Madonna Tag Can Be Hard To Wear

CicconeMIAMI – Christopher Ciccone, Madonna’s brother, manages a good amount of grace about his famous sister. Until you go a tad too far with the Madge questions.
Then he’ll straight cut you off. You were waiting to see how long it would take him. And to his credit, he almost gets through his entire egg white omelet before he checks you in that manly-man voice of his.
“Are we doing a Madonna interview now?”
Actually, there’s nothing you’re burning to know about Madonna. You’re all for her finally having a private life. You were more commenting on how grown up she seems these days.
But who can blame Ciccone, really? Here’s a guy who works hard at being defined by something beyond that unavoidable tag. Yeah, he’s Madonna’s brother. He’s also a painter, an interior designer, a clothing designer, a concert tour director, a music biz manager, a filmmaker, a writer.
But it always comes back to the Madonna thing.
So, what’s best about that?
“The best thing about being Madonna’s brother is that it gave me the access to being creative. I got to design all her houses. I got to work with her on a lot of projects. Like the Girlie Show tour, which I designed and directed. As far as I’m concerned, it was a peak for both of us creatively.”
And the worst thing about being Madonna’s brother?
“She casts a very big shadow.”
Is she conscious of that?
“It’s not really her problem, is it? We don’t really talk about it.”
Ciccone, a South Beach fixture since – well, since Madonna moved here in the early 1990s, and he came to decorate her Coconut Grove house – has endless balls in the air. He’s just finished designing kitchens and bathrooms, plus one full apartment, at a new building by architect Kobi Karp called The Caribbean, on Collins Avenue and 37th Street. He’s managing a young Venezuelan singer named Julien. (“He’s a little David Bowie, a little Freddie Mercury, just a little hint of Latin,” Ciccone says.)
He’s written a screenplay about a girl bullfighter and is trying to get the movie made. He’s continuing to follow young fashion designer Esteban Cortazar with a video camera, something he’s done since Cortazar was 14 and just spinning dreams about being in the fashion world. And he’s about to launch a T-shirt and jeans line called Basura Boy. It’ll soon be available through
“The shirts have Buddhist images, Hindu images, Kabbalah images. The jeans are a little raunchier. They have the brand embroidered on the outside of the fly. People tend to look there,” says Ciccone, sporting prototype denim over breakfast.
He said the name came from a term he and his friends had been bandying about lately.
`I had somebody in L.A. translate the term `white trash’ into Spanish. It was just a term we had been using as a joke. They came up with basura blanca. We were going to use that for the T-shirt line, but somebody has a golf manufacturing company with that name, for God knows what reason. So we changed it to Basura Boy. And Basura Baby (for the girls).”
So did he turn Madonna on to Kabbalah? Or vice versa?
“Madonna turned me on to it. I’m pretty much a Catholic boy. I was resistant. But after going to a couple of classes and reading a few things, I discovered aspects of it that I could understand. Especially after living in L.A. for a long time, you start to believe your own (B.S.). And the (B.S.) other people tell you. Kabbalah sort of woke me up a little bit. Everything you do affects the future.”
He took Kabbalah classes for a while. But he got over that.
`Things tend to get very cultish in L.A. Even at the Kabbalah Center. The celebrity thing alters everything. When you start to see Britney Spears hanging around there, you know. So now I do my own thing. But if you remember, `Everything I do, good and bad, affects me and the world around me,’ if you stop to think about what you’re doing just for a minute, you’re practicing Kabbalah.”
Ciccone, 46, says he’s spent the last couple of years mostly on South Beach, staying at a friend’s house near Lincoln Road, working on his projects and partying at low-key places like Buck 15 and Twist, that gay boy joint that manages to live on even though the South Beach gay nightlife scene has pretty much evaporated.
“I like places that are not pretentious. I never liked the huge clubs. I like to be able to find the people I’m with.”
So do all the boys at Twist know he’s Madonna’s brother, and is that a good thing or a drag?
`It’s dark in there. And I don’t wear it on my sleeve. Actually, I think it’s quite charming when somebody doesn’t know who I am. Maybe they start to say something (about Madonna) and I’ll go, `Before you make a rude comment …’ But I never discuss my personal family business with anybody. Though I try to be as pleasant about it as possible.”
Madonna’s brother or no, he’s having a challenging time working the industry to get his singer Julien a deal.
“He has a collection of really good songs that hopefully will turn into an album. The business has changed so much. People like Sony and Capitol are really interested in him. But they want a completed record. Gone are the days when you could get a record deal on one song. My sister’s first record deal was from one song, “Everybody.” Things are more difficult now. That’s why you get people crossing over from TV and movies. They already have that cachet.”
Couldn’t Madonna help out? Not just with the singer, but with the bullfighter movie? She knows people.
“She does know people. But I need to be able to do this on my own. I’d rather just keep pushing. She’s done enough for me. I worked with my sister for 20 years. I decided a couple of years ago it was time to move away from her and let her carry on with other people. Sort of refind myself if you know what I mean. It’s a good thing.”
There was some talk of a falling-out at one point. Are they still tight?
“Yeah, we are.”
OK, but what’s up with her guitar playing?
“When she really masters it, it’ll be comfortable to watch. Makes me giggle a little bit. But in this last tour, I was happy to see her really enjoying herself.”
Ciccone has gotten a fair share of media attention over the years, and as usual, he has endless high-profile projects on his plate. But he says he’s never had an interest in fame.
“When I was young I thought I was gonna be a forest ranger. I don’t know why. It’s inexplicable. I do want the respect of my peers, but to not have any anonymity at all would drive me absolutely crazy. I like to be able to slip into the woodwork. It makes it so difficult to have fun if you can’t.”
from The Miami Herald / Lydia Martin

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