Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - August 16, 2008, Winnipeg, Manitoba
C M Y K PAGE C2
By Hank Stuever
M ADONNA, OMG, you are 50.
You have said again and again that you
never read newspapers or magazines,
even though you are always in newspapers and
magazines, so this is in some way wasted space
Then again, she needn’t be present for us to
talk about her. This has always been the key
element to how Madonna has spent half her life,
deliberately deaf in the centre of the buzz. Madonna
turning 50 is not about Madonna. As ever,
it’s about the rest of us, who are always caught
watching Madonna do whatever it is Madonna
currently does, even if when whatever Madonna
is doing is nothing more than growing old.
“ So what are you going to do when you get
older, Madonna? Are you going to be going on 50
and still get up onstage and shake your booty,
like Cher? What happens when your body goes?”
“ Then I’ll use my mind.” — From an interview
with Madonna, in Vanity Fair, October 1992
. . .
Here are 50 or so disconnected thoughts for
and about Madonna’s half- century mark. Starting
with the start, not with her actual birth ( on Aug.
16, 1958) but with her entrance into the collective
On a sweaty August morning 1.3 zillion years
ago, some girls showed up at our back- to- school
orientation junior year changed, with messy,
bleachy, streaky hair tied in raggedy bows. Black
plastic wristwatches and rubber bangles stacked
around their tiny wrists. Black bras. Just a few of
the girls, not all of the girls.
The Madonna train had left the station. Even the
sourest of us — Led Zeppelin fans, stoners, wrestlers,
cynics, student newspaper editors — were
on a Madonna train we did not know we’d boarded.
You had to disregard a lot of good musical
advice to go where Madonna was going. You had
to ignore the professional critics and thoughtful
guys in art class who wore Converse All- Stars
and had R. E. M. and Elvis Costello albums, who
begged you not to listen to that crap . People who
hated Madonna never understood that some of us
liked her just to make the people who didn’t like
her even more apoplectic about the fact that she
was getting more and more famous.
Parked at the reservoir on a Friday night,
Lucky Star came out of the stereo speakers of a
Camaro or a Prelude and three or four people did
the dance exactly as Madonna and her dancers
did it in the video, every single step. That these
brave souls were not pummeled by drunken
jocks, that the cassette was not destroyed, signified
that Madonna had broken through.
The Madonna thing came, at first blush, with
so much that was good: glad rags, vintage stores,
granny sunglasses, costume jewels, trench coats
— that Salvation Army insouciance, which, any
real student of fashion and culture will tell you,
Madonna had just stolen from everyone else. The
Madonna thing came with clear directives: Express
yourself, be yourself, winner take all. Some
of us started going to a nightclub. A Madonna
song would come on and half the people would
stomp off the floor in a very defiant, music- snob
form of protest.
Those of us who remained, remain.
“ Though I have fears, I think truthfully I’m
going to live to be a very old age. If what I’ve gone
through hasn’t killed me yet, nothing’s going to.
That’s my ( bleeping) opinion.” — Madonna, to
Vogue , October 1996
Nobody believed Madonna would last. No story
about her ever neglects to mention that fact, the
improbability of her success, the enthralling
triumph of complete mediocrity. In my house, we
maintain a secret archive of magazines on which
Madonna appeared on the cover. It’s remarkable
how many of them feature a headline to the effect
of “ the New Madonna” and “ Madonna’s New
Look” and “ Madonna Now.”
Twenty years ago, feminist scholars went
bananas trying to deconstruct her, interpret her
as a text. The ivory tower vogued, as Madonna
Studies showed that she was ( is?) the great liberator,
showing the way to sex as an irrelevancy,
then sex as a relevancy, then sex as an altogether
different weapon, ibid and op. cit. , and on and on,
until finally there was nothing more to say.
Then came the articles in Forbes , Business-
Week , Fortune : Madonna as the extremely
shrewd CEO of Herself Inc.
Then came Ladies’ Home Journal , with the angle
of Madonna and Child. Madonna as human V- chip,
shielding her children from, of all things, ice cream
and popular culture: “ We’re a TV- and dairy- free
house,” she told Ladies’ Home Journal in 2005.
Since Kabbalah revamped her spiritual core at
around age 40, Madonna became the sort of insufferably
enlightened old lady who is only too happy
to tell you what she’s too good for. She’s like those
women you run into at play groups and the farmers
market, only she is worth $ 600 million.
We paid $ 200 to see Madonna in concert a few
years ago. She sang Imagine by John Lennon.
“ Please listen to the words of this song,” she ordered
us. “ We have to change the world.” She said
this as if the audience had never before heard
Imagine or thought about the lyrics. When you
give Madonna your money now, you’re buying a
thrilling opportunity to bask in her audacity:
You must listen to me.
We must change the planet, together, each one
I have to get on my jet now.
Fly, earth mother, fly.
“ Even when I was a little girl, I knew I wanted
the whole world to know who I was, to love me
and be affected by me.” — Madonna, to People ,
May 13, 1985
Two out of three, not bad. We do all know her,
and we are all affected by her. ( Yes, we are.)
The love part is the hardest.
She wanted to be loved ?
Madonna is someone you have to hate in order to
love. In Madonnaworld, scoffing is a value- added
experience attached to pure fandom. Just watch a
Madonna fan listen to the new Madonna album for
the first time. There is such instantaneous loathing
and fascination. You spend a week telling all your
friends how bad the new album is, then a week later
you magically decide you like it. The new songs
take their place in a canon that stretches back into
25 years of half- hearted gym membership.
Summer horribilis! She for whom there was
never such a thing as bad publicity cannot possibly
be enjoying her latest headlines, can she? The
narrative is seemingly no longer in Madonna’s
control. ( Unless it is. There is the possibility that
she now masterminds her own “ bad” publicity.)
The rumors ( denied) about an impending
divorce from Guy Ritchie, about her luring ARod
away from his family. Headlines about her
younger brother’s tell- all book, Life With My Sister
Madonna ,” No. 2 on the New York Times list. ( A
summary, of sorts: She was always a you know
what. She still owes him for these myriad homedecorating
jobs he slavishly agreed to do; she is
such a you know what; she didn’t give him a very
nice room in the Scottish castle where she got
married; she deliberately didn’t tell him about the
Kabbalah prayer meeting at Demi Moore’s house.)
The book has pictures of Madonna as a teenager,
wearing a dress her stepmother made. It
has pictures of Thanksgiving with the Ciccones.
It is devastatingly unmythological.
“ Listen, once you pass 35, your age becomes
part of the first sentence of anything written.”
Madonna, to Out magazine, April 2006
It becomes the last sentence, too, my love.
A week or so ago, there were those death- mask
pictures of Madonna, seen leaving a yoga class
in London, gaunt and stranger than her normal
strange, with Ginsu cheekbones and these throbbing
veins snaking up and down the sinew of
arms that have seen much mystical discipline.
Every magazine in the checkout line desperately
seeking sutures: What happened to her face?!
Experts are called in, diagrams are made, and
nobody seems to say, well, she’s 50 you know.
She’ll be dead someday. We all will.
When you get to heaven, what’s the DJ playing?
Ray of Light ?
Maybe, if you’re a Madonna anti- fan fan, you’ll
get there and you’ll hear those synthesized
chimes from the opening of Lucky Star , and
it’s a Friday night at the lake, and it is always
1980- something, and it happens all over again.
— Washington Post
C 2 WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, SATURDAY, AUGUST 16, 2008 ENTERTAINMENT winnipegfreepress. com
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Cartoonist Johnston decides not to retire
THE creator of the popular comic strip For Better or for
Worse has had a change of heart — literally and figuratively
— and won’t be retiring after all. Lynn Johnston announced
that, beginning Sept. 1, For Better or for Worse will be retold
in a blending of repeat and new comic strips.
Not long ago, Johnston, 61, had planned to retire this year
and offer mostly reruns of her 29- year- old comic strip. But
her life changed when she got divorced. “ At this time in my
life, I thought I would be on a cruise ship to Panama or the
Mediterranean, retired with my Tilley hats, my sneakers.
But I’m a single lady now, and I want to keep working,” she
said in a video posted on You Tube.
Come September, Johnston said, For Better or
for Worse will be a mix of old and new comics, but
the new comics will be drawn in what she called a
“ retro” style.
Johnston will select material from her collection of
almost 10,000 archival strips to help retell the Patterson
family’s story, starting at the beginning.
For Better or for Worse runs in more than 2,000
papers around the world, including the Free
— Los Angeles Times
Titanic lovers hook up again in new film
The Age of
Touched for a very long time
NEW YORK — It was more than a little awkward
for Kate Winslet to film sex scenes with Leonardo
DiCaprio in front of husband Sam Mendes, who
directed the stars in the upcoming drama Revolutionary
“ I just kept saying, ‘ This is too ... weird,’” Winslet
tells Entertainment Weekly magazine. “ And Leo
was like, ‘ Oh, get over it.’ And I’m going, ‘ Yeah,
a little reminder: You’re my best friend. He’s my
husband. This is a bit weird.’”
Mendes, who directed American Beauty and Road
to Perdition , says, “ I will admit it was quite bizarre
to direct my wife in how to make love. But it’s difficult
whether you’re married to a person or not.”
It’s been 11 years since Winslet and DiCaprio costarred
in the Oscar- winning blockbuster Titanic ,
and Winslet says a spark remains between them.
“ I hadn’t realized how much my chemistry
with him since Titanic would still stick,” says the
32- year- old actress. “ It’s great to discover we can
just slip right into it, like muscle memory.”
They play suburban couple Frank and April
Wheeler in Revolutionary Road , based on Richard
Yates’ 1961 novel. It is slated for release in December,
just in time for Oscar consideration.
“ We knew that if we were going to do something
again, it had to be something big and emotional,”
Winslet says. “ Revolutionary Road is so painful and
beautiful to read, simply because of the brutality of
the honesty that Frank and April end up experiencing
Winslet was eager to bring DiCaprio on board,
and set up a sneaky way to do it: She arranged a
meeting with the 33- year- old actor in March 2007,
but sent Mendes in her place.
“ Leo and I have such a history together and I
couldn’t imagine not being able to apply that to this
story and these characters,” she says. “ So I played
this very clever cat- and- mouse game to get my
husband and then my best friend involved.”
— The Associated Press
MATT SAYLES / ASSOCIATED PRESS
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