We've seen so many lives of Madonna by now that it's hard to say whether she's more famous for reinvention or shock and awe. From her 1989 religious-satire video for "Like A Prayer" to the now-legendary 1992 coffee table book she published literally about sex, the Queen of Pop has proven time and time again that controversy might be her middle name-if she had one. Twenty-five years ago this week, Madge blessed the world with one of her most infamous interviews thus far: stoned on David Lettermen's late-night talk show.
The year was 1994, and Madonna had just concluded The Girl Show, the artist's fourth world tour, which was in support of her album Erotica. Having sold out shows across all of the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia, the artist had hit her peak popularity, and the Lettermen booking on March 31, 1994 was to be her first appearance on American television that year with Counting Crows as the musical guest. On stage that evening, the broadcast kicked off rocky to say the least.
At the top of the hour, Lettermen introduced her as "one of the biggest stars in the world," noting that "in the past 10 years she has sold over 80 million albums, starred in countless films, and slept with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry." With "Holiday" playing in the background, the two exchanged flirtatious smiles and took their respective seats. But it was only seconds later that the host chided that Madonna should "kiss a guy in the audience...any guy," to which she replied "incidentally, you are a sick fuck." From there, things only escalated. Through giggles, asking Letterman to smell her underwear, smoking a cigar, and refusing to leave the set, Madonna would go on to say the word "fuck" a record 14 times during the course of the interview. The episode became the most censored in American network television history, while at the same time Letterman garnered some of the best ratings he ever received.
In the aftermath of the airing, the singer explained the appearance as a failed attempt to make a stand against television censorship as well as the result of smoking too much "endo" before the interview. Months later, the two reunited at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York to show that they had put the incident behind them. Although, as a recently-surfaced (and now famous) letter that she wrote at time explains, perhaps such was not the case. "I can't help it if I know how to have fun," she ranted on a sheet of lined yellow paper, "and speaking of having fun can everyone please get over the fact that I went on TV, smoked a cigar, said the f-word a few times and made David Letterman look stupid."