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
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
1. The Oprah Winfrey Show (1996)
A postpartum Madonna was absolutely glowing, literally
and figuratively, when stopping by to see the Queen of
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
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
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
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
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
We need more of that!