Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist


Madonna Stripped Bare
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Madonna Stripped Bare

Daily Express 30th September 1991

THE search began calmly. The seeking was indeed a sometimes    desperate affair, but it was frantically finding Madonna that was the tough and terrific part. At my last count, it takes at least eight signatures and the intimate acquaintance of a dozen agents to procure an 8xlO-inch glossy pin-up picture of Tom Cruise simply to promote the lad's career. Along with scores of others, he is an amateur   image   control  freak.   With Madonna, it is a mania. Control of every situation has been everything since her schoolgirl days.

She has played a gamut of games, from Tomboy to Tart, Material Girl to Marilyn Monroe, but she's the leading lady tough cookie when it comes to being in charge of her life. She insists that everyone, from the  girl  who  carries  her  Evian water to the person who drives her car, signs a 17-page privacy pact for employees — Madonna's Official Secrets Act.

There are plenty of famous names in Hollywood who will tell all about their sex lives, but the Madonna subject is often taboo. She frightens people. But they can't ignore her.
SHIRLEY MACLAINE produced one of the best lines when it seemed possible Madonna might become her sister-in-law via marriage to Warren Beatty.

Asked how she would cope, she said: "As easy as it would be for me to nail a custard pie to the wall." That is also a good job description for a biography of Madonna, which I eventually achieved with Like A Virgin, Madonna Revealed (published by Smith Gryphon, price £14.99) — the Express begins serialising it tomorrow.

Oh yes, Madonna will talk when she has an album or movie or anything else to sell. But only on Madonna subjects, in Madonna-picked publications, TV and radio shows.
It's not that she's afraid of someone more aggressive than Wogan, but that she insists on pulling the strings on all aspects of her career and her life.

Her career has been a monumental success. Her life, on an emotional level, I believe has been much sadder.

I went in search of Madonna with no illusions about being given anything. Any access to family and friends had to be fought for; every quote priced out, often with the proviso that sources would, indeed, be kept confidential.

One such reluctant source promised to meet me in a nightclub and reveal all about Madonna's sex life.

Geri was wearing a dress, but the dark shadow was showing through the Revlon when she turned up. A transvestite! Marvellous! Maybe also a sex-change? Was Madonna really a man?

Geri spilled the beans all right, about 57 different varieties pouring down this particular yellow brick road of, alas, nothing but Oz-sized fantasy.
Such moments did not make separating the fact and myth about Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone any easier.

ORN in Michigan, her Italian-immigrant family established and grew there. She went to the
______ 'Holy Family Regional
School where 1991's headmistress Mrs Sylvia Trepanier wasn't sure about acknowledging her former pupil. The trail began. The close Italian family; her mother's early death; the nuns; the boys; the early antics and sexual discovery.
In Hollywood, many close to Madonna envy and resent her success, but would never be heard publicly denouncing her for fear it could cost them a job or position of power. But, thankfully, many were willing to talk as sources.
The friends from the early days have less to lose, they are happy to enjoy the reflected glory — first, best girlfriends, first boyfriends.

There is no short-cutting knocking on doors, making phone calls and waiting for someone to return them. And all the time in Michigan, especially around Rochester where she grew up, I became more understanding about what makes Madonna run.

She got her first kiss in a convent, but kept her virginity for somewhere more secular.
She experimented with boys and girls. The sexuality — she says she knew she was different from the age of five — arrived early, but so did other lessons about life.
In Hollywood, Warren Beatty ignored me. The interview had been arranged, but again and again our meeting was postponed.

When we eventually met, at a film production plant, Beatty was Mr Charm. He invited me to witness the secret, final moments of his film Dick Tracy, in which co-star Madonna is the villain. The man who had last given an extensive interview to a writer nearly a decade earlier, was asking my advice about the movie's music!

It's an absurdity which tells much about Madonna's fascination with him.

She had gone from her marriage to Sean Penn — and it was only through nearly 20 years of contacts that I was able to get full revelations of the violent side of that marriage — into the arms of Beatty, a man who changes passions faster than television channels.

That's her magic. It's not what makes her run, as you'll find out in detail this week, but it's what allows her to keep on running.

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