'GMA' Exclusive: Madonna's Brother on His Strained Relationship with the Star

Chris Ciccone says he was ambushed at his mother's grave with a camera crew.


July 15, 2008 — -- The cracks that fractured the once tight relationship between superstar singer Madonna and her younger brother Christopher Ciccone began long before he even thought of writing a book about their relationship, Ciccone said in an exclusive interview that aired today on "Good Morning America."

While Ciccone partly blames Madonna's husband, Guy Ritchie, for his estranged relationship with the "4 Minutes" singer, the openly gay Ciccone said his view of his sister really changed after she ambushed him with cameras at their mother's grave for her black and white backstage documentary, "Truth or Dare."

"At one point, if you've seen the 'Truth or Dare' movie, when she's rolling around on my mother's grave that -- that was a turning point for me in my relationship with her," said Ciccone who just released the book "Life With My Sister Madonna." "I kept it inside but I thought to myself, 'OK, there are no boundaries now.' You know, my mother's now become a side -- a bit player in her life, life story, and it hurt me. And I — my, my opinion of her altered at that moment. I never said anything about it."

Click here to read an exclusive excerpt from Ciccone's book.

Ciccone refused to be filmed for the movie and said he began realizing the daddy's girl he grew up with in Bay City, Mich., was gone.

"I think, ultimately, she's a lonely person and, unfortunately, it, it truly is lonely at the top," he said.

But the "Truth or Dare" incident was just the first in a series of alleged episodes that weakened the bond between the pair. Ciccone, who said at one time his relationship with Madonna "was a bit like a marriage," said he hit his biggest rift with his sister over finances -- just as in so many marriages.

He said the "Like a Virgin" singer's refusal to provide adequate aid to their ailing, blind 97-year-old grandmother was too much.

"It's difficult to trust people, you know, but someone like my grandmother, you know, you just do it," he said. "I wanted her to look after her, to get her a driver and a car.

"It seems like the easiest thing to do," he added. "Ultimately, so she, she gave her $500 a month and pays, and pays for her medical bills."

Ciccone's critics have said his book is just a way for him to cash in on his sister's fame.

"I'm happy to get paid for my work, so I don't have a problem with that. I'm also happy to get paid for the first time what I think I'm worth," Ciccone said.

Still, Ciccone said he was satisfied with the amount he ultimately received for his book.

"I'm not unhappy with it," he said.

When Ciccone was asked if it was true he had received seven figures for the book, he laughed and coyly repeated, "I'm not unhappy with it."

He added that he is sure his sister was worried about exactly how much he would reveal to the world when she learned of the book.

"I know that her reaction was like many people's — she went to the very worst place," Ciccone said. "That I was going to discuss very private medical matters, that I was going to tear her apart, that, you know, she was very upset. And she — since I wasn't responding to her, she was calling my father and trying to get him to choose sides, which I thought was of -- on the low side, if you ask me."

Ciccone said he still has strong feelings for his big sister, but he was careful to make a clear distinction.

"I love my sister, more than like [her]," Ciccone said. "I love her. It will take some time for us to find our way back to, to a good place, and I'm not sure when and if that will happen. I hope it does."

Ultimately, Ciccone insisted his explosive book was not an attempt to get revenge on his uber famous pop star sibling, who is currently busy battling allegations of a home-wrecking affair with New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.

"I didn't set about to knock her off her pedestal. I set about to put [up] a nice little staircase up and help her walk back down to earth with the rest of us," he said.

"I'm not taking revenge at all," he added. "I'm telling what I consider to be a great tale."

Representatives for Madonna and Ritchie declined to comment on Ciccone's book and allegations.

For Ciccone, part of making his sister more humble is dispelling the myths surrounding her childhood and early career.

As a pop culture mainstay for more than 25 years, Madonna might already seem like an open book to her fans. The story includes her humble beginnings and her heading to New York City as a young woman determined to "make it big" with only $35 in her pocket.

But Ciccone said that's not the true picture of Madonna; those are just well-spun fairy tales. In fact, the queen of reinvention grew up in a middle class home as the third of six children, where she often got what she wanted.

Ciccone said he was by Madonna's side long before she was a Material Girl, tabloid staple or Kabbalah (Jewish mystical teachings) enthusiast. Two years her junior, he knew her as Madonna Louise Ciccone, an incredibly strong-willed, determined child.

She always did everything first — everything best, he said. And after their mother's death, more focus was placed on Madonna.

"Well, she was my mother's namesake, and she looked like my mother," Ciccone said. "Our mother was very important to us and she, you know, after dying, she, achieved a sort of sainthood in our family.

"And so, Madonna became the focus of quite a bit of attention. And it's — that attention turned into kind of an ego ... that got bigger and bigger."

Even as Madonna became pop music's new starlet, its bad girl, and its resident rebel, Ciccone said she still retained some of her roots.

"First of all, despite everything else, she's still a Catholic girl," he said.

Now, Ciccone believes that the Madonna of today doesn't resemble the girl he grew up with — either personally or physically.

"Not after the face-lift," Ciccone said with a chuckle.

Though Ciccone and Madonna no longer speak, he said he retains hope — despite his bombshell book -- they will someday resume communication. But he has specific guidelines.

"Frankly, I don't want to talk to her unless we're speaking to where — to each other as equals," he said. "That's where it has to come from. And if that means, you know, if that, if she stays together with her husband, and that means we don't have a relationship, as long as she's happy, it's cool with me."

Ciccone characterized Ritchie as a homophobe who destroyed his close relationship with his sister.

"Guy Ritchie pretty much happened to our relationship, for the most part," Ciccone said.

"The best way to get to my sister is to get in bed with her, you know what I mean?" he added. "And since I wasn't doing that, and ... wasn't about to, you know, that person, like I said, who speaks to her, the last person to speak to her at night, has the most influence.

"And we both couldn't really exist in the same hemisphere."

Ciccone said he was unsure whether he and Madonna could repair their relationship if Ritchie's feelings toward him remain the same.

"What I'm suggesting is that Guy's attitude towards me needs to change, number one. And also her attitude towards me needs to change some, too. And so, if those things occur, I'm more than happy to — I'd like to get to know my niece and nephew better, you know. I'd like to meet [Madonna's adopted son] David," he said.

Ciccone told 'GMA' that the trouble between him and Ritchie began as early as his sister's wedding to Ritchie.

"You're saying Guy Ritchie has a problem with homosexuality?" Roberts asked Ciccone in the interview.

"He does and he certainly has a problem with me where both are concerned,'' Ciccone said. "It was...very apparent at the wedding in Scotland, just in the way that his friends made their toast with his gay references. I mean had it been any other word, you know Jew or a black person...anyone would find if offensive and I have a thick skin, you know."

"But I did at one point, get up and leave the room, you know. It was just not tolerable for me."

Though the world has gotten an inside look at Madonna's family life, including her high-profile adoption of her youngest son David, Ciccone said his father and stepmother don't have a relationship with the young boy.

"My parents still haven't met him so — but hopefully, I think in the next couple of weeks, she'll be up at the house with the kids and my parents will get to meet David," he said.

To hear Ciccone tell it, the relationship between brother and sister was extremely unusual, to say the least.

"Yeah, I mean I —not very many brothers find themselves on their knees in their sister's dressing room, wiping sweat off of her — off of her naked body. It's just — it was an odd situation, and it wasn't — you know, I couldn't really tell my friends and — but I wanted to be there for her, and I knew that she needed someone there that she could trust."

"How close were you two, would you say?" Ciccone was asked by "GMA's" Deborah Roberts.

"Well, we were living in the same house together. After the divorce from Sean [Penn], I mean, it was — I was the last person she spoke to at night before she went to bed," he said. "It was, I was the first person she saw in the morning. We ran together. We had our sourdough toast together, we had our coffee together, you know, and — we had, we had, we were a very close brother and sister. I mean, it was a bit like a marriage, it was kind of weird, but you know."

Ciccone was beside the Michigan native singer when she rocketed to superstardom and appeared as a backup dancer in one of her earliest videos, 1983's "Lucky Star." For the next two decades, he choreographed, directed, designed, dressed and took care of his big sister's every whim.

He watched her seemingly self-forecasted success blossom from their youth.

"It was a double-edged sword," he said. "Nobody was chaining me down to make — to stay.

"Where there was a gift, there was also, you know, a slap, you know what I mean? So, it kind of -- it balanced itself out in some ways, but in the end. I had to step back."

Ciccone also said that his "controlling" star sister is beginning to "crack" under the pressure of turning 50, and is struggling to maintain her choreographed, mythic image.

Part of the singer's well-crafted image is her relationship with Ritchie. Currently, the Material mom is battling allegations that she had an affair with A-Rod, but Ciccone said he believes it's "highly unlikely" his sister broke up the baseball player's marriage.

"It seemed absurd to me, truly," Ciccone said.

"I think that he was interested in Kabbalah, to be honest," he said. "I doubt that this is actually an affair. I really doubt that she had any — I'm, I'm sure she had nothing to do with the breakup of their marriage."

Madonna also had to respond to months of rumors about turbulence in her own marriage to Ritchie. Tabloids have reported that she and Ritchie are on the verge of divorce.

And while Ciccone makes no secret in his book about his feelings toward Ritchie — describing him as unfriendly — he said his sister will "do what's best for her family and her kids. And I think that she'll do her best to maintain the marriage and keep it going," and he "would never advocate the end of their relationship.

"I don't think — she's not the kind of person just to walk away," he said.

Ciccone said Madona and Ritchie use Kabbalah to get their relationship through the rough patches, but he was skeptical about how effective it could be.

"I don't think that — while Kabbalah is useful, I don't know that it's the only thing that can hold something together, like a marriage," he said.

He added that the study of Kabbalah has partially benefited his sibling.

"I suppose, on some level [it has made her a better person], although I think Kabbalah, in many ways, has validated some of her bad behavior. I think — you know, now it's her way or no one's way, because she's got God on her side now," Ciccone said.

"It's again, like our relationship, a double-edged sword," he said. "You know, it can be very helpful, but she has a tendency to use it like a weapon, and I think that's not what they quite intended."

Ciccone said his sister "blackmailed" him into studying Kabbalah.

"I had finished a house for Madonna and she owed me a final payment and, you know, she, she said, you know, 'if — I'll only pay you your final payment if you come to a Kabbalah class,''' Ciccone said. "And I was like, 'if this is what it takes to get paid, fine, I'll go.' And, as it turns out, it was the perfect time for me ... to take another look at myself at the time — it was 2001. And while I resented her for, for forcing me into it, I actually got some good stuff from it."

ABC News' Chris Francescani, Michelle Major and Lee Ferran contributed to this report.