Madonna has just given her most revealing interview for years. It was done for an Australian TV station and will probably never be shown over here. And this is what happened.
Ihe first thing you see is a close-up of Madonna’s face smiling. Then she lets out the most enormous belch, says “Hi. I’m Madonna” and bursts into hysterical laughter. Most odd. Then she starts talking about love:
“I guess you know when you’re in love when you finally decide that you want to make sacrifices for somebody else, and you want to give something up for somebody else, you don’t lust concentrate on yourself. Like the love that parents have for their children…” she turns and calls for her father, “…Dad…!”
Oddly her father, a man who has obviously given very few fashion tips to one of the most famous celebrities in the universe, does appear. He perches himself on the end of the sofa and the following conversation ensues.
“Madonn,” he says. “I think it’s time we get going here.”
“Get going where, Daddy?” asks Madonna in a little-girl voice.
“We got to go,” he repeats. “We got some homework to do… things to do.”
“Dad! I graduated from high school… points out Madonna, quite sensibly. She holds her head in her hands.
“But you’re pretending…” he interrupts.
“…twelve years ago,” she continues, before questioning his last statement. “Pretending what?”
“You’re pretending that you’re a movie star and you’re really not.” explains her father.
“I am a movie star,” she cries out petulantly.
The camera cuts to her talking about bunking off Sunday church when she was younger.
“Once we got older,” she says. “and we could drive ourselves, my father… um, my parents (her father and stepmother). …would go to the earlier Mass and we’d say we were going to go to the later one. We’d all get in the car together and we’d go down to the doughnut shop and then we’d go to the church and pick up a flyer (i.e. a leaflet) like we’d been there. you know, and we’d make up something that the priest said during the sermon… I think my father knew all along that we were lying…”
“Well. I don’t think she lied to me but…” says her father.
“Dad!” she exclaims. “You’re lying right now…” She picks a cushion off the sofa and swings it quickly round into her father’s stomach. He finds this rather funny and starts giggling.
“She probably did,” he concedes. “Most kids do.”
“He’s so loyal,” purrs Madonna. “He won’t say anything bad about me.”
That is the last we see of Sylvio Ciccone (known to his friends as Tony) until the very end of the interview when there is a piece of film from Madonna’s 1985 Virgin Tour video, At the end of “Material Girl”, a voice booms out over the music:
“Madonna! You come off that stage this instant!” he bellows.
“Daddy,” she asks. “is that you?”
“You’re coming home with me now, little lady.”
“But Daddy. I’m having a good time…”
“You heard what I said…”
And with that the real Mr Ciccone appears and pulls her off the stage.
Most odd. For the rest of the interview Madonna just chats away, about this, that and everything. For instance:
“The thing is, if my father hadn’t been strict I wouldn’t be who I am today. I think… I think that his strictness taught me a certain amount of discipline that has helped me in my life and my career and also made me work harder for things, whether for acceptance or the privilege to do things.”
Fighting for Mr Ciccone’s Affection
“You know my nickname in my family was The Mouth. When you’re from a big family everybody’s really competitive with each other, so aside from lust screaming really loud and doing things that got me attention like… we would all get in various kinds of trouble to get my father’s attention and then be punished accordingly. I was really competitive in school with my grades and stuff because my father used to give us rewards if we got ‘A’s on our report cards. So it was my goal to get the best report cards all the time. It wasn’t so much that I was interested in learning, it was more that I was interested in getting the best grades and getting the most… my father gave us 25 cents (about 17p in real money) for every ‘A’ that we got so I wanted to earn the most amount of money. I wanted to be the envy of my brothers and sisters.”
“Everyone in the family studied a musical instrument. My father was really big on that. Somehow I only took about a year and a half of piano lessons and I convinced my father to let me take dancing lessons instead, so I escaped the dreariness of piano lessons every day which I despised. But there was always music in our house, either records or the radio or someone singing in the bathtub… noise. Lots of noise.”
The Video for “Express Yourself”
This one I’ve had the most amount of input. I oversaw everything – (she makes a list on her fingers) – the building of the sets, everyone’s costume, I had meetings with make-up and hair and the cinematographer… everybody.
Casting, finding the right cat – just every aspect. Kind of like making a little movie. We basically sat down and just threw out every idea we could possible conceive of and of all the things we wanted, all the imagery we wanted… and I had a few set ideas, for instance the cat and the idea of Metropolis (Metropolis is a ‘celebrated’ 1926 German film futuristic fantasy in which society combines fancy technology with slave-like working conditions: the original film is, spook fact fans, now owned by Queen and scenes from it appeared in their video for ‘Radio Ga-Ga’). I definitely wanted to have that influence, that look on all the men – the workers, diligently, methodically working away. David (the director)’s idea for the cat to, like, lick the milk and then pour it over… it’s great but believe me I fought him on that. I didn’t want to do it, I thought it’s just so over the top and silly and kind of cliched, an art student or a film student’s kind of trick. I’m glad that I gave into him.
“The ultimate thing behind the song is that if you don’t express yourself, if you don’t say what you want, then you’re not going to get it. And in effect you are chained down by your inability to say what you feel or go after what you want.”
“Lots of times Pat Leonard will come up with a piece of music like ‘Oh Father’ – we did very little to change it musically – he throws the music at me and I just listen to it over and over again. And somehow the music suggests words to me and I just start writing words down. Other times I will come to Pat with an idea for a song, either lyrically or emotionally and say ‘Let’s do something like this’ or I’ll have a melody line in my head which I will sing to him and he will sort of pound out the chords. It takes a lot longer to do it that way because I don’t play an instrument but ultimately it’s a lot more personal. Then with Steve Bray its the same thing. Sometimes he’ll come up with a track and he’ll have a verse and chorus but he won’t have a bridge (the bit in a song between the verse and the chorus) so we’ll write the bridge musically together.”