Material girl makes way for Mrs Ritchie

Music and rebellion now take a back seat to writing, religion and housework in Madonna's life

The Guardian/June 27, 2005
By Dina Rabinovitch

A day in the life of the Ritchies: kids at school, Madonna at her computer. She has a book deal to write children's stories - the only problem is, there's nothing on the screen yet.

"It didn't come easily," she said, looking back on her writing process. "I'm methodical, so I set aside time to sit at my computer - of course, in the time that the children are at school - but nothing came out. My husband [Guy Ritchie] said, 'Write what you know about, and it will come, and then you edit out the bits you don't like'. And he was right, that worked."

Madonna is on the fifth of her moral-heavy children's books. In Lotsa De Casha the message is, money can't buy happiness. Her first children's book, The English Roses, was launched in London with a celebrity-studded rooftop party. The author - much prettier in real life than in photos, and very tiny - was surrounded by heavies and nobody was allowed to approach. This time she is in New York, but giving few interviews.

Madonna will phone me, I'm told, not the other way around, and it will be at 9.40pm British time. And sure enough, to the second, she does: "Hi, this is Madonna."

I don't do a dance of politeness, but come straight out with the questions I'm really curious about.

Firstly, about the Kabbalah Centre, of which she has become a habitue. To Jews, I say to her, it's a little odd that someone with the kind of business acumen she obviously has, has been drawn into the Kabbalah Centre, which is regarded within the Jewish community as being run by charlatans. "Is it?" she asks. "Yes," I say, "the selling of water at ludicrous prices, and claiming holy properties for it . . . selling bits of red string . . . claiming to teach Kabbalah [a branch of Jewish mysticism], not something you can study without an in-depth knowledge of Hebrew and Judaism . . ."

"I have an incredible teacher who is very wise," Madonna says. "The last thing you'd accuse him of is charlatanism. I do think lots of the ones who started the centre, they're not worldly wise, they've been naive about marketing themselves. What I say is, 'don't listen to the messenger, hear the message'." (A response I keep reading back to myself from my notes of the interview and still can't make sense of.)

But what about the financial shenanigans? "If people want to delve into the veracity of religious organisations," Madonna says, "have a look at the evolution of Christianity; or hop over to the Vatican. Where does all that money go? Have you seen all the gold on that roof? Not that I'm picking on Catholics, God forbid, my father would never forgive me."

Her father was very strict when she was growing up, she says. It's left her with a certain regard for discipline and method that she applies to work and to parenting. She says her daughter Lola [Lourdes], 8, leaves clothes all over the bedroom floor. So how does that play when your mum is Madonna? Not well, apparently. Madonna says the clothes are bagged up and Lola only gets them back if she keeps the room tidy for the rest of the week.

"I was talking to my housekeeper, you know, telling her not to pick all the clothes off the floor, then I just suddenly thought of it - this is how to deal with it . . . and it works, mostly," says Madonna.

So she was a pretty tidy child herself, then? "Yes, very." And she never rebelled, did that teenage thing, dropped clothes on the floor? "Well, obviously I did rebel, as you know, but not in that way. I was never untidy."

Really, all through the rebellious years? "Yup, tidy, and ordered and meticulous."

From sex sells to spirituality, Madonna's life has covered an array of character shifts, but she sounds like a woman who wants to set the record straight about her religious leanings.

"Here's exactly what happened," she says. "I was pregnant with my daughter and I went to this dinner party where I heard someone talk about Kabbalah, which seemed to address questions I'd started asking.

"I've been studying for nine years," she says. "I know there's all this fuss about it now, celebrities and so on. When I started, there were no celebrities and I just sat at the back of the class.

"I don't consider it Jewish or religious, because I meet all kinds of people there - Hindus, pagans, Buddhists . . ."

By now, big fan that I am, I am feeling rather depressed. Bagging this interview with Madonna was like winning the lottery, only cooler. But I'm really floundering now at the news that Kabbalah is nothing to do with Judaism at all, and at the parroted stuff she keeps spouting about reconciling science with spiritualism. I loved Desperately Seeking Susan, but now it turns out she was acting more than we realised - messy bedrooms are so not her thing. I wanted this woman, my generation, my aspirations, to be great. But it didn't turn out that way.

"Do you want to ask me any more questions?" Madonna says, very levelly indeed.

"No, no, it's enough," I splutter.

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