as former rapper and Madonna lover Vanilla Ice said, timeless? 'If
she were a painting, she would be an abstract by Picasso,' said Ice.
'She has so many faces.'
has she succeeded while other divas have faded away? Is Madonna truly
a diva? (What exactly makes one a diva?) And, most importantly, why
do so many people care?
new unauthorized biographies of the self-proclaimed 'Boy Toy' try
to answer those questions for us -- and more! The release of Madonna
by Andrew Morton and Goddess: Inside Madonna by Barbara Victor
gives us about 650 pages of Madonna to sort out the answer.
privy to irrelevant personal information. We learn about Madonna's
first period at age ten, a detail involving a rather unpleasant school
about her first high school lesbian encounter from both parties. We
learn about the loss of Madonna's virginity -- to the captain of the
football team in the backseat of his car -- and the medical complications
during the birth of her son Rocco.
a lot of the biographical information varies in the books -- but that
only adds to the intrigue surrounding Madonna, I guess. And, both
books feature previously unreleased photos of America's foremost diva
-- the shorter book, Madonna, contains the most pictures.
authors are no slouches when it comes to gossip. Andrew Morton, according
to the dust jacket, is 'one of the world's best-known biographers
and a leading authority on modern celebrity.' He is the author of
two other 'controversial' and sultry biographies: Diana: Her True
Story and Monica's Story.
magazine made Morton's biography the subject of a recent cover story,
which documents Madonna's past lovers, the number of which would make
even Wilt Chamberlain jealous. Barbara Victor's 'explosive' and 'extraordinary'
biography is less hyped and the cover is far less vibrant than Morton's
florescent yellow bombshell.
a traditional journalist, having covered the Middle East for various
publications for most of her career, presents Madonna in a more academic
and Victor both see Madonna as some type of timeless classical figure,
and their candor is quite humorous. Sadly, it appears they actually
believe what they write.
story of Madonna has now entered the Western canon as myth, they imply.
'As the story, which now has become a myth, goes, Madonna arrived
at La Guardia Airport in New York City from Detroit's Metro Airport
on August 16, 1978, her twentieth birthday,' writes Victor. Morton
frequently invokes the colloquialism, 'as legend has it,' elevating
gossip to grand, mythic proportions.
the story of Madonna to legend and myth is more than bad writing and
hyperbole; it gives credence to a life-story that isn't all that monumental.
has transcended her human state and become a goddess, Victor says.
'Madonna is purely and simply a goddess. She is the modern version
of Diana or Artemis with the torch in her right hand, the protector
of virgins as well as the goddess of the heart and the hunt at the
same that she is Aphrodite, the goddess of love, the more passive
and traditionally female deity.' (This puts Madonna in select company
-- Hercules is the only mortal ever to have been deified.)
however, never explains what exactly she means by describing Madonna
in this way. For instance, how is Madonna the protector of virgins?
Probably Victor just translated diva into English, but that would
require some knowledge of Latin.
sees Madonna as more of an Odysseus-like figure, the normal, girl-next-door
on an epic journey. He calls her an 'All-American' girl -- just as
Odysseus is the 'everyman' or Leopold Bloom the 'allroundman.' Morton,
unfortunately, sees Madonna's odyssey as not yet complete: 'Her journey
has only begun.'
biographical information in the two books is sometimes contradictory.
For instance, Morton says Madonna went to New York at age twenty with
hundreds of dollars, perhaps a few thousand. Victor says she went
with only $35, a notion Morton vehemently dismisses.
endorses the latter as it is much more dramatic. But Madonna also
has said she grew up poor and attended a black high school--both claims
are total fabrications. Her high school in suburban Detroit had only
one black student.
are the facts: Madonna grew up outside Detroit, Michigan in a middle-class
family. She was not poor; her father was a successful engineer. Her
mother, also named Madonna, died when little Madonna was five.
attended University of Michigan on a dance scholarship but left the
school prior to graduation to pursue fame in New York City. While
in New York, she was 'discovered' through luck and some hard work
and, thus, became very famous. That is Madonna's life sans all the
never paid any attention to Madonna, but people must, as evidenced
by the release and success of these books and Madonna's numerous chart-topping
records and singles.
the world admires Madonna's ability to cross into all types of media:
music, movies, stage, and prose. Or, maybe they are captivated by
her ability to transform from provocative 'Boy Toy' to mother of two
children with relative ease.
the public identifies with her spiritual struggle, be it with Catholicism,
Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Wicca, Shintoism, Islam,
Jewish mysticism, Scientology, Rastafarianism, Ba'hai, Tai Chi, yoga,
Feng Shui or whatever she can come up with over the weekend. She has
tried them all.
about Madonna's life is normal. Morton claims she is a sweatpants-wearing
housewife who, these days, is busy monitoring her kids TV watching
and cooking wholesome dinners. Her entire life is a staged act --
from her marriages to Sean Penn and Guy Ritchie to, sadly, her children.
now, as she claims to be the consummate mother, she is just putting
on a public relations spectacle. Who can believe she is telling the
truth when she says, 'I am much more puritanical than people think'?
There is nothing puritanical about Madonna, whether she is hitchhiking
naked or feigning masturbation with a crucifix--as she did during
her 'Like a Virgin' tour.
her recent marriage to Guy Ritchie played out like a pulpy grocery
store romance. First, she and Ritchie had their son baptized before
they were married, a strange move for a woman who (mistakenly) thinks
herself adept when it comes to Protestant or Catholic mores.
wedding was worse.
list included pop icons like Sting, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rosie O'Donnell,
Brad Pitt, and Jennifer Aniston, normal for a celebrity. She invited
some family: her father, stepmother, some siblings, and the father
of her first child. She also invited the Dalai Lama. The Lama did
not attend. He did send a telegram.
and Ritchie rewrote the traditional wedding vows, instead promising
to 'cherish, honor, and delight in family.' At the conclusion of the
wedding ceremony, the minister, Susan Brown, gave Madonna and the
groom two rolls of toilet paper, a tradition for the minister. 'Two
rolls together reminding them that their marriage should be strong
and long,' Brown told the new couple.
Madonna has garnered so much praise for so little over the last two
decades is the fault of media hungry for celebrities and a public
desperate for racy gossip.
presents a sham and pathetic wedding as some type of, as Madonna put
it, 'truly magical religious experience.' She has built her career
and fame on shameless performances and sex, a choice that has made
millions for her and her biographers.
is a selfish woman, who has focused solely on her fame. She has left
trusting friends in her wake. She manages fame well, though, and has
turned failures into successes and scandals into public relations
has the ability to spin her selfish motives into world-class altruism.
She is portrayed as a great mother and a lover of children -- caring,
tender, and motherly.
she had kids, she would visit children's hospitals and perform miracles
that exceed even a doctor's most optimistic projections. Morton gives
us a riveting scene of Madonna in action.
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.
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 is room and joshed: 'Hey, get out of bed.
do you think you are?'
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.'
of coming across as compassionate, this scene seems somewhat sickening.
It's shameless. Madonna's intentions may have been good, but the scene
goes too far. What if Richard Nixon, in his Checkers speech, had used
a dying child instead of a dog?
is portrayed as a veritable miracle worker, but that she has probably
killed more children than she has helped is glossed over.
Victor writes, '[Madonna's] love of children is the one area of her
life where she has always been sincere.' Yet, Madonna has had numerous
abortions, including one between the births of her daughter and her
abortion is only one of many--most were from her early career. 'Back
then, there was no limit to the possibilities of whose baby she aborted,'
said one acquaintance of Madonna. Madonna only loves children when
it is prudent -- good for publicity or time for an image change. Otherwise,
children are expendable like band members or managers.
characteristics of the new, improved maternal Madonna are hard to
find. At one recent concert, Madonna wore a shirt that said 'MOTHER'
on the front.
the audience must have thought: Madonna has changed. Then she turned
around, and the crowd saw her back. 'F-CKER,' the shirt said. Same
it exactly maternal to pay off a father to abandon all claims of custody
of a child. Madonna paid Carlos Leon, a man she met jogging and wanted
to meet because he had nice sunglasses, one million dollars to do
just that. Leon is an aspiring actor--he had a cameo role in the Big
Lebowski--and the father of Lourdes, Madonna' daughter.
all Madonna's moral and ethical faults, it is to her credit that her
career has lasted as long as it has. She has repeatedly starred in
box-office failures like Body of Evidence and made appearances
in pseudo-artistic porno flicks, yet she continues to persevere and
garner more lucrative roles.
been practically booed off the stage in some of her live theatrical
performances, yet she comes back for more.
a fool of herself when she published her perverted and deviant Sex
book that showed her in variety of strange, to put it mildly, poses.
behind these gaffes is a woman who is determined to be successful
in show business. Also, she has avoided the problem of drugs and alcohol
to which so many of her peers succumbed.
has been prime real estate in the music industry since 1982, yet she
had never been known for the quality of her music.
she took voice lessons for her role in Evita could she manage more
than a shrill whine into the microphone. She managed to sell millions
of albums with sultry music videos and peepshow stage antics. Even
Jacques Chirac considers himself a fan.
she has managed to sustain a successful business. Her record company
Maverick has signed numerous artists, like Alanis Morrisette, who
would go on to sell millions of albums.
is now forty-three years old and a mother of two small children. She
still sees herself as an international star and sex symbol. Her current
rivals in the music industry are teenagers: Christina Aguilera, Britney
Spears, and others. Is there something wrong with this picture?
is getting old. She is beginning to look old. Some of the books's
exclusive photos are a testament to this. She cannot go on prancing
around on stage half-naked in clothes that would embarrass even the
most flamboyant teenagers.
sell for twenty-somethings, but Madonna is approaching the half-century
mark. For her own reputation, Madonna should stop before she really
that seems unlikely.