Book Review: Life With My Sister Madonna by Christopher Ciccone

Sheila recommended this book to me several times, and I’m glad she did. It was a rushing trainwreck of a book, every bit as bitchy and snarky as one of Kitty Kelly’s gossip-fuled brain dumps but without any trace of graceful writing, even with ghosting assistance by Wendy Leigh.

Christopher Ciccone has the misfortune of being the brother of the greatest living legend of our time: Madonna. That seems to be his only role in life: Madonna’s brother. His book describes a lifetime of trying to get close to her, her refusing him, and then both of them acting like pricks.

Several times he describes Madonna’s financial parsimony, refusing, for instance, to pay off the house and buy the car for their beloved grandmother, refusing to pay him a decent amount for his “stage direction” of her world tours, and relegating him to the indignities of coach travel. It would have been nice for Madonna to be more generous, but does Christopher have to be such a total pussy? The man has absolutely no ambition other than being “Madonna’s brother.” It seems never to have occurred to him to try to do something unrelated to Madonna – something on his own where he would not need a recommendation letter, loan, or kind word from her. And yet he constantly bemoans the large shadow she casts, wishing he could somehow escape.

Mr. Ciccone describes frequent cocaine usage but when Madonna confronts him, he tries to explain it is just recreational, just on the weekends. He has no self-awareness, obviously, about how that sounds. And as a new mother to Lola, Madonna was right to keep Christopher at arm’s length.

Mr. Ciccone’s homosexuality was a considerable part of the book, and I enjoyed reading about his struggles to find acceptance in his family – that seemed like one of the few actual real issues that the man has faced.

There was an overall creepy vibe to the book as he described looking at the Playboy pics of his sister with his boyfriend, and wiping down her sweaty naked body during shows (making special mention of her breasts). He also noted how they both lost their virginity in cars to boys named Russell. These sexual references activated the ick reflex and made me think that he was seeing her as her fans were, which just felt sad to me.

Ciccone dishes about doing blow with Kate Moss, hanging out with Demi Moore, and doing more coke with Jack Nicholson. His book is basically an accounting of all the celebs that Madonna introduced him to, all the opportunities she exposed him to, and how he utterly pissed it away because he wasn’t willing to actually work for what he wanted. He wanted Madonna to make him whole, financially and emotionally. Though his intent was shed light on Madonna, his book shed light on characteristics he’d probably wished he’d left uncovered, if only he had enough self-awareness.

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  1. // Though his intent was shed light on Madonna, his book shed light on characteristics he’d probably wished he’d left uncovered, if only he had enough self-awareness. //

    Yeah, totally. As high-maintenance as she is, and rigid – I forgive it, because DUH, she’s a huge star and mogul. You don’t get to be Madonna without micro-managing things.

    But he really seems to feel she owes him something – and yeah, the stories about her nudity backstage struck me as really unfair and ikky. Also, how he gossiped about her prudery, her prissy attitude towards nudity – like, dude, why are you talking about your sister’s private business? For what it’s worth, hearing of her “prudery” doesn’t surprise me at ALL – her exhibitionism is confined to her onstage persona – she’s not at ALL “wild” in her private life. She seems rather shy and controlled when she’s not onstage, know what I mean?

    Get a life, Chris! He sounds like a multitalented guy who really never figured out how to do it on his own because Madonna’s career was just this giant magnet.

  2. Cara Ellison says:

    I agree totally. There was something exploitative about his talking about her nudity, like he wanted to get as close to her as he possibly could in a metaphorical way. It really struck me as wrong. And I believe that she’s probably a little uptight in private. I mean, if everybody thinks you’re the World’s Sexiest Woman, that doesn’t leave much room to relax, does it?

    I think she’s kind of stiff and I even felt a tiny bit sorry for her – despite all her success, she doesn’t seem to know why she does the things she does. I read a Paglia article once that compared her to a Brazilian singer (sorry, I can’t remember who) who is the same age as Madonna and there’s something so loose and happy about her. She looks terrific, is drop-dead sexy, and yet looks as if she’s actually enjoying herself. Madonna, contrary-wise, looks like a robot. She’s so tightly controlled that it is hard to imagine she’s ever really happy.

    Christopher could have played his cards smarter, I think. He could have actually added value to the Madonna empire, or he could have done something totally different – either way, he would not come off quite so entitled, and I might be much more charmed by him.

    What did you think of the drug usage? Did you think it was recreational or does he have a problem? And I noticed that he didn’t ever resolve it in the book so ostensibly it is still going on.

  3. ” the brother of the greatest living legend of our time: Madonna.” Sorry but Madonna is not and has never been the greatest living legend of our time!
    a) Michael Jackson
    b) Paul McCartney
    c) Mick Jagger
    Any of the above could take the title.

  4. Cara Ellison says:

    I disagree, but most adamantly with Mick Jagger. Wha…?

    • Ok maybe Elvis Presley? Lol.

      I LOVE MADONNA. But if you look at pure facts and not just adoration from a fan’s viewpoint or perspective she has never broken Michael Jacksons sales, showmanship, popularity, music awards, concert attendance and global acclamation. I don’t think Elvis’ either but my knowledge of him is not so deep. She does have legendary status over all female artists in her generation.

  5. Cara Ellison says:

    Well to be really technical about it, Elvis wasn’t alive when I was born. But is that true about her stats compared to MJ’s? I didn’t know that.

    I think she’s certainly the most photographed person ever to exist. I think she’s photographed more than presidents and princesses.

  6. Cara Ellison says:

    Holy merlot, that’s some serious money for a concert.

    I’ve maintained that she became a billionaire around year 2000.

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