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Madonna made a rare television appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live"

Interview: Madonna reviews life on Larry King Live

Web posted on:
Tuesday, January 19, 1999 6:00:38 PM EST

(CNN) -- Her career has swept from the early 1980s to the late 1990s, ranging from pop charts to MTV to the silver screen. And still, Madonna continues to redefine herself. At once, she is a sultry siren, a marketing phenomenon, a movie diva, and a mother.

And now her singing career is in the midst of a resurgence, riding high on six Grammy nominations for her "Ray of Light" CD, including a nod for album of the year.

CNN's Larry King sat down with Madonna for an exclusive interview, discussing life, love, music -- and why she doesn't let her daughter watch TV.

LARRY KING, host of CNN's "Larry King Live": How did you get that name? Why are you a one-name person?

MADONNA, entertainer: Well, I was born with that name. I was named after my mother. And I guess when I started making records, Madonna Ciccone seemed too long and complicated, and I just got stuck with Madonna.

KING: What age did that start?

MADONNA: The one-name deal? I guess when I was about 23. So I had two names until the age of 23.

KING: But it took a lot of guts, right, to call yourself one name making your first record?

MADONNA: No. It seemed completely natural. It means so many things. But I just felt like it was a very good stage name. And everybody actually thought it was a theatrical name that I took on, so.

KING: It works, obviously.

MADONNA: Yes, it's a name to live up to.

KING: Were you a singing kid? Were you in the glee club?

MADONNA: I was more of a dancing kid than a singing kid. I mean, I sang in school choirs and I sang in school musicals, but I was much more interested in dancing than singing.

KING: What happened? You still dance, right? Dance is part of the act.

MADONNA: Absolutely. But when I left Michigan and I came to New York, that was my goal, to be a professional dancer. And I sort of fell into singing by accident in a way.

KING: How?

MADONNA: Well, I danced in a lot of companies in New York for years, and realized that I was going to be living a hand-to-mouth existence for the rest of my life.

KING: Companies meaning Broadway shows.

MADONNA: Oh, no. Modern dance.

KING: Oh, troupes.

MADONNA: Yes, modern dance. And you know, it was really hard living, and so then I decided to start going to, like, off-Broadway auditions and Broadway auditions, mostly as a dancer. And I started singing -- I had to sing for the auditions, and then, you know, people would hear me sing. And they'd say, Hey, your voice isn't bad. And I'd say, Oh, really?

I mean, I never had any training. I never wanted to be a singer. That's not how I started out.

KING: Would you rather have been...

MADONNA: A dancer?

KING: Yes.

MADONNA: No. I am quite happy with the way things have turned out. I mean, I incorporate...

KING: Supposing dance paid as well.

MADONNA: I'm glad that it turned out this way, because as a singer I can use all of my dance training. And I think that singing is much more of an emotional expression.

KING: Are you a singer who dances and acts or are you an actor who sings and dances? Who are you?

MADONNA: I don't know.

KING: What are you? (LAUGHTER) How do you think of yourself first?

MADONNA: That's hard to say. I mean, I think of myself as a performance artist. I hate being called a pop star. I hate that. And -- I don't know. I mean, I guess since my original training was dancing .. I think of myself primarily as a dancer.

KING: But performance artist is pretty good. It covers a wide...

MADONNA: Yes, I like that because it covers everything.

KING: Covers acting, certainly.

MADONNA: Covers everything. And we have to act all the time, don't we?

[return to top of story]

On fame's lack of privacy

KING: Yes. Don't we? Have you enjoyed all the fame you have gotten? Obviously you wanted it, right? You don't choose this business without wanting to be well-known, one would think. I don't want to presume that. Did you?

MADONNA: That's true. You don't. But on the other hand, before you're famous, you don't know what you're getting yourself into and you don't know until you're in the middle of it what you have sort of asked for.

KING: What's the worst thing about it?

MADONNA: The worst thing about being famous? I think it's what everybody says -- the lack of privacy and the idea that you're not really allowed to make mistakes and everything that you do is viewed under a microscope.

KING: So therefore, do you hide?

MADONNA: Well...


Full-length releases:

  • "Ray Of Light," 1998
  • "Early Years," 1995
  • "Something To Remember," 1995
  • "Bedtime Stories," 1994
  • "Erotica," 1992
  • "I'm Breathless," 1990
  • "The Royal Box," 1990
  • "Immaculate Collection," 1990
  • "Like A Prayer," 1989
  • "You Can Dance," 1987
  • "True Blue," 1986
  • "Like A Virgin," 1984
  • "Madonna," 1983
  • Soundtracks and other appearances:

  • "Carnival!" 1997
  • "Evita," 1996
  • "I'm Breathless (Music from Dick Tracy)," 1990
  • "Who's That Girl," 1987
  • "Vision Quest," 1985
  • "Revenge of the Killer B's, Vol. 2," 1984
  • KING: As, say, Mr. Presley did.

    MADONNA: He hid?

    KING: Well, he hid. Jackie Gleason told him don't hide or you're going to be lonely. Go out.

    MADONNA: No. I don't hide. I definitely don't hide. I mean, I go out. I go for walks. I go to the theater. No. I just...

    KING: Do you like or not like being recognized?

    MADONNA: If I have a pimple, I don't want to be recognized. I mean, really, it depends on the mood I am in. Sometimes you want to go for a walk and you don't want to be watched. You just want to be anonymous and blend in. Especially when I travel, I feel that way, because I can't really go out and see a city the way other people can and I miss out on a lot.

    KING: You can't be a tourist?

    MADONNA: Yes. I like to be the watcher and not the watchee.

    [return to top of story]

    Biggest perk: Free clothes

    KING: What's the best thing about it?

    MADONNA: Free clothes.

    KING: You get free clothes?

    MADONNA: Yes, it's great.

    KING: Designers give you clothes so that you'll wear it to the...

    MADONNA: To everything -- to this interview.

    KING: They gave you this?

    MADONNA: Yes. I'm wearing, you know, free Gucci leather jacket.

    KING: And to Gucci, that's worth it?

    MADONNA: Yes. But you know, it's a privilege. It's a perk. It comes with the territory. But you know, it's like we work the clothes, right?

    [return to top of story]

    Big-family upbringing

    KING: Were you a poor kid?

    MADONNA: I won't say that we were poor. But we definitely -- I would say we were lower middle class, and I come from a really big family.

    KING: Eight children.

    MADONNA: Eight children.

    KING: Were you the oldest?

    MADONNA: No. I am the oldest girl, and I have two older brothers.

    KING: Do you like a big family?

    MADONNA: Yes, I do. Do I want to have eight children? No.

    KING: No. (LAUGHTER) The best thing about you growing up -- you didn't have a lot of money -- what I am getting to in dealing with money is what's it like to not have needs financially to where you can buy anything you see in the store.

    MADONNA: Well, the thing is I have such a sort of puritanical middle-class upbringing that I still don't really go shopping and buy anything I want. I'm too reserved for that.

    KING: You still stop on a page if it says sale.

    MADONNA: No, no. No, I am not into, like, things on sale. I don't go to the sale rack. But I wouldn't say I am decadent in my spending. I am careful.

    KING: Even though you can spend it...

    [return to top of story]

    'I forget that I have money'

    MADONNA: Yes. I kind of forget that I have money sometimes.

    KING: You have had an unusual life.

    MADONNA: I've had an incredible life. I am truly blessed.

    KING: On the base of it, it's much more pluses than minuses?

    MADONNA: Absolutely. I mean, we were talking about fame earlier and there are bad things about it, but I wouldn't trade my life for anyone's.

    KING: The marriage to Sean Penn -- it got so much attention and knowing him, he didn't like that.

    MADONNA: No.

    KING: Did you like it? You were in the tabloids every other day.

    MADONNA: No, I didn't like the attention, the focus on the state of the our marriage. I like attention when it's about the work, but not about relationships.

    KING: And he didn't like it either?

    MADONNA: No, he hated it -- no.

    KING: Are you friends?

    MADONNA: Yes, we are.

    KING: Are you happy for how his career has gone?

    [return to top of story]

    No regrets about Sean Penn

    MADONNA: Oh, yes I think he's an incredible actor and I think he's done very well. I'm, you know, I'm honored to know him.

    Madonna on Sean Penn
    280k WAV or 1.5Mb QuickTime

    KING: So that part of your life while it may have not ended the way you like, was it a plus, when you look back and say, I am glad I had that experience? Some people would; some people wouldn't.

    MADONNA: No, I learned a lot. The thing is he's an -- I learned a lot. He's an incredible human being. He's intelligent; he's talented. Even though things didn't work out for us in terms of our marriage, I don't regret marrying him for a moment.

    KING: How about being a mother?

    MADONNA: I certainly don't regret that.

    KING: I mean is it all you thought it would be?

    MADONNA: It's more than what I thought it would be.

    KING: The press, they all refer to it as you were out looking for someone. You deliberately wanted to pick a father. Was any of that true?

    MADONNA: Absolutely not. I had a relationship for two years with Carlos before I got pregnant and I was madly in love with him, and it's a ludicrous accusation. I don't know where it came from. It's not fair. It's not fair to me and it's not fair to him.

    KING: Is he a good father?

    MADONNA: He's an excellent father.

    KING: Sees the child.

    MADONNA: Oh, yes.

    [return to top of story]

    In 'complete wonderment' of her child

    KING: What do you like best about motherhood? You had it late, right? You were 37.

    MADONNA: Thirty-eight, actually, when I gave birth, yes. What do I like best about it? Every day I am in complete wonderment of her and I love being woken up in the morning. I love her coming in the room and kissing me and waking me up. I love looking into her eyes. I love watching her grow. I love watching her absorb life around her.

    KING: As you see her, she's rather pretty.

    MADONNA: Oh, yes, she's gorgeous, if I do say so.

    KING: But you also have a life of flying here, flying there, being on stage.

    MADONNA: Yes. So far she goes everywhere I go.

    KING: What are you going do when she goes to school?

    MADONNA: Well, I am going to stay in one place when she's in school. Starting at the age of four I am not going to travel while she's in school. Say I have to go somewhere for the weekend or something like that, I would leave her, but I don't want to take her out of school and I don't want to be away from her for any extended period of time.

    KING: Is she going through terrible twos?

    MADONNA: Yes, lots of tantrums. She's got -- yes. She has two things that she sort of, like, if she can't have, she throws herself on the floor and starts...

    KING: And so we give it to her or don't...

    MADONNA: No, no we don't give it to her.

    KING: Oh, that's Midwest, we don't give it to her. Jews, we give it to her.

    MADONNA: Really?

    KING: What else? Why would you...

    MADONNA: You can't, that's not good.

    KING: I know, my wife tells me that's not good. But how do you not? How do you not? How do you not -- a child is pleading for something.

    MADONNA: Because you have to -- I mean you have to have discipline. You have to teach them discipline. You have to show them who's in charge. If you give in to them every time they're going to run your life. Come on, Larry.

    KING: Isn't it hard not to, though? Truth? Especially when you get a little older -- I don't mean that 38 is old.

    MADONNA: I'll give in when she says she wants a piece of sugarless gum. Then I'll say yes, but she can't watch TV.

    KING: She can't watch TV?

    What? No Barney?
    435k WAV or 2.3Mb QuickTime

    MADONNA: No, she won't be watching this interview.

    KING: Why can't she watch?

    MADONNA: Because I don't want her to get addicted to it. Kids get addicted to it. They become mesmerized.

    KING: Barney?

    MADONNA: No, no there's no Barney in her life.

    KING: No Barney.

    MADONNA: No.

    KING: That's like mean.

    MADONNA: No, it's not. I didn't watch TV when I grew up. She likes to read. She uses her imagination. She's very verbal. She has an incredible memory. All of those things I don't think she would have if she watched TV all the time.

    KING: Do you ever feel when you see Barney or hear about him that you're depriving her? I'm only kidding.

    MADONNA: No, I don't get it -- that big purple thing -- I don't get it.

    KING: Neither do I. It's a big purple thing.

    MADONNA: Is it a purple thing -- right I can't remember -- or is it a yellow thing?

    KING: Purple.

    MADONNA: No, that's Big Bird -- OK. (LAUGHTER)

    [return to top of story]

    Not a 'sex' book but a society photo essay

    KING: When people think of Madonna, they think of lots of things: singer, actress, talent. And they also think sex. And that was something you promoted, didn't you? I mean, you wrote a book about it.

    MADONNA: Well, I didn't write a book about sex. I wrote a book that -- I mean I published a book that basically was sort of a -- an ironic tongue-in-cheek, sticking-my-tongue-out-at-society photo essay...

    KING: Take that.

    MADONNA: So there.

    KING: Yes, well it worked, obviously. It sold and people reacted to it.

    MADONNA: It pissed off a lot of people, too.

    KING: Yes. What did it do -- did it affect your career at all?

    MADONNA: Well, probably. I mean, I would think everything I've done has affected my career.

    KING: I mean negatively. You think people said, "Boy, she shouldn't have done that."

    MADONNA: Yes, I think that there were a lot of people that were freaked out about it, yes.

    KING: What about your daughter when she grows up and gets to see it?

    MADONNA: Well, she sees my naked body almost every day. I don't think she's going to be freaked out about it. I...

    KING: You don't think it will bother her.

    MADONNA: No, not at all. And besides, if you really read and you know me and you know my sense of humor, it's not meant to be -- it was never meant to be this, like: "Oh, this is the hottest book of the most incredible sexual fantasies." That's not what it's meant to be.

    KING: It was a parody in a sense?

    MADONNA: Yes, it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, and, you know, I think she'll understand it. I'll explain it to her.

    KING: The thing that you're always linked with many: Do you like that? Like famous men? People think of you and they think of Dennis Rodman and Warren Beatty and...

    MADONNA: I've gone out with as many not-famous men as famous men.

    KING: But do you like that linking? You're very involved in making it. Is that good for the career to be known that you're out with someone famous?

    MADONNA: I don't need any of those people to help my career, and, quite frankly, I don't think they did. I think that everything I've done, I've done on my own. You know, sometimes you say -- you can say to yourself, Well, it's easier to be with someone who's famous, because they're not freaked out about having their picture taken..."

    KING: Yes.

    MADONNA: ... and they're not freaked out about being written about and stuff like that. But at the end of the day, it's hard for everybody, and, you know, famous or not, it's difficult to be in a relationship with anyone that's in the entertainment business.

    [return to top of story]

    On marriage

    KING: Do you want to marry?

    MADONNA: I don't know. I don't know how I feel about that.

    KING: Why?

    MADONNA: Well, because sometimes I ask myself what, you know, what does marriage mean. What is it exactly? What's the point of it? It seems like a really...

    KING: Nice tradition, though, isn't it? If it were just a tradition of bonding.

    MADONNA: I certainly -- I'm a romantic, and I believe in true love, and the whole, you know, finding your soul mate and all of those things, but I just don't know the whole marriage thing -- I mean, what's the point of it really?

    KING: You don't see a point?

    MADONNA: Well, I'm not sure. I mean, don't know how I feel about it. I'm really conflicted, because there's a part of me that thinks that it's a sacred ritual and a beautiful tradition, and then there's a part of me that thinks that it was -- it came from a time when -- when women -- when it was a contract, that a woman entered into when a woman wasn't capable of taking care of herself and she needed a man to take care of her, and so I, you know, I have a lot of mixed feelings about it.

    KING: The Catholic part of you probably wants to, right?

    MADONNA: The Catholic part of me, and there is -- I do have an old-fashioned part of me, the romantic part of me, but...

    KING: Supposing you met someone, you fell in love, and he wanted to get married.

    MADONNA: Well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

    [return to top of story]

    Interested in politics

    KING: Good answer. Are you interested in politics by the way?

    MADONNA: Oh, yes, very.

    KING: And do you support candidates? Are you outspoken?

    MADONNA: To a certain extent. I mean, you know, when I am interviewed -- I certainly support President Clinton.

    KING: Do you feel he's getting...

    MADONNA: The short end of the stick? Yes.

    KING: But he caused it, though.

    MADONNA: Well -- he caused it? How -- I mean...

    KING: Well, I mean, no act, no follow-up.

    MADONNA: Well, that's true to a certain extent. But I mean, you know, he's not the first president to have an adulterous relationship. So I think it's a combination of his behavior, and you know, the lynch mob mentality of the Republican Party.

    KING: Are you surprised that the public is in his corner?

    MADONNA: No, not at all.

    KING: Because we're supposed to be very puritanical about sex.

    MADONNA: Well, we're not, are we? And thank God. I mean, at the end of the day, I think whether you think he did the right thing or the wrong thing or whatever, I think most people just want to get on with things. And you know, let's get back to the important issues, and I think people are really sick of it.

    [return to top of story]

    A preference for theater

    KING: The movies -- enjoy doing films?

    MADONNA: Yes. I do.

    KING: Like stage -- I saw you do -- have you done other stage other than...

    MADONNA: I did two plays. I did a David Mamet play and I did David Ray play. And I loved doing both of them. And I would love to do another play. I think performing live is far superior to filming -- absolutely.

    KING: So you would rather be in a theater?

    MADONNA: Yes, I would actually.

    KING: Was "Evita" difficult?

    MADONNA: Oh, yes. That's an understatement.

    KING: Because?

    MADONNA: Well...

    KING: Crowd scenes?

    MADONNA: It was difficult -- it was difficult on every level. It was difficult because we were, you know, filming in Argentina. And we were making a movie about a person that was a very controversial political figure. So there were mob scenes about people who didn't want us to make the movie and mob scenes about people who wanted us to make the movie. And then, you know, the heat and the thousands of extras, and you know, we were moving around the world to different continents. And I was pregnant. And you know, it was a long shoot. And we were making a musical. I mean...

    KING: Was it tougher? It was kind of an opera.

    MADONNA: Yes.

    KING: There was no spoken word in it.

    MADONNA: Not really, no. And it was -- I think, you know -- I think that Alan really was -- you know, we were all doing something, and we weren't sure what we were doing in a way.

    KING: Alan...

    MADONNA: Alan Parker, yes. I mean, I think everyone believed in what we were doing and everyone was really passionate about it, but no one's ever done a movie like that before, so it was a risk.

    KING: Were you surprised at how well Antonio Banderas sang?

    MADONNA: I was. I was very surprised. He has a lovely voice.

    KING: Did you like working with him?

    MADONNA: I loved working with him. He's great. He really is.

    KING: Good friend?

    MADONNA: Yes. Great actor, great singer, charming man, very generous. Yes. He was great.

    KING: You did another movie everybody that I know liked that didn't do well.

    MADONNA: Which one?

    KING: The murder -- where you were the murderess.

    MADONNA: The what?

    KING: You were a murderer.

    MADONNA: Oh, I think I have been a murderess in a couple of movies.

    KING: With...

    MADONNA: Oh, yes. "Body of Evidence."

    KING: "Body of Evidence" with Willem Dafoe and...

    MADONNA: And...

    KING: ... Ray...

    MADONNA: No, wait a minute. My co-star in "Speed the Plow." Oh, God. Joe Mantegna.

    KING: Joe Mantegna.

    MADONNA: Yes, yes. He's great too.

    KING: So films would be secondary to theater, though, I just wondered...

    MADONNA: Well, just in terms of the enjoyment factor of doing it. But I would love to make another great film. I haven't made a movie since I did "Evita" because I haven't really found something that I was as passionate about. But I am going to make a movie in a couple of months.

    KING: "Dick Tracy" fun?

    MADONNA: That was fun. That was fun, for sure. I had a really good time on that.

    KING: And you like co-star Warren Beatty?

    MADONNA: I do, indeed.

    KING: Me too. Not in the same way. No.

    MADONNA: Maybe in the same way.

    KING: Maybe in the same way. (LAUGHTER)

    [return to top of story]

    Trying a new 'geisha' look

    KING: Madonna's album "Ray of Light" has already gone triple-platinum. It's included in the "Album of the Year" and "Record of the Year" for the Grammys. She has six Grammy nominations. She will sing "Ray of Light" as the opening number at the Grammys in February. She's on the cover of the latest edition of "Harper's Bazaar" magazine with her new look, that of a geisha. Is that the way you describe this? Is this a geisha look?

    MADONNA: Geisha.

    KING: Geisha, geisha.

    MADONNA: Yes, inspired by -- I read a book called "Memoirs of a Geisha," which had a...

    KING: Great book.

    MADONNA: Yes. Did you read it?

    KING: Great book.

    MADONNA: Incredible. Yes there was a character in the book called Hutsie Momo and she's been my muse for the past six months. So I don't know.

    KING: Looking at all the pictures and videos you go through lots of changes, right?

    MADONNA: Yes.

    KING: Why?

    MADONNA: Why not.

    KING: Most people change, but not dramatic. You go dramatic.

    MADONNA: That's why I like to call myself a performance artist because what I do is I sort of just, like, collect ideas whether it's paintings or film or literature or a character in history.

    KING: So you'll get tired of this in while? Is tired a good word? You'll look in the mirror and say I don't like this anymore. I don't want to blond, I want to be Hillary.

    MADONNA: Hillary -- oh, no. (LAUGHTER)

    MADONNA: Does she change her hair a lot?

    KING: She does.

    MADONNA: I am an artist, I feel like, you know, I have a lot more freedom to do whatever I want, be whatever I want.

    KING: But I mean is it ever a whim? Do you ever just look in the mirror and say: changing today?

    MADONNA: Yes, I do that all the time -- absolutely. And after you make several videos, you see yourself on TV, you do several photo shoots, you kind of get sick of it. You have to move on.

    KING: Let's include some phone calls for Madonna. Cleveland, hello.

    [return to top of story]

    Predictions for career at 50

    CALLER: Hi, Madonna. I was wondering what do you see yourself doing in 10 years?

    MADONNA: Everybody asks me that question.

    KING: Yes, at 50, what are you going to do at 50?

    MADONNA: Well, I hope -- I would like to have more children, so hopefully I will be enjoying my family, and -- I mean, I don't know. I am sure I'll be an actress. I am sure I'll be writing music -- who knows, maybe I'll have an art gallery. I have no idea.

    KING: Do you see yourself playing character roles?

    MADONNA: Yes. Yes, absolutely.

    KING: Which wouldn't bother you at all -- not to be the femme fatale?

    MADONNA: No, not at all.

    KING: No effect?

    MADONNA: Well, I mean, what's wrong with a character role?

    KING: Some people always want to assume that being the lovely part and...

    MADONNA: Well I am not always going to be lovely, let's just face that fact.

    KING: We do age.

    MADONNA: Yes, we do.

    KING: Why did you name your daughter Lourdes? That's a place, right?

    MADONNA: For several reasons. Yes, Lourdes is a city in France, and it's a city of healing. There are healing waters there. It's a place where miracles occur, so for that reason because she was a miracle and is a miracle. But also, we call her Lourdes. She's half Cuban and that's a very popular Cuban name.

    KING: What's her nickname, Lourdy?

    MADONNA: No Lola. Lola -- I know, how did we get that.

    KING: That doesn't make any sense.

    MADONNA: Well, because I was also a big fan of that name -- Lola.

    KING: Whatever Lola wants.

    MADONNA: Lola doesn't get.

    KING: Doesn't get. (LAUGHTER)

    MADONNA: Yes, that's exactly. Both Lola Montez -- have you ever heard of her?

    KING: No.

    MADONNA: She's a famous -- well, she was an infamous woman. She brought down the King of Bavaria. You never heard of Lola Montez.

    KING: When did she do this?

    MADONNA: In the 1700s.

    KING: An early Lewinsky.

    MADONNA: No, she was -- come on now.

    KING: I am only kidding.

    MADONNA: She was a dancer. She had some skills. (LAUGHTER) No, but by birth she was Irish and she married -- it's a long story, but it's a very interesting story. There's a movie called "Lola Montez" that you should rent and watch. It's pretty fascinating, but she completely reinvented herself because she married this guy in India -- her parents married her off at a young age.

    KING: So you were leaning toward naming your child Lola?

    MADONNA: Well, I loved that name and I loved the name Lourdes, so I named her Lourdes and I call her Lola -- go figure.

    [return to top of story]

    Adopted Kabbalah

    KING: Tell me about Kabbalah ... now I'm Jewish. I don't remember learning anything about it when I was a kid growing up.

    MADONNA: Because they don't teach the Kabbalah in -- it is considered traditionally the only people that are supposed to learn the Kabbalah are men, and they have to be over the age of 42. So because that is considered...

    KING: So this is a sect of the orthodox.

    MADONNA: Yes, traditionally, but I mean its roots are in orthodox Judaism, but think historically, I think a group of rabbis and, you know, scholars broke away and said, Look, if this information is so enlightening and so important and can help other people, why are we limiting it to teaching it just to men, Jewish men who are passed the age of 42? So people -- teachers, you know, started kind of branching out and opening up centers.

    KING: What attracted you?

    MADONNA: A friend of mine who is Jewish and -- but who isn't very religious -- was going to these classes, and she kept coming back and telling me about them and telling me about this great charismatic rabbi and these great stories, these fables that he would tell and how moving they were. And I could never -- it sort of went in one ear and out the other and I could never figure out what she was talking about. So finally out of curiosity I went to a class in Los Angeles. I was about 6-1/2 months pregnant and I was very moved by it. And it didn't really matter that I was, you know, raised a Catholic or I wasn't Jewish and I felt very comfortable and I liked being anonymous in a classroom environment and it was nice learning.

    KING: Do you feel now you are a...

    MADONNA: An honorary Jew?

    KING: Honorary Jew or are you -- is there a term for -- are you a Kabbalahan?

    MADONNA: I am a Kabbalist. There is definitely a Kabbalistic approach to life or a Kabbalistic point of view, but it's not different than a lot of other teachings. I study Hinduism; I study Buddhism; Taoism.

    KING: You believe in a supreme being?

    MADONNA: Absolutely. But I also believe that all paths lead to God.

    KING: Houston, Texas, hello.

    CALLER: Yes, Madonna, I just wanted to ask you, for all that you've done and accomplished, how would you like to be remembered or what legacy would you like to leave behind?

    MADONNA: I would like to be remembered as a good mother first and foremost.

    KING: Not a bad idea. Lawrence, Kansas, hello.

    CALLER: Hi, Madonna, I was just wondering what do you find to be your biggest challenge in being a single mother?

    KING: That's a very good question. A lot of people face it.

    MADONNA: My biggest challenge was, you know, really just balancing my life and spend enough time with my daughter and really be there for her. She needs me and also to make myself happy and my career and continue working and run my businesses -- nurture my friendships, have a relationship, just that juggling, but...

    KING: It is a daily juggle isn't it?

    MADONNA: Unbelievable.

    KING: Are there times you say: I wish there were a man here all the time?

    MADONNA: Yes, oh, yes. There are lots of times when I just want to like go: I want to hand the baby off to somebody, you know?

    KING: Do you think it's harder to get a man involved when you have a child? You know, the man might say...

    MADONNA: No.

    KING: In other words, we don't have to throw a male benefit for you, right, to get guys interested? You don't need help?

    MADONNA: No.

    KING: No.

    MADONNA: Thank you.

    KING: Tampa, Florida, hello.

    [return to top of story]

    Cites musical, dance influences

    CALLER: Hello, Madonna. My question is who were your musical and dance influences when you were growing up?

    MADONNA: My musical influences -- wow. They ranged from Karen Carpenter to the Supremes to Led Zeppelin. Those were my musical influences, and...

    KING: Dance?

    MADONNA: Dance -- Martha Graham, Rudolph Nureyev.

    KING: Were you a good ballet dancer?

    MADONNA: No, I wasn't. I mean, I was a good dancer, but the problem is to be a really good ballet dancer you have to start when you're seven or eight, and I didn't start ballet until I was 12 or 13, which is considered over-the-hill really. I was a good dancer, but...

    KING: When you see, like, an old Fred Astaire movie, and he's dancing with Ginger Rogers...

    MADONNA: I'm in heaven.

    KING: Do you say to yourself: I can do that.

    MADONNA: I can do that.

    KING: That's your kind of -- you could dance.

    MADONNA: Absolutely. No problem.

    KING: So if Astaire were around now, you'd dance with him.

    MADONNA: I'd be dancing on the walls.

    [return to top of story]

    Nervous about Grammy competition

    KING: Before we take another call, is this the most Grammys you have ever been nominated for?

    MADONNA: Definitely.

    KING: You won one Grammy years ago, right?

    MADONNA: I won a Grammy, but it wasn't really record-related. It was like a long-form video or something, so...

    KING: Are you nervous?

    MADONNA: I am nervous about performing. I am not nervous about the whole award thing. I mean, I am excited. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

    KING: Your friend Rosie O'Donnell is the MC.

    MADONNA: Yes, I'm very happy about that.

    KING: You're the opening act, right?

    MADONNA: Yes.

    KING: Does that give you a little more pressure?

    MADONNA: That's a good slot, the opening act. That's good.

    KING: They're all watching.

    MADONNA: Yes.

    KING: All right. When they open up the card, when they open up the envelope, truth -- do you expect to win?

    MADONNA: I am not saying. I don't want to jinx myself.

    KING: All right. Who is the one you're worried about the most?

    MADONNA: Who's my...

    KING: If you can't vote for you, who would you vote for, album of the year?

    MADONNA: Oh, that's a tough one. Tell me what the nominees are.

    KING: I don't know. I don't have...

    MADONNA: Probably Lauryn Hill. She's my -- she's my competition, I think. She's amazing.

    KING: For record of the year too?

    MADONNA: I think so. Yes, yes.

    KING: Atlanta, Georgia for Madonna. Hello.

    CALLER: Hello, Madonna. If your daughter Lourdes was old enough, would you allow her to work as an intern in the White House under Bill Clinton.

    MADONNA: If she was old enough? Absolutely.

    KING: Especially now, right? She would be safe. Is that what you would figure?

    MADONNA: Oh, well. My daughter would just never get involved with a married man because I would kill her if she did.

    KING: Were you ever involved with married man?

    MADONNA: No.

    KING: Was that like a hard-and-fast rule?

    MADONNA: Never get involved with a man who is involved with someone else. Yes.

    KING: You couldn't be second place...

    MADONNA: No, no, no, no.

    KING: I know of your active involvement in the fight against AIDS, but you're also into a New York City charity, Opus, right? What is that?

    MADONNA: Oh, well, that is an organization that was started by a woman called Roberta Gespari Tavaris -- maybe I said that wrong; did I say that right? -- who is an incredible woman I have gotten to know this past year. She teaches violin to kids in several schools in the inner city, and she has been actively involved in campaigning to raise money so that kids can enjoy learning about art and music in schools. And unfortunately, because of all the cutbacks in the public school systems, that's the first thing to go.

    And personally, my belief is that music and art is the most important thing to teach a child, so...

    KING: Atlanta, Georgia, hello.

    CALLER: Hello. I lost my mother when I was very young. And I'm now raising children. I know that Madonna also lost her mother when she was young. And I am wondering what difference does she think it might have made in how she's now raising her child.

    KING: Good question.

    MADONNA: What difference it would have made to have had a mother?

    KING: Yes, do you think -- and now that you know -- your mother was how old?

    MADONNA: She was 31.

    KING: You've outlived her by nine years and you had the child. And she had eight children.

    MADONNA: Well, she had six. My father remarried. But I mean, it's hard for me to say how I would be if my mother had lived. I am sure I would be very different. And I think to a certain extent I think that people that grow up -- girls that grow up without mothers tend to try even harder to kind of make up for what they didn't have. And I think they make very good parents.

    KING: When you lose a parent young -- I've had it happen; my father died -- there's always something missing.

    MADONNA: Yes, you walk around with a big hole inside of you...

    KING: Yes.

    MADONNA: ... a feeling of emptiness and longing that, you know, and -- I think a lot of times that's why you become an overachiever, you know, just trying to...

    KING: Got to -- got to show...

    MADONNA: Yes.

    KING: Are you close with brothers and sisters?

    MADONNA: Yes.

    [return to top of story]

    Brothers, sisters remain close

    KING: You're family keeps in touch? There hasn't been separation?

    MADONNA: Oh, yes, definitely.

    KING: Do you have big brothers?

    MADONNA: They all tortured me over the holidays.

    KING: Do you have big brothers? Are they still your kind of -- look up to them?

    MADONNA: Well, my big brothers, you know, they have had an interesting influence, especially my oldest brother. I mean, he totally, like, turned me on to the most kind of subversive things when I was a child, you know, like...

    KING: Political things.

    MADONNA: Well, no. He got -- like, I became a vegetarian because of my oldest brother. He used to, like -- he introduced me to Charles Bukowski and Richard Brautigan.

    You know, they were into the whole LSD drug culture, Maharishi orchestra. You know, I was really frightened by them but completely enamored of them as well. And they've both lived very adventurous lives.

    KING: Still do?


    KING: How about your sisters?

    MADONNA: I am very close to a couple of my sisters. I am actually close to all of my sisters, particularly my one sister who lives in Los Angeles, and she has children. And she had children before me.

    KING: You're a good aunt.

    MADONNA: I like to think so.

    KING: Is she happily married?

    MADONNA: She's happily married. She has an incredible family. She's a great role model for me even though she's my younger sister.

    Madonna would like to win the Grammy
    205k WAV or 1.1Mb QuickTime

    KING: You win the Grammy -- let's say you win. I predict.

    MADONNA: Please God.

    KING: Your lips to God, right?

    MADONNA: Yes.

    KING: You really want to win that, right? By the way, it's no baloney. Why not want to win it?

    MADONNA: Why not? Exactly. Of course I want to win.

    KING: Any concert tour coming?

    MADONNA: Yes.

    KING: This year?

    MADONNA: Yes, your lips to God.

    KING: Are you going to have one?

    MADONNA: Yes.

    KING: And what about another movie?

    MADONNA: Yes, I am going to do a movie in April. And then I am going to rehearse to go on tour. And then I'll probably play up until the millennium, New Year's Eve.

    KING: What's the movie?

    MADONNA: The movie's called "The Next Best Thing" with Rupert Everett. He's my co-star.

    KING: Rup. I love him.

    MADONNA: Yes. Isn't he great?

    KING: I love you too. Thanks for coming.

    MADONNA: Thank you so much.

    [return to top of story]

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