The recent promotional blitz for Lotsa de Casha cemented Madonna’s newest role as the Maternal Girl. The invigorating, career-spanning diva from last summer’s Re-Invention has taken a backseat to a decidedly more serene Madonna, resplendent in floral dresses and wavy new ‘do. Interviews on the Today show and The View and with Ladies’ Home Journal - pleasant surprises, yes - plugged the fifth children’s book but did not yield anything really exciting but a slight teaser for an upcoming dance album. (I’m not holding my breath for a 2006 tour just yet.)


Have Madge’s days of fun interviews faded into the ether? Has she run out of so-called watercooler moments? Rarely boring, often clever, and always fascinating, Madonna has proven herself a great “get” for interviewers and journalists, wishing deep down that Madge will break out with a memorable sound bite. Remember when we couldn’t answer even half of the questions for her?? To wit, a rundown of some of her best and worst television interviews.


1. The Late Show with David Letterman (1994)

Oh, it even hurts to write about it.
I don’t care what Madonna says about never having regrets, she just HAS to smart over this notoriously painful exchange with the droll Letterman. He tried to veer the conversation away from topics that might elicit the “f” word, but Madge managed to test the censors’ patience anyway … over a dozen times.
She later claimed she was prodded by producers backstage to spice up the conversation and retaliate for some of the usual Madonna-as-slut jokes Letterman had been making on his show. But after coming out of the dark Erotica/Sex period and completing the risqué Girlie Show tour, a full year before the Evita courtship began, can you really blame him?

Madonna has never been less ladylike than when she handed Letterman her panties upon greeting him and then firing up a cigar. This interview, during which Letterman even dead-panned “what a revelation” and asked Madonna what was “troubling” her, had people questioning Madonna’s sobriety, lasting power, and relevance.

By the end of the over twenty-five minute-long interview (ever the increasingly unwelcome guest, Madonna demandingly cut into other segments), it is clear that the heckling studio audience had turned on Madonna, as did a large chunk of the viewers.


2. 60 Minutes (1999)

Poor Charlie Rose. Madonna sat down with him, rather begrudgingly it appears, to shill Beautiful Stranger.
Her segment, however, was overshadowed by what the show producers and editors deemed “petulance.”
It opened with various outtakes of Madonna demanding a more comfortable chair, better lighting, and another camera angle.


Look, we all know Madonna can be a witch with a “b,” but do we need to see it? Lourdes made a blurred-face appearance and provided the only bright spot in a tense interview between Rose and Madonna, who managed to make one of the few serious vehicles for American news look like a silly entertainment fluff program tailored to fueling the celebrity machine. Not her finest hour.

3. Madonna Speaks (2003)

Perhaps nothing is more grating than when two celebrities interview each other for television. Megan Mullally of Will & Grace was saddled with this tedious chore for the American Life launch on VH1. Nothing terribly interesting was revealed in this sit-down but the implicit fact that Madonna is (horrors!) a hypocrite, referring to how gossipy she and Mullally were while filming Madge’s episode of Will & Grace.
Plus, isn’t it a wee bit disconcerting that when the biggest gay icon chats with an avowed bisexual, having both starred on a popular sitcom about gay men, there is nary a mention of homosexuality?

4. The Early Show (2004)

One of the most exciting things Madonna can speak about - touring - got unfortunately buried in gratuitous talk about Kabbalah and the Ritchie clan. (At this point, all we need is their Social Security numbers and we’re pretty much informed about every facet of their lives.)
Harry Smith was obviously beguiled by Madonna and his schoolboy gushing ended up compromising his journalistic credibility.
So, just as Madge deliciously starts to liken preparing for a concert to heading to “battle,” the interview shifts to (brace yourself!) what kind of music Harry Smith listens to. Who the heck edited this dreck?

5. MTV Madonna Erotica (1992)

Even without the power of hindsight to induce wincing from the blatant self-importance, it’s jarring to hear a more carefree Madonna expounding on her artistry and the “conservative” bastion that is the United States. Especially since she’d later totally undermine herself and say she was probably just provoking people solely for the sake of provoking people.
Forget that the album and book were eviscerated in the media. Forget that she declared, “I am a tramp … and proud of it!” Forget that her hair was severely pinned to her head with two butterfly clips.
Never, ever forget, however, that she had a gold tooth in her mouth.


1. The Oprah Winfrey Show (1996)

A postpartum Madonna was absolutely glowing, literally and figuratively, when stopping by to see the Queen of Talk.
What could have been a drudging hour of Evita promotion yielded plenty of memorable Madonna quotes and stories, from a bizarre dream featuring Sharon Stone to motherhood itself.

She was delightful and Oprah kept the answers humming at a digestible pace. This was the dawn of the new Madonna, over a year before Ray of Light was released, a calmer, more centered woman who had finally learned about unconditional love and the precept of managing talent, not owning it.

Girlish in a lavender blazer, she shatters your heart when she says, “Well, all I can say is that … [sigh] … when I look into my daughter’s eyes right now, um, I feel like ... I feel that I’m being healed.”
A Madonna interview for the ages.

2. The Oprah Winfrey Show (2003)

Oprah again? Well, Oprah herself noted Madonna’s maturity when she stopped by for the third time in nine years (1998’s Ray of Light-themed appearance is best remembered for its stirring live performances), this time to chat about The English Roses.

Crass commercialization opens the show as the Gap dancers from the commercial bop around, but, thankfully, Madge appears in a sensible tweed suit and not denim. From the infamous Britney Spears kiss at the VMAs to the new standby, Kabbalah, Madonna and Oprah sank into their familiar, comfortable rhythm.
The waterworks at the end is clutch: Oprah introduces the family and best friend of a young woman who had died of cancer and considered Madonna her “angel.” There was not a dry eye in the house. Truly the only Madonna clip that brings tears to my eyes every time I view it.

3. The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (1987)

The late, great Johnny Carson had the fortune of hosting Madonna on her very first talk show appearance. Or, as she reminded him on-air, her “virgin” appearance.

She taught him the word “bustier” and basically charmed the pants off of him and the audience, wrapping them around her little finger with her giggling and tempered irreverence. Madonna was so adorable, she even cracked herself up a few times. And even though they presented a clip from the ostensible reason why Madonna appeared, Who’s That Girl? was an afterthought.

4. Larry King Live (1999)

Yes, Larry King is annoying. (“Was Evita difficult?”, “What’s the worst thing about being famous?”, “Do you like - or not like - being recognized?”, “Designers give you clothes so that you’ll wear them to the Grammys?”)
The sycophant was all up in Madonna’s business, grilling her on Sean Penn, Carlos Leon, and President Bill Clinton.

What clinched this was Madge’s intense (much-missed!) geisha look and crinkling Gucci leather.

5. The Arsenio Hall Show (1992)

When Rosie O’Donnell and Madonna made a joint appearance on what was then an extremely popular late-night talk show, you just knew that A League of Their Own was the farthest thing from everyone’s minds.

This interview is a great example of how Madonna can be crass and edgy without crossing the line into obscenity or inanity (see The Worst above). The pair, harkening back to Madonna and Sandra Bernhard’s eyebrow-raising appearance on Letterman a few years before, was like a comedy team. Of course, this segment will always be known for being the one in which Madonna’s father came out and surprised his dear daughter and proceeded to embarrass her.
The story about her vomiting at a friend’s sleepover so he’d come pick her up early gives us one of the most amazing Madonna reactions: totally caught off-guard and real.

We need more of that!



Madge-ic Life