Book Excerpt: 'Madonna' by Andrew Morton

One thing is certain. We are not dealing with one of your average one-hit wonders of the pop world here. Our girl's got a staggering record of success: more number-one singles than The Beatles and Elvis Presley, sixteen films, fourteen albums and five sell-out concert tours, more than 100 million records sold to date. Not to mention enough gold and platinum records to cover entire walls and a fortune in Grammy awards and other baubles. She even has a Golden Globe for her performance in the musical Evita stashed away in one of her homes — New York, London or Los Angeles.

The fact that she is the most wanted woman in the world means that there is a high price on her head. Big-time `fences' like Sotheby's and Christie's this year auctioned off her cultural castoffs — her signature sold for $200 while a Jean-Paul Gaultier bra from her Blonde Ambition Tour went for over $20,000. Then there are the bounty hunters: there were offers of $350,000 for the first picture of her daughter Lourdes, while one enterprising chap hid in the rafters of Dornoch Cathedral in Scotland in an attempt to film the christening of her son Rocco last year.

A look through her file shows clearly that since childhood Madonna dreamed single-mindedly of becoming a celebrity. "I've been provoking people since I was a little girl. I'm very interested in being alluring," she once confessed. As with so many showbiz divas, it started with the small stuff: a show of exhibitionism at family gatherings, hogging the spotlight at school concerts, always being the center of attention at college dance performances. By the time she moved to New York, she was on the slippery slope, rapidly moving from recreational self -absorption to flirting with the hard stuff, avidly sniffing success. Pretty soon she had pawned her dance career for a hit of fame, never really coming down from the high of seeing her first single go to number one in the charts. From then on she was hooked, utterly addicted to fame, mainlining on mass adulation, graduating from one-hit wonder to singing and acting sensation, celebrity superstar and, finally, universal icon.

Of course, as always in these cases, there were victims. In the global village, she outraged neighborhood elders by going round half-dressed and encouraging other girls to do the same, scandalized the closed minds within the Catholic Church with her open sexuality, and was always provoking the stuffier contributors to the parish magazine. As a serial controversialist, she had, however, many supporters in the community, especially among blacks, gays and young women. For all the years she has spent stirring up trouble and scandal, it remains difficult to draw an accurate portrait of the real Madonna. A consummate mistress of disguise, she has always cleverly hidden behind an assortment of masks, cloaking herself in the mystery of her mythology. "If she were a painting, she would be an abstract by Picasso," says one former lover, the rap star Vanilla Ice. "She has so many faces."

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