Madonna

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Overview

Madonna is one of the most remarkable women of our time. A pop-culture chameleon with an unerring ability to stay on the cutting edge, she is the undisputed queen of popular music and, to many, the most important female entertainer of the last two decades.

There is no more informed chronicler of modern celebrity than Andrew Morton, author of worldwide bestsellers about Diana, Princess of Wales, Monica Lewinsky, and Victoria and David Beckham. His new biography is not only based ...

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Overview

Madonna is one of the most remarkable women of our time. A pop-culture chameleon with an unerring ability to stay on the cutting edge, she is the undisputed queen of popular music and, to many, the most important female entertainer of the last two decades.

There is no more informed chronicler of modern celebrity than Andrew Morton, author of worldwide bestsellers about Diana, Princess of Wales, Monica Lewinsky, and Victoria and David Beckham. His new biography is not only based on extensive research, enabling him to retrace Madonna's journey to stardom, but also on his interviews with those in Madonna's inner circle - many of whom have never spoken out before - allowing him to unravel truth from myth along the way. He has even uncovered the long-lost Madonna tapes, including her earliest recordings, which have not come to light for twenty years.

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 Junior, Vanilla Ice and other rock and Hollywood stars; the mystery men she wanted to marry; and the darkest days of her career when she threatened to quit show business.

Above all, he sheds new light on what powers the Madonna phenomenon, and examines whether the face she presents today is that of a woman who is fulfilled personally and professionally, or one who is still seeking a more perfect Madonna.

With over eighty stunning photographs, many of which have never before been published, this gripping new biography reveals Madonna in an entirely new light.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Andrew Morton, who brought us the megabestselling Monica's Story and Diana: Her True Story, now presents the inside scoop on another world-famous celebrity: Madonna. What's she really like? How has she been able to modify her onstage image so successfully? And what can we expect from her in the future? Morton reveals all!
Library Journal
Madonna is an explosive account of the life of an incredibly complex and determined woman, unquestionably one of the most popular female entertainers of our time. This biography portrays how the controversial rock star embarked on her career in New York in 1978 and has captured headlines ever since. Morton reveals a driven, intelligent, ambitious, successful woman who seems invincible in public, but in private is restless, insecure, vulnerable, and sometimes very human. He begins with her childhood, delving into her Catholic upbringing, her mother's death from breast cancer, and her schooling, then continues into her twenties portraying her as a control freak her recording career, her concerts, and her businesses. Her complicated relationships with men and women, her sexual encounters, abortions, marriages, divorce, music, movies, obsession with being famous, and children born out of wedlock are all revealed. This should please Madonna's fans and is entertainment for anyone who enjoys a startling story, read thrillingly by Ian Peakes. Recommended for popular music biography collections. Carol Stern, Glen Cove Lib., NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781854798886
  • Publisher: Michael O'Mara Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001
  • Pages: 256

Meet the Author

Andrew Morton is the mega-selling author of Diana: Her True Story and Monica's Story, both international bestsellers.
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Read an Excerpt

Madonna

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 misunderstood artist, is in reality a living, breathing example of the all-American girl, the perfect embodiment of modern Main Street USA. Thus her creative success has been characterized by her genius for making the avant-garde acceptable to the general public. At the same time, while the vaudeville of her sexual politics, particularly her trademark conical bra and bold crotch-grabbing, owes much to the European tradition displayed in shows - admittedly, American shows - like Cabaret and the Ziegfeld Follies, Madonna's knowing, winking suggestiveness and sly humor is in the mold of Mae West, the American film actress, who believed that a woman's place was on top.

Even the trajectory of her career - a cheerleader from the Midwest who came to the Big Apple to find fame and fortune and then tried to join the Hollywood elite to pursue her acting career - is as traditional as the Stars and Stripes. Her greatest disappointment is that while she considers herself more an actress than singer, her thespian skills have yet to be fully appreciated by the world of theater. Despite this, just how far Madonna has risen in the firmament of stars is demonstrated in the fact that, while she wanted a 'Grace Kelly style' for her first wedding, at her second she actually wore a tiara thathad belonged to the late Princess. While her appeal lies in the fact that she can be presented as the ultimate girl-next-door, she truly is one in a million, a living archetype, an embodiment of the radical sexual and social changes in modern America over the last twenty years.

While her place as a sexual revolutionary is assured, her dynamism, ambition and life-affirming philosophy would not be out of place in the corporate boardroom. Ironically, of all the many faces Madonna presents to the world - dancer, impresario, producer, singer, actress, entertainer and artist - the one she tries most assiduously to disguise is that of successful businesswoman. She is quoted as having once said, 'Part of the reason I'm successful is because I'm a good businesswoman, but I don't think it necessary for people to know that.' 'Get OUT', she ordered director Alex Keshishian when his camera crew tried to film a business conference during the infamous Truth or Dare documentary (released as In Bed With Madonna outside the USA), which recorded her Blonde Ambition Tour in 1990.

The girl who arrived in New York with a fistful of dollars is, and has been, a publisher, music mogul, TV executive, merchandising magnate and film producer and one of the richest women on the planet, estimated to be worth between $300 and $600 million. 'She's a great businesswoman,' says Seymour Stein, the record company mogul who first signed her. 'She's very smart and she trusts her instincts, which are great.'

Her success has certainly impressed the business community. While politicians, feminists and other moral commentators debated the graphic sexual content of her 1992 book, Sex, senior professors at Harvard Business School beat a path to her door. They wanted to know the secret of selling 1,500,000 copies of a $50 book in a matter of days. She considered, but eventually turned down, their invitation to address students and faculty. If she had given a lecture, as she originally intended, they would have learned that, once the hype and controversy of her artistic career is stripped away, Madonna is just like them, an embodiment of the drive, enterprise and can-do culture that has powered the American dream.

She is every inch the conventional self-made tycoon: cautious in her investments, conservative in her spending, controlling every part of her multi-million dollar empire. 'Sometimes,' says Sir Tim Rice, the co-creator of the musical Evita, in which she played the lead role in the film version, 'it was as if you were dealing with General Motors.'

Indeed, Madonna is a classic capitalist, conforming to all the rules, never putting a foot wrong, running her life like clockwork. Like a typical cigar-chomping company chairman, she is the first to arrive and the last to leave, her schedule full, her day disciplined, while every evening she religiously sitsdown and lists her goals for the next day. The engineered controversy and deliberate chaos she causes in her artistic life contrast with the order and regimentation of her business routine. However, the bottom line always shadows her creative effort. 'She is not just a businesswoman but an innovator and creator,' observes Bert Padell. 'Money comes second, creation comes first.'

Even her joshing sense of humor would not be out of place in the executive washroom. 'I'll give you sixty,' she told Padell during an early morning phone conversation. As he launched into an explanation of a financial issue, the phone suddenly went dead. When he redialed, she laughingly told him, 'See? I told you sixty seconds. My time is valuable.'

The girl who lived off popcorn and dressed in hand-me-downs has no intention of squandering her fortune, keeping well clear of the extravagant and the speculative. 'She is exactly the same way now as she was when she first came into my office without a nickel,' recalls Padell. 'It doesn't matter if it's a dollar or $10,000, she wants to know about it,' Unlike her adventurous public image, Madonna is a prudent investor who has eschewed the stock market for the safety of interest-bearing government bonds.

She was not one of those who got their fingers burnt in the Internet bubble - indeed, she was so slow out of the starting blocks that she had to sue for the rights to her domain name, Madonna.com. - preferring to keep her other assets in property and art. While paintings may be her 'sin,' as she says, 'Financially it is an excellent investment, as well as something sumptuous to admire every day.' However, her shrewd approach has led her to lose numerous paintings because she refused to pay the asking price. It is now the same with property. When she first came to live in London, she was so shocked by the high prices that on several occasions she lost out on homes she liked because her offers were unrealistically low. Frugal as she is in her financial dealings, if there is one song she would withdraw from her catalogue it is 'Material Girl'; Madonna has always regretted the decision to record a song that defined her as a consumer rather than an artist. As far as she is concerned, money is a means to an end, usually artistic, rather than an end in itself.

Like other self-reliant and self-made millionaires, Madonna believes that work has its own dignity, a belief underpinned by her recent interest in the Kaballah, a mystical text of Judaism. Thus, although she sends her maternal grandmother Elsie Fortin money every month and has bought her and other elderly relatives televisions and other home comforts, Madonna is reluctant to featherbed family and friends.

She likes to present a hard-boiled, sassy image, but her maternal and compassionate instincts are much in evidence, and not only in the way she dotes on her two children, Lourdes and Rocco. When fashion guru Gianni Versacewas murdered, Madonna was the first person to phone his sister Donatella to console her. She has also quietly paid for drug rehabilitation therapy for numerous friends and family members, to help them stand on their own two feet. Indeed, much of her charity work is discreet and unshowy. A well-known supporter of AIDS charities, she is also a so-called 'quiet donor' to a charity for breast cancer, the disease which killed her mother. Every Friday after Thanksgiving the singer enjoys an annual ritual, visiting the children's wards of hospitals in Manhattan and Harlem and distributing hats, pictures and small gifts.

On one occasion she was accompanied by Sean Penn, on another by her friend Debi Mazar. There is only one condition - that the hospitals concerned ensure that her visits are absolutely private. Seeing these children struggling to cope with life-threatening illnesses like AIDS and leukemia, leaves her drained and deeply moved. During one visit she walked into a ward where a young boy, in the late stages of leukemia, simply refused to get out of bed. Depressed and upset, he seemed to have given up the fight for life. The boy's father was beside himself, unable to convince his son to battle on. So Madonna went into his room and joshed: 'Hey, get out of bed. Who do you think you are?' Then, for the next thirty minutes she sat quietly talking and playing with him until, finally, he gingerly climbed out of bed and joined the other children. 'Everyone was moved to tears,' recalls one eyewitness.

While she may be a compassionate capitalist, she is also a competitive millionaire, her financial ambitions conforming to the dreams of the super-rich American male. For several years she harbored the notion of owning her own basketball team. While she is a fervent supporter of the New York Knicks, her financial advisors sounded out several other teams. Her heart, however, was set on the Knicks but her offer to take a share in the team was turned down. Typically, she wanted to be an active investor, involved in the day-to-day decision-making. The current owners didn't want that, preferring instead a sleeping partner. In the end, discussions came to nothing.

Now able to pay millions of dollars for a painting or a home she likes, Madonna has effortlessly taken on the mindset of the super-rich. 'But I'm broke,' is a remark heard all too frequently from the queen of pop, who, like the British monarch, never carries money. Her bodyguard or chauffeur is given a $300 float to take care of daily expenses. For while she may employ bodyguards, chauffeurs, maids and cooks, old habits die hard. The girl who survived by bumming meals from friends and acquaintances has not changed overmuch. When she is out with a group of friends, Madonna is rarely the one to reach for the check. She will wait to see if someone else is going to pick up the tab and then, as a last resort, she will break down thebill, so that everyone pays their share. Jimmy Albright, her former bodyguard and lover, remembers how he would often end up paying for everyone - even though he was the poorest guy at the table. As he observes, 'I used to tell her that she was so tight she squeaked. She thinks that because people know she has a lot of money they will try and take advantage of her. But she's on top of everything.'

Her penny-pinching approach startled her Australian-born butler at her Notting Hill home in London. When he splashed out $600 for flowers, including her favorite tiger lilies, she reprimanded him severely for his extravagance. In New York she uses a modest car service rather than stretch limos, to save money, and keeps an eagle-eye out for those who feel that, because she is now wealthy, she can be ripped off. On tour she will personally haggle with hotels for cut-price rates and she checks every bill, refusing, for example, to pay excessive phone or fax charges.

This obsessive need for control goes way beyond the parameters of a typical business manual. Even on the rare occasions she takes a holiday - she has had only a handful in her adult life - she has an organized schedule to work on lyrics and future projects. She is literally never still for a moment, a musical poet in motion. This was the woman who refused to perform 'The Star-Spangled Banner' at the Superbowl, not through lack of patriotism, but because she could not control the light and sound systems.

Indeed she clearly demonstrated her patriotism and concern when she became the first celebrity to make a donation to charities helping the victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks in September 2001. She gave around $1 million - the proceeds from three Los Angeles concerts - to children orphaned by the disaster, the singer leading her audience of 20,000 in prayer.

Her frequent response to any opposition is 'This is not a democracy.' Strict with herself, she is as demanding of her staff and those with whom she works. Madonna is the boss, able to reduce to tears her one-time secretary Caresse Henry-Norman, now her manager, in the search for a missing pair of shoes in her New York apartment, or to snap at her publicist Liz Rosenberg, whom she calls 'Momola,' when she brought out her school year-book in the green room just before she was due to appear on the comedy show, Saturday Night Live. Apparently, she didn't like to be reminded of a past life while she was psyching herself up for a TV performance.

A picture by her bed gives another clue to her deep-rooted need for control, to contain what she calls 'the ickiness' of life. The black-and-white photograph, illuminated day and night, is of her mother, also christened Madonna, who died of breast cancer when her eldest daughter was just fiveyears old. Her tragic death took away the implicit sense of security in Madonna's life. One consequence of this is that Madonna has endless nightmares about death and, despite regular health checks, particularly for breast cancer, sees herself in a race against time, desperate to achieve as much as she can. She says: 'I've got to push myself so hard because I have demons. I won't live forever and when I die I don't want people to forget I existed.'

At the same time, her mother's untimely death snatched from her perhaps the one person she could rely on for unconditional love and affection. Has this resulted in lasting emotional damage? Madonna seems to have spent a lifetime searching for love, yet continually rejecting or discarding those who have loved her, always afraid of being hurt once more.

Although she is in control of her artistic and business life, she has all too often lost control of her love life. In contrast to her supremely self-confident public image, the private Madonna is often uncertain and unsettled in her relationships. 'She can stand before 80,000 people in a stadium and hold them in the palm of her hand. Yet off the stage she is the most insecure woman I have ever met,' says her ex-lover Jim Albright.

While the picture of her mother offers a glimpse at the paradox that is Madonna, so, too, does another old black-and-white photograph that hangs on the wall in her children's nursery - this is a portrait of her father, Tony Ciccone, and a young Madonna. Just as she has spent a lifetime looking for unconditional love, so, too, has she spent years seeking her father's approval. She remains at heart the little girl continually trying to win over her father, searching for love and acceptance, while rejecting his conformist lifestyle, as a company man working in the defense industry. She is also repelled and attracted by Roman Catholicism, and her father remains a devout Catholic.

While shock and sensation have been Madonna's handmaidens in her success as a cheerleader for controversy and hedonism, her father has always lived by the rules and regulations, either of his company or his church. Nowhere was this divide between them better expressed than in the publication of her controversial Sex book in October 1992. She said it was an act of rebellion against her father, the church and the world in general. Yet, predictably, when they celebrated Christmas together that year at the family home in Rochester, Michigan, it was never once mentioned.

It is not surprising, then, that her father, the man who gave Madonna the values of self-help, independence and thrift, has steadfastly refused the gifts she has offered, be it buying him a new house, a car, or the 50 acres of land in north Michigan where he now tends his award-winning vineyard. 'He didn't want any part of the money because of the way she made it,' explained Madonna's former schoolfriend Ruth Dupack Young, who worked with TonyCiccone for ten years at General Dynamics. 'That was definitely the impression he gave. He made everything on his own and he didn't want to be part of her money. He is a strict Catholic who followed the rules and he found it tough when his daughter didn't. It was difficult for him at work being ragged by the other engineers. He is proud of her, but also dismayed by her. There comes a point in life when you ask yourself how much do you do just for success.'

Yet it is the dynamic of her personal life, the loss of her mother, the conflict with her father, sin and religion, eroticism and romance, love and loneliness, which have informed her work and formed the bedrock of her success. More than for any other artist, her life is her art, Madonna both the painter and the canvas of that unique creation - herself.

She is the girl who wanted to rule the world but not to change it. She ended up doing a little of both. This is her story.

MADONNA. Copyright 2001 by Andrew Morton.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 7
Photograph Acknowledgments 9
1 All-American Girl 11
2 The American Dream 23
3 'This Used to Be My Playground' 37
4 Destined to Be a Dancer 54
5 The 'Lost' First Songs 73
6 Madonna, Max's, Midnight 91
7 DeMann and De Woman 108
8 'I'm a Sexy Woman, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!' 123
9 Desperately Seeking Hollywood 139
10 Nice Ice Baby, Don't Go 161
11 Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places 175
12 Me, Myself and I 192
13 Lady Madonna 210
Madonna: Discography, videos, film and theater, tours 238
Index 249
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First Chapter

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 whistle-stop 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 $2O,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 the stuffier 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 1/2 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 flipflops, 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 about her," 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 piano and 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 Peron 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 portraits of 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 misunderstood artist, is in reality a living, breathing example of the all-American girl, the perfect embodiment of modern Main Street USA. Thus her creative success has been characterized by her genius for making the avant-garde acceptable to the general public. At the same time, while the vaudeville of her sexual politics, particularly her trademark conical bra and bold crotch-grabbing, owes much to the European tradition displayed in shows - admittedly, American shows - like Cabaret and the Ziegfeld Follies, Madonna's knowing, winking suggestiveness and sly humor is in the mold of Mae West, the American film actress, who believed that a woman's place was on top.

Even the trajectory of her career - a cheerleader from the Midwest who came to the Big Apple to find fame and fortune and then tried to join the Hollywood elite to pursue her acting career - is as traditional as the Stars and Stripes. Her greatest disappointment is that while she considers herself more an actress than singer, her thespian skills have yet to be fully appreciated by the world of theater. Despite this, just how far Madonna has risen in the firmament of stars is demonstrated in the fact that, while she wanted a 'Grace Kelly style' for her first wedding, at her second she actually wore a tiara that had belonged to the late Princess. While her appeal lies in the fact that she can be presented as the ultimate girl-next-door, she truly is one in a million, a living archetype, an embodiment of the radical sexual and social changes in modern America over the last twenty years.

While her place as a sexual revolutionary is assured, her dynamism, ambition and lifeaffirming philosophy would not be out of place in the corporate boardroom. Ironically, of all the many faces Madonna presents to the world dancer, impresario, producer, singer, actress, entertainer and artist - the one she tries most assiduously to disguise is that of successful businesswoman. She is quoted as having once said, "Part of the reason I'm successful is because I'm a good businesswoman, but I don't think it necessary for people to know that." "Get OUT", she ordered director Alex Keshishian when his camera crew tried to film a business conference during the infamous Truth or Dare documentary (released as In Bed With Madonna outside the USA), which recorded her Blonde Ambition Tour in 1990.

The girl who arrived in New York with a fistful of dollars is, and has been, a publisher, music mogul, TV executive, merchandising magnate and film producer and one of the richest women on the planet, estimated to be worth between $300 and $600 million. "She's a great businesswoman," says Seymour Stein, the record company mogul who first signed her. "She's very smart and she trusts her instincts, which are great."

Her success has certainly impressed the business community. While politicians, feminists and other moral commentators debated the graphic sexual content of her 1992 book, Sex, senior professors at Harvard Business School beat a path to her door. They wanted to know the secret of selling 1,500,000 copies of a $50 book in a matter of days. She considered, but eventually turned down, their invitation to address students and faculty. If she had given a lecture, as she originally intended, they would have learned that, once the hype and controversy of her artistic career is stripped away, Madonna is just like them, an embodiment of the drive, enterprise and can-do culture that has powered the American dream.

She is every inch the conventional self-made tycoon: cautious in her investments, conservative in her spending, controlling every part of her multi-million dollar empire. "Sometimes," says Sir Tim Rice, the co-creator of the musical Evita, in which she played the lead role in the film version, "it was as if you were dealing with General Motors."

Indeed, Madonna is a classic capitalist, conforming to all the rules, never putting a foot wrong, running her life like clockwork. Like a typical cigar-chomping company chairman, she is the first to arrive and the last to leave, her schedule full, her day disciplined, while every evening she religiously sits down and lists her goals for the next day: The engineered controversy and deliberate chaos she causes in her artistic life contrast with the order and regimentation of her business routine. However, the bottom line always shadows her creative effort. "She is not just a businesswoman but an innovator and creator," observes Bert Padell. "Money comes second, creation comes first."

Even her joshing sense of humor would not be out of place in the executive washroom. "I'll give you sixty," she told Padell during an early morning phone conversation. As he launched into an explanation of a financial issue, the phone suddenly went dead. When he redialed, she laughingly told him, "See? I told you sixty seconds. My time is valuable."

The girl who lived off popcorn and dressed in hand-me-downs has no intention of squandering her fortune, keeping well clear of the extravagant and the speculative. "She is exactly the same way now as she was when she first came into my office without a nickel," recalls Padell. "It doesn't matter if it's a dollar or $10,000, she wants to know about it," Unlike her adventurous public image, Madonna is a prudent investor who has eschewed the stock market for the safety of interest-bearing government bonds.

She was not one of those who got their fingers burnt in the Internet bubble - indeed, she was so slow out of the starting blocks that she had to sue for the rights to her domain name, Madonna.com. - preferring to keep her other assets in property and art. While paintings may be her `sin,' as she says, "Financially it is an excellent investment, as well as something sumptuous to admire every day." However, her shrewd approach has led her to lose numerous paintings because she refused to pay the asking price. It is now the same with property. When she first came to live in London, she was so shocked by the high prices that on several occasions she lost out on homes she liked because her offers were unrealistically low. Frugal as she is in her financial dealings, if there is one song she would withdraw from her catalogue it is `Material Girl'; Madonna has always regretted the decision to record a song that defined her as a consumer rather than an artist. As far as she is concerned, money is a means to an end, usually artistic, rather than an end in itself.

Like other self-reliant and self-made millionaires, Madonna believes that work has its own dignity, a belief underpinned by her recent interest in the Kaballah, a mystical text of Judaism. Thus, although she sends her maternal grandmother Elsie Fortin money every month and has bought her and other elderly relatives televisions and other home comforts, Madonna is reluctant to featherbed family and friends.

She likes to present a hard-boiled, sassy image, but her maternal and compassionate instincts are much in evidence, and not only in the way she dotes on her two children, Lourdes and Rocco. When fashion guru Gianni Versace was murdered, Madonna was the first person to phone his sister Donatella to console her. She has also quietly paid for drug rehabilitation therapy for numerous friends and family members, to help them stand on their own two feet. Indeed, much of her charity work is discreet and unshowy. A wellknown supporter of AIDS charities, she is also a so-called `quiet donor' to a charity for breast cancer, the disease which killed her mother. Every Friday after Thanksgiving the singer enjoys an annual ritual, visiting the children's wards of hospitals in Manhattan and Harlem and distributing hats, pictures and small gifts.

On one occasion she was accompanied by Sean Penn, on another by her friend Debi Mazar. There is only one condition - that the hospitals concerned ensure that her visits are absolutely private. Seeing these children struggling to cope with life-threatening illnesses like AIDS and leukemia, leaves her drained and deeply moved. During one visit she walked into a ward where a young boy, in the late stages of leukemia, simply refused to get out of bed. Depressed and upset, he seemed to have given up the fight for life. The boy's father was beside himself, unable to convince his son to battle on. So Madonna went into his room and joshed: "Hey, get out of bed. Who do you think you are?" Then, for the next thirty minutes she sat quietly talking and playing with him until, finally, he gingerly climbed out of bed and joined the other children. "Everyone was moved to tears," recalls one eyewitness.

While she may be a compassionate capitalist, she is also a competitive millionaire, her financial ambitions conforming to the dreams of the superrich American male. For several years she harbored the notion of owning her own basketball team. While she is a fervent supporter of the New York Knicks, her financial advisors sounded out several other teams. Her heart, however, was set on the Knicks but her offer to take a share in the team was turned down. Typically, she wanted to be an active investor, involved in the day-to-day decision-making. The current owners didn't want that, preferring instead a sleeping partner. In the end, discussions came to nothing.

Her penny-pinching approach startled her Australian-born butler at her Notting Hill home in London. When he splashed out $600 for flowers, including her favorite tiger lilies, she reprimanded him severely for his extravagance. In New York she uses a modest car service rather than stretch limos, to save money, and keeps an eagle-eye out for those who feel that, because she is now wealthy, she can be ripped off. On tour she will personally haggle with hotels for cut-price rates and she checks every bill, refusing, for example, to pay excessive phone or fax charges.

This obsessive need for control goes way beyond the parameters of a typical business manual. Even on the rare occasions she takes a holiday--she has had only a handful in her adult life--she has an organized schedule to work on lyrics and future projects. She is literally never still for a moment, a musical poet in motion. This was the woman who refused to perform `The StarSpangled Banner' at the Superbowl, not through lack of patriotism, but because she could not control the light and sound systems.

Indeed she clearly demonstrated her patriotism and concern when she became the first celebrity to make a donation to charities helping the victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks in September 2001. She gave around $1 million - the proceeds from three Los Angeles concerts - to children orphaned by the disaster, the singer leading her audience of 20,000 in prayer.

Her frequent response to any opposition is "This is not a democracy." Strict with herself, she is as demanding of her staff and those with whom she works. Madonna is the boss, able to reduce to tears her one-time secretary Caresse Henry-Norman, now her manager, in the search for a missing pair of shoes in her New York apartment, or to snap at her publicist Liz Rosenberg, whom she calls `Momola,' when she brought out her school year-book in the green room just before she was due to appear on the comedy show, Saturday Night Live. Apparently, she didn't like to be reminded of a past life while she was psyching herself up for a TV performance.

A picture by her bed gives another clue to her deep-rooted need for control, to contain what she calls `the ickiness' of life. The black-and-white photograph, illuminated day and night, is of her mother, also christened Madonna, who died of breast cancer when her eldest daughter was just five years old. Her tragic death took away the implicit sense of security in Madonna's life. One consequence of this is that Madonna has endless nightmares about death and, despite regular health checks, particularly for breast cancer, sees herself in a race against time, desperate to achieve as much as she can. She says: "I've got to push myself so hard because I have demons. I won't live forever and when I die I don't want people to forget I existed."

At the same time, her mother's untimely death snatched from her perhaps the one person she could rely on for unconditional love and affection. Has this resulted in lasting emotional damage? Madonna seems to have spent a lifetime searching for love, yet continually rejecting or discarding those who have loved her, always afraid of being hurt once more.

Although she is in control of her artistic and business life, she has all too often lost control of her love life. In contrast to her supremely self-confident public image, the private Madonna is often uncertain and unsettled in her relationships. "She can stand before 80,000 people in a stadium and hold them in the palm of her hand. Yet off the stage she is the most insecure woman I have ever met," says her ex-lover Jim Albright.

While the picture of her mother offers a glimpse at the paradox that is Madonna, so, too, does another old black-and-white photograph that hangs on the wall in her children's nursery - this is a portrait of her father, Tony Ciccone, and a young Madonna. Just as she has spent a lifetime looking for unconditional love, so, too, has she spent years seeking her father's approval. She remains at heart the little girl continually trying to win over her father, searching for love and acceptance, while rejecting his conformist lifestyle, as a company man working in the defense industry. She is also repelled and attracted by Roman Catholicism, and her father remains a devout Catholic.

While shock and sensation have been Madonna's handmaidens in her success as a cheerleader for controversy and hedonism, her father has always lived by the rules and regulations, either of his company or his church. Nowhere was this divide between them better expressed than in the publication of her controversial Sex book in October 1992. She said it was an act of rebellion against her father, the church and the world in general. Yet, predictably, when they celebrated Christmas together that year at the family home in Rochester, Michigan, it was never once mentioned.

It is not surprising, then, that her father, the man who gave Madonna the values of self-help, independence and thrift, has steadfastly refused the gifts she has offered, be it buying him a new house, a car, or the 5o acres of land in north Michigan where he now tends his award-winning vineyard. `He didn't want any part of the money because of the way she made it,' explained Madonna's former schoolfriend Ruth Dupack Young, who worked with Tony Ciccone for ten years at General Dynamics. "That was definitely the impression he gave. He made everything on his own and he didn't want to be part of her money. He is a strict Catholic who followed the rules and he found it tough when his daughter didn't. It was difficult for him at work being ragged by the other engineers. He is proud of her, but also dismayed by her. There comes a point in life when you ask yourself how much do you do just for success."

Yet it is the dynamic of her personal life, the loss of her mother, the conflict with her father, sin and religion, eroticism and romance, love and loneliness, which have informed her work and formed the bedrock of her success. More than for any other artist, her life is her art, Madonna both the painter and the canvas of that unique creation - herself.

She is the girl who wanted to rule the world but not to change it. She ended up doing a little of both. This is her story.

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