In her eight-year rise from disco-pop contender to
international multimedia legend, Madonna has never failed to
incite fascination and controversy with one hit record, one
sensational video, one mediocre movie after another. One of
the first pop stars made by and for MTV, she titillated
viewers with her bare belly button and her boy-toy belt
buckle. She also made the word "virgin" not only
speakable but unavoidable in teen-girl parlance.
feminists by putting the choice back in pro-choice with her
song about teenage motherhood, "Papa Don't Preach"
-- and then in concert used the song to chide the Pope for
opposing birth control. Her "Like a Prayer" video,
in which she seduces a black saint and ends up with dripping
stigmata, scared Pepsi into canceling the commercial it had
paid her $5 million to do.
She endured a
stormy, highly publicized marriage to and divorce from
photophobic actor Sean Penn. Then her public escapades with
comedian Sandra Bernhard courted rumors that the two were
having a lesbian affair. During her Blond Ambition tour, she
was threatened with arrest in Toronto for masturbating
onstage. When MTV banned her "Justify My Love"
video, depicting a pansexual orgy in a Paris hotel room, she
went on ABC's Nightline to, well, justify her love of
You ain't seen
nothin', though, until you've seen Truth or Dare, her
documentary film. Salacious tidbits from the film, shot during
the Blond Ambition tour, became conversation pieces weeks in
advance of its opening: Here's Madonna reminiscing about the
childhood girlfriend who finger-fucked her, there's Madonna
bluntly asking one of her dancers if he's ever taken it up the
ass and then watching open-mouthed while two others act our
her dare to tongue-kiss each other.
Not the least of
the film's groundbreaking aspects is its perspective on gay
culture. It's hard to think of another film about a nongay
subject in which the presence of gay people is not only normal
and accepted but treasured. Of her seven dancers, all are
ethnic minorities, and all but one are gay. Madonna clearly
identifies with them, camping and partying and flirting with
them freely. The film shows her lead dancers, Jose Guitierez
and Luis Camacho, communing with Queer Nation at a gay pride
march in New York; the film also records the tension that
arises from the homophobia of straight dancer Oliver Crumes.
But Madonna's attitude toward her supporting cast -- not to
mention her then-lover Warren Beatty, manager Freddy DeMann,
and her backstage crew -- is less than saintly. She manages to
be generous and condescending, nurturing and narcissistic in
the same breath.
doesn't really get Madonna. She doesn't fit any past models of
Hollywood stardom. She belongs to the first generation of
video babies, the generation of what New Yorker writer George
W. S. Trow calls "the cold child," formed by the
false cheerfulness, the pseudo-intimacy, the corrupt smiles of
television. The sensibility is scattershot and postliterate.
It combines an infinitesimal attention span with an
instantaneous absorption of visual information; a picture is
worth a thousand books.
attention span and her ability to withstand barrages of
computer-age information make her uniquely unafraid of
contradiction. In fact, in true postmodern fashion, she is
drawn to complexity, contradiction, and ambiguity over
harmony, clarity, and simplicity. And she embraces a
fragmented wardrobe of personas (Bitch, Little Girl,
Vulnerable Love-Seeker) rather than a false, integrated
personality. Truth or Dare is the first movie to capture this
quality of Madonna's, and until Hollywood understands it, her
future in movies will probably remain uncertain.
The gay world,
of course, gets Madonna in a big way. Among Madonnaholics, the
intensity of engagement is sometimes breathtaking. Performance
artist Karen Finley has even turned her name into an
adjective. "All women," says Finley, "should be
as Madonna as possible."
The love affair
is mutual. "Effeminate men intrigue me more than anything
in the world," she told Vanity Fair. "I see them as
She has lost
many gay friends to AIDS, including her first dance teacher
Christopher Flynn, former roommate Martin Burgoyne, artist
Keith Haring, and filmmaker Howard Brookner. She has done
numerous AIDS fund-raisers (the Hollywood premier of Truth or
Dare will benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles, and the New York
premiere will benefit the American Foundation for AIDS
She has long
been gay-positive both privately (she helped bankroll the Los
Angeles run of drag artist John Epperson's I Could Go on
Lip-synching!) and publicly (she received one of this year's
Media Awards April 21 from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance
Against Defamation). And she had no qualms about being
interviewed for The Advocate.
took place at her house in the Hollywood Hills section of Los
Angeles one afternoon in March between rehearsals for her
appearance on the Academy Awards show. Madonna lives at the
end of a twisty-turny road in the Hollywood Hills. It's not
the baronial estate one might expect to house a woman who
Forbes estimates has earned $125 million in the last five
years. A friend accurately describes it as the L.A. equivalent
of an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It has
the provisional feel of many Hollywood stars' homes. Yes,
there's the patio, the pool, the spectacular view. But the
interior seems art-directed rather than designed for living.
White orchids float in crystal bowls throughout the house.
Massive square columns separate a hallway work space from the
living room, whose heavy, brocade-covered furniture makes the
room feel stiff and uncomfortable, a place for Sunday
everybody feels more relaxed hanging out in the kitchen, with
its library-style magazine rack, dining table with banquette,
and never-empty bowl of popcorn. Madonna's brother Anthony, a
friendly guy with long hair and two pierced ears, is visiting
for a couple of weeks from New York, where he works in film
production. Her assistant Melissa Crow (also known as
"Baby M") makes coffee and works the phones, while
her publicist, Warner Bros. Records' Liz Beth Rosenberg (who's
been called "the most quoted woman in America"),
crochets and pores over the fruits of the latest photo
session. With evident reluctance Madonna abandons this cozy
nest for the formality of the living room and the interview.
Madonna exudes less glamour than one might expect of someone
so careful about her image. Today her hair is in disarray --
an inch and a half of dark roots showing underneath a blond
dye job turning sickly yellow -- though her makeup is perfect.
She's wearing a black lace bodysuit with something else black
pulled over it and lots of jewelry.
Later in the
day, at a screening of Truth or Dare attended by "the
suits" (agents, studio heads, record company executives,
and a few celebs and colleagues), Madonna shows up in a
hideous calf-length black smock dress and black boots that
make her look like a little girl playing dress-up. It maybe
that she's indulging in the latest fashion trend, the one
Allure magazine calls "Deliberately Dowdy." Or
perhaps she's simply pregnant with her next look. In any case,
her appearance reflects the restlessness and surprising
fragility that runs through the interview.
herself in front of the plate-glass window on the oddest piece
of furniture in the room, a bench with no back. It's designed
so that anyone on the sofa can see the patio, the pool, and
the spectacular view. But it also allows her to lie down and
gaze at the best thing in the room, a lush Langlois panting of
Diana, Cupid, and Endymion (all nude) that's mounted on the
made no effort to hide her lack of enthusiasm to talk to the
press, she was a dream to interview. She never declared
anything "off-the-record" (although she did call the
next morning requesting that The Advocate not print the
astonishing title of the song she's supposed to be writing
with Michael Jackson). [Note: It was "In the
Closet."] She answered every question without
hesitation. And in true Madonna fashion, what she said was
often...well, see for yourself.
What do you see
when you look at the movie Truth or Dare? Describe that woman.
I see a huge
paradox in me -- the intense need to be loved and the search
for approval juxtaposed with the need to nurture other people,
to be the mother I never had. I didn't realize how matriarchal
I am, how maternal I am, until I watched this movie.
Did you have
other documentary films in mind as models?
we were going to do a concert film, because I was really proud
of what I'd done on the stage, and I thought, I wish I could
capture this on film. But as I started working with the
people, what really interested me were the relationships that
were developing between me and the dancers and everybody
around. We watched the footage of all the backstage stuff in
Japan when I started the tour, and I said, "I couldn't
give a shit about the live show. This is life! This is what I
want to document."
Who had bigger
balls in making this movie, you or Alek Keshishian [director
of Truth or Dare]?
He certainly had
the balls to stand up to me, which is fairly difficult. I
said, "You have to know that I'm going to want to throw
you out of the room. You have to be willing to say no."
And he did. That requires fairly large balls. But in the end
he can hide behind the camera. I can't My life is splayed out
for the world to see. I have to take credit for having the
larger balls in this situation.
things staged or hyped-up for the movie?
Yes, they were.
For instance, we did say, "OK, Pedro Almodovar is going
to throw this party for me. We're going to mike the tables and
film all this." I can't exactly say "staged,"
because I contend that I would have done the same thing
whether the camera was there or not.
anything you cut at the last minute that you felt was just too
There's a lot of
stuff with Warren that I cut out -- there were phone
conversations I thought were really moving and touching and
revealing, but Warren didn't know we were recording. It wasn't
fair, plus it's a federal offense. He, more than anybody, was
reluctant to be filmed. Ultimately I don't think he respected
what I was doing or took it seriously. He just thought I was
fucking around, making a home movie.
Of the stuff
that's in the movie, was there any pressure from anywhere to
cut certain scenes?
Listen, almost anything that you squirmed in your seat about
was something that people wanted to cut -- from the
confrontation with my girlfriend who finger-fucked me to my
talking about my brother's alcoholism to the truth-or-dare
game where the two guys are kissing. My agency is freaking out
because I do that [sticking her finger in her mouth as if to
vomit] after Kevin Costner leaves the dressing room, 'cause
Kevin Costner is like this big hero and everything. But, I
mean, come on: people rip me to shreds every chance they get,
and I can take it, so he should be able to take it.
pushing the envelope with this movie.
It's the next
step after "Justify My Love." What am I supposed to
do now? I know that I'm a political person. It excites me to
be a political person. I'm incensed by the prejudices in the
world, and if I can do something with my celebrity to make
people see things that ordinarily they may not pay attention
to, then I feel responsible to do it. But I want to have fun
while I'm doing it.
Is it true your
manager was nervous about the movie because the dancers are
That's what they
said in Vanity Fair. My manager was nervous about everything.
It shows me being bitchy to people and cold. But I set out to
make a movie about myself, so I wasn't going to cut out parts
of myself. I said, "Freddy, they already think I'm a cunt
bitch, they already think I'm Attila the Hun. They already
compare me to Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein."
appalled at any especially unattractive behavior you saw?
No, I was never
appalled by myself. I felt a little bit uneasy about certain
things. But honestly -- and I know this sounds really corny --
I've learned to love myself more through this movie and to see
that in the midst of all my ambition and desire to succeed and
my search for approval, I do give things to people. I bring
some sort of happiness to their lives. So I'm not so hard on
balls, in the movie you're very emasculating to a lot of the
men -- your manager, your boyfriend, all the dancers, poor
Now look, you only take balls away from people when they give
them to you.
You call Warren
"pussy man," you call your dancers "queens on
They are! They
are! Warren is a pussy, and they are queens on the rag
sometimes! Those guys were the biggest bitches I ever met!
They were impossible. They are what they are. When I say
"pussy" you know what I mean. He's a wimp.
Do you enjoy
playing that role of castrating bitch?
enjoy expressing myself, and if I think someone's being a
pussy, I say it.
anything that was absolutely sacred that could not be filmed?
I had a really
nice reunion with my grandmother. She was so old and so sick.
I thought she would be frightened to death if we turned the
cameras on. That was the only time I said, "You just
Have you always
had a prayer circle with the musicians before going on?
I noticed that
you're the only one who gets to talk in the prayer circle.
I'm the boss.
And I understand
that in their contract, the dancers had to agree that they
could not talk to the press without permission.
Don't lump that
together with the prayer. Everyone that is employed by me
signs a privacy contract, from my maid to a backup singer.
It's a way of protecting myself before I get to know people
and know that I can trust them.
So you get to
"express yourself," but they don't?
No, they get to
express themselves. They're all dancers and singers and
whatever. They are all free to go out in the world and have
their own careers and express themselves. But I wouldn't want
them to exploit me. As far as the prayer goes, let's face it,
we had a certain amount of time before we went onstage, and,
honestly, I will take credit for being the most eloquent
person in the group. If I let all of them have a chance to say
a prayer, we would have been there for four fours.
In the movie,
the one straight dancer, Oliver, is used on the one hand as an
emblem of homophobia, in his reaction to the gay dancers, and
on the other hands he has a certain amount of authority
because he speaks in the movie and the others don't. Why was
There was a lot
of tension not only because he was homophobic but also because
the other dancers were jealous. They thought that he was like
a mama's boy, that I spent too much time with him. The fact
is, I spent too much time with all of them. I totally spoiled
Jose and Luis in unbelievable ways. It's disgusting when I
think about it. They could have come in and asked me for
anything, and I would have given it to them. It went back and
forth. When I was with Oliver, Jose and Luis and all of them
would say all these nasty things: "There goes mama's
boy." Then Oliver would say, "Did you take the girls
shopping? Did you buy them their purses?" That kind of
thing. All this jealousy. They all wanted the same thing: my
The other thing
is Luis and Jose and Slam [Sallim "Slam" Gauwloos]
and Carlton [Wilborn] have built-in antennas to nightclubs. As
soon as we got into a town, they knew where the clubs were,
and they were out all night. We would schedule interviews, and
Luis and Jose were constantly fucking us over and not showing
up or oversleeping because they were always partying. Oliver
was always where we could find him. That's why we got so much
footage of him.
Like a good
little mama's boy.
Oliver came from a completely different world. He came from
the world of Compton, Bell Biv Devoe, all those boys that hang
out together and wish they were M.C. Hammer. Everybody else
had a certain camaraderie with each other and related to each
other, I'm sure because they were gay. I think Oliver almost
felt persecuted because he was straight. You know?
Do you think
there was poetic justice in that?
Absolutely! I know he learned something from it, even though
his homophobic behavior is probably gonna piss a lot of people
off. Like anybody who is homophobic, it's fear of the unknown.
He didn't have any choice but to allow himself to look at it.
I keep telling Michael Jackson, "I'd love to turn Jose
and Luis on you for a week." They pull you out of the
shoe box you're in. Anybody who's in a shoe box in the closet
cannot be in one after hanging around with Luis and Jose. Or
me, for that matter.
I have this
whole vision about Michael. We're considering working on a
song together. I would like to completely redo his whole
image, give him a Caesar -- you know, that really short
haircut -- and I want to get him out of those buckly boots and
all that stuff. What I want him to do is go to New York and
hang out for a week with the House of Extravaganza [a group
of voguers]. They could give him a new style. I've already
asked Jose and Luis if they would do it. They're thrilled and
ready. I said, "Could you give this guy a make-over for
me?" because I think that's really what he needs.
Is he up for it?
I don't know.
He's up for a couple of things that surprise me. We're writing
a song together. The thing is,
I'm not going to get together and do some stupid ballad or
love duet -- no one's going to buy it, first of all. I said,
"Look, Michael, if you want to do something with me, you
have to be willing to go all the way or I'm not going to do
it." He keeps saying yes.
Let's go back to
balls. Who turned you on to vogueing in the first place?
I went to the
Sound Factory with my girlfriend Debi M. because I wanted to
go dancing. At the time I was trying to visualize things for
my show, and I was hanging around a lot of clubs -- watching
different styles, looking for dancers. I don't like the people
who go to class all the time; they're really boring dancers. I
was just looking for some street dancers, you know, and when I
saw Jose and Luis dancing, I was completely blown away by
them. I was afraid to approach them.
Debi told me
there was this guy named Luis Ninja who's a spokesperson for
the House of Extravaganza. I asked to meet him, and it was
hysterical. This guy shows up at my hotel room in New York
with a suit on and a briefcase. he got this deejay friend to
open another club in the afternoon, brought the whole House of
Extravaganza, and they performed for me. They had the lights
going, this music pumping. It was just the best dancers you've
ever seen, and they were all freestyling. I didn't know where
to look. I was blown away.
I chose Jose and
Luis because I thought they were the strongest performers. I
invited them to come to the auditions, because I wanted to see
them dance in other styles. Luis came, and Luis will try
anything. He was not so great at everything, but he was
willing to try it, and I loved him for that. Jose wouldn't do
a goddamned thing. Jose sat in the back with his hands on his
hips. That's what I mean about a queen on the rag. He was
just, like, "The fuck I will." So of course I loved
him for that. I thought, Now this guy has balls.
Tell me your
whole history of working with gay people.
I'd say that
after my father, the most powerful, important relationship of
my life was with Christopher Flynn, who was my ballet teacher,
who was gay. I didn't understand the concept of gay at that
time. I was probably 12 or 13 years old. All I knew was that
my ballet teacher was different from everybody else. He was so
alive. He had a certain theatricality about him. He made you
proud of yourself, just the way he came up to me and put my
face in his hand and said, "You are beautiful." No
one had woken up that part of me yet. I was too busy being
repressed by my Catholic father.
By the time I
was 15 or 16, he took me to my first gay club to go dancing.
I'd never been to a club. I'd only been to high school dances,
and no guys would ever ask me to dance, because they thought I
was insane, so I'd just go out and dance by myself.
They thought you
Yes. In school
and in my neighborhood and everything, I felt like such an
outsider, a misfit, a weirdo. And suddenly when I went to the
gay club, I didn't feel that way anymore. I just felt at home.
I had a whole new sense of myself.
Until that point
I kept seeing myself through macho heterosexual eyes. Because
I was a really aggressive woman, guys thought of me as a
really strange girl. I know I frightened them. I didn't add up
for them. They didn't want to ask me out. I felt inadequate
around them, and I felt not beautiful, and I felt like I could
never fit in with the prom queens and the cheerleaders and the
perfect girls that all went out with the football players. You
know what I mean? I was really down on myself. When
Christopher introduced me to this life, I suddenly thought,
That's not the only way that I have to be. I felt that my
behavior was accepted around him.
How did your
father feel about your going to gay clubs?
My father didn't
know. At the time he would have freaked out.
How did your
Catholic background prepare you for meeting gay people and
hanging out with gay people?
didn't talk about gay life in the Catholic Church. They barely
talked about sex. So I didn't see it as something I was
supposed to be wary of or afraid of. All I knew was I was
attracted to Christopher and his life-style. I fell in love
with him and the way he treated me. I started spending a lot
of time with dancers, and almost every male dancer that I knew
was gay. Then I went through another kind of feeling
inadequate because I was constantly falling in love with gay
men. of course, I was so miserable that I wasn't a man.
Do you feel you
consciously incorporated elements of gay culture in your work?
conscious, it just happened. My brother Christopher's gay, and
he and I have always been the closest members of my family.
Did you always
know he was gay?
It's funny. When
he was really young, he was so beautiful and had girls all
over him, more than any of my other brothers. I knew something
was different, but it was not clear to me. I just thought, I
know there are a lot of girls around, but I don't get that he
has a girlfriend. He was like a girl-magnet. They all seemed
incredibly fond of him and close to him in a way I hadn't seen
men with women.
I'll tell you
when I knew. After I met Christopher, I brought my brother to
my ballet class because he wanted to start studying dance. I
just saw something between them. I can't even tell you exactly
what. But then I thought, Oh, I get it. Oh, OK. He likes men
too. It was this incredible revelation, but I didn't say
anything to my brother yet. I'm not even sure he knew. He's
two years younger than me. He was still a baby. I could just
How did your
family feel about your brother being gay?
My father's very
old-fashioned, traditional, grew up in that macho Italian
world. I know he's probably not really comfortable with it. He
doesn't treat my brother any differently than all of us, but I
know that there's an unspoken thing where Christopher doesn't
feel like he's accepted by my father. All of my other brothers
and sisters certainly accept it. God knows what my father
accepts in my life, you know what I mean? My father is a very
silent man. He keeps a lot inside.
I feel like I'm
always working with gay men. For some reason that's who I have
the most camaraderie with. I don't really know why. I think,
on the one hand, I feel their persecution. They are looked at
as outsiders, so I relate to that. On the other hand, I feel
that most gay men are so much more in touch with a certain
kind of sensitivity that heterosexual men aren't allowed to be
in touch with, their feminine side. To me they're whole human
beings, more so than most of the straight men that I know.
You have a huge
gay following, as I'm sure you know. What do you think you say
to gay people? What message do they get?
I am a
high-visibility person, and I know that they know that I'm
completely compassionate about their choice in life, their
life-style, and I support it. To have a person like me saying
that is helpful to them. They appreciate that. But maybe there
are other things. You say "tribal" -- maybe I want
to say "primal." I don't really know. A lot of the
issues I deal with are sexual, and I'm constantly trying to
challenge the accepted ways of behaving sexually. Maybe they
What do teenage
kids from Middle America think when they see men dancing
together or wearing bullet bras? Are they digesting these
They digest it
on a lot of different levels. Some people will see it and be
disgusted by it, but maybe they'll be unconsciously aroused by
it, maybe they'll be unconsciously challenged by the idea of
men in women's lingerie. Then there are people who see it and
are amused by it, see the irony of it, see things that maybe
frightened them before and know that it's not something to be
so frightened of. If people keep seeing it and seeing it and
seeing it, eventually it's not going to be such a strange
There's a long
tradition of singer-goddesses with gay followings: Judy
Garland, Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross. You're now part of
that. What do you think makes that type of woman attractive to
A lot of people
saw Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland as persecuted and tragic
and vulnerable, and I think a lot of gay men feel that way
because of their particular predicament in society and not
being accepted completely.
You keep coming
back to this Marilyn imagery, and it's hard to tell whether
it's a mask of vulnerability you put over your steel-plated
heart or whether you think of her as a role model for
It's not that I
think of her as a role model, but she was made into something
not human in a way, and I can relate to that. Her sexuality
was something everyone was obsessed with, and that I can
relate to. And there were certain things about her
vulnerability that I'm curious about and attracted to.
But I don't see
myself as Marilyn Monroe. I'm almost playing with her image
and turning it around. It's the idea of using imagery people
understand but having a different message. What I'm saying is
not what she was saying.
What is the
different lives. I don't claim to know her, and I can barely
believe most of what's been written about her. I know how
untruthfully people write about you and how it ends up being
about one thing and not a million things, which is what a
person's made up of. But the impression that I get is, she
didn't know her own strength and didn't know how to nurture it
and wasn't surrounded by nurturing people. I don't have an
addictive personality. I don't drink a lot and take pills a
lot and try to make myself forget my life, because I love my
life. So there's that.
So you're seeing
the vulnerability and erotic sadness she projects as a good
thing, a female strength and not a weakness?
with it as a role, as a mask, as if to say "There's power
Yes, there is
power. I take it one step further and say, "Now what if
it was done this way? And then what if I put the mask
I heard this
story that when you and Sean Penn were engaged, you were on
the phone one day with David Geffen, and he said,
"Madonna, I was going to go straight for you," and
Sean said, "David, I was going to go gay for you."
I can imagine
it. David's always saying things like that to me.
What do you
think about outing?
what they're doing. I understand why they're doing it. I'm not
exactly sure if it's the most productive way to do it. It
would be so helpful for the straight community to see men in
powerful positions coming out and saying "I'm gay"
so they don't have these preconceived notions that all gay men
are smarmy idiots living on the street or whatever it is
people think of gay men. I think it would be really helpful
and productive. I'm not sure everybody else coming out and
going "He's gay, he's gay, and he's gay" is going to
What do famous
people really have to lose by being known as gay?
I'm not really
sure. Maybe they think, if they're the head of a big
corporation or the head of a studio or the head of a record
label, that people will boycott them or try to get them fired
from their positions. I'm not sure. Maybe all these queens who
are running this town should come right out, and maybe they'd
all see that it wasn't such a horrible thing. Certainly
everybody in the Hollywood community knows who the gay people
are and who aren't. I think the gay community has come a long
way, but AIDS has set everybody back, in a way. It gave
everyone a reason to point their finger at the gay community
and say "See, you are horrible, dirty things." Maybe
it pushed everybody back in their closet. I don't know.
Why is the music
industry so homophobic?
going to be when I get finished with them.
Do you think
Geffen's coming out will make a difference?
I think it'll
help. Maybe when people realize that he's not going to be
assassinated in the town square, other people will do the
same. What I really wish would happen from Truth or Dare is
that movies would be made about gay life-styles that wouldn't
be these art-house movies like Longtime Companion that nobody
saw. Which leads me to this book that I want to make into a
movie. Have you see this? [Holding up a copy of Giovanni's
Room by James Baldwin.] It's incredible. What I hope is --
maybe I'm being too idealistic -- that my movie changes things
in Hollywood in that direction.
anything, it's slow progress, two steps forward, one step
back. Even though I dealt with some other-than-heterosexual
themes in "Justify My Love," unfortunately some
people just saw it in a superficial way and didn't really want
to deal with it.
Deal with what?
themes in it. It wasn't just about me. It's about life, about
human nature. I think everybody has a bisexual nature. That's
my theory. I could be wrong.
Are you as kinky
personally as your image makes you seem?
Well, what do
you mean by kinky? I mean, I am aroused by two men kissing. Is
that kinky? I am aroused by the idea of a woman making love to
me while either a man or another woman watches. Is that kinky?
Also, just because I'm presented life in a certain way doesn't
mean I do all these things. It's just something I choose to
How do you feel
I'm not really
interested in dildos.
How about sex
toys of any kind?
No. I like the
human body. I like flesh. I like things that are living and
breathing. And a finger will do just fine. I've never owned a
vibrator, if that's what you want to know.
Tell me about
your boyfriend Tony Ward. Is it true he has an ass you can
serve drinks off of?
Well, I've never
been served a drink off his ass. But he does have a great ass.
How big is his
I don't know. I
haven't measured it, but it's big enough for me.
Does size matter
Do you used a
strap-on with Tony?
No. I don't know
where that story came from.
How did you feel
about his having posed nude for gay magazines?
Well, I sort of
felt camaraderie. He had these pictures done when he was
really young and needed money. The same thing happened to me.
I finally felt like, "God, somebody can understand how I
felt." It didn't bother me.
Tell me about
Warren Beatty. How big is his dick?
Once again, I
haven't measured it, but it's a perfectly wonderful size.
Does he have a
gay bone in his body?
I would think
so. Yeah. God only knows how many times Tennessee Williams
tried to pick him up. He was a great beauty, and he still is a
very handsome man, but I mean just drop-dead gorgeous. I don't
know that he's ever slept with a man. He's certainly not
homophobic. I asked him once, "Would you ever sleep with
a man?" and he said he was sorry that he hadn't but that
now because of AIDS he felt it was an unsafe thing to start
Did you give him
a little safe-sex lesson when he said that?
No, I didn't.
Because, you know, if I have to give Warren Beatty safe-sex
lessons, then what is this world coming to?
Tell me about
What do you want
How big is her
Huge. It's the
biggest dick I've ever seen. Sandy's a great gal. Sandy's one
of my only girlfriends, really. She's one of the only girls
that can take me. She's a really ballsy girl. Most girls just
hide under the couch. We frighten everyone out of the room.
You were very
coy about whether you were sleeping together. What was that
Sandy and I have
always been great friends. I think in the very beginning there
was a flirtation, but I realized I could have a really good
friend in Sandra, and I wanted to maintain the friendship.
When I went on
the David Letterman show, it wasn't exactly clear how things
were going to go. But Sandy started playing up that we were
girlfriends, and I thought, Great, OK, let me go for it.
Because, you know, I love to fuck with people. Just as people
have preconceived notions about gay men, they certainly do
about gay women. So if I could be some sort of a detonator to
that bomb, then I was willing to do that. It was really fun.
Then, of course,
it went highly out of control. Everybody picked up on it, and
the question was, Are we sleeping together? It's not really
It's a little
surprising that Sandra backed away from it the way that she
did. She was more scared by that than you were.
The fact is that
Sandra sleeps with men too, and I think maybe she's trying to
find happiness in her life. Maybe she was just thinking, Can
everybody just shut up so I can find somebody to have a decent
Sandra's one of
the most open people I know. You should see her in public.
She's not trying to hide anything. I think it's ludicrous that
people are accusing her of being in the closet or ashamed of
The fact is,
she's a great friend of mine. Whether I'm gay or not is
irrelevant. Whether I slept with her or not is irrelevant. I'm
perfectly willing to have people think that I did. You know, I
do not want to protest too much. I don't care. If it makes
people feel better to think that I slept with her, then they
can think it. And if it makes them feel safer to think that I
didn't, then that's fine too.
You know, I'd
almost rather they thought that I did. Just so they could know
that here was this girl that everyone was buying records of,
and she was eating someone's pussy. So there.
So when did you
have your first sexual experience with a woman?
Probably when I
was about 7 or 8. All of my sexual experiences when I was
young were with girls. I mean, we didn't have those sleep-over
parties for nothing. I think that's really normal: same-sex
experimentation. You get really curious, and there's your
girlfriend, and she's spending the night with you, and it
Were you ever in
love with a woman?
I've had lots of
crushes. I think I've only been in love with men, because
ultimately the approval I seek is my father's.
Why do lesbians
I don't know.
Why don't you go and ask them?
How do you feel
that there are all these stars gay men adore but for the most
part gay women don't.
What about Laura
Nyro? There's k.d. lang, who's gorgeous, by the way. She looks
like Sean [Penn]. I met her, and I thought, Oh my God, she's
the female version of Sean. I could fall in love with her.
It's very rare
for there to be a star like you who equally turns on gay men
and gay women.
Well, I'm an
Is there a
difference between the people who want to brand powerful women
as lesbians to discredit them and the ones who want to claim
them for their own to validate themselves?
talking about what straight men do versus what gay women do? I
know why straight men say of powerful women, "Oh, she's a
dyke." It makes them feel safe to say, "They can't
be women who like to fuck men, because I'm intimidated by
them." I think gay women would want to claim me as their
own because I am a really strong woman. I am assertive in a
way that a lot of gay women are, and I could be a really good
mascot for them or spokesperson or something.
assertive the way gay men are.
I am. Rupert
Everett said, "The way you are with men is just like a
experiences did you have that influenced your sexuality, that
made you accept it and be aggressive about it?
I think not
having a really strong mother figure when I was very young. My
father and my older brothers influenced me a great deal. I did
what they did. I said what I wanted. I burped when I had to
burp. When I liked a boy on the playground, I chased him.
There was no one over me saying "Now, girls don't do
Did you have any
specific childhood fantasies?
You mean sexual
fantasies? I feel that my whole life is influenced by men, not
women. When my mother died, there was a period when I thought
I was the wife and mother. I'd taken over that part. I think I
had sexual fantasies about every older man who was related to
me. I didn't really discover masturbation till I was 17, 18
years old. I'd had intercourse before I understood that.
But I remember
when I was a really little girl, my favorite thing to do -- I
suppose because I was sexually aroused -- was to sit on the
toilet backward. I would just sit there, and somehow it would
relieve me. Really weird. I also liked the idea of standing
above the toilet and peeing, so what I would do is lift the
toilet seat up and straddle it and just try to aim my pee into
Do you ever feel
self-conscious when you're with a lover about living up to
your sex-goddess image?
Not at all.
How do you feel
I'm not even
sure I know what pornography is -- Playboy magazine? I look at
Playboy magazine sometimes 'cause there are some really
beautiful girls from the neck down. For some reason they're
awful-looking in the face. I don't know why that is. To me,
those traditional things that are supposed to turn people on
-- porno movies and porno magazines -- are not half as
exciting as other things.
Do you have any
feelings about feminists who are opposed to pornography?
No. I have no
feelings about them.
You said you
draw the line in terms of obscenity on TV at violence and
degradation of women.
Not just of
women, of anybody. To me, the vibe that I get from a lot of
those videos is that men are being really cruel to women. It's
an image that I've grown up with that I think is unfair. I
don't think I'm being unfair to anybody. Tony [Ward] knew what
was happening to him in the "Justify My Love" video,
fully understood it, and was into it. I'm not sure that these
girls with tit jobs do. The sexuality in my videos is all
consented to. No one's taking advantage of each other.
Maybe what I'm
saying is hypocritical. I suppose people would say, "You
emasculate men in what you do." Well, straight men need
to be emasculated. I'm sorry. They all need to be slapped
around. Women have been kept down for too long. Every straight
guy should have a man's tongue in his mouth at least once.
Where do you buy
Everywhere. [Laughing] Where do I buy my lingerie? Frederick's of
Hollywood, Neiman-Marcus, anywhere.
What do you do
with your old lingerie?
I throw it away.
What do you
think of the way George Bush is handling the AIDS epidemic?
I don't really
think he's handling it. It's not front-page news anymore, so a
lot of people think it's not something important to be dealt
How would you go
about getting Bush's attention to end the epidemic?
Well, I don't
think Bush can end the AIDS epidemic. I think it's all the
things that I'm trying to do -- to educate people and make
them realize that AIDS is not just a gay disease. Education is
the most important thing.
Benefits are a
fantastic way to raise money for care and education and so on.
But they don't have the political effect of making the White
House say, "We're going to make this our top priority, to
put someone in place to mastermind how we're going to end this
epidemic." How do you think you can use your power to do
I guess I could
run for the Senate.
Do you think
people in Hollywood can have any effect politically on the
they are obsessed with people in Hollywood. The thing is to
get people the straight community looks up to, to get them to
take a stand on things -- Tom Cruise or somebody.
Why don't these
entertainers take a stand?
For the same
reason people are afraid to come out and say they're gay, I
guess, because they think it's some kind of plague.
Unfortunately, people don't think AIDS is a really big deal
until someone close to them gets it.
I wish Kevin
Costner would be as interested in the AIDS community as he is
in Indians. It would really be helpful.
everybody chooses the things that are important to them.
Unfortunately, because being gay is considered such a freak
thing in America and people are so homophobic and AIDS is
related to being gay, people are afraid to say, "I wish
President Bush would spend less money on arms and more money
on funding research to find a cure for AIDS." There just
aren't enough people doing that.
What do you
think of ACT UP [the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, a
What do you
mean, what do I think of it?
Are you fer 'em
or agin 'em?
I'm for 'em!
What did you
think of the St. Patrick's Cathedral demonstration in New York
City, where members of ACT UP disrupted a service that
Cardinal John OíConnor was giving and somebody crumpled a
just have to go in and make a mess of things to get people to
pay attention. I think they did the right thing. Iíll
probably get persecuted for saying that.
Do you have a
praying is a spiritual practice.
Do you pray
I donít count
the times I pray, but Iím aware that I do.
Would you say
that you are a practicing Catholic?
is a really mean religion, and itís incredibly hypocritical.
How could I be supportive of it as an organized religion? But
it plays a role in my life Ďcause you canít really get a
lot of things out of your head, such as what Jesus Christ
looks like and that divorce is a horrible thing.
Have you ever
had sex in a church?
No, but when I
was a little girl, I was at church by myself on a Saturday
afternoon going to confession because my father insisted. I
donít know why now. No one was there, and instead of going
out the main entrance, I went through this vestibule off to
the side with a swinging door. I opened the door a little bit,
and there was this couple standing up fucking in the church. I
thought, Oh my God! I shut the door really fast.
only sex Iíve seen in a church. Seems like a neat thing to
Itís funny how
Christianity often puts spirituality and sexuality in conflict
with each other -- if youíre sexual, you canít be
spiritual and vice versa.
Thatís what I
mean about Catholicism. Your sexual life is supposed to be
dead if youíre a good Catholic. Thatís wrong. Itís human
nature to be sexual, so why would God want you to deny your
Do you relate to
any particular saints or mythological deities?
her back and pointing to the painting on the ceiling]
Well, here we have Diana. Would you like to hear the myth of
This is painted
by Langlois, the French painter. Here we have Diana. I donít
know if itís Roman or Greek, but in one mythology sheís
goddess of the moon, in the other sheís goddess of the hunt.
She has not only the crescent moon above her head but also the
thing that holds the arrows on her back.
Yes. And this is
Hermes [meaning Endymion]. He was a very vain man. He
thought he was very beautiful, and as you can see, he is. He
said to Zeus, ďI wish I could stay beautiful forever. I
donít want to grow old. So could you give me eternal life,
keep me young forever?Ē
Zeus played a
trick on him and said, ďSure, Iíll do that for you,Ē but
he put him to sleep -- so now heís going to be beautiful
forever but asleep. And while heís lying there looking
beautiful, everyone could take advantage of him, and he
wasnít even awake to enjoy it. Thatís Cupid in the middle
between him and Diana.
So sheís about
to hop on him?
Sheís about to
go for it. And Cupid is basically saying, ďHere, take a
peek.Ē I love the idea of being goddess of the hunt. But I
donít really identify with her.
In terms of
saints, when I was confirmed I took the name Veronica as my
confirmation name because she wiped the face of Jesus. You
know, you werenít supposed to help Christ while he was on
his way to the Crucifixion; she was not afraid to step out and
wipe the sweat off him and help him. So I liked her for doing
that, and I took her name. Thereís Mary Magdalene -- she was
considered a fallen woman because she slept with men, but
Jesus said it was OK. I think they probably got it on, Jesus
and Mary Magdalene. Those are my saint heroes.
fascinating scene in Truth or Dare where you say, ďI
donít want to be the worldís greatest singer or dancer; I
want to push peopleís buttons, I want to be provocative, I
want to be political.Ē The next p word should be powerful.
How do you perceive your own power in the world?
I donít like
to think about it. Iím probably more powerful than I think,
in terms of how I can influence people.
Do you have an
Are there things
youíd like to do with your power but canít?
No. I think
ultimately Iím going to achieve the things I want to
achieve. I have to believe that, you know what I mean? Iíd
love for people not to have so many prejudices about sexual
preference and things like that.
Are you addicted to fame
and scandal? Do you constantly think, How
can I top this?
No. Iím not
addicted to scandal. I feel that Iím on a mission to educate
people. When I say ďpushing peopleís buttons,Ē I mean
really making them see things and making them feel things
theyíre not necessarily comfortable with feeling. Itís not
ďOh, I just want to be scandalous.Ē
sometimes given the impression in interviews that what youíd
really like to do is be married and wash your husbandís
thereís something to be said for a domestic life and knowing
somebodyís there for you. I just think itís hard to live
the life I lead and then have this happily married life. I
havenít been successful at it so far, but whoís to say I
I havenít met
somebody who could take all of me, ultimately, who I think is
my intellectual equal and truly understands me. Do you feel
like youíre my shrink now?
feeling that way since you decided to sprawl on your back.
I do this often
in my living room as I look at this painting, so I feel very
how did you feel about doing Speed-the-Plow on Broadway?
Oh, it was just
a painful experience I learned from. I was depressed the whole
time I was doing it because Ron [Silver] and Joe [Mantegna] had
the good parts. They were victorious in the end, and I felt
like a loser at the end of every night. I really felt my part,
you know. I also knew the critics were hovering over me like
vultures waiting to rip me to shreds. Itís horrible to go
out and do it with that feeling.
When will you do
your next Broadway play?
The next time a
good part is offered to me in a good play.
definitely doing the movie of Evita?
I think so.
Every day is a different story. Itís been plagued from the
beginning. As you know, I was going to do it, then I got fired
[by director Oliver Stone, whoís no longer involved with the
Itís a real
big production, and Hollywoodís really clamping down on
budgets these days. Glenn Caron wrote a brilliant script for
it, and you canít make Evita for the small amount of money
Disney is saying they want to make it for. They want Jeremy
Irons to play Juan. All the things they want that would make
it incredible cost money. So where do you draw the line? I
donít want it to be a mediocre rendition of Evita. It has to
be grand. Itís an epic thing. If there is an Evita, I
contend that I will be her.
What do you
think it will take to make you as good an actor as you want to
anything, the more you do it, the better you get.
multiple-choice question. If you could be another star for six
months, would you be (a) Michelle Pfeiffer, (b) Jack
Nicholson, or (c) Vaginal Creme Davis?
An LA drag
Oh. None of the
matters to you?
in love with at the time. My best friendís, my fatherís,
which Iíll never get.
Yeah, even now.
Do you use fake
names when you check into hotels?
Yes. When I was
on tour, my name for that period of time was Kit Moresby.
You were just
waiting to be kidnapped by Arabs?
Oh, God, that
book [Paul Bowlesí The Sheltering Sky] was so sexy. It was
all I could talk about. I wanted to go to Morocco and meet
Paul Bowles. Then when the movie came out, I didnít want to
be Kit Moresby anymore. Debra Winger was so wrong. Oh, it was
so wrong, so wrong. It was so unsexy. It was horrible.
Do you like to
I l-o-o-ove to
What do you
Iím reading Naked by the Window, a true story set in the art
world [about Ana Mendieta, who died in a mysterious fall from
a window, and her husband Carl Andre, who was acquitted of
murdering her]. I just finished Giovanniís Room.
I also brought
this book of Anne Sextonís poems. I worship this woman. [Holding up the
book] This is what my mother looked like. I
swear! My sister and I used to read all of her poems when we
were in high school because she looked like our mother. She
talks about death a lot and breast cancer and mothers, all
these death images that we were obsessed with. Do you read her
I love her
OK, Iím going
to read you this poem, and thatís going to be the end of our
interview. And the reason I want to read it to you is, it
explains why I made my movie. Itís called ďFor John, Who
Begs Me Not to Inquire FurtherĒ:
Not that it
but that, in
the end, there was
sense of order there;
narrow diary of my mind,
commonplaces of the asylum
or my own
And if I
to give you
outside of myself,
worst of anyone
I tapped my
glass, an inverted bowl.
It is a
to rage in
your own bowl.
At first it
Then it was
more than myself;
it was you,
or your house