Book Review: Life With My Sister Madonna, by Christopher Ciccone

Life with

Celebrity memoirs and autobiographies are two of my favorite genres because they represent a marriage of literature and non-literature entertainment. It is not always a perfect marriage seeing as some celebrity memoirs suffer from lack of ambition to be anything other than an arbitrary dabbling into book writing. Sometimes it could be a complete waste of time if it tells you things you’ve already seen in VH1 Behind the Music, the Biography channel or E! Channel. There are some truly juicy emails to be had from My Life With My Sister Madonna, but as for the rest of the book there’s not much else that you wouldn’t get from Wikipedia.

One such juicy email is this:

‘…I gave up my fucking life to help make you the evil queen you are today… 15 years listening to your bitching, egotistical rantings, mediocre talent, and a lack of taste that would stun the ages… every ounce of talent you have, you have sucked dry from me and the people around you… I certainly have never worked for you for the money… now you accuse me of lying and cheating you… you’ve got some fucking nerve… as usual… you have lost all sense of reality… I guess I always thought that one day you’d see my worth and behave accordingly… but you never did… a little fucking respect was all I ever wanted from you and you couldn’t even manage that.’

Other than that, there is nothing in Christopher Ciccone’s memoir that could have held anyone’s interest except the parts where he talks about his life with his sister Madonna. Sometimes, he talks about his life as a gay man struggling with his sexuality, and as an occasional cocaine snorter who sometimes parties with his friends Gwyneth Paltrow, Demi Moore, Naomi Campbell, Trudi Styler and countless other celebrities (all of whom became friends of his via a Madonna connection). He could have been the greatest memoirist who ever lived – on top of being a talented art director, dresser, artist, interior designer and stage director – but the general public would still be flocking to this because of Madonna. That is sad, but that is how the world works.

According to Christopher, M is not a very nice sister (although she can be if she feels like it). She has mistreated him and it was  not the sort of maltreatment that a fragile little brother could handle. As her personal dresser during the Blonde Ambition and Girlie Show tours, he had the lovely task of picking up her sweaty underwear and had the distinguished position of being the object of a pop superstar’s super insults, if and when he’s being slow or when PS just feels like it. She underpaid him for services as decorator and tour director and, at one point, was even the cause of his financial ruin. Madonna’s abuse towards him is endless; some of it may come off truly appalling, some not so much (eg, she doesn’t pay for his hotel suite; she gives him a less prominent seat in the Madonna-Guy wedding reception, etc.). But even without this ‘tell-all’, you probably could have guessed that Madonna may not be a very nice woman, that she is imperfect, and that she may in fact be a total bitch.

Actually, she has admitted countless times of being a total bitch. Aside from not being a very nice woman, you probably have already known that Madonna is also an egomaniac, an attention whore, a sinner, lover of sex and profanity, boastful, proud, etc., etc. She is of course widely regarded as a queen of the performance industry and she is merely acting according to expectations (and because she feels like it and/or that’s who she is). These are not wild guesses and blind accusations; these are things she admits in her songs:

  1. “I’m a Sinner”
  2. “I Don’t Give a”
  3. “Unapologetic Bitch”
  4. “I’m So Stupid”

But still, she did not deserve this.

The hurt that comes with being the brother of one of the pop’s biggest ego must truly be galactic. It is the sort of ego that is hard to eclipse and Christopher should have known this. He wanted to shine without Madonna casting her big, fat shadow over him, but it’s just impossible. He wanted his worth and talent to be acknowledged without anyone using the M word. He accused his sister of sucking the life out of him, but the thing is, Madonna really did put him in the map – the map of a world where Madonna is a multimillionaire super megastar and he is… who he is. This memoir is a whole lot of ‘My sister is so, soooo mean!’ but without that mean sister, there would be no sold out shows to art direct and no memoir to make some money off of. What he wanted most of all was Madonna’s respect and love, but Madonna does not give any of these because bitch, she’s Madonna.

Christopher is not a great writer, and to his everlasting credit, he never claims to be one (he claims to have the design taste that suits the taste of a pop super queen and there is no reason to doubt this). The most riveting parts in the book are those where Madonna is present. When she’s not, book turns lethargic. The constant name-dropping is the least of its problems, even. Some of the name drops, though, are truly worthless. I don’t know how the meet-and-greet with Liza Minnelli and Peggy Lee contributes to the my-sister-is-mean narrative, but they’re there, along with several others.

Reading about Christopher’s rants, Madonna’s worst crime, it seems, is her massive ambition to become the greatest pop star in the planet. And that’s what makes this memoir so limp and so… mean. Divadom is not achieved by an easygoing persona. It comes with horrific tales of ‘baskets of puppies in a lavender, strictly-no-freesias suite’ and plenty of other diva demand anecdotes, and a couple of bruised egos along the way.

If you read this because you wanted to know what life is like being Madonna’s sib, it is this: It’s the kind of life that sometimes involves drunken nights with Demi Moore and Kate Moss, backstage pass to Madonna movies, and front row seats to Madonna concerts and documentaries. Sometimes you even appear in them. Sure, Madonna will exploit some of your family’s history, and she will stage fake reunions to serve her fauxcumentary, but it is a great life all in all. This is a book that Christopher felt he needed to write so he could tell the world that he is his own person. As a person with a severely bruised ego, this book’s purpose is to salve that ego, but it doesn’t give you plenty of reason to think that this is necessary. The world can only take one scene-stealing, egomaniac Ciccone and that position has already been taken.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: