Her father named her. But that was her mother’s name as well. Madonna. She’s top of the charts now with her hit songs: Holiday, Burning Up, Everybody, Physical Attraction. Pop tunes with a disco/soul feel and many are surprised to learn she’s not black but a green-eyed white blond fireplug with a teen London/Bronx look. Actually she’s from the Detroit area, smelly Bay City. When she turned seventeen she moved to New York because her father wouldn’t let her date boys. He wanted her to stay a virgin until marriage. In New York she had a date with a guy, several dates. She danced with professional dance groups such as Alvin Ailey. She started a band and played the underground scene for a year. Max’s, Mudd Club, etc. A demo tape, a record contract with Warner/Sire and now she’s the newest addition to stardom from the New York downtown scene with airplay every ten minutes.
She’s all for fun. She’s into cheese-flavored popcorn. Her music is a refined archeology of all that is positive about American innocence. It’s not stupid stuff. What emerges is a sincere naive voice with a sensual appeal for cloud nine, better simpler days. In crayon it would read: boy, girl, sun, blue sky, clean water, green tree, buildings, fast car, magic love potion. She’s a Catholic schoolgirl and still has the same pent up desire. In her video of Burning Up she crawls lustfully on the grass of a suburban public park singing, "I’m burning up, burning up for your love," while we cut to her young lover speeding toward her on the highway. The episode ends in romantic death rather than sexual encounter, a more fitting conclusion since Madonna’s desirous frenzy could scarcely be fulfilled within the pop visual medium in a simply sexual manner. Death is cleaner too. Madonna is, in some sense, still a virgin. She is charged with innocence. She is uninitiated because she is over-initiated. Her cup runneth over. Who could defuse her? And so she remains potent and unplucked, forever about to be…
Interviewer: Let’s go deep into your personal life,
Madonna: No way.
Come on. What do you like? Start with fashion. You’re a girl. You always wear all these great clothes on stage.
Madonna: No I don’t.
Interviewer: Everybody has the Madonna look now.
Madonna: I know. Crotchless jeans, (laughter). Most of the clothes I wear look the way they do because they’re so worn out.
Interviewer: Where’s that stage style from?
Madonna: It’s psedo-Puerto Rican punk rock freak out. A Motorcycle baby. It’s a combination of my two oldest fantasies. One was to be Nancy Sinatra; the other was to be a nun.
Interviewer: Do you ever do that song "These boots are made for walkin’"?
Madonna: I used to do it in front of the mirror in my uniform skirt.
Madonna: Uh-huh. The Sacred Heart Academy.
Interviewer: What do you want to achieve now?
Interviewer: Make lots of records, or make lots of money?
Madonna: I want to make a lot of love. (Whistle in the background) I don’t think about money. It just gets there. Up until a year ago I was still broke and living on the street. But I still feel the same way. Money will never be a problem for me. If you worry about it, it’s a problem.
Interviewer: Did you draw when you were a kid?
Madonna: Phallic symbols. You know Catholics. I used to draw people naked all the time in my art class and my nun teachers used to tell me I had to put clothes on them. So I just drew lines around their bodies. See-through clothes.
Interviewer: Had you ever seen a naked body at that time?
Madonna: No. I never saw naked bodies. I never saw my parents naked. Gosh, when I was seventeen I hadn’t seen a penis.
Interviewer: So were you shocked when you saw the first one?
Madonna: Yeah. I thought it was really gross, (laughter). And I’m not saying anymore.
Interviewer: Did you ever fall in love?
Madonna: I’m always fallin in love. But I get in trouble because I think it’s love then I realize it’s not, but the other person is in love and then I have this problem till I think it’s love again and have the courage to get out of the last one.
Interviewer: Your songs are very fantasy. Maybe they help people think they’re in love when they’re not. Is that okay?
Madonna: Yeah. Fantasies are essential. Without fantasies I would have died of starvation.
Interviewer: In New York it’s difficult to be polite sometimes. Do you think being polite is a virtue? Or is it something you don’t have to think about?
Madonna: I think it’s a virtue. I’m sincere to people who are sincere.
Interviewer: What about people like the president of Warner Brothers Records?
Madonna: I’m just charming.
Interviewer: That makes sense. Your new manager is also Michael Jackson’s manager. And you’re planning you first tour with a band?
Madonna: Yeah I’m madly in love with my manager. And you can print that. I’m rehearsing now with singers and dancers, and I’ll have two guitarists, and two synthesizers, the drums and bass will be pre-recorded. We’re doing an American tour, and European track dates. Not till the beginning of the year.
Interviewer: You were talking before about reincarnation. What were your past lives like?
Madonna: I don’t really…I only have images and feelings, no specific chronological events or anything like that. I do feel really transient in a way. I feel like when I meet people I can absorb their character and be them. And I find that no matter what I’m doing I’m always doing the same thing. Basically. What ever it looks like on the outside. And it just makes me feel. I don’t know…I can’t really describe it verbally because no one’s ever asked me this before, no one really cares. Haha! People just want to hear me sing.
Madonna: Because I have soul. Because you can dance to it. Cause you can, you know. I grew up in an all black neighborhood and I wanted to be a black girl. I really did. There was something about me that was so much freer than the white kids I knew and they didn’t go to the Catholic schools I went to. They went to other schools and they wore short dresses and they didn’t have to take baths all the time and their knees were always dirty…I liked the fact that they could braid their hair and it would be sticking up…that’s not why I’m braiding my hair right now…First of all, all the black girls in my neighborhood had these dances in their yard where they had these little turntables with 45 records and they’d play all this Motown stuff and they would dance, just dance, all of them dancing together and none of the white kids I knew would ever do that. They were really boring and stiff. And I wanted to be part of the dancing. I didn’t like my friends. I had to be beaten up so many times by these little black girls before they would accept me and finally one day they whipped me with a rubber hose till I was like, lying on the ground crying. And then they just stopped doing it all of a sudden and let me be their friend, part of their group.
Photos by Curtis Knapp