Maya just smiled and acted very mature, like she got what Madonna was saying, but I knew she didn’t. She was still too young to understand. And I wasn’t about to explain it to her later. I figured one day, when she got older, it would dawn on her. And then she could come to her own conclusions about the appropriateness of the remark.
Maya had asked me if I had anything she could give to Madonna to sign. I happened to have had a copy of American Film with her on the cover, so we brought that. When Maya asked if she would sign it, Madonna asked back if she wanted her to sign the cover or the inside picture. Maya said the inside, and Madonna took a pen, drew a mustache under her nose, and then signed it to the two of them.
I took a picture of Madonna with the girls, we hung around the set to watch Warren Beatty direct a few scenes and then we left. Her advice lingered in my head and when I got home, I wrote a little poem about it.
Madonna Paints a Mustache
Madonna paints a mustache
on her magazine picture,
wraps her Breathless black fur
around my 9-year-old daughter’s
shoulders, then confuses her
with advice: “If someone sticks
his tongue out at you, say
‘No thanks, I use toilet paper.’”
Madonna wasn’t a mother or a children’s book writer when my daughters had this encounter with her. My daughters are 27 and 24 now; one attends medical school, the other is getting her master’s degree in social work. I asked them what they remembered about meeting Madonna. Maya said, “She was just glamorous. She put her black fur coat around me and she picked up Hana and put her in her lap. It was like we knew her. I was only nine, so I can’t really remember if I felt this then or not, but we met her when she didn’t have any children and I thought she would make a very good mother. She certainly had a lot to offer.” Hana, who was just six, said the only thing she remembered was that Madonna was very nice and that she gave her a bracelet. I said I didn’t remember that and Hana said she didn’t know where she might have put it. So who knows? Maybe one day Hana will go through her drawers and find Madonna’s bracelet. Or maybe it was just a rubber band she might have found on the warehouse floor and imagined it into a bracelet.
Since that encounter, Madonna’s life has gone through a series of changes. She married Guy Ritchie, moved to England, and became a mother. She has an eleven year-old girl (Lourdes) and a seven year old son (Rocco) of her own and has adopted a Malawian boy named Banda and is looking to adopt a Malawian girl named Mercy. She’s written six children’s books that have sold into the millions (The English Roses, Mr. Peabody’s Apples, Yakov and the Seven Thieves, The Adventures of Abdi, Lotsa De Casha, The English Roses—Too Good To Be True) . She also recently decided to leave Warner Bros., her record company for the last 25 years, to put her creative talents to work for tour promoter Live Nation. In a ten year deal, they’re going to pay her $120 million for three albums, all of her tours, merchandising, and licensing.
I don’t know what advice she gives to Lourdes, Rocco and Banda but I’m willing to bet that even with all that money, the toilet paper they use is made of tissue and not gold leaf. She may still be the grandest Material Girl of them all, but even Madonna should know that gold leaf scratches.