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 "I was seduced by the madness and the fame," Ricky Martin says, letting out a deep breath as he leans back on a sofa in a studio in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. The 40-year-old superstar's chiseled features, which once made him an MTV fixture, ensure he's still boyishly handsome, but there's also a well-earned maturity that wasn't evident when Martin became a household name. "Once I took a moment to step out of the spotlight and create my family, I thought it was the perfect moment to have this stability."

Having settled down with his partner and two children in New York this winter, Martin has found a constancy that seemed to be missing when he first became a superstar more than a dozen years ago. The singer is in many ways liberated, certainly from the closet in which he hid his sexual orientation. Perhaps the best word for Martin is one he used to describe himself last year while accepting an award from the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation: free.

He may be free, but today Martin is a very busy man and on a rigid schedule. Martin arrives at the studio for this interview and photo shoot accompanied by his longtime publicist, John Reilly, and his manager, Jose Vega, who's been with him since he joined the wildly popular Puerto Rican singing group Menudo when he was 12 years old. He's just come from a wardrobe fitting for Evita, a Broadway revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's celebrated political-themed musical; it's the reason for his move to New York. And though he says he's eager to get home to see his twin sons, Matteo and Valentino, Martin takes time to offer a friendly smile and firm handshake to everyone on the small crew assembled for the photo shoot. Although it's a brutally chilly Friday afternoon in Manhattan, Martin is gregarious and warm.

Martin's charisma appears effortless and genuine, and his magnetism isn't reserved for the cameras. The crew, most of whom are gay men, exchange glances to signify that this will be an exciting afternoon. Even the lesbian studio manager — no stranger to superstar photo sessions — is hovering about, clearly smitten with Martin.

His crossover appeal is, by now, almost legendary.

March 11 2012 10:25 PM

 The temptation to apply layers of meaning to the story Madonna tells in her new film, the cryptically titled W.E., is irresistible.

The pop superstar's second feature film as a director, W.E. is a tale of two women, two cultures, and two eras. Wallis Simpson was a real-life American socialite of the 1930s who was vilified for falling in love with England's King Edward VIII; he abdicated the throne to marry the divorcée. Madonna's movie attempts to reclaim Wallis's image by turning a polarizing woman often perceived as a villain into a sympathetic figure.

And then there's Wally Winthrop, the other woman — this one fictional — in New York City in the late 1990s, at a time when Simpson's jewels and other possessions were being auctioned off for charity. Trapped in an abusive marriage that appeared to be fairy-tale perfect, Wally obsesses over Wallis, her bygone namesake, and turns to her for support.

Like Madonna's best videos and music, W.E. is a pastiche of eras past and present, with a heavy emphasis on style, fashion, and design. Her presence is clearly felt. More oblique is the connection to Madonna's own life. The movie depicts Wallis as a dramatically different person than she was in her private, tortured reality. Wally's fantasy facade, concealing a darker truth, invites comparison to Madonna's now-dissolved marriage to filmmaker Guy Ritchie and raises the question of whether Madonna feels as vilified as Wallis.

"I was intrigued," Madonna says of the royals. She had a vague awareness of Wallis but only really got to know her story when she moved to England. "Like Wallis Simpson, I felt like an outsider. I thought, Life is so different here, and I'm used to being a New Yorker, and I have to learn how to drive on the other side of the road. Suddenly, I found myself living out in an English country house and trying to find my way in this world, so I decided to really take it on and do research and find out about English history and learn about the royal family."

Madonna read every book she could find about Simpson and her time. She became obsessed with the tragic notion that a woman then was only as good as the man she would marry. "The idea of making a choice for love wasn't really part of their world," says Madonna. "The fact that they eventually found each other and were willing to jump into this fishbowl of scandal and rile people up, even though Wallis knew, as she says in the film, that she would become the most hated woman in the world" — that's what captivated Madonna.

While she doesn't claim the title "most hated" for herself, she feels a connection to Simpson. "I mean, I certainly don't engage [with the media] as much as I did," she says. "When people are writing about you in the beginning and they're saying nice things, you're like, 'Oh!' You feel this lift of energy. Then they say bad things, and of course, you're affected by that too."

Madonna spent a lot of time caring about the bad, but she claims to have moved on. "I don't really dwell on it anymore. I used to be kind of fixated on it and think, It's not fair, it's not fair, it's not fair, but it is what it is, and I just have to get on with my life."

But Madonna's passion for this topic belies that resolute attitude: "If you are threatened by me as a female or you think I'm doing too much or saying too much or being too much of a provocateur, then no matter how great of a song I write or how amazing of a film I make, you're not going to allow yourself to enjoy it, because you're going to be too entrenched in being angry with me or putting me in my place or punishing me."

February 02 2012 4:59 AM

An exclusive interview.

January 12 2012 4:00 AM

 1. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Is Dead
Now it’s OK to be an openly gay or lesbian soldier. But the fact that there’s still no marriage equality in the military could possibly be the catalyst that leads to federal recognition of same-sex marriages, experts predict. Already the Pentagon ruled that chaplains can officiate at same-sex weddings as long as state laws also permit such unions.


November 14 2011 4:00 AM

“I got a smoothie and I pumped gas!”

Adam Lambert’s mornings aren’t so unlike those of many Los Angeles residents on their way to work.

“These are my days,” he says at Conway Recording Studios in Hollywood, teasing the last ounce of his smoothie with a straw. “I woke up, I got on my treadmill at my house this morning and ran for 20 minutes and got ready. I love this juice place. This is called the singer’s remedy, and it’s lemon and cayenne. It clears your throat and gets your cords ready. And it’s something I actually do. And I need gas to drive. It’s a normal day.”

Normal to a point. Then there’s the whole magazine interview, photo shoot, and a day working in the studio. Lambert is recording his follow-up album to his 2009 debut, For Your Entertainment, and has been writing and recording for the last five months. And a lot has changed since the most controversial figure to come out of American Idol first took to the national stage.

At age 12 he wowed the audience of his San Diego children’s theater company with a powerful operatic solo in Fiddler on the Roof, an experience that launched a budding theater career. Fifteen years later his unexpected reboots of some beloved songs (Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” Tears for Fears’s “Mad World”), paired with a more decidedly glam aesthetic than that of his largely all-American competitors, made him the most interesting thing to watch on American Idol’s eighth season, where he finished as first runner-up.

Lambert has long been comfortable in front of an audience. It was the other trappings of fame that threw him — and the media — for a loop.

Before the show had even finished filming he appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly in an article speculating about whether he was gay and why he wouldn’t say so — all without having given an interview. (Idol contestants are prohibited from giving individual interviews while in competition.)

He came out in Rolling Stone and appeared in a provocative photo spread in Details magazine suggestively grabbing a naked woman. When he did agree to appear in a gay publication, in Out magazine (owned by Here Media, the parent company of The Advocate), his management issued so many conditions for the photo (“must accompany a straight woman”) and interview (“not too gay”) that Aaron Hicklin detailed the conditions in his editor’s letter. Lambert responded via Twitter, suggesting that others not force their own agenda on him, and then shocked media watchers on his first post-Idol TV performance by kissing his male keyboard player at the American Music Awards.

“I kind of asked for it in a way,” he says of the fuss surrounding the kiss, which prompted CBS to censor a later broadcast of the performance and led ABC to cancel a morning show appearance. “Not everything is so premeditated as people think it is. There are things that just happen, there are things you just do. It was an impulse.”

Lambert admits it was “a bit reactionary on my part. I think I was a little overwhelmed with everything. It was me reacting a little bit to that ‘you’re not gay enough’ thing. At that moment for whatever reason I was like, Well, is this gay enough? It was me being a little bit pissed off!”

October 17 2011 4:00 AM

We look back in time via The Advocate's special cover story after the tragedy on September 11, 2001.

September 11 2011 4:00 AM

 Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to make one point very clear about the marriage equality victory in New York.

 “I was the governor, so I’m sort of the front person, win or lose,” he said in early July. “If it had failed, I would have been getting the blame. The reason it won was this was an unprecedented group effort.”

True, it was a group effort. The legislative win in the nation’s third most populous state capped a meticulously choreographed, bipartisan campaign that raised more than $2 million—over half of it from Republican-affiliated donors. A coalition of LGBT groups lobbied, undertook fieldwork, and disseminated messaging based on polls that showed a majority of New York voters supported marriage equality. And activists had prepared the ground by helping unseat three Democratic senators who voted against the bill in 2009 and replacing them with supporters, putting would-be opponents on notice.

Ask advocates from either party, however, and they will say that Cuomo provided the indispensable ingredient, a model of bold and smart leadership never before seen on the issue. His example energized the marriage equality movement after a season of setbacks in states including Maryland and Rhode Island, and it created the momentum that the governor himself touted as the latest instance of progressive trailblazing from New York, site of the Stonewall riots.

“They understand that this is a complex state, that if you can pass it here, you can pass it anywhere—pardon the pun,” he said days after signing the bill into law. Since then, he has been hailed with signs declaring “Thank You, Governor Cuomo” at the annual Pride march in New York City, and credited with raising expectations of full marriage equality support from Democratic politicians, even as President Barack Obama resists public calls to “evolve.”

“I think it changes the game in that it’s going to be a major question,” said Cuomo in his distinctive staccato cadence. “And then it’s going to depend on the individual and where and what circumstances, but it’s a question, and a valid question, and a powerful question where it didn’t exist six months ago. We passed the feasibility test.”

Cuomo, who was secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton and subsequently New York State’s attorney general, was elected governor by a landslide on a reform platform last year. He embodies politics as the art of the possible. Faced with a Republican-controlled Senate, he completed the most successful legislative session in recent history, including a rare on-time budget marked by fiscal conservatism. Then he turned to his campaign promise to legalize same-sex marriage.

In a departure from the failed, often chaotic effort of 2009, the governor coordinated the work of five LGBT advocacy groups into a single coalition, New Yorkers United for Marriage, overseen by his office. He named marriage equality one of three high-profile legislative priorities and toured the state with the agenda. All the while, rather than alienate opponents of the bill, such as the Roman Catholic Church, the grandson of Italian immigrants included them in the conversation, inviting church lawyers to discuss religious exemptions language that met with approval from civil rights groups.

August 08 2011 4:00 AM