Friday, October 30, 2009

The Spoiler

Just when I was feeling pretty good about my charity efforts, I hear Madonna is bringing electricity to the South African village of Malawi.

Damn, she’s always doing stuff like that to me. I mean, we started out pretty much the same. We both had pleasant, but reedy voices. We both had a slight gap between the front teeth. She could act, sort of. I could act, kind of. So why the wildly divergent results?

Driving ambition and mental fortitude. Love her or hate her, Madonna started out with very few apparent gifts; she parlayed a cute face and hardly any talent into millions and millions of dollars. So rich, she can own estates all over the world and still have plenty left to bring dental implants to every Walmart checker in the entire United States.

I always wanted the world to beat a path to my door. Which can happen, if you give it a reason to make the journey. But I never got that far. I never made it to the concept stage – the why should it, as it were.

It’s worth wondering what three of the most successful women in the world -- Oprah, Martha, and Madonna -- have in common. They didn’t come from money. None have what you’d call a true talent. They didn’t invent anything.

I think what they share is the empire-building gene. Each took a good hard look at their abilities, picked their strongest suit, and used it to lay the foundation. Chatting, scrambling eggs, singing – it could have been anything, just anything, and they would have run with it.

I see the Madonna arms as a metaphor. Yahoo and Google were screaming a few weeks back about how masculine her arms look, devoid of softness and curves, just ropes of muscles and veins pushing against the skin. And it is true, she does look like she wrestles alligators for a living. A woman who rose to the top in the music business, guided her own career, continues to run her own show, own her own labels? I’ll bet she has wrestled an ocean full; I’ll bet it’s her favorite sport.

35 comments:

Brenda's Arizona said...

But what about Evita??? You know, Evita herself gave an electric sewing machine to my pseudo grandmother. Pseudograms was younger, living in the pampas of Argentina. Along came Evita to her village, bringing electric sewing machines to every household. WHOOPS - Pseudograms village didn't have electricity - not a damn household had electricity. Imagine that. I gave up trying to change the world, realizing the change I might bring wouldn't fit. Besides it is enough energy to change the sheets once a week.

Once again, Karin, great thoughts and laughter come from you. You change me!

Paula said...

Brenda, how absurd, she could have at least brought foot pedal machines. Do you still have it?

K,I'm trying to decide how you come up with these observations, what you've got in your thousand yards stare that allows these observations to coalesce.

From what I understanad (which is very little) Madonna and The Martha have been pretty ruthless and completely unapologetic about their rise to power which makes them kinda freaky, they're not really women, they're brands. I, genetically, am the Anti-Ruth which is probably why I am where I am in this life. As for The O, well she's the neighbor everybody wants, The Queen of Boundaries, happy to show you right where to draw every line and everybody wants to walk right up to there with her. And then, of course, stop. And stare. I won't try to characterize you, I don't have health insurance.

Paula said...

...I meant to say that they're not really women to some people, more of a shelf brand...where is my lazy editor when I need her...

Margaret said...

Perhaps empire-building is less a gene than a talent. In these cases, one finely honed, and one I, alas, do not possess. Damn.

Susan C said...

Am I kicked off the blog if I admit I like Madonna? Loved her in Desperately Seeking Susan and once listened to Ray of Light for six hours straight on a road trip.

We also have a lot in common. My arms are often mistaken for hers.

BANJO52 said...

Every future article on those three icons should begin with your point on what they have in common.

In post after post, how you get where you get is fascinating--and plausible. And need I say it? -- fun(ny).

Apparently I know Opra better than the other two because what you say about her and boundaries seem precisely!! right. And as I hear it, complimentary. Or do I just know too many boundary violators?

Cafe Pasadena said...

"So why the wildly divergent results?"

Well, I think Madonna did a stint with prostitution. You didn't do that, right? That's the only difference btween U & the Madonna.

Laurie said...

I love Madonna. She's wild and expressive and bold and fearless -- all things that make people swoon over men but that usually cause tut tuts from the ladies' circles when a sister dares to do it. I still crank up Ray of Light when it comes on the radio. And I adore those croc-fighting arms of hers. I keep hoping she'll get into martial arts so I can eventually see a 60 year old Madonna doing wire fu. Yeah!

One of my relatives works for Martha Stewart and says she's really warm and fun. I really like her since she went to jail. Apparently she taught yoga and wreath-making in prison, gathering weeds and grasses from the prison yard for her materials.

I love this essay, Karin. Once again, you make me think and laugh and think some more.

WV: (no kidding! THis is hilarious) biaach!!!

altadenahiker said...

Did I sound as if I didn't like these three women? I may not listen to the chat, watch the movies, buy the sheets, oh, but I like them, all right.

altadenahiker said...

And Banjo, need to give a tip of the hat to Paula. Perhaps your favorite line came from her comment.

Anonymous said...

Well, this is just confusing. Where did the money donated come from and where is the rest of the money? Was it Madonna's money or the fans donations? What does Madonna have to do with the electricity? Is she buying it herself? Is she a figurehead or the brains behind this charity? Who are the other people who founded this charity? Did they give up on it? How come we never hear about them? Where are they? I watched the video but didn't learn anything really. Who runs this charity? It just doesn't seem possible for a singer to make albums, make videos, go on tour, raise children, and run a charity in Africa. This just gets more confusing. Its like politics. You never get the truth.

Shanna said...

I know absolutely nothing about pop culture, or politics either.

I do know good writing when I read it and you provide a very good read, Ms. Hiker. Thanks! You pack a lot into your fascinating essays and I love your use of metaphor.

Virginia said...

I'm right there with ya again KB. Never in the history of the WORLD has one woman had more jobs and/or money making ideas that didn't bring in enough to cover expenses. Jack ( Jacqueline) of All Trades, Master of None, that's moi! Another masterful piece.

Oh and I want to add that I would kill to have someone utter the words "ropes of muscles" in the same sentence with "my arms".
V

Anonymous said...

Empire-builders, male or female, never take a day off. That's the trade-off, so I've heard.

GG

Yakpate said...

Madonna has now reached the age of intolerance... that is, at her age, the macho boys on the blogs, the broadcast news and other media can't tolerate it that she is simultaneously powerful AND fiftyish. By God, there's something unnatural about that!

So, in my opinion, there is a whole lot of air-brushing goin' on to make her arms look even more sinewy (and ridicule-worthy) than they actually are.

My observation about Madonna is that she continually changes and evolves. Viva! She is an individual, not a brand... unlike the hapless Connie Stevens, for example, who used to appear on HSN selling beauty products in a breathless, girlie voice, her hair done up in ribbons. Now, THAT's what it looks like when a celebrity is a brand instead of an individual.

As for the charitable activities of the rich and famous... anyone who has never given twenty bucks to a homeless panhandler has no right to criticize.

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

I admire all three ladies but at the end of the day I''d rather hang out with Courtney Love. And thats my problem

Laurie said...

A friend of mine dated Courtney Love's ex boyfriend pre-Cobain. Based on his stories, I wasn't sure if I loved or feared her. Maybe both.

altadenahiker said...

Oh, and Brenda of Arizona, that story is superb, as are all your So American stories -- including the one you have on your post today.

Shell Sherree said...

The way you hit the nail on the head with such regularity, Hiker, I'm sure your arms are rather shapely. I, too, admire those who have the drive and self-belief to go out there and get it, as long as they don't damage others in the process. Let's get out from under those bushels... {I'm sure that will tone our arms as well.}

Mister Earl said...

I'm sure you're right, Karin, but still, I'm not helping you get your great uncle's $50 million out of that Swiss bank.

pasadenapio said...

You have to get up pretty darn early to keep up with Madonna! She can't be human.

Petrea said...

A few commenters have touched on it. Work. Seriously hard work. That and belief. I don't know if it's self-confidence or belief in what you're doing, there's a fine line between the two. But people who succeed in the public arena are driven in ways it's hard to wrap your mind around. They make sacrifices the rest of us wouldn't consider in order to achieve hard-to-fathom gains.

The gains sounded nice at first, but I didn't have the energy.

Petrea said...

Oh--and I admire these women, too. I'm a fan of all three. I can't identify a Madonna song past "Material Girl" but I admire her business acumen and always have.

Tash said...

Brava ... Karin.

San Diego Farmgirl said...

One difference between the merely talented and the mega successful is sleep. We all need a full 8, but most celebs only need 3-4 hours a night. Martha Stewart talks about it on her show all the time. Marilu Henner told me the same thing. While we're sleeping, they're working. Farkers.

Brenda, that's an awesome story! I always pictured Madonna in Malawi like that scene in Clueless when Cher tries to donate her skis to 3rd world flood victims. "Daddy, these people lost EVERYTHING! That includes sporting equipment!"

Bellis said...

Does anyone remember what Guy Ritchie said of Madonna when they got divorced? Making love to her, he said, "was like cuddling a piece of gristle." Ouch!

altadenahiker said...

Guy Ritchie, what a class act.

Farmgirl, missed you. And I think you're on to something.

AmyR said...

So can they grow those empire building genes from stem cells somehow? I need some. Just a tiny empire, I'm not asking for much!

CB3Dot said...

Am I the only guy who likes Madonna? KB, you got her right in my mind's eye. That has to be possessive, right? How comes it that some cannot see an act of intended good without scanning the periphery from some negative aspect. If I tip a valet can I then just walk away without have to be concerned about his social state? Grrrrrrrr to some voices in the wind.

Laurie said...

I only sleep 4 hours a night and I'm not doing anything exceptional. Crap.

BANJO52 said...

AH, you’re right! It was Paula’s comment that touched on the boundary issue. Thanks, Paula.

And Opra has an H.

Soilman said...

The success/domination gene is a sad one. I've known a few people with it, and without exception they were/are compensating for childhood poverty ("I'm never going back to that"), and/or trying to fill an empty hole inside ("if I'm rich and powerful it proves I'm important").

These are powerful incentives; they have to be, given the sacrifices required to achieve riches/power. But in the end, it's demons, not angels, that anoint the wealthy.

Julie ScottsdaleDailyPhoto.com said...

great post and so true and a little of being in the right time at the right place helps to foster hard work, but i am sure they all have battled really hard with people and contracts but have kept their eye on the ball.

Yakpate said...

Hiker... it occurs to me that in your post, as in her life, Madonna always generates a buzz!

But your original point was about three strong women. Isn't it fascinating how we ALL inspire so much fear, adoration and envy. We can be oppressed in the same world, and for the same reasons, that poets are inspired to write sonnets about us. Even under the birkha, we shine our light.

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