Tuesday, March 15, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Sorry, Haters

Days of innocence in Malawi.
by Liz Smith

Madonna is Unhappy and Exhausted.  But She is NOT Falling Apart.  Sorry, Haters — and Very Weird "Fans." 

"IF you could do it differently, would you? At least to save yourself some of the media excess?

"Oh, I don't know. Would I have my husband and children now? Would I still be living only for myself? Nobody put a gun to my head to do a lot of things I did, and I don't regret those things either. It was stuff I was working out. It's a little late to second guess my choices. In fact, it's too late two minutes after making the choice."
THAT was part of a little interview I had with Madonna back in 2006, when she was ostensibly still happily married to Guy Ritchie, and had recently adopted a child, David, a boy from the impoverished African country of Malawi. (She would subsequently adopt a girl, whom she would call Mercy, from the same country, bringing her family to a total of four children, including her first, daughter Lourdes Leon, and son Rocco Ritchie.)
Madonna with David, Lourdes, Mercy, and Rocco in Malawi.
Madonna was touring at the time, and although I had heard rumors that all was not happy on the homefront, Madonna seemed serene at that point. I had also not forgotten how much she supported her husband's movie "Revolver." Not only did she ask me to attend several versions of the film, as Ritchie edited it, she also arranged for me to interview Guy, whom I had met, but spoken to only briefly. He was handsome and seemed charming. He was, however, totally caught up in the "meaning" of his film, and I have to admit after a while I began to lose track, although his metaphysical approach was fascinating. He talked a lot.
Madonna in 2006 on her Confessions Tour.
A few nights after that, I attended the premiere of "Revolver." As I approached Madonna at the buffet table, she smiled slightly and said, "I think now you know, I rarely get a word in edgewise at home." (From several other offhand remarks she'd made to me, I got the feeling Madonna didn't think she was getting enough affectionate/sympathetic attention from Guy. But as I hardly imagined marriage to The Big M was eternal smooth sailing, I didn't think too much of it.)
Madonna and Guy Ritchie at the premiere of "Revolver."
That night she wore high-heels that resembled revolvers, and the couple seemed affectionate. Two years later, they would separate. It was not friendly. He took a lot of money.

Now Madonna, who will end her "Rebel Heart" tour in a few days, in Sydney, Australia, is embroiled in a terrible custody battle over her and Ritchie's son, Rocco. Madonna is strict, Guy is not. That, apparently, is Rocco's problem. He's 15. Madonna adores her son. She loves all of her children. She's not a perfect person and would be the first to admit it, but she has been a good parent. (She would also admit that like all parents, she has things to learn and accept in that area, too.)
Madonna with Rocco.
AS miserable as this custody issue has made her, the very last thing that she would do is self-destruct. I know there's a contingent out there that wants this super-controlled, phenomenally successful woman to lose it, and become a tragic figure. Just like all the others — Judy and Marilyn and Amy and Billie and Jim Morrison and Janis, etc. Some of these people even claim to be fans! They think she needs to be "humbled." Not. Going. To. Happen.
"Send in the Clowns ... there ought to be Clowns!"
Apparently her emotions got the better of her in Australia a few nights ago. Her show was a bit wobbly and she asked one of her staff to bring her a drink onstage. This led to gleeful assumptions that the "big fall" so many have anticipated, waited for, counted on was happening. I don't think so. As vulnerable as she actually is, under the brass of her image, she would never lose herself to her anger, bitterness or misery.

Madonna is only human — really! — and I'd venture that aside from her mother's death, when she was six, and perhaps her split from Sean Penn, this business with Rocco is likely the worst personal crisis of her life. And totally unexpected, too. Prior to Rocco's hankering for London and "more freedom," Madonna and her son seemed very close, and he was eager to be near her and part of her tours.
IF I were in a position to advise Madonna — I'm not, actually, I simply like her a lot! — I'd say go to bed for a week after this exhausting tour is over. Then get up, sit down, and write your son an old-fashioned letter. Not an e-mail and not a public display of words or deeds — no video tributes during performances, no Instagram, no Twitter. But I realize she feels frantic and helpless, as any parent would who thinks their child might be taken away or negatively influenced or turned against them. So, the measured letter routine probably won't do, for Madonna.
Staying strong in Melbourne.
I think it all will work out, but sorry haters — or you people out there who just love a good celebrity tragedy — she's not heading down the road to perdition and/or messy decline. She hasn't worked this hard and this long to allow that to happen. She certainly doesn't want to give Guy Ritchie the satisfaction or ammunition.

How well I remember sitting with Madonna at the old Morton's restaurant in Hollywood shortly after she and Guy first began dating. (She had just performed at the MTV Awards.) "He's sooo nice!" I whispered. Madonna laughed, "Yeah, I wonder if he's too nice. I'm going against type. I usually like bad boys."

As Madonna learned, first impressions can be misleading, and bad boys are sometimes nicer than "nice" guys.
Love conquers all.

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.