweeping the floor.

Q: Is it a reflection of the way you’ve changed or the way that everyone else has changed, that no-one’s horrified by you any more? “Madonna reveals part of her own body shock,” that wouldn’t make many headlines these days.

Madonna: [Grins] I don’t think there’s anything left to reveal is there?

Q: Maybe not but you don’t have to. You won.

Madonna: I guess I won. If in the middle of all that chaos some positive message got out, then I won. But it’s not terribly much fun, being a rebel or being a pioneer, I have to say, because you become a target for everyone’s fears. You have to be incredibly resilient and there were times when I wished that I hadn’t been so outspoken, because it was so exhausting to constantly have to defend myself. Looking back on it, it was a great education for me and it was very liberating for me, because when you’re not popular in any sense of the word and everyone seems to have turned on you, you kind of have a freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want, because you don’t have to please everyone. Let’s face it, all the stuff I’ve been going on about for years, people have learned to accept it. Nowadays it doesn’t sound so outrageous, that’s how we are, every decade we become more open to ideas. Homosexuality is no longer a debate in pop culture, but even ten years ago it was considered terribly outrageous. We’ve come a long way. But I’ve changed too, so it’s both.

Q: So you belive in progress, despite the evidence?

Madonna: [Huffily] Of course I believe in progress. That’s why we’re here – to transform ourselves and other people. It’s the nature of our species to progress.

Q: You seem to be pretty happy with where you are. Are there any ambitions that still niggle at you?

Madonna: I’d like to learn how to paint. I love painting and I’m always in awe of people that can do it. People say I should just do it, but I think, No, because what if I suck? I’d be so disappointed.

With a click and a whirr, Madonna disappears into the ether. Thousand of miles away, she waits for the rain to stop falling on the desert so that she can get on with her job. You reflect on a rather powerful observation made by William Orbit.

“Madonna’s on this journey,” he reflects, “and if you’re smart you’ll get on board for the ride. But it doesn’t matter if you do or you don’t, because she’s going to get there anyway.”

And in case you were wondering, she ate the Christmas pudding


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