Interview: Madonna Enters The (Mostly) Gay Room...

Madonna-premiere

The one and only at one of many film premieres for W.E.

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS  

GuestbloggerMADONNA ROUNDTABLE INTERVIEW
The room freezes in place. She's the first person to speak after her entrance

"Hi," she says casually, like it's Nothing. But she must know it's not. This is most definitely Something.   

"Hi everyone. It's Madonna," her publicist adds redundantly as they near the table of journalists. As if She could possibly be anyone else. Madonna shakes all of our hands (omnipresent black gloves: Check!). She repeats all of our names back to us. Madonna saying your name back to you is a strangely surreal experience, both utterly mundane and impossible. 

She has entered 'The (Mostly) Gay Room' as its been dubbed to discuss her new film W.E., since most of the journalists are with gay publications. "Cool." is her monosyllabic response. She's promised we'll put her in a good mood for the rest of the day. "Let's start with levity," she says though it sounds more hopeful than bossy.  We're all squished round a table with recorders on. Normally roundtable press functions are ruthless and noisy. The stars are barely allowed to take a breath, without someone shouting another question for fear of missing a window. This room, The (Mostly) Gay Room, is reverent. Madonna takes her time. Rarely does anyone step over her words. She answers each question methodically and slowly.

Unless she doesn't want to. 

"Please don't throw those tired clichés at me," she says when one guy dares to begin his question with 'Queen of Reinvention'. Though, once the room laughs, she does answer his question. 

MADONNA ON CHILD REARING AND "W.E." AFTER THE JUMP...

We-photo-clothes
Andrea Riseborough and James D'Arcy as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in W.E.

"Not that this has anything to do with my film," she begins, humoring the only truly off topic question which she deems interesting. How does she approach parenting when her kids are obviously growing up in entirely different circumstances than she did? "My parents raised me in a very conventional way and I rebelled against it. Now my children come to me and they often want to do things because everybody else does them and I say to them 'That's just the worst reason i've ever heard for doing something' and I encourage them to question things,to take responsibility for their behavior, to think outside the box. They will have a different set of challenges. They will be compared to me. I will be some kind of benchmark that they have to live with and deal with... We are all born into our challenges. I don't think for a second that life is going to be simple and easy for them."

She's wearing a bracelet that's much like the one Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) wears in the film. "Cartier made two bracelets -- for the film not me. They recreated them for Andrea to wear. I asked if I could have one at the end and they said 'No.'" she says, with a self-deprecating laugh. (Yes, there are people that tell Madonna 'No.') "They made this for me as a consolation prize. I got four crosses, one for each of my children. Better than nothing." 

Madonna-ontheset
Madonna and Riseborough on the set of W.E.

Her passion for the story of Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom  the King of England abdicated his throne, is evident in every answer. She has a very clear point of view and wants to counter decades of stories which always focus on what the King lost and not what Wallis herself went through. "The thing i discovered the most about Wallis Simpson was really how much she tried to avoid the actual marriage taking place. How she saw the writing on the wall. And how she tried her best to get Edward/David to see the writing on the wall and see what they were both in store for. Obviously she couldn't talk him into her point of view. He was just c**t-struck as they say in England." 

Another thing that appealed to her about the story is that each of the four principal characters are outsiders in their own worlds, their romances don't fit societal expectations, something gay audiences can surely relate to. "I think a lot of us feel like we don't fit in, strangely enough, that we don't fit into the conventional norm or what society expects of us. I think more and more and more people are redefining what makes a family, what makes a couple, what makes love, what makes romance, what are soulmates. All of these things we are reinventing this because family is what you make it." 

She researched the story for three years while writing the screenplay and though the project has wrapped people are still bringing her bits and bobs. "I'm still discovering things about her and I'm sure I will for the rest of my life. I was actually going through my papers and boxes and my files the other day and I found an astrological reading that someone had done for me 30 years ago and I was reading it and the woman was talking about some aspect of my personality and she quoted Wallis simpson. So i thought how weird. She was already part of my life. You know what I mean? That was a little foreshadowing." It's a quote she actually used in the film "all for love and the world well lost".  

Even when the questions in the room stay close to the film, it's clear the questions are also about Madonna. She's prepared for a question about the similarities between Wallis Simpson and Eva Peron, another fashionable historical icon who she'll forever be associated with.

Evita

"What they have in common is what many people have in common who are public figures who become iconic and who have some kind of historical impact. Especially strong women. I think people have a tendency to feel intimidated by the strength of these women. In order to deal with them a lot of people who write history books and humanity in general have a tendency to diminish women or undermine their accomplishments or try to portray them as heretical, evil, in possession of some kind of sorcery, to undermine their strength or accomplishments or their intelligence." Even before she's done answering the question you can see Madonna bracing for the follow up. Has she ever felt this way?

"Well, yeah sure. Of course." 

MdnaSo we're back to Madonna again. The Super Bowl is coming, her new album MDNA, W.E. is playing in movie theaters. How would she define this era in her career?

"Busy," she blurts out bluntly to the delight of the room. Most questions get full paragraph answers but she knows when one word will do. She's always been a savvy entertainer.

She's soon whisked away from us, for the next room of reporters though she pauses first, momentarily confused that we're not the ones leaving the room now that we've paid our respects. All we have left of her is our memory of that iconic face, and her voice on our electronic devices, which is not unlike what she's always left us with if you stop to think about it. This time, though, we also have a story we'll be telling until our dying day, no matter how mundane the actual specifics. "I met Madonna."  Impossible but true.

****

Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

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Comments

  1. If this article won't make you puke, nothing will.

    Self-involved, socially irresponsible, man-objectifying-and-hating straight woman spews her self-serving feminist BS and behaves like a total b!tch towards a bunch of gay men, disrespecting them and condescending towards them.......and they all eat it up and worship at her feet like little servants.

    Yes, this is exactly what is wrong with gay male culture.

    Posted by: Rick | Feb 4, 2012 10:26:40 AM


  2. Rick: take some Xanax and STFU. Only certain members of the gay community could actually take the time to hate on one of our biggest advocates over the last 30 years. Madonna has been Madonna my entire life and she has certainly contributed to moving society forward and making it more accepting. Along the way she has also provided the soundtrack to different moments in our lives. I adore her and am grateful to have Madonna our the side of progress and tolerance.

    Posted by: Jake | Feb 4, 2012 10:55:37 AM


  3. Rick,

    I don't even like Madonna, never really have, I find her abrasive and harsh and much more ambitious and tough than she is talented. That said, I certainly recognize the good things she has done in standing up for our community. You on the other hand...

    Have you ever considered that YOU might be "exactly what is wrong with gay male culture"?

    Your "b!tch!ness" and cynicism and full-on predictably acidic tone on virtually ANY subject typifies a mean spirited nastiness that does nothing but solidify the stereotype that gay male culture is filled with angry, catty, bitter queens. Count yourself among them.

    Posted by: iawl | Feb 4, 2012 11:47:16 AM


  4. As always with Rick the Three Essential Questions leap to mind: Who is she? Who WAS she? Who does she hope to be?

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Feb 4, 2012 12:05:01 PM


  5. I'm of the gay "madonna" generation, sneaking under age into gay clubs and dancing to her songs a long time before they hit the radio. I have bought all her music and probably will buy the new one.

    That said. She really has become a self aborbed *sshole. Girl you can afford the damn Cartier.

    As as an "advocate" for the gay community. Showing up to gay clubs, giving gay pubs interviews and doing a handful of PSAs on AIDS over TWO DECADES ago, does not make her a fierce advocate in any sense.

    In other words, what the hell has she done for the gay community lately? NOTHING.

    Posted by: QJ201 | Feb 4, 2012 12:23:38 PM


  6. I love Madonna. She's smart,clever, talented, successful, powerful and more -- with a 30-year career history of actions and accomplishments to back it all up. Meanwhile, bitchy queens like Rick reveal their jealousy after every story about Madonna with lame comments on towleroad and JoeMyGod. That's THEIR 15 minutes of "fame" -- and so darn pathetic.

    Posted by: William | Feb 4, 2012 12:29:32 PM


  7. I don't get what some of you think Madonna should be doing for the gay community? She's been an incredible advocate but she's not ONLY an advocate for the gay community but women, people who felt like outsiders etc. She has a life of her own and can't be expected to make every move of her career and tie it to the gay community while waving the flag in the faces of those that hate us. I almost think Lady GaGa's support comes across more as pandering than genuine where as Madonna was cool with gay decades before it was the cool thing to do. Madge I'll always love you...even if I don't like the new single

    Posted by: Sean | Feb 4, 2012 1:08:55 PM


  8. Towleroad is rapidly losing touch with the grassroots gays. We do not love Madonna as much as you think we do. Please stop the over-exposure of this minimally talented woman.

    There are tons more talented people out there whom we love. Please stop stereotyping us, Towleroad.

    Posted by: bruce | Feb 4, 2012 1:52:18 PM


  9. "one of our biggest advocates over the last 30 years"? "an incredible advocate"? Sorry to rain on these fan boi parades but that's more self-perpetuating myth than reality. So she's given the occasional shout out to gays in interviews and in her concerts, where's the beef? Specifically:

    1. Is there some huge fundraiser for gay causes she did that I'm unaware of? Other than a BRIEF period many moons ago in which she publicly referenced empathy for those with AIDS and gave a few thousand out of her gazillion dollar fortune, a sticky Mentos, and some pocket lint to an AIDS charity? she represents the kind of political vapidness any Repuglican Trust Fund Baby would applaud. Or, as the Divine Miss M once said in another context, no doubt in the words of her gay master of bon mots Bruce Vilanche: she's "vogue on the outside and vague on the inside."

    2. Has she done a gay-positive PSA? Signed a petition to Congress? Joined a protest? [I'm NOT a Gaga Queen but if popularizing a song specifically affirming sexual diversity, dedicating performances to bullied kids who killed themselves, leading a rally to end DADT, and breaking a lucrative deal with Target over their anti-gay donations is "pandering," I'll take a lot more pandering, thank you.] Though Madonna's 2008 tour to add yet more gazillions to her stash [allegedly, at the time, "the highest grossing tour of all time by a solo artist"] coincided with the battle against California Proposition 8, there is no record of her having contributed a sous to defeat it while other rich Kinsey 0s such as Brad Pitt, Steven Spielberg, and Stephen Bing...none with careers so propelled by gay adulation as MARdonna's...contributd hundreds of thousands. Allegedly the single reference she made to it throughout the pre-election portion of the tour [while anti-H8TE donations came from across the country] was during the Oakland concerts across the bridge from San Francisco. Gee, such powerful political bravado and risk taking! Not. Yes, she said in L.A. afterward it was too bad it passed. With apologies to Carole King: "too late, Baby!"


    "Biggest/incredible advocate," my ass! She represents the kind of political vapidness any Repuglican Trust Fund Baby would applaud. Or, as the Divine Miss M once said in another context, no doubt in the words of her gay master of bon mots Bruce Vilanche: she's "vogue on the outside and vague on the inside."

    Love her music, her cultural creation [and plagiarism] all you want. But seeing Madonna's gay-friendly molehills as mountains shows how little some care about themselves.

    Posted by: Michael Bedwell | Feb 4, 2012 1:53:52 PM


  10. Sean- so is it Gaga's fault that she's younger than Madonna and her career happened to pick up at a time when supporting gay rights isn't as scandalous as Madonna's era?

    Posted by: Bryan | Feb 4, 2012 2:18:26 PM


  11. What a sickening tableau: a group of gay sycophants waiting breathlessly for their queen to speak. Gay men need to look seriously at themselves and ask what is wrong with this picture and why are we still acting like emotionally immature schoolgirls.

    Posted by: Rance | Feb 4, 2012 2:34:57 PM


  12. @Rance: This is pretty typical of entertainment reporting. You should blame that industry, not gay men.

    Nathaniel practices that sort of reporting and he is certainly doing that in this piece. He wants you to feel that you are part of this scene that he sets and he invites you to bask in Madonna's glory just as the reporters were doing in this, well, it wasn't an interview so I don't know what to call it. You'll also note that he makes no reference to the generally bad reviews this movie has received. This is no different from the stuff produced by People or Entertainment Weekly.

    Posted by: Not a fan | Feb 4, 2012 2:52:18 PM


  13. She's doing something right if she can inspire this much love and hatred!

    Whether you think she's incredible or she makes you want to throw up - she's having apparently having an impact on your life!

    For some of you, it gives you a way to channel your negativity... so she definitely serves a purpose. For others, she makes them want to dance.

    Posted by: Tonic | Feb 4, 2012 3:43:05 PM


  14. Although I can't name specific dates, didn't she reference in "Truth or Dare" that the proceeds of her concert in New York was going to a Keith Herring/AIDS related charity? I also say that sometime during her "True Blue" phase I remember her doing an AIDS benefit concert... I remember it because Sean Penn was there. (This, of course, is tapping on memory of 20-plus years ago). With that, Madonna has done a fair amount for the gay community. Most of it 20+ years ago. But, like all of us, priorities and "we" change.

    Look, I agree that in many ways, Madonna has become so involved with "Madonna" that its hard to focus on what she has to say at any given time. I buy her music, watch her interviews, etc. I refuse to pay a shitload of money for her concerts recently. Its a choice I make. I've seen her three times - that is enough. I often joke that "she should pay to come see me."

    Its been really interesting reading the comments by the gay community about her aging, being a hag, etc when I can walk down the hill into the Castro and see a gaggle of 40-50 year old men acting like teenage girls. Personally, this doesn't bother me. I have had a lot of straight people tell me that they admire gay men for keeping themselves "forever young". Not just in appearance, but in spirit as well.

    Let's remember this guys. There is already too much negativity in this world, some directed at us. We should do our best to hold back and attack when we aren't being fired upon.

    My two cents.....

    Posted by: SFSCOTTIE | Feb 4, 2012 3:48:06 PM


  15. Dear Madonna, I've known your music for as long as I can remember. It made me dance, it made me think, and with Ray of Light you crafted an album that inspired me to Come Out when I was a teen.

    Thank You.

    :D

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Feb 4, 2012 3:55:30 PM


  16. I don't think people hate Madonna as a person. It's her choices that we don't like.There's a big difference.

    We don't like her choice to follow Kabbalah, a homophobic religion. We don't like her choice to use female bisexuality as a marketing ploy to appeal to homophobic straight guys. We don't like her choice to purchase airplay for her latest single. We don't like her choice to exploit gay people for their money.

    There, it's really quite simple.

    Posted by: jason | Feb 4, 2012 4:31:33 PM


  17. To those guys who say they came out to Madonna's music, are you really that superficial?

    As for the coming out process, why do men look to women like Madonna to come out? Where are your male role models? Don't you have any?

    It's truly sad, and a reflection perhaps of dysfunctionality within gay men, that you need a woman to enable your coming out process. For Pete's sake, get a male role model.

    Posted by: jason | Feb 4, 2012 4:34:37 PM


  18. Thank you for a very well written article. Felt like I was there with you.

    Imagine that. Madonna being polarizing? True sign of fame.

    Love Madge. Always have. Always will.

    Posted by: MattS | Feb 4, 2012 5:17:46 PM


  19. @JASON

    I totally agree with you when you say we should have male role models to look up to instead of disco divas. The problem is that most of the gay men on the visible media spectrum in the last decades were either bitter bitchy queens or incredibly self-destructive victim-minded souls.

    Hopefully the new generations will have more options now (NPH, Adam Lambert, Gareth Thomas)...in the meantime, we should still try to work on our sense of community. Seeing the mote in another's eye and not the beam in one's own IS NOT HELPING.

    PEACE

    Posted by: Felix | Feb 4, 2012 5:36:17 PM


  20. So, about that movie. Just wondering if there's any discussion about Wallis Simpson's anti-semetic viewpoints and her sympathy for the Third Reich (and her alleged affair with von Ribbentrop?

    Posted by: BobC562 | Feb 4, 2012 6:45:07 PM


  21. Along with NPH, Lambert and Gareth Thomas please include Alexander Alexsyeve, the gay Russian man who is actually putting his well-being and life on the line for gay rights in his country, not to mention Mr. Kato recently martyred in Uganda. We have lots of gay male heroes and we should, indeed, honor them more.

    And then there's Jason and Rick, Kiwi and Ehrenstein, as a foursome they're way more entertaining than any diva.

    Posted by: uffda | Feb 4, 2012 7:14:31 PM


  22. LOVED the movie, LOVE the video, not keen on the song, can't WAIT for the album.

    ....but then again, I'm not a fairweather fan. I'm also really not that interested in my music idol's stance on gay rights and equality, unless it is hateful.

    Geez, lighten up! Sounds like some queeny bitches need to go out dancing or at least put on some headphones and dance around at home and CHILL THE FUKC OUT!!!!

    Posted by: Marc | Feb 4, 2012 8:32:48 PM


  23. @BOBC562: My question exactly. I think the entire idea of doing a fawning romantic film about Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII is in incredibly poor taste. Nazi sympathizing, racist, anti-Semitic traitors (Simpson leaked information on Allied defenses to the Germans; there's a reason why they were essentially exiled to the Bahamas for the duration of the war) rarely, if ever, deserve to be shown in a sympathetic light.

    Posted by: Rich F. | Feb 4, 2012 9:20:51 PM


  24. "I totally agree with you when you say we should have male role models to look up to instead of disco divas"

    I grew up on Air Force bases but when my Dad retired in 1975, we moved to Los Angeles. Within months, I had my drivers license (I was 16) and I went to every library and bookstore I could find looking for anything related to being gay. It was tough in those pre-Internet days!

    Over the years, I really grew to admire people like Wilde, Auden, Isherwood, Forster, Harry Hay, Samuel Barber and dozens of other men. They lived as openly as they could in the times they lived in, in very trying circumstances (homosexuality was illegal in Britain until 1967 and was viciously prosecuted) and I just drew so much inspiration from them.

    The whole Marilyn > Judy > Babs thing just baffled me, still does, as do all the successors to their tiaras.

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Feb 4, 2012 9:46:30 PM


  25. Wow what's with all the Madonna hate? She has stated that the person that believed in her the most was her gay dance teacher. She started out in the business with all gay friends and continues to have gay friends today. She spoke for AIDS awareness and tolerance for the gay community long before it was the cool thing to do and of late spoke in favor of same sex marriage and against bullying. She has 4 kids of her own...do you expect her to march in the NYC Pride Parade? It's not like Madonna can just walk down the street. You haters need to read the article in the Advocate as a refresh. It makes me sick when people can't be grateful for what has been done (10x more than other celebs/actors/divas etc have ever done)and throw people like Madonna under the bus.

    Posted by: Keith | Feb 4, 2012 10:47:23 PM


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