26 New Things We Learned About Madonna After Reading ‘Encyclopedia Madonnica 20′, From A-Z
You might think you're a big Madonna fan. Hell, you might even go so far as to call yourself a stan. So, you've got Erotica on vinyl? You went to the Drowned World Tour three or four times? Okay, sure. You're a big fan. But after just a few quick flips through Matthew Rettenmund's unbelievably thorough, all-encompassing Encyclopedia Madonnica 20: Madonna from A to Z, it's hard not to feel immediately, well...humbled.
To say the 4 pound, 582-page paperback behemoth covers all things Madge would be an understatement. The carefully researched, playfully written encyclopedia contains every little thing that the Queen of Pop has ever said or done: Behind-the-scenes album insights, concert statistics, interviews with collaborators, journalists and artists, notorious celebrity spats, former flings, quotes, unreleased songs, rare photographs — really and truly, it's the very essence of MDNA in one handy A-Z. (Rettunmund's first edition of Encyclopedia Madonnica was published in March of 1995, so a newly updated edition 20 years later was most certainly crucial.)
To give you just the faintest glimpse into this lovingly curated database of M-Dolla knowledge, we've randomly selected a fact from each letter section that you might not have already known about the "Vogue" icon.
A is for...ACTING:
"Madonna's first agent, Camille Barbone, sent her off to acting lessons with coach Mira Rostova, who instantly hated Madonna's guests. After only one session, their association was dissolved. 'This girl will never be an actress,' Rostova reportedly spat. 'She is too vulgar and thinks she knows it all. Besides, I do not like her.' The reviews are in!"
B is for...BELLY BUTTON:
"When she had it pierced in the '90s, Madonna said she nearly passed out in agony. She debuted her pierced innie at the premiere of Alex Keshishian's film With Honors on April 26, 1994."
C is for..."CRAZY FOR YOU":
"Madonna's first big ballad was so popular in 1985 it dethroned 'We Are The World' at the top of the charts (maybe they should've made sure Madonna participated in the charity single?) and managed to chart concurrently with her other Top 5 smash, Angel,' even though the film whose soundtrack it graced, Vision Quest, was a box office letdown. Fans were pleasantly surprised by Madonna's deep voice on the record after a string of upper-register disco tunes."
D is for...DOGS:
"Madonna's first dog was apparently the hapless half-wolf, half-Akita named Hank that she bought for herself and Sean Penn in December 1986, only to leave him behind when the marriage went sour."
E is for...EYEBROWS:
"Initially as famous as Brooke Shields for her lush eyebrows—each one is bigger than Griffin Dunne's whole body on the Who's That Girl movie poster—Madonna had tamed them by 1992, when she thanked François Nars in Sex for 'getting rid of my eyebrows forever.' Madonna has referred to plucking them as a favored method of procrastination."
F is for...FUNERAL:
"Madonna has said that the song that should play at her funeral is Frank Sinatra's 'My Way' (1969)."
G is for...GIFTS:
"Madonna said in 1990 that the best present she ever received was a handful of 'sweaty diamonds and emeralds.' She is known to lavish her close associates with gifts, taking the entire Blond Ambition World Tour troupe on shopping sprees across Europe. While doing Speed-the-Plow, she gave floral arrangements to everyone involved in the show, and in 1992 gave director Mary Lambert a teeny-tiny black leather motorcycle jacket with a crucifix on the back as a baby gift."
H is for...HEIGHT:
"Like a small-fry, Madonna, such an enormous personality, is actually a diminutive figure, all of 5'3.5". Aside from her 'thin lips', her small stature is the one thing about her physicality that Madonna has consistently said she'd like to change."
I is for...INSOMNIA:
"Madonna has suffered from sleeping issues for most of her life. She attributes it to the loss of her mother, saying sleep 'has never been an easy thing for me.' She is happy if she can get six hours of sleep."
J is for..."JUST A DREAM":
"Madonna and Patrick Leonard co-wrote and produced a version of this perky track for inclusion on Like A Prayer before deciding it didn't fit. In 1993, Madonna gave the song to her friend and backup singer Donna De Lory for De Lory's self-titled debut album, complete with backing vocals (role reversal!)."
K is for...KRISPY MARSHMALLOW TREATS:
"Madonna's generic version of a white-trash snack that happens to be one of the only dishes she can make. She is famous for whipping up a batch on the spur of the moment, and surprised everyone by passing some around at her 35th birthday party at Castillo del Lago. In 1993, Warner Bros. Records released a promo recipe book that included Madonna's recipe for the sticky and sweet treats."
L is for...LEAKS:
"More than any other artist, Madonna has been plagued by unauthorized leaks of her music. The first song to leak was 'Frozen' in 1998, which happened in an analogy way — it was played too early by a Singapore radio station, taped and uploaded to the web."
M is for...MADONNA MONEY:
"In Madonna we trust? That's what Madonna money asks of us. Loads of the phony stuff—bearing Madonna's image—were printed up for The Virgin Tour and dumped on audiences at the end of "Material Girl." Her official fan club also used to mint its own Madonna money for use in buying merchandise from its catalogue."
N is for...NICKNAMES:
"Madonna's family called her 'Nonni' or 'Little Nonni' when she was little, a reference to the existence of 'Big Madonna' (her mother) and 'Little Madonna.' Madonna was also apparently called 'Squeeze' and 'Mouth' by her family, while the first nickname she invented for herself, in junior high, was 'Mudd.'"
O is for...ONO, YOKO:
"Ono threw a party in 1985 attended by David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol and Madonna. Ono asked that all guests remove their shoes, to which Madonna said that she'd feel more comfortable shirtless than shoeless. No kidding! Ono was said to have appreciated Madonna's cover version of Lennon's 'Imagine.'"
P is for...PET SHOP BOYS:
"With Robbie Williams, PSB wrote the song 'She's Madonna' for William's Rudebox album (2006). The song was inspired by words exchanged between Williams and Tania Strecker, a woman who had been dating Guy Ritchie but who was dumped because, as Ritchie said, 'Look, you know I really love you, but she's Madonna.'"
Q is for...'QUEEN'S ENGLISH':
"House of Xtravaganza dancers Jose Gutierez and Luis Camacho (Jose & Luis), Madonna's "Vogue"-ing partners on her Blond Ambition World Tour, cooked up this hilariously haughty dance single with Junior Vasquez and Merv de Peyer, enticing Madonna into singing the hook, 'Queens that read are the best.'"
R is for...RITTS, HERB:
"The first music video Ritts ever directed was Madonna's 'Cherish,' which led to another dozen with artists like Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Tina Turner. Madonna trusted Ritts so much that he shot her in her wedding dress in 1985 and became the first person to take images of her with her baby, Lola, including a breastfeeding image that has, appropriately, leaked."
S is for...SPEARS, BRITNEY:
"Spears was often seen as a potential successor to Madonna. This talk came at the right time—a Kabbalah-fied Madonna, then a new mommy, was seemingly easing into the idea that she would not be the Queen of Pop forever, graciously wearing a tank with Spears's name on it during her comeback gig at the Roseland in 2000. She said she had made Britney her 'talisman' during her Music promo in NYC. 'I became obsessed with wearing [Britney] T-shirts. I slept in them, as well. It was like I felt it would bring me luck. And it did.'"
T is for...TAXES:
"France sued Madonna in 1987 for back taxes due from her Who's That Girl World Tour. And after her regal welcome by Jacques Chirac!"
U is for...UNDERWEAR:
"Madonna has said that she wore 'colorful, sexy underwear' as a schoolgirl. 'I'd hang upside down on the bars in the gym just so they could see my undies.' She told Spin in 1985 that one thing she'd never wear in public was 'just sexy underpants,' a vow she has obviously broken. Many, many times."
V is for...VERONICA:
"Madonna's Catholic confirmation name. Madonna chose it because Veronica wiped the face of Jesus on his way to Calvary, which she found 'very dramatic.'"
W is for...WIRETAPPING:
"Madonna bugged her phone calls with Warren Beatty for inclusion in Truth or Dare, but she had to edit them out of the final cut when Warren asked her to. 'There were some phone conversations I thought were really moving and touching and revealing...' But, in the end, '...it wasn't fair, plus it's a federal offense.'"
X is for...X:
"The original working title of Sex before Spike Lee's Malcolm X (1992) laid claim to the twenty-fourth letter of the alphabet for 1992. That's why there's an 'X' die-cut into the book's back cover."
Y is for...YOGA:
"After Madonna's C-section giving birth to Lola, she couldn't go back to her usual strenuous workouts. She turned to Ashtanga yoga. In 1998, she told Barry Walters, 'When I first started, I couldn't do any of the poses. I used to call the balancing positions the 'humiliation positions.' I just kept falling and falling.' But she got there, and would eventually credit yoga for changing her life."
Z is for...ZITS:
"Madonna breaks out easily — 'I have adult acne,' she has said. When asked why he shot so much black-and-white footage for Truth or Dare, director Alex Keshishian replied, 'Becuase it covered her zits better than color—no kidding.'"
Can't help but want to go deeper and deeper? Encyclopedia Madonnica 20 is out now, just in time to find the right gift for the Madonna L-U-V-er in your life.
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