The explosive New York Times bestseller—Madonna
From motherless child to wife and mother, from “boy toy” to fiercely independent diva, Madonna is one of the most remarkable women of our time. With a career that spans two decades and ranges from the scandalous to the transcendent, she is a bigger phenomenon than ever. But who is the private woman behind the public image?
Andrew Morton, whose #1 New York Times bestsellers about Princess Diana and Monica Lewinsky have proven his ability to gain access to insiders who won’t talk to anyone else, answers that question in this decidedly unauthorized new biography. Morton’s extensive, in-depth interviews with members of Madonna’s inner circle—lovers, friends, and business connections, many of whom have never spoken out before—allow him to go beyond the carefully constructed myths to unmask the real Madonna. Andrew Morton is able to make startling revelations, among them the real story of Madonna’s family background; the events behind the violent attack that changed her views on sex and men; her relationships with Michael Jackson, Prince, John F. Kennedy Jr., Vanilla Ice, and other rock and Hollywood stars; the mystery man she wanted to marry; and the darkest days of her career when she threatened to quit show business. In this fascinating, richly detailed biography, Andrew Morton reveals Madonna in an entirely new light.
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Andrew Morton is the mega-selling author of Diana: Her True Story and Monica's Story, both international bestsellers.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter One All-American Girl ARRIVING AT JFK AIRPORT, a glance at the snaking line for taxis - longer than for the average Disney ride but without the thrill at the end - banishes any lingering hesitation about accepting an offer that would normally be refused. After a seven-hour flight from London, 40 dollars seems like a very good deal for a ride into Manhattan in the back of a white stretch limo, albeit unlicensed. The motley group of fellow travelers, from Canada, France and New York, think so too. 'Help yourself to drinks,' offers the moonlighting chauffeur magnanimously. Soon there's a party going on - the roof open, the sparkling, flashing neon interior lights twinkling brighter than the early-evening stars. In the setting sun the striking skyline glitters, alight with promise, dripping with possibilities. A couple of decades before, on such a journey, on such an evening, in such a limo, an aspiring young singer called Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone had reclined, like a punk mistress of the universe. She had told her friend Erika Belle: 'One day I'm going to own this town.' The former cheerleader from the American Midwest had not always been so certain. Our limo glides past Lincoln Center, where the lonely teenager once sat by the fountain and wept, despairing that she would ever make it in the Big Apple. We drive by the imposing West 64th Street apartment building where she now lives, testament to her success, past the restaurant that makes a special Caesar salad just for her, and by Central Park where she met the father of her first child. After this impromptu whistlestop tour of Madonna's life, the limousine driver kicks us out at Columbus Circle. From the top of a brown brick apartment building a red neon sign, advertising a TV show, blazes one word into the night sky: 'BIOGRAPHY.' A biographer is a personality detective, a literary gumshoe searching for clues, testing alibis and gathering evidence that will help illuminate a character who has made an impression on our world. Initial house-to-house - or rather bar-to-bar - inquiries in New York reveal a perplexing picture of Madonna. In preliminary questioning, few witnesses mention her singing or acting career. Under duress, artist Brent Wolf confesses he dreamed of her every night for five years. Then he blurts out, 'But my friend Rob was worse than me.' A mature student from Arizona, who really should know better,testifies that when she has to make a tough decision, she asks herself, 'What would Madonna do?' Even though it's a common occurrence - in India Knight's novel, My Life on a Plate, a girl who accidentally gets pregnant asks the same question - it merely serves to accentuate the riddle of Madonna. Typically, cultural forensics are no help; all those college lecturers endlessly debating her impact on racial and gender relations in post-modern society, are still, after twenty years, desperately seeking Madonna. One thing is certain. We are not dealing with one of your average one-hit wonders of the pop world here. Our girl's got a staggering record of success: more number-one singles than The Beatles and Elvis Presley, sixteen films, fourteen albums and five sell-out concert tours, more than 100 million records sold to date. Not to mention enough gold and platinum records to cover entire walls and a fortune in Grammy awards and other baubles. She even has a Golden Globe for her performance in the musical Evita stashed away in one of her homes - New York, London or Los Angeles. The fact that she is the most wanted woman in the world means that there is a high price on her head. Big-time 'fences' like Sotheby's and Christie's this year auctioned off her cultural castoffs - her signature sold for $200 while a Jean-Paul Gaultier bra from her Blonde Ambition Tour went for over $20,000. Then there are the bounty hunters: there were offers of $350,000 for the first picture of her daughter Lourdes, while one enterprising chap hid in the rafters of Dornoch Cathedral in Scotland in an attempt to film the christening of her son Rocco last year. A look through her file shows clearly that since childhood Madonna dreamed single-mindedly of becoming a celebrity. 'I've been provoking people since I was a little girl. I'm very interested in being alluring,' she once confessed. As with so many showbiz divas, it started with the small stuff: a show of exhibitionism at family gatherings, hogging the spotlight at school concerts, always being the center of attention at college dance performances. By the time she moved to New York, she was on the slippery slope, rapidly moving from recreational self-absorption to flirting with the hard stuff, avidly sniffing success. Pretty soon she had pawned her dance career for a hit of fame, never really coming down from the high of seeing her first single go to number one in the charts. From then on she was hooked, utterly addicted to fame, mainlining on mass adulation, graduating from one-hit wonder to singing and acting sensation, celebrity superstar and, finally, universal icon. Of course, as always in these cases, there were victims. In the global village, she outraged neighborhood elders by going round half-dressed and encouraging other girls to do the same, scandalized the closed minds within the Catholic Church with her open sexuality, and was always provoking thestuffier contributors to the parish magazine. As a serial controversialist, she had, however, many supporters in the community, especially among blacks, gays and young women. For all the years she has spent stirring up trouble and scandal, it remains difficult to draw an accurate portrait of the real Madonna. A consummate mistress of disguise, she has always cleverly hidden behind an assortment of masks, cloaking herself in the mystery of her mythology. 'If she were a painting, she would be an abstract by Picasso,' says one former lover, the rap star Vanilla Ice. 'She has so many faces.' When people got really affronted at her behavior, as when she published the controversial Sex book, she always had an explanation. She claimed she was being criticized because she was a woman, or that what she had done was meant to be ironic, or that no one quite got it. If one of the escapades she was involved in went wrong - one of her films failing, for example - she always blamed someone else, usually the director. For two decades she's been causing mischief and mayhem and getting away with it. Equally, she has not done badly out of her years of cultural agitation. The girl who once sprayed graffiti on the walls of the Establishment now owns one of the biggest houses in the neighborhood. Yet, even though she seems to have undergone a metamorphosis from iconoclast to institution, Madonna likes to think she is still a rebel at heart. And maybe she still is.
A glance around her New York apartment yields a few signposts in the quest to pinpoint her personality. As she sits curled up on her elegant sofa, Madonna cuts an unlikely figure as the individual at the center of the longest cultural manhunt in history. At 5 foot 4 inches tall - the half-inch is important to her - she is of average height, with striking, indeed mesmerizing hazel eyes, an insolent set to her mouth, a slight gap between her two front teeth and fine alabaster skin. Her much photographed face ranges in expression from sexy to intelligent, bored to amused - and every permutation in between - in a moment. Even though she may be casually dressed in $20 sweatpants from the discount chain Kmart, and a pair of cheap flip-flops, she holds herself in a way that suggests command and control, that she is a woman used to being in charge of herself and others. A conversation merely reinforces that feeling. Madonna goes straight to the point, discarding the irrelevant and unfocused. 'OK, Bert, what have you got? Are we doing good?' she used to say to her former business manager Bert Padell, mocking his Brooklyn inflections. With no time for, nor interest in, small talk, she would get directly down to business, nibbling on a ricecake as she fired a thousand questions at him. It is much the same in other encounters - pleasant, matter-of-fact, to the point. 'There's an intensity abouther,' recalls former lover Dan Gilroy, the man who first introduced her to music. 'She asks a question to get a reaction, not just for a chat.' Questions, questions, questions; Madonna, ever the creative detective, searching for clues to the new and the ground-breaking. Even when she is quietly listening to music - the sounds of Ella Fitzgerald, Eastern music and electronic sampling all waft round her home - she is never simply relaxing, but analyzing the sound and the lyrics for a fragment of an original idea, jotting down her thoughts in a notebook bound in marbled paper. Creatively, she is never off duty, pillaging her daily life for ideas and raiding the minds of others for inspiration. Her bestselling single, 'Vogue', for example, came about through a chance conversation with her best friend, actress Debi Mazar, a pal from her days in New York when they were hitting the clubs every night. It was Debi who spotted the dance craze, voguing, which swept the New York gay and Latino scene in the late 1980s. When she told Madonna about this cool, posing dance with its hypnotic hand movements, the singer homed in on its creative and commercial potential, collaborating with producer Shep Pettibone to write the song, which integrated the latest dance style with lyrics expressing Madonna's own homage to Hollywood stars of a bygone era. As producer Ed Steinberg, who made her first video says, 'She is very clear about what she wants but at the same time she accepts the creative input of other people. That is one reason why she is so successful - she is not a total egotist.' The resulting single, with its accompanying stylish black-and-white video, had perhaps the greatest popular appeal of any of her songs, all the result of a chance conversation, a creative mind and artistic collaboration. Michael Musto of the Village Voice commented, 'That is her genius. She takes something that is totally over with the in-crowd in New York and then brings it to Iowa. Her talent is picking something that is bubbling under the surface and making it her own.' While her ability to pick over the bones of modern culture and her successful collaborations with other artists are the hallmarks of her career, a constant source of admiration is the way she can effortlessly switch the focus of her attention, moving seamlessly from discussing a merchandising deal to framing the 'hook' for her latest song. Songwriter Andy Paley, who has worked extensively with Paul Simon and Brian Wilson, went to her Los Angeles home on numerous occasions while they were working on the soundtrack for Dick Tracy, the 1990 film directed by her lover, Warren Beatty. For four hours at a stretch she would focus entirely on the creative process, waving away her secretary and others. 'She puts the blinkers on when she is working,' he says. 'All outside distractions are forgotten. We sat at the pianoand she would tap out the rhythm. She wants to feel that she can dance to any song she records. That's her test.' Paley and other writers, including her first producer Mark Kamins, reckon that Madonna is one of the best in the business, a much underrated musician and lyricist. 'She is the easiest person I know to write songs with,' Paley says. 'She has a very clear vision, the most direct person you will ever work with.' While that vision has been clouded by the controversy, much of it self-generated, which has enveloped Madonna's career, artistically her songwriting is often overshadowed by the striking appeal of her pop videos. Several of her films have been exhibited in museums around the world, notably the Pompidou Center in Paris, as modern works of art. This stunning visual sense is no accident; Madonna has spent a lifetime studying photographs, black-and-white movies and paintings. 'She is the perfect example of the visual artist,' notes graffiti artist and cultural commentator Fab Five Freddie, who watched her blossom during her years in New York. 'These days you cannot have longevity in the pop game without a firm understanding of the image. She has that and goes so much deeper than people give her credit for. How many pop singers have ever heard of Frida Kahlo, for example, let alone wanted to make a movie about her?' It is the Mexican artist's striking work My Birth that greets visitors to Madonna's New York apartment, a painting which she uses as a kind of social litmus test, stating that if a guest fails to appreciate the work she could never consider him or her a friend. Her art collection, carefully chosen over twenty years, means so much to her that she would rather be remembered as a modern-day Peggy Guggenheim than as a singer and actress. 'Paintings are my secret garden and my passion. My reward and my nice sin,' she says, the works in her collection acting as indicators to the many paradoxes of her complex personality. So, for example, in Kahlo's My Birth, the painter imagined her own birth without male intervention, an image that not only undercuts the traditional notion of the female as womb but presents woman as self-reliant, independent and strong, themes which have informed both artists' work. As she was to show more fully with her roles as an actress, particularly as Eva Pern in Evita, Madonna only seems to understand the world around her in terms of herself. So, she not only appreciates Kahlo's paintings, but personally identifies her own life with that of the tragic artist who saw herself as existing outside conventional society. 'I worship Frida Kahlo paintings because they reek of her sadness and her pain,' says Madonna, who admires strong beauties like Georgia O'Keefe, Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo. Similarly, the singer empathizes with the lifestyle of Art Deco artist Tamara de Lempicka, whose erotic portraitsof stylish sybarites adorn her apartment. She shares Lempicka's biographer's view that the painter's place in the pantheon of modern artists has been denied because, bisexual and libidinous as she was, she was seen as being sexually and politically incorrect. Inevitably perhaps, Madonna sees her own life reflected in the painter's resistance to conformation with sexual norms. Madonna, whose unrepentant exploration of traditional gender roles has helped, for example, to make lesbianism acceptable to mainstream society, also identifies with other groups and individuals who were at one time voices in the wilderness. So an Irving Penn photograph of the black champion boxer Joe Louis, the grandson of a slave who hailed from the city she calls home, Detroit, and a small bronze bust of heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali reveal the veneration and association she feels with oppressed races of America. She was thrilled when Ali, whom she associates with the fight by American blacks for civil rights, came to her apartment one evening. Similarly, she reveres the memory of Elvis Presley, who died on her birthday. She sees in his early career, when he outraged moral America with his hip-shaking stage routine during the 1950s, a reflection of her own struggle to express the view that women could be feminine, sexual and empowered. That she calls her own multimedia company Maverick underlines her belief that she is a rebel in the face of convention, an outsider who at times has stood proudly independent of her family, church, school and society. Yet, paradoxically, the same woman who, rather romantically, sees herself as beyond the mainstream, a...
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