This obsessive need for control goes way beyond the parameters of a typical business manual. Even on the rare occasions she takes a holiday — she has had only a handful in her adult life — she has an organized schedule to work on lyrics and future projects. She is literally never still for a moment, a musical poet in motion. This was the woman who refused to perform The Star Spangled Banner at the Superbowl, not through lack of patriotism, but because she could not control the light and sound systems.
Indeed she clearly demonstrated her patriotism and concern when she became the first celebrity to make a donation to charities helping the victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks in September 2001. She gave around $1 million — the proceeds from three Los Angeles concerts — to children orphaned by the disaster, the singer leading her audience of 20,000 in prayer.
Her frequent response to any opposition is "This is not a democracy." Strict with herself, she is as demanding of her staff and those with whom she works. Madonna is the boss, able to reduce to tears her one-time secretary Caresse Henry-Norman, now her manager, in the search for a missing pair of shoes in her New York apartment, or to snap at her publicist Liz Rosenberg, whom she calls `Momola,' when she brought out her school year-book in the green room just before she was due to appear on the comedy show, Saturday Night Live. Apparently, she didn't like to be reminded of a past life while she was psyching herself up for a TV performance.
A picture by her bed gives another clue to her deep-rooted need for control, to contain what she calls `the ickiness' of life. The black-and-white photograph, illuminated day and night, is of her mother, also christened Madonna, who died of breast cancer when her eldest daughter was just five years old. Her tragic death took away the implicit sense of security in Madonna's life. One consequence of this is that Madonna has endless nightmares about death and, despite regular health checks, particularly for breast cancer, sees herself in a race against time, desperate to achieve as much as she can. She says: "I've got to push myself so hard because I have demons. I won't live forever and when I die I don't want people to forget I existed."
At the same time, her mother's untimely death snatched from her perhaps the one person she could rely on for unconditional love and affection. Has this resulted in lasting emotional damage? Madonna seems to have spent a lifetime searching for love, yet continually rejecting or discarding those who have loved her, always afraid of being hurt once more.
Although she is in control of her artistic and business life, she has all too often lost control of her love life. In contrast to her supremely self-confident public image, the private Madonna is often uncertain and unsettled in her relationships. "She can stand before 80,000 people in a stadium and hold them in the palm of her hand. Yet off the stage she is the most insecure woman I have ever met," says her ex-lover Jim Albright.