Show Business: Now: Madonna on Madonna

"If People Don't Get the Humor in Me Or My Act, Then They Don't Want To"

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I know she tried to keep her feelings inside, her fear inside, and not let us know. She never complained. I remember she was really sick and was sitting on the couch. I went up to her and I remember climbing on her back and saying, "Play with me, play with me," and she wouldn't. She couldn't and she started crying and I got really angry with her and I remember, like, pounding her back with my fist and saying, "Why are you doing this?" Then I realized she was crying. (Madonna stops talking and covers her face with her hands and cries.) I remember feeling stronger than she was. I was so little and I put my arms around her and I could feel her body underneath me sobbing and I felt like she was the child. I stopped tormenting her after that. That was the turning point when I knew. I think that made me grow up fast. I knew I could be either sad and weak and not in control or I could just take control and say it's going to get better.

Then my mother spent about a year in the hospital, and I saw my father going through changes also. He was devastated. It is awful to see your father cry. But he was very strong about it. He would take us to the hospital to see her, and I remember my mother was always cracking up and making jokes. She was really funny so it wasn't so awful to go and visit her there. Then my mother died. I remember that right before she died she asked for a hamburger. She wanted to eat a hamburger because she couldn't eat anything for so long, and I thought that was very funny. I didn't actually watch her die. I left and then she died. Then everything changed. My family was always split up and we had to go stay at relatives'.

STEPMOTHER. As soon as my father started hiring housekeepers we were all back together again. He just kept going through housekeepers because we never got along with them. Then he married one of our housekeepers. I don't really want to talk about my stepmother. I was the oldest girl so I had a lot of adult responsibilities. I feel like all my adolescence was spent taking care of babies and changing diapers and baby-sitting. I have to say I resented it, because when all my friends were out playing, I felt like I had all these adult responsibilities. I think that's when I really thought about how I wanted to do something else and get away from all that. I really saw myself as the quintessential Cinderella. You know, I have this stepmother and I have all this work to do and it's awful and I never go out and I don't have pretty dresses. The thing I hated about my sisters most was my stepmother insisted on buying us the same dresses. I would do everything not to look like them. I would wear weird-colored knee socks or put bows in my hair or anything. I also went to Catholic schools, so I had to wear uniforms that were drab. I guess that was the beginning of my style.

KID STUFF. My father made everyone in our family take a musical instrument and go to lessons every day. I took piano lessons but I hated them. Finally, I convinced my father to let me take dance lessons at one of those schools where you get ballet, jazz, tap and baton twirling. Anyway, the dance school was really like a place for hyperactive young girls. I was pretty rambunctious.

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