On August 16th, Madonna turns 50. She is still young — 50 is the new 25! — but perhaps because she has been a megastar since she was 25, it seems as if she is 80. Remember the famous H. Rider Haggard book (and later an Ursula Andress movie) She? That’s how we think of Madonna — thousands of years old, renewing herself by walking through the magic fire. I think human sacrifice was involved, too. (Well, if you believe her brother Christopher …)
Not since Marlene Dietrich became the "World’s Most Glamorous Grandmother" have I seen such fret and fuss about a star’s age. (Miss Dietrich, who never saw a publicity angle she didn’t love, was initially amused by the glam granny references. Later, as the business of putting "Marlene Dietrich" together became more labor intensive, she was less cheery about it.)
Of course, with every round-numbered birthday that Madonna has passed — 30, 40 – the press has asked, "Is Madonna the Material Girl Now Immaterial? Is She Still Relevant?" The answer is f— yeah, she’s still relevant. When you don’t ask, she’ll be gone. There has always been an unseemly media haste to put an end to maturing female careers, especially when that career is based, at least in part, on good looks or sex appeal.
Truth to tell, Madonna’s record sales are not quite what they once were in the United States, but in Europe she sells three times as many CDs. Ticket sales for her coming U.S. and European concert tour remain stratospheric. (This ongoing aspect of her career is very much like that of the withered Rolling Stones and nobody is bothering to diss their crow’s-feet!)
Madonna is too thin, too worked-out and her hair is way too long. But these are the choices she makes. It doesn’t photograph well. In person — and I have seen her in person without makeup recently — she looks softer, younger and prettier. Not so unappealingly muscular.
People ask me, as Madonna’s birthday approaches, if I have advice for her? Puh-LEEZE. I wish she had some advice for ME. I’d like 600 million dollars.
As a friend, I’d only suggest she relax. As a friend, she’d probably reply, "I will when you will, Liz!" (Several years ago, my newspaper, the New York Post obliged me to ask Madonna if she was ever going to retire? She laughed and said, "Are you?" End of subject.)
Madonna, you keep on keeping on as long as you want. Happy birthday, honey!
Oh, and here are a few other stars who reach the half-century mark this year — Michael Jackson, Prince, Angela Bassett, Kevin Bacon, Ellen DeGeneres, Sharon Stone, Candace Bushnell and Tim Burton.
But as far as the press is concerned, it’s All About Madonna.