Gaga sang ‘Edge of Glory’ and talked about her difficult early years.
By Gil Kaufman
For months, Sirius radio host Howard Stern has been bellyaching about how Lady Gaga seemed to be talking to everyone except him. So, when the singer stopped in to chat on Monday morning (July 18), the notorious radio host made sure to make the most of it, indulging in one of his show’s longest celebrity chats in recent memory, a nearly 90-minute ramble in which he got Gaga to talk about fame, fashion, sex, drugs and rock and roll.
For the most part, the interview hit many of the highlights of Gaga’s now-legendary rise to superstardom: her childhood fascination with piano, the first song she ever wrote, her move to Manhattan as a teenager and the one-year ultimatum her dad gave her after she dropped out of college. But she also revealed a bit more about her offstage self and the inspirations behind some of her most beloved tunes.
“I really don’t give a f— about money at all,” Gaga said when Stern tried to get the singer to dish on how much money her album sales and tours have grossed. In fact, she said she still lives in a tiny Brooklyn apartment and has only bought two things with her newfound riches: heart surgery and a car for her dad. “The Monster Ball was really expensive and the next show will be really expensive and I will pay for it,” she said of the 2012 extravaganza that she’s planning.
There was, however, one topic even the famously prying Stern couldn’t goad Gaga could into talking about: her love life.
“What boyfriend? … Who’s Jean Luc?” she joked when Stern asked about what her closest friends call her offstage. (Even her parents call her Gaga at this point, she said, especially when they’re mad at her.) “It’s hard to find a boyfriend who doesn’t mind a good tuck,” she added, throwing more fuel on the fire of the absurdly tenacious Internet rumors about her gender.
“My first love is music,” she explained, though when Stern asked whether she had been intimate with anyone recently, she laughed, “I got laid last night … the guys who are here are my best friends in the whole world. You’re talking about Luc Carl; he’s been my best friend since I was 19.”
Gaga stressed that Carl is still her best friend, sidestepping the boyfriend issue once again — and that he’s going to launch a Sirius satellite radio show soon.
One of the stories Stern was predictably fascinated with was the fact that Gaga’s first piano teacher was a stripper who danced at one of the radio host’s favorite New York gentleman’s clubs, Scores, leading him to wonder if he’d ever gotten a lap dance from Gaga’s instructor.
Back in the day, in fact, before she was famous, Gaga said she used to dance on fire escapes and pretend she was a star, an image she re-created for her “The Edge of Glory” video. But those pre-fame days were also difficult, as she toiled at waitressing jobs and turned to drugs when she felt lonely, something she now really regrets. “To any little sweethearts that are listening … don’t touch [cocaine], it’s the devil.”
Though she’s best known for writing her own songs, Gaga discussed the two tracks she’s written for Britney Spears, “Quicksand” (which appeared on the Circus album), and “Telephone,” which Spears recorded, but never released. Asked if it bummed her out that “Telephone” was rejected by Spears, Gaga said, “Hell no! Frickin’ Britney Spears sang my record! I was doing back flips and ordering drinks!”
After describing how she came up with “Born This Way” while in the shower, Gaga pulled out her BlackBerry and played a number of early demos of her songs, including the first, vocals-only take on “Highway Unicorn,” her first pass on the chorus to “Judas” and a snippet of a bouncy new song she wasn’t ready to unleash yet. She also described how “Marry the Night” was inspired by the moment when she decided that she was not willing to become another one of those California club people after spending some time on the Left Coast early in her career trying to fit in. ” ‘No thanks … see you later, it’s been nice in the sun,’ and I went back to New York and I married the night,” she said of why she would never move to Cali, preferring the divey, shots-and-pool-table bars in her native city.
“Do I feel like a powerful person in show business? Yeah,” she said when Stern wondered if she will use her newfound powers in the industry for good or evil.
The appearance also featured a performance of “Glory,” with Gaga prefacing with a story about how it was inspired by her grandfather’s passing, the first death of a close family member she’d ever experienced. “When my grandma was saying goodbye [to my grandfather], there was something so intense that happened for me that I saw … as sad as the moment was, they both were acknowledging that they had really won in life because they had each other,” she said of the 60-year marriage of her grandparents.
On the day her grandpa died, Gaga said she and her father sat down at the piano in their home and traded shots of tequila and she told her pops, “Grandpa’s about to cross over into his glorious moment. It’s hard now because he’s on the edge.” Right then, Gaga said she began playing piano and the song just tumbled out of her. She recorded it and played the emerging tune for her grandfather that day over the phone, and she’s convinced he could hear it. He passed just hours later.
“It’s about also knowing in your heart that you may never reach that glorious moment until you die, so live life on the edge — halfway between heaven and hell — and let’s all dance in the middle in purgatory,” she said before playing an affecting solo piano version of the tune.
And, in honor of Stern’s notoriously luxurious locks, she also performed the Born This Way tune “Hair,” explaining that it was inspired by her rebellious teenage Grateful Dead phase, when her mother would sneak in and chop off her gross, dread-y hair in her sleep to keep her looking neat and clean.