SINEAD'S WORLD A LITTLE LESS ROCKY
Sinead O'Connor is adorable.
This comes as rather a surprise. There's the shaved-head-angry-young-woman thing, plus the Catholic priest saga, the tear-up-the-Pope's-picture incident, and all the other public weirdness.
But in real life, she's funny, whimsical and shy. Swears like a trooper and, chain-smokes. She's sensible, frank and kind. No sign of nutcase, no sign of nasty.
O'Connor was in Toronto to promote her new album, Faith and Courage, which will be released June 13. It's her first full-length album of new material since Universal Mother in 1994.
This, her first recording
with Atlantic, seems poised to be the comeback.
At 33, O'Connor has been in the public spotlight for 16 years. The Irish media are endlessly fascinated by her. "It's because it's a very small place," she says, rolling her eyes a little. "I'm like their Princess Diana."
The most recent headlines
arose when she called the police and reported her friend Shane MacGowan,
lead singer of the Pogues, for using heroin last fall. She said she couldn't
bear to watch him kill himself; MacGowan, busted for possession, lashed
out at O'Connor, saying he'd seen her take "handfuls of Valium."
But mostly, we're stuck on the idea of Sinead the priest. She was ordained in April 1999 in something called the Latin Tridentine Church, a Roman Catholic splinter group. O'Connor became Mother Bernadette Mary, sought forgiveness from the Pope for her "naughty girl" phase and began to lobby Rome for the ordination of women.
There was no sign Thursday of the priestly garb she was often seen in last year. She wore a Reebok sweatshirt and track pants with clunky shoes, and a tiny gold stud glinted in her nose. Her hair is still duckling-short; around her neck hung a huge chunky crucifix strung on a rainbow cord.
She didn't want to talk about the priesthood thing, but she did explain that the Tridentine church opposes the Vatican II changes to ritual. Mass, for example, should be said in Latin, because it's a magical language.
Matters spiritual creep into all of O'Connor's conversation, and they also heavily overlay the album.
She is enjoying the record tour, which she called "a busman's holiday" from her two kids. "I get to wear makeup and nice clothes and let the rock chick out," she says.
Each of O'Connor's children (son Jake, 12, fathered by producer John Reynolds, and daughter Roisin, 4, the child of Irish journalist John Waters) lives half-time with her, and she divides her own time between Dublin and London, where their fathers are.
"I know it sounds totally chaotic. But it works out all right."
She fought a nasty public battle with Waters for Roisin last year; she attempted suicide after he said she was not fit to parent. She gave up the child to him in despair; eventually they worked out joint custody. But it was another car-crash chapter.
"I did go through years of being vulnerable," she says. "I kind of was a bit nuts for years: I had to go there to get myself back."
She added that in talking about the "terrible, violent abuse" by her mother, and her recovery process, she drew attention to things Ireland still prefers to leave unspoken.
"I'm not ashamed of that. But Ireland is. I'm taking away the shame . . . People say I'm crazy. Well, why, you ask them. For doing that thing, whatever it is. Because when you do that thing you get yourself into trouble."
The reaction to her choices, she says, shows just how afraid Ireland still is of the Church, of abuse, of vulnerability.
"I've challenged Irish ways of thinking," she says. "I've come from the future, this close-cropped alien."
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