Christopher Ciccone talks about Madonna’s marriage
As she puts the finishing touches to her upcoming world tour, Madonna Louise Ciccone is – as usual – making sure she gets exactly what she wants.
Now 47, the Queen of Pop has the body of a woman half her age, global adoration and enough money to buy her own country, so it’s no surprise that she is used to calling the shots.
She can get the Los Angeles Police Department to seal off streets, make hairdressers drop all other celebrity clients at a moment’s notice, and have the odd half of bitter flown over to California whenever she fancies it.
But there is one area of life that all-powerful Madonna just can’t control – her marriage to British film director Guy Ritchie.
Rumours of fierce rows indicating that their five-year marriage was on the rocks were compounded last month when her father-in-law, John Ritchie, said they were only staying together for the sake of the children – Lourdes, nine, and Rocco, five.
Now Madonna’s brother, 46-year-old Christopher Ciccone, adds more fuel to the fire in an exclusive interview with the Mirror.
Talking about the pressure that must come with being married to his famous sister, Christopher says: “You can’t really prepare yourself for it. I mean, I don’t know how a person prepares himself for that.
“I was there from the beginning so it was no big surprise for me. But if you’re not around for the evolution of it, for what it becomes and how intense it can get, it can be surprising. It just takes getting used to – it’s as simple as that.”
Christopher, who designed the sets for her Blond Ambition and Girlie Show tours, knows how tough it is to be viewed as “Mr Madonna”. He also has first-hand experience of how the strain of living with her remarkable fame can harm those closest to her.
He was horrified when she accidentally “outed” him in an interview. Although they have since made it up, he has refused to work so closely with her again.
“I would say Guy has managed to cope,” adds Christopher. “They’re still together. He’s famous himself on a different level and in a different field.”
It is no secret that the Ritchies’ marriage has been stormy from the start.
Madonna herself has said: “There is a lot of fire. When I first met him I couldn’t believe I had met someone as strong-willed as I was.
“Guy has a very forceful personality with very specific likes and dislikes. He doesn’t back down one iota if it’s something we disagree on.”
Guy, 37, is clearly not one to sit around in the shadow of his far more successful wife. But as his own career has stalled since his last hit movie, Snatch, that is increasingly what he finds himself doing.
The first indication that all was not well came earlier this year. The Mirror revealed how Madonna’s close working relationship with record producer Stuart Price had opened up cracks in her marriage.
She was spending an increasing amount of time with 26-year-old Price, who masterminded her disco album Confessions On A Dancefloor.
A week later, she and Guy tried to stage a show of unity when they attended the Brits, but their stilted body language spoke volumes.
The couple spent just 30 minutes at the event in London’s Earls Court. Embarrassingly, when Madonna stood to collect her award, Guy went to kiss her – and missed.
A month later, they relocated to Los Angeles in preparation for Madonna’s world tour, where they were pictured leaving a Kabbalah centre looking sullen and miserable.
Madonna has even felt forced to put on a show of marital solidarity at rehearsals.
Just last week, the Mirror can reveal, she ordered her dancers to “call me Mrs R”. Embarrassingly, few have obliged.
While Madonna currently puts in long days perfecting her routines – determined to appeal to a new “cooler” and younger audience while still retaining the loyal fans from her 80s heyday – Guy has been left hanging about, feeling bored and resentful.
A source in LA reveals: “Madonna is pushing herself to the limit on this tour. It gets harder and harder every year to stay at the top and she won’t let herself slip, whatever it takes. But the downside is that everything is just revolving around her work. When Madonna focuses on her music, her marriage starts to slip.
“Guy is just hanging out with the kids, doing his own thing. He does turn up now and then to see her, but he’s not at her beck and call.
Often she’ll want Guy to watch something or comment on a new look, but he doesn’t even bother to show.
“She’s got control over absolutely everything on this tour – from what the roadies eat to what power wattage we use.
“But she doesn’t have the control over her husband that she wants.”
Even so, retired advertising boss John Ritchie is optimistic that being in LA will help his son and daughterin – law sort out their differences.
He says: “It’s easier out there because there is less pressure. They seem to have left the bumps they were having in Britain behind them. You can never know that things will work, but they do seem to be fitting into each other more.
“They have put everything behind them and gone to LA to enjoy themselves. They’re able to go home at night and be together.
“They both want to see the children. It’s the children that will keep them together. The children are everything to them.”
Yet Guy has ruled out a permanent move to LA, fearing that he would be swallowed up by his wife’s fame.
One source says: “Guy has insisted right from the outset that they keep their main base in England. It is his home country and it is one of the few things he has over her.
“She’s no fool. She knows how important this is to him and she’s been prepared to make the sacrifice because moving to LA full-time would be the death knell for him.
“He needs to be in Britain with his circle of friends. He likes the pub, he likes hunting, shooting, fishing and being in the countryside. Guy just couldn’t survive for long in Los Angeles.” Guy is not the only one in Madonna’s inner sanctum who is no longer enthralled by every little detail of her career.
Christopher Ciccone admits: “I don’t listen to my sister’s music really. I’ve just heard it too much.
“There are certain songs that I really like, such as Like A Prayer, and the Erotica album was a great record – probably her best, in my opinion. Confessions is a more joyful, a little happier – like she’s lightened up a bit.”
Through Madonna, Christopher was drawn into the Kabbalah religion, but he has since become disenchanted with the faith – a mystical branch of Judaism.
He says: “She took me to her house and all of the teachers were there and I just listened.
“There are some really good things in it. You have to take it and make it your own, the same as being a Catholic, make it whatever works. But anything that’s organised can become very cultish. It got that way for me, so for a long time I sort of stopped.
“With all the celebrities involved, it takes something that’s actually kind of cool and really useful and makes it appear foolish, stupid and faddish — and it’s not.
“But when you read about Britney Spears investigating it, it becomes so…”
Surprisingly, their father Tony – a devout Catholic – didn’t turn a hair when told about Madonna’s obsession with Kabbalah. But then it seems he gave up battling his strong-willed daughter a long time ago.
Christopher says: “I think my father did what only the father of Madonna could do and that’s just let it slide off and carry on. It could make a person crazy, but he just makes his wine and he’s a happy guy.”
There’s a lesson there for Guy, if he wants his marriage to survive.