Madonna watchers, get ready for another eyeful. The woman who has influenced the fashion scene more than anyone else in the '80s is about to reveal three--that's right, three--new looks.
They are all dramatically different, but all basically blond.
"If I have blond hair, I attract attention," Madonna says, after repeated switches between light and dark. "Dark hair is for those times when I want to be anonymous."
She will unveil her first new image when "Blond Ambition," her world concert tour, begins this month. On stage she'll play a tarty blond, dressed in costumes that cross 1930s Berlin cabaret outfits with images from "A Clockwork Orange," the street-smart sci-fi movie made in 1971.
Each change of clothes is built around a bustle-skirted mini with a corset-like top designed by Marlene Stewart, who has worked with Madonna on her wardrobe through most of her musical incarnations.
"My style is all about irony," explains the songstress, speaking from a reclining position on a bare mattress in a room cluttered with other people's clothes. She is in a Hollywood studio, resting between rehearsals for her world tour.
Madonna's appearance reaffirms her love of contrasts. Except for her black fishnet hosiery she is dressed like one of the boys, in a hooded sweat shirt under a black denim jacket, shorts, boxer's shoes, and a leather cap worn backwards over her light, short hair. But physically, everything about her is entirely feminine. She has the complexion of a rose, her voice is a whisper, and she moves with the grace of a dancer.
But Madonna wanna-be's would do well not to get too attached to the Blond Ambition look, because there's a blond bombshell hot on its vampy heels. In early June, Madonna will splash across the big screen as buttery-haired Breathless Mahoney, the love interest in the new "Dick Tracy" movie.
She plays the '40s doll her way, of course, wearing Tracy's mall-brimmed fedora with her beaded, body- gripping gown.
Warren Beatty portrays Dick Tracy, and for months now, the very public romance that blossomed during filming has been the talk of many towns. Late nights, Madonna and Beatty show up at Club Louie in Los Angeles. She dances with the crowd, he stands back to watch.
Two new Madonnas would be enough. But there is a third one on the way. This is an icy blond from the pages of a '50s fashion magazine, a type created for "Vogue," the music video that will be released from the "Dick Tracy" sound track album. Madonna poses here as a cool mass of waves and curves, dressed in goddess gowns that cover everything but cling to almost all of it.
Whatever will the fashion crowd do when their most active inspiration tosses them so many images at once? Already they have to hustle to keep up. Even Yves Saint Laurent succumbed to Madonna's lead this winter, with a new couture collection that is all about Monroe. Or is it all about Madonna playing Monroe? She's been updating the role for five years, since she imitated the dress, the voice and the hair, and called it "Material Girl," her hit song of 1985.
And what will Jean Paul Gaultier make of the three new Madonnas? The hip French designer has had a fashion fling going with her since she starred in "Desperately Seeking Susan," her trend-setting movie of 1985. She wore black lace bras peeking out from beneath every outfit, and he showed fashion collections of underwear as outerwear, with tops that resembled long-line bras and bottoms that looked like girdles. Gaultier and Madonna keep trading off ideas (he designed several costumes for her Blond Ambition tour). And he is one of the few fashion big shots whose clothes she admits to wearing.
Italy's Franco Moschino is another. "They have a sense of humor," she says about them. "I hate taking fashion and style seriously."
While she inspires some of the biggest names in the clothing business, she says the people from the racially mixed neighborhood in Bay City, Mich., where she grew up, still inspire her. They knew her by her full name, Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone, after her mother who died when Madonna was 6 years old. And she knew them as people with a flamboyant sense of style. "These people managed to look good without money," she recalls. She seems to pride herself on the fact that she still wears few designer labels.
Without realizing it, her father influenced her fashion awareness, too. "My father would go crazy when I wore pants to church," she says of her strict Catholic upbringing. Seeing how potent a certain way of dress could be, she says, helped her develop what she refers to as "combinations of strictness and rebelliousness." Such Madonna fashion details as crucifix earrings and rosary bead necklaces were born of that awareness.
Over the years she has constantly shifted fashion roles from toughie to temptress, mixing man-tailored suits with lace underwear, motorcycle jackets with tulle dresses and "Boy Toy" belt buckles. At first it was all by intuition. Now, she can explain it.
"I like to cross the boundaries between men and women," she says. "That can be frightening, but the things I'm most affected by are things that frighten or challenge me."
"I like to nudge people, to break through stereotypes. There are too many stereotypes. Even liberated women stay in certain categories; no one is too threatening."
Madonna has surrounded herself with a trusted group of creative people who have worked with her from the beginning, yet rarely allow their names to be associated with hers. They all seem to want to stay in the background.
In part that's because she expects to be the the only star in the group. But it's also because she has her own eclectic view, a collision of images from street fashions, ethnic dances and glamorous old movies that only she could combine.
Her definite tastes don't always make her easy to work with.
"She knows she's difficult," says Victor Vidal, one of her regular hair stylists.
"But her saving grace is that being difficult is part of being honest, for her. She complains for a reason. It might be after 14 hours of rehearsal. She'll say, 'Let's get this done,' but everybody else feels the same way."
Despite her strong point of view about absolutely everything, the people around her say she respects and trusts them, starting with her art director, 29-year-old Christopher Ciccone, who is also one of her seven siblings and looks remarkably like her.
"She calls me the 'tastemaker,' " Ciccone says. A painter who has worked closely with Madonna since the early '80s when she peddled her record demos to New York deejays, he is artistic director for the Blond Ambition tour. He is also responsible for the interior design of both her California home and her New York apartment. He describes both as spacious and serene, punctuated with important art.
"She has her own vision, I offer her different ways of looking at things. Other people do, too, but it's different with us. We fight a lot, and either she wins or I win, but we don't let up. Neither of us is afraid to be direct, and Madonna has always known what she wants."
Costume designer Stewart gives Madonna full credit for creating her distinctive clothing style. "She's an actress, not just a singer. For costumes she thinks in terms of story and character."
Peter Savic, her other hair stylist, created Madonna's flirty hair styles for "Desperately Seeking Susan," and has worked steadily with her since then. He also designed her glamour girl styles for "Dick Tracy."
Vidal made up the bleached, cropped, chopped look Madonna wore for her "True Blue" video in 1986. "I told her about this vision I had of her. I wanted to bleach her hair almost white and cut it short. She thought for a moment, said yes, picked up a magazine and never looked up until I was finished."
Madonna's two makeup artists, Francesca Tolot and Joanne Gair both say she knows what she wants. Their only basic rules are to use deeper shades of color when her hair is dark, paler shades when she is blond. And they use less makeup now than ever before, because she wants a less painted look these days. But neither Tolot nor Gair takes credit for teaching her anything new.
"She is aware of her face, she knows what looks good and what does not," says Gair.
In 1987 Madonna added personal trainer Rob Parr to her inner circle. She works out with him for two hours daily.
"She challenges herself more than I ever could," says Parr. "Our workouts often start at 5 in the morning, when she is filming. We work on stamina and endurance for her singing and dancing and we work on the shape of her body."
"I work out for emotional reasons as well as physical," she says. "It makes me feel more in control. I can say to myself, 'At least I've accomplished one thing for the day.' "
Photographer Herb Ritts and video director Mary Lambert are two others in Madonna's stable.
Lambert directed "Material Girl," and "Like a Prayer," perhaps the most controversial of all Madonna's works so far, because of its martyr/victim overtones.
"Madonna makes no effort to mask any of her feelings," says Lambert. "I think part of her appeal is that she personifies the way a lot of people want to be."
Madonna relates that notion to clothes.
"If I'm in a bad mood I dress the way I feel," she says. All of a sudden an underlying toughness about her shows through and she turns defiant. "I don't comb my hair, I put on a cap, a leather jacket, jeans, a T-shirt. It works because I'm dressed the way I feel."
Ritts met Madonna five years ago, while photographing an ad campaign for her movie, "Desperately Seeking Susan."
"She strutted in dripping in rubber bracelets, crucifixes, carrying armloads of clothes and trinkets in a cigar box. I liked the definite way she felt about herself."
Concerning the many faces of Madonna the world has seen since then, Ritts says, "Her attraction isn't about hair or makeup or clothes, it's about her evolution as a person."
Truly, we've all watched her grow up, from the 20-year-old kid still reliving Catholic school days to Madonna the MTV star of the decade, the 31-year-old mogul in charge of her own music and movie career, who is said to earn $20 million or more every year.
Through it all, including criticisms and counter-criticisms that she can't sing, can't act, can't keep her personal life together, no one has questioned her reputation as fashion's leading chameleon. And she is the one who decides when to change color.
"It's important to me to express myself, as an artist, as a woman, as a jerk if that's how I feel," she says, putting on a slick black, knee-grazing trench coat to go on to another rehearsal. "Nobody has done what I've done quite the way I've done it. I don't know what people will be saying about me in 50 years, but I know they'll be talking about me."
GUIDE FOR MADONNA WANNA-BE'S
* HAIR: Victor Vidal, Peter Savic at Cloutier Agency, Los Angeles.
* MAKEUP: Francesca Tolot, Joanne Gair at Cloutier Agency.
* COSTUME DESIGNER: Marlene Stewart, Costume Designer Guild.
* READY-TO-WEAR DESIGNERS: Jean Paul Gaultier and Franco Moschino.
* BASICS: Levi 501s, faded cut-offs and full length, black fishnets and boxer shoes from dance wear stores, black lace Lejaby bras from local department stores, men's white T-shirts from drug stores, hooded sweat shirts from sporting goods stores.
* LATE NIGHT HANGOUTS: Club Louis, Los Angeles.