'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.

ByABC News via logo
July 13, 2008, 4:05 PM

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."

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.