Christopher Ciccone «Life with My Sister Madonna»
фото из книги
Madonna - Celebration: The Video Collection (КУПИТЬ)
The Confessions Tour (КУПИТЬ)
Мадонна: Во имя игры (КУПИТЬ)
IN JUNE 1993, just before the tour begins, Danny and I celebrate our tenth anniversary. In commemoration, I design two matching platinum bands for us—one set with square-cut rubies, one set with square-cut emeralds—and have them made at the venerable Harry Winston. I have also translated to Latin and had engraved on the outside of the rings the words “As I am yours, you are mine.” During our ten years together, once Danny has conquered his drinking issues, the only cause of dissonance between us has been my relationship with my sister. Although she and Danny are on friendly terms, and when I am working on the Coconut Grove house, he comes to stay there with me, but in private he tells me that he thinks she is using me. He says constantly that she is sucking the life out of me. I counter with “You are wrong; she’s giving me life.” He hates Madonna because he holds her responsible for tearing me away from the secure little world we’ve created together in New York.
I try to bring him into my world, but he simply refuses. He doesn’t want to meet me on the North American leg of the tour; he hates L.A., doesn’t drive, and won’t join me out there. As much as I can, I encourage him to work again. He has always expressed an interest in architecture, so I offer to send him to NYU to study it. I get the applications, help him prepare all the forms, but a week before the interview he decides he doesn’t want to go to college after all. He prefers to stay in our perfect little bubble, and to hell with the outside world. Apart from his distaste for Madonna, he is also uncomfortable with many of my friends because he feels they take me away from him, as well. And when one of my lesbian friends begs me to father her child, and I consider it, he nearly has a fit.
I pay all our living expenses, but in the house we definitely live Danny’s way. I cook most of the time, we regularly throw dinner parties, and I firmly believe that our relationship is for life, although the gulf between my life with Madonna and my life with him is growing ever wider. ON JUNE 1, 1993, Madonna and I see Charles Aznavour and Liza Minnelli at Carnegie Hall. After the show, we are whisked backstage and into Liza’s dressing room. She is seated in front of her makeup mirror, dressed in the same red-sequined gown she just wore onstage. “Hello,” she blares in her distinctive voice, “I’m Liza!” “I’m Madonna.” “I know, I know,” says Liza, “I’m a massive fan of your work!” “So am I,” Madonna says, hastily adding, “I mean of yours, of course.” Madonna turns and introduces me. “You were amazing,” I say to Liza. Liza gives us both a broad, toothsome grin. The dressing room door opens. Her grin immediately fades. A group of fans enter. Liza’s grin glitters again, only this time not at us. Madonna and I exchange glances. The audience is over. We tiptoe out of the room, leaving the fans to Liza and vice versa. One more legend under our belts.
On September 25, The Girlie Show opens at Wembley Stadium. Then the show moves on to Paris, where Madonna gives three concerts at the Palais Omnisport, to Frankfurt, and on October 4 to Tel Aviv, Israel. On our day off, we take a trip to Jerusalem, where Madonna and I vist the Church of the Holy Sepulchre together. We see how in the Catholic Church every sect of Catholicism has its own section. We are both scared by the intensity of religious feeling in Jerusalem. Madonna says, “Everyone wants a chunk of this city. It would be so hard to live here and find peace.”
THE EUROPEAN LEG of the tour ends in Istanbul on October 7, then we fly back to America. Since we left, I have inhabited Madonna’s world, utterly and completely. With her, I live out all my creativity and travel to other countries, as well, which fascinates me and feeds my desire for inspiration and adventure. She and I are closer than ever, but that doesn’t stop her from forming her habitual on-the-road relationship with a so-called straight man—this time with Michael Gregory. And because I am lonely, and as I have done on every tour, I follow suit and develop an on-the-road relationship, this time with a dancer I’ll call Richard. We form a close, platonic relationship, and from Richard, I receive a little of the affection to which I am accustomed at home. Our relationship is not sexual or romantic, but nevertheless intimate. Before the London opening of The Girlie Show, all the dancers give me thank-you cards. I keep just one of them—a black-and-white thirties photo of ballet dancers—the one from Richard, on which he has written, “Thank you so much for being my friend. Working with you has been wonderful. You’re an amazing director. All my love, Richard, xx.”
When I arrive back from Europe, I spend a couple of nights with Danny at our New York apartment. As Madonna is only going to do three shows—two at Madison Square Garden and the third in Philadelphia—and will leave straightaway for Asia, I don’t bother to unpack my suitcase. After the show in Philadelphia, on October 19, 1993, Madonna and I drive straight back to Manhattan. I get home to the apartment at around two in the morning. There I find Danny sitting on the floor, holding Richard’s card. One look at his face and I know I’m in trouble. He throws the card at my feet and accuses me of cheating on him. He demands that I confess then and there. I tell him I have nothing to confess. He insists that I swear that I won’t be unfaithful to him again. I tell him that I won’t swear that because, if I do, I’d be lying, because I haven’t been unfaithful to him in the first place. I tell him that what happened with Richard and me was only friendship, that I am not in love with Richard.
Danny rounds on me and says, “You decide right now. Tell me that you will never be unfaithful to me again, or leave.” I am utterly dumbfounded. We spend the next couple of hours arguing. At four, Danny finally goes to bed. I sit on the kitchen floor till the sun rises, asking myself if I can go on. Do I want to remain on this isolated little planet with just Danny for company and never experience the wider world again? Or do I want to carry on exploring, living, being part of the world I crave, rather than watch from afar while life goes by me? As dawn breaks, I decide. I grab my bags and move to my studio. In the morning, I call Madonna and tell her what has happened. We rarely talk about our feelings in our family, so I know better than to expect her to offer me her shoulder to cry on; still, I secretly hope that she will care enough about me to be slightly sympathetic.
“Don’t worry, I never liked him anyway,” she says. For a second, I am speechless. Then she goes on, “Don’t worry about it. Everything will work out.” End of discussion. Back to work again. No suggestion that I come over for breakfast or sit with her on the plane so we can talk. Nothing. Ten years of my life, gone.
At this moment, the loss of my mother is at its most profound. There is no one for me to turn to, no one to understand. No one. I concentrate, instead, on retaining my professionalism—and succeed. On October 21, we play the Palace of Auburn Hills; on October 23, we play Montreal; then we fly to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where, on October 26, Madonna performs in front of twenty-six thousand fans and, by pulling the Puerto Rican flag up to her crotch, ends up being condemned by the Puerto Rican House of Representatives for desecrating their flag. Fortunately, we are allowed to leave the country.
From there, we fly to Buenos Aires, then perform in São Paulo and in Rio, where Madonna appears in front of a sold-out crowd. In Mexico City, Madonna puts on three shows, flying in the face of religious groups that have fought to bar her from their country, but have failed. By the time the tour moves on to Australia on November 17, where Madonna performs in Sydney, then in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide, I am starting to be somewhat distracted from my breakup with Danny. After New York, Richard and I have embarked on an intimate relationship after all. Although I am on top of the world professionally, I am still acutely aware that my personal life has come crashing down on me. When I arrive in Tokyo, where The Girlie Show tour ends with five sold-out concerts, all I can think of now is Danny. However much Richard has succeeded in saving me from the dark days, now that I am confronting the reality that I am about to return home to America without Danny there waiting for me, I feel as if I have thrown away my last chance at love, the best man I’ll ever know, and I’m distraught.
I think back on my life with Danny and decide that I want to compensate him for all the years we have spent together. I send him almost a quarter of my savings—$50,000—funds I’ve been saving for the last fifteen years. I tell Madonna, and I am deeply moved when she writes me a long and comforting letter. Addressing me as “My dearest tortured brother,” she says that it’s nice to discover that “indecision, self-doubt, the inability to be alone, and masochism is a familial trait and nothing exclusive to my own genetic structure.” She confesses that not a day goes by without her experiencing those same feelings. With a degree of insight that surprises me, she tells me that she feels I have outgrown Danny and that she understands how break-ups are particularly hard for us because we never got enough love as children. “You need to be around a man that disagrees with you loudly…I’ll race ya! Let’s see who gets there first.”
She is right on all counts. Moreover, she has demonstrated such sisterly love toward me that I am deeply touched. I guess that’s how it is with siblings— we disappoint the hell out of each other one moment and shower each other with unconditional love the next. YET HOWEVER POSITIVE and encouraging and sisterly Madonna is, I still feel my life has somehow ended. In contrast, hers is beginning again, and she is moving in a new and dramatically different direction; she plans to get pregnant. She doesn’t yet have a father in mind, so she launches on what she calls “The Daddy Search.” She tells me she’s reached a crossroads in her life when her maternal instinct is starting to kick in. I believe that she wants and needs someone of her own, something of herself to carry on when she’s gone, and I surmise that she wants to be the mother she never had, and to have her child experience the maternal love she never received herself.
She is determined to find a father for her child, and her search becomes a running theme between us. Going to a sperm bank is unthinkable for her, as the press would find out in two minutes flat. She decides to select a man to father her unborn child, whether she marries him or not. We come up with the term Daddy Chair. Every now and again I will ask her, “Who’s sitting in the Daddy Chair today?” She requires the ideal Daddy Chair candidate to be smart and good-looking. She has no strictures about race or religion. She just wants a father for her child and is casting around for the perfect fit for the Daddy Chair. For a while, Enos is in the running. Then she goes to a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden and fixes on Dennis Rodman—the six-foot-seven basketball player, famous for his tattoos and multicolored dyed hair. The next time she’s interviewed on television, she makes sure to mention how much she wants to meet Rodman. Three months pass, but Rodman doesn’t contact her. My sister isn’t a quitter, so she engineers an assignment to interview Rodman for Vibe and flies down to Miami to meet him.
In his autobiography, Bad as I Wanna Be, Rodman claims that the moment the interview ended and the photo shoot began, he and Madonna were “just all over each other,” and that they went straight to bed. According to Rodman’s book, she tells him exactly what she wants with no preamble: that he father her child. Along the way, she tells me she’s frustrated by the fact that the NBA schedule doesn’t coincide with her ovulation and that Rodman’s estranged girlfriend still seems a factor. “In any case,” she says, “it’s nice to have to chase someone around for a change.” The “estranged girlfriend” turns out not to be estranged from Rodman at all. Her name is Kim and Rodman is double-timing Madonna with her. Nor does Rodman exactly fit into the somewhat louche lifestyle Madonna and I have embraced with so much gusto. We decide to throw a party at the Coconut Grove house to celebrate her birthday. I arrange for Albita to entertain us and also invite a bevy of drag queens: Madame Wu, Damien Divine, Bridgette Buttercup, Mother Kibble—the crème de la crème. Madonna invites her coterie of basketball players, including Rodman.
As soon as the drag queens flounce into the party, a Capulet/ Montague scenario unfolds. The basketball players turn their backs and stay away from them. The drag queens follow suit. With both factions now firmly ensconced in opposite corners, the party might have passed without incident, except that Madonna and I make what turns out to be the fatal mistake of going inside the house for a few moments. When we come out again, we are met with mass squealing coming from the pool. The basketball players have pushed all the drag queens into the water. Eyelashes float on the surface of the pool, wigs bob about in the water, along with all the drag queens, some of whom can’t swim. I dive in and pull a few of them out while Madonna looks on, trying hard not to laugh too loudly. Then she throws the basketball players a look. “I don’t think they like drag queens,” she cracks. Rodman’s days are numbered, and my sister launches another casting call for the Daddy Chair.
Soon after, Danny asks to see me. We meet at my New York studio and talk about reconciling. He tells me he wants to fight to save our relationship, and we explore the possibility of getting back together. Then the subject inevitably turns to his financial situation. I feel bad for him, so I give him another $50,000. A few days later, his mother writes to me saying that I owe Danny alimony. I don’t answer her letter. Nonetheless, I still love Danny and am distraught about our breakup. I SPEND SOME time in Miami trying to forget, then fly back to New York where I attempt my first one-night stand—safe sex, naturally. I don’t enjoy it. I always have had the sense that when I’m involved with someone, I become a better person. I know I need to be in a relationship. Random anonymous sex leaves me feeling lonelier than before.
ON APRIL 26, 1994, Madonna: The Girlie Show—Live Down Under is released on home video and laser disc. It will be certified gold, signifying sales of five hundred thousand copies. The following January, Madonna will release her second book, The Girlie Show, for which I took many of the photographs and get paid $100 per photo used. I am beyond caring. Haunted by all my memories of Danny, I find living in New York intolerable, so I move to a duplex in L.A. I have two friends move in with me, as I am not accustomed to living alone anymore—nor do I want to. By now, Madonna is focusing on an acting career and doesn’t plan to tour in the near future. Norman Mailer has recently named her “the greatest female living artist,” in Esquire, and she has little left to prove in terms of her music. Through Ingrid—who introduces me to Gloria and Emilio Estefan, who both love my work on The Girlie Show—I am offered the opportunity to direct a video for the legendary Cuban performer Albita.
I have never directed a music video before, but although I’m nervous, I jump at the chance. As always, I relish the challenge of mastering a skill without any help or guidance. So I agree to do the video, and it’s a success. AFTER SEEING AN Yves Klein exhibit of anthropometries—body prints of blue-paint-coated nude models made directly on canvas—I persuade my friends to let me paint their bodies, then I press their body parts strategically against my walls and doors. Along the way, during a party at my home, one of my friends pulls his pants down and kneels on Madonna’s prayer bench from Coconut Grove—the one that I gave her and that she discarded, as she generally did most of my presents—and I paint his butt, then press it against the wall. Soon, the walls of my apartment are covered with the imprints of butts. I also decide to take Polaroids of my friends’ backsides. I am probably partying harder than I should, a direct result of living in L.A., a city that doesn’t inspire me but has manifold temptations, including, in my case, cocaine.
I start doing the drug once a week, on Saturday nights, when I might share a gram with four other people, dance my ass off at a club, have a few drinks, then go home to bed. Not a massive amount of coke, but nonetheless I am beginning to form a pattern of destructive behavior. Madonna isn’t particularly happy either and sends me a letter in which she sounds surprisingly depressed: “I have no interest in working lately. It’s not like me but I just wanna have fun—read, watch movies, see my friends— what’s happening to me??” Although I don’t tell her, I think her problem is that she hasn’t yet found a suitable candidate for the Daddy Chair. IN THE FALL of 1994, Madonna meets Carlos Leon, a personal trainer, in Central Park. Soon after, she asks me to redesign her Manhattan apartment because she is now planning to start a family. Moreover, she tells me that Carlos fits the Daddy Chair perfectly—and that he is an aspiring actor. I say, “Great, another actor.” “Shut up; he’s sweet,” she says.
I meet Carlos, and she’s right. He is sweet. He’s also handsome and sexy. But she’s not sure he fulfills the intelligence requirement of the Daddy Chair. I meet him, spend time with him, and decide that he is a fish out of water in Madonna’s rarefied world, but he’s far from stupid. Down the line, I will observe him on the red carpet with her, and my misgivings about the permanency of their relationship crystallize. I am sure that Madonna has prepared him in advance for being in the spotlight—the screaming, the shoving, the adulation surrounding her. But he is scared and out of his depth. I can also tell that she is rolling all over him, metaphorically speaking. And I find it symbolic that he lags behind her on the red carpet. He allows other people to get physically between him and Madonna and doesn’t stand his ground. He’s a decent guy, but I fear that in the end Madonna’s insatiable need for attention is going to suck the life out of him.
She has now bought six apartments in the same New York building and joined them together. I design a spiral staircase, add a huge gym, a media room, an additional master suite, and a rose-marble steam room. Her relationship with Carlos progresses. In January 1995 we spend a few days in London, where she is singing “Bedtime Story” at the British Music Awards, and I design the set and direct her performance. We build a grid; she stands on it; light, smoke, and air rise up; and her hair blows in the air. She now resembles an angel, soaring through the sky, and she is terrific. Soon after, she signs to play Evita in Alan Parker’s movie of the same name. I am delighted for her, as I know she has always dreamed of winning that role, a role I consider ideal for her. I have a new boyfriend now, Kamil Salah, a lean and handsome young man of Tartar descent, a salesperson at Prada in Manhattan. For the next two years, we see each other sporadically. Like Carlos, he is really sweet, and Madonna likes him. But, just as she once observed, I need a man who is more his own man, and not overly compliant or obsequious. Kamil sets no boundaries, and I know that they are necessary for me if the relationship is to endure. In the end, the challenge isn’t there, and we split, but remain good friends.
In mid-2006, I receive a call from Kamil. I know he is about to publish his book, Celebrity Dogs, and I am excited for him. When he calls, my first thought is that he is going to tell me about the plans for the party his publisher is giving for the book launch. Instead, he tells me that he has colon cancer and that it has spread to his liver. I am in Miami and take the next plane to New York to go see him. He is clearly terminal, but I do my utmost to talk to him in the most positive terms about his prognosis. We spend two days together, then I have to fly back to Miami for work. Two months later, he is dead, at age thirty-one. His book is published posthumously. I attend his funeral in Leesburg, Virginia. At his grave, I meet his grief-stricken parents. Standing by Kamil’s grave, I can’t help thinking about my mother, and some of my other great friends who died in their prime, but above all I think about Kamil, who never had the chance to live out his full potential.
IN EARLY 1995, I spend a few months staying with Madonna at Castillo del Lago. We wake up one morning to find that a small, silk, red-and-blue Persian rug, worth around $5,000, is missing. I check the house and find that a door has been jimmied open. I’ve told Madonna so many times that she needs security, but she has always ignored me. This morning’s theft of the rug, however, has proved me right. “Madonna, we’ve had a break-in, and someone has stolen the Persian rug. At least that’s all they took, and nothing else. You really do need security,” I tell her firmly. “No, we haven’t had a break-in,” she says. “It was a ghost that took it.” “Are you kidding me?” “No, I’m serious.” And she is. “I keep hearing weird sounds at night. This house is haunted.”
I tell her she’s crazy, that she needs security, but she keeps insisting that she doesn’t. Her rationale is based partly on finances and partly on not wanting someone around her all the time. Unfortunately, it turns out that I was right. ON APRIL 7, 1995, while I am in New York working on the apartment, Liz calls me and tells me that a stalker, an ex-burglar named Robert Dewey Hoskins, has been caught at Castillo del Lago. He is utterly obsessed with Madonna and, a few months before, hung around her gate, left her a letter saying, “I love you. You will be my wife for keeps,” and threatened her with certain death if she refused to marry him. This freaks Madonna out so much that she finally hires a security guard. This time around, Hoskins jumped a security wall and was shot in the arm and pelvis by Madonna’s newly hired security guard, Basil Stephens. Fortunately, she wasn’t at Castillo that day. I call her immediately and ask her if she is okay. She tells me she is, and I am vastly relieved. I’m happy when she tells me that from now on she will have security 24-7.
THE CASE AGAINST Hoskins comes to court, and to Madonna’s horror and mine the judge decrees that Hoskins can remain in court when Madonna gives evidence against him. Her attorney, Nicholas DeWitt, has done his best to have Hoskins expelled from the court while Madonna gives evidence because, in his words, “Mr. Hoskins really wants one thing in this case more than anything else. He wants to see the fear he has instilled in her.” I agree, but after Hoskins’s attorney, John Myers, claims that Hoskins has a constitutional right to face Madonna in court, asserting, “He’s entitled to be in the courtroom, just like in any other case,” Madonna’s proposal that she give her evidence on video is rejected out of hand. The following day, she takes the witness stand against her stalker. I feel really bad for her. She looks justifiably tense and nervous, but is determined not to betray her fear to the loathsome Hoskins, and I am thankful that she succeeds.
“I feel sick to my stomach. I feel incredibly distressed that the man who threatened my life is sitting across from me and has somehow made his fantasies come true. I’m sitting in front of him and that’s what he wants,” she says, and wisely closes her eyes so she doesn’t have to meet Hoskins’s gaze. In court, where Hoskins is charged with one count of stalking, three of making terrorist threats, and one of assault, Basil Stephens testifies that he has seen many people attempt to scale Castillo del Lago and come face-toface with Madonna, but that Hoskins was different. According to Basil Stephens, Hoskins was determined, fearless, and refused to leave the property. Evidence is put forward that Robert Hoskins had come to Castillo del Lago three times in two months, and that he twice scaled the walls and sprinted through the grounds.
Fearless in the extreme, according to Basil Stephens, Hoskins had said that if Stephens didn’t give Madonna his note, he would kill him. Then Hoskins went further and issued his chilling threat: “Tell Madonna I’ll either marry her or kill her. I’ll slit her throat from ear to ear.” The brave and resourceful Basil Stephens called the police and chased Hoskins off Castillo del Lago land, or so he thought. But on May 29, Stephens was alone and on duty when Hoskins lunged at him and said he was going to kill him. “I drew my weapon and said if he didn’t stop, I’d shoot. He lunged at me again and I fired. He didn’t go down. He spun around and lunged at me again, and I fired again and he went down. I was upset. I thought I’d taken somebody’s life.” Hoskins is convicted on five counts of stalking, assault, and making terrorist threats. I am dismayed, however, when he is only jailed for five years. Fortunately, in September, Madonna’s involvement in Evita means that she is sent to London and is out of harm’s way, for a while.
She spends two months in London, recording the Evita sound track, and calls me from there. Before she leaves, in person and over the telephone, and while she is in London, we have various long conversations about her relationship with Carlos. I know that she wants their relationship to last forever and ever and ever and has cried on his shoulder, complaining that she feels that most people are out to rip her off and wants him to understand. Once I become aware of what she’s told him, it is clear to me that she is trawling for sympathy. For the absolute truth is that despite the longevity of her career, few people have tried to rip Madonna off. Her concept of being ripped off is checking a balance sheet and seeing that one of her employees is receiving a high salary, even though she originally green-lighted it. No matter how much people deserve it, she gets mad that they are making too much money off her and characterizes them as “ripping” her off.
I know that she has conveyed to Carlos her desire that he pull his weight in the relationship and has insinuated that he should contribute to it financially. I think she is wrong. Carlos has no money, and he cannot financially sustain a relationship with her. But she isn’t ready to confront the reality of their situation because she misses him so much. In fact, reading through the lines of what she’s said, she is patently insecure, feels she can’t live without Carlos, and has begged him to never stop loving her. UNTIL NOW, MADONNA and I have been extremely close, but with the advent of Carlos in her life, we are starting to drift apart. I am not that necessary to her anymore, except as a designer. Fortunately, I am so busy with my own life that I don’t mind too much. By now, I am doing business as C.G.C. Art + Design, and all the purchases I make on Madonna’s behalf are paid through C.G.C. and then reimbursed by her, or through her official art adviser, Darlene Lutz. One morning, I flick through the Sotheby’s catalog and notice three nineteenth-century landscapes—nothing major, just decorative items costing a total of $65,000, but perfect for the Coconut Grove house. I send the catalogs over to Madonna’s apartment, with the paintings highlighted. She approves the purchase. Normally, for “small” purchases I would lay out the money myself on behalf of C.G.C., then when the items were delivered to her, Madonna would pay me back.
This time, though, I do have slight misgivings because recently, with her prior approval, I bought two antique French lamps, paid for them with C.G.C. funds, which were, of course, really mine, but when they were delivered to her, she informed me that she didn’t like them after all. She flatly announced that I should just take them back to the store and get an immediate refund. After negotiating with the store, they did, indeed, take back the lamps and refund me the money, but the experience was dismaying. Despite my misgivings, Madonna says she wants the landscapes and tells me to make an offer for them, so I go over to Sotheby’s, bid $65,000 for them, and win. Then—with the bulk of my savings—I pay for them. Invoice in hand, I take the paintings over to Madonna’s apartment and present them to her.
“I don’t want them,” she says. I assume she must be joking. “You’re fucking kidding me, Madonna.” “I don’t want them anymore and I’m not paying for them.” As she is well aware, Sotheby’s policy is that if paintings bought from them in auction are returned, they will, within a year, re-auction them. If a subsequent sale is then made, they will retain half the proceeds. But for her own reasons, Madonna is obviously pretending that she doesn’t know that. “I can’t take them back, Madonna, Sotheby’s has a no-return policy. They won’t give me all my money back. If they do sell at auction, I’ll only get half the money back—and I can’t afford to lose the rest of it. You have to reimburse me for the landscapes.” “I don’t care. I don’t want them.” I feel as if I am going to throw up. “But, Madonna, I’ve spent my own money on them. I don’t make the kind of money you make. I never have. I can’t just drop sixty-five thousand dollars. That’s all the money I have.” “I don’t care.” “But you can’t not care.” “Sell them to somebody else. If they are worth that much money, sell them to somebody. I don’t care what you do. I don’t want the paintings. Anyway, I have to go to a meeting.”
She gets up and sweeps out of the room, leaving me standing there, clutching an invoice for $65,000, with three paintings, and feeling as if she has punched me hard in the stomach. I sink back into the deep purple club chair I’d so lovingly selected for her living room, struggling with a combination of shock and sheer bafflement at what she is doing to me, what this means, and what she has become. I reason that in her head, she must be telling herself that because I am her brother, I should cope with whatever hand she deals me. After all, I am not only her brother, but also her employee, even though we have nothing in writing. Still, I never dreamed that she would ever treat me with such a lack of caring, lack of respect. Because I was her brother and because I was honest, no matter how famous she was, no matter how much money I was offered for my story, I never did interviews about her, never talked to people about her. I protected her, lied for her, fired people for her, was loyal to her, advised her on her career, supported her, apologized for her, and loved her. Today, I suppose, is a milestone. The day on which I first experience the full force of my sister’s dark side, her lack of concern for someone whom she purports to love.
Our father had instilled the value of loyalty and honor in all of us. But over the years, my sister’s sense of loyalty, fairness—the ability to discern who is on her side, who is not, whom she can trust and whom she can’t—has clearly been eroded by the adulation, the applause, the sense of entitlement. IT TAKES DARLENE and me six months to resell the three landscapes. Six months during which I can’t pay my rent, have to borrow from friends, have to struggle to survive. While my sister, the cause of my predicament, knows, yet does nothing. By the time I finally manage to sell the pictures and recoup my money, my feelings for her have undergone a radical shift.
Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life. Charles M. Schulz I FIND NO excuse for Madonna’s grossly unfair treatment of me. But when, in November 1995, she tells me that she is deeply unhappy with Carlos, I conclude that she might have been venting her unhappiness by treating me so unfairly. Madonna feels mistreated in her relationship and says that she won’t stand for being treated like a doormat or disrespected. She thinks Carlos behaves like a spoiled child. She is hurt and unhappy, and I know from her that she feels that she has never before given so much love to one person in her life. Despite that, she changes the locks on the New York apartment, which she and Carlos have been sharing, and has his things packed up and sent to him. I realize that she regards Carlos—who, in happier times, called her by the endearment “baby chicken”—as far more than a stud she has cast in the Daddy Chair. That she really is in love with him and is fighting for their relationship to survive. An excuse for having left me in the lurch with the paintings? Perhaps. I give my sister the benefit of the doubt. So I forgive her. But I don’t forget.
I’M IN MIAMI in November 1995 and celebrate my birthday there at the opening of Ingrid’s new club, Liquid, where I meet the British supermodel Kate Moss, who soared to fame at the age of just fourteen when she became Calvin Klein’s muse. Like most child stars catapulted to success far before their time, Kate is outwardly fragile and gives the impression that she might easily fall apart at the slightest provocation. Yet underneath her frail facade, she is extremely self-assured. I instantly click with her and her best friend, her fellow supermodel Naomi Campbell. The three of us become firm friends and, now and again, party together. Madonna hears that I’m hanging out with them and berates me for spending time with drug-user models. That is not, of course, a fair description. Kate and Naomi are both stylish, elegant, smart, and fun. Kate has an apartment off Washington Square, where we often hang out. Naomi lives in a large TriBeCa loft with rolling racks of clothes people have given her from shoots. An open kitchen. A large living area and two bedrooms, with clothes covering every surface. She owns art books, but not a lot of art, with the exception of three paintings that I did for the Wessel and O’Connor exhibit, which I have give her. One night David Blaine, the magician, is over at her apartment. He is young, unknown, and full of enthusiasm.
We are in the kitchen together talking. He asks if he can show me something. I don’t know what to expect. When he levitates himself off the floor a full five inches, I call Naomi. He does it again for her. We are both amazed. Soon he will be levitating for all the world to see. Naomi tells me that one of her greatest ambitions is to become a singer. She plays me her record, which she has been working on with Quincy Jones. It isn’t very good, but I hold my blunt Ciccone tongue and tell her it is great and that she should keep working on it. I am not being altogether insincere, because I respect her for attempting to express herself artistically and want to encourage her to persist. I see an uncut version of the documentary about the trip she and Kate made to Africa. The entire film makes them both seem ridiculous. It features a scene on a plane in which a fellow passenger wants to snap a picture of Naomi, but she doesn’t want her to, and a rather funny yet absurd fight ensues.
In South Africa, competition breaks out between Naomi and Kate over who is going to get the better present from a rich South African guy who is flirting with them both. He gives Naomi a really expensive jewel-encrusted egg, a Fabergé knockoff. And Kate gets really annoyed. In the end she also gets a gift from him that he says is expensive. She takes it back to the shop, where she finds out it isn’t that expensive at all. So she goes to the guy and complains he didn’t give her as expensive a gift as he did Naomi. (It could be the other way around.) Neither Kate nor Naomi is happy with the movie because they both come out of it poorly. I commiserate with them, but have secretly spent many a night with friends laughing at one hilarious scene or another. Kate is seeing Johnny Depp who is living in Bela Lugosi’s former mansion above Sunset Boulevard. I visit them there, and when I walk in, the first thing I see is an electric chair. Johnny is in the library, and I am impressed by the breadth of his literary tastes, which range from Moby-Dick to an Einstein biography. I note that every single volume in Johnny’s extensive library is well thumbed—no books-by-the-yard on display for decorative purposes or to impress for this most erudite of Hollywood stars. Johnny exudes smartness in spades.
We chat briefly about a movie he’s working on, then he joins Liam and Noel Gallagher of Oasis in his dark-wood-paneled lounge, furnished with darkbrown- leather club chairs, a dark-wood bar, and boasting a view of West Hollywood. Johnny offers me a shot of bourbon. I refuse, then go up to the finished attic where Kate is hanging out with Naomi. The three of us lounge on blue velvet cushions, drink champagne, and party. After a while, I feel that I ought to go back downstairs and pay some attention to our host, but find Johnny and the Oasis boys swigging bourbon. The air is thick with the smell of pot. I spend the rest of the evening shuttling between the supermodels in the attic and the men downstairs in the living room. In contrast, Johnny and Kate hardly hang out together at all. They don’t kiss, don’t hold hands, don’t even touch, and it seems to me that—despite their stunningly sexual good looks—they are far more buddies than wild, unbridled lovers. The whole evening has a distinct whiff of high school about it: the boys downstairs smoking and drinking and the girls upstairs giggling and doing blow.
AROUND THE SAME time, I move from my duplex into a high-rise apartment building in Hollywood. One Friday night, Ingrid comes over with a few friends. During the evening, she pulls out a bottle containing some cocaine and asks for a mirror. I find a small framed one. Ingrid cuts three or four lines and offers me one. I am paranoid about doing drugs in public with anyone else. I never do lines, either, “because that’s too much of a commitment for me,” I say to her. I prefer doing small key bumps—putting an extremely small amount of cocaine on the end of a key and taking it that way. While I like the little pick-me-up coke provides me, I have always been determined not to lose control because of it—the way I did the first time I did it with Martin Burgoyne all those years ago. I’ve always maintained a very casual ralationship with cocaine—I like it, but don’t need it. So I refuse Ingrid’s offer of a line, but do a key bump with her instead. Within days, Madonna writes me a concerned email insinuating that Ingrid has told her that I may have a drug or alcohol problem. Neither is true. Madonna chides me in a rather maternal way: “I only want to say that I know you’re unhappy and I’m here for you if you need support or a friend” and “it infuriates me that my favorite brother is treating himself so badly. You have so much talent and so much to offer.” But she is also stern, telling me that if I want to live a self-destructive lifestyle, that I don’t do it around or in her homes. The email ends on a nice note, though: “I love you dearly and I want you to take care of yourself.”
I am mollified by her concern, but am furious at Ingrid. She has drug problems of her own, and has apparently accused me of being a drug addict. And my sister believes her. From this point on, nothing I can say or do will ever change Madonna’s mind.
John Enos has become a co-owner of Atlantic Restaurant on the corner of Beverly and Sweetzer. He asks me to design the interior. I’ve never designed a restaurant before, but once again jump at the chance to try something new. Then Madonna finds out and calls me. “You’re not to hang out with John, Christopher.” “But he’s one of the owners of the restaurant; I have to,” I explain with as much patience as I can muster. “I don’t care. You have to stay away from him.” “Sorry, babe, I’m hanging out with John.” And I do. Meanwhile, I am painting more than ever. On weekends, I am the unofficial host at Atlantic Restaurant. I am starting to feel independent, to crawl out from under Madonna’s shadow. Celebrities flock to the club, including Brad Pitt and Denzel Washington. One night, Denzel is at the restaurant and two drag queens walk in. “What the hell is that shit!” he says. “That shit is what makes the world go round and makes it interesting, so deal with it,” I say indignantly. He instantly apologizes.
In preparation for Evita, Madonna is taking regular voice lessons. She has always shunned formal training, but she’s really enjoying them and the strength they bring out in her voice. She is nervous, though, about making the movie, and in the wake of all the bad ones she now recognizes she’s made, she is determined to make a good one at last. I tell her this is the perfect part for her and that I know she will be wonderful. During filming, she tells me things are going relatively well, but that she never sees the dailies because she’s afraid to. Not to mention that director Alan Parker is keeping her and her ego on a tight leash, which I secretly applaud. SOON AFTER, SHE discovers that she is pregnant by Carlos and she is expecting Lola, as she has chosen to call the baby who will be baptized Lourdes. Madonna decides that because she is now pregnant, Castillo del Lago is too cumbersome for her and might be hazardous for a new baby. So she buys a new house on Cockerham, in Los Feliz, and asks me to decorate it. We meet at the house and together figure out what I am going to do with the interior. During the meeting, she raises the subject of my supposed drug addiction and tells me that she is worried my drug use will distract me from my work on the house. I feel a surge of anger that Ingrid’s report of my drug use is coming between me and my sister. After all, our filial bond is difficult enough to sustain—what with the ripple effect of Madonna’s fame and fortune and my own role in her professional life.
I take out my anger for Ingrid’s meddling on Madonna. I tell her she’s wrong about the drugs and that if she has any doubts about my professionalism, she ought to get another designer who might suit her better. She assures me she won’t, and we decide to go ahead together on the house. Although I get over my anger at Ingrid, Madonna’s unfairness over the Sotheby’s paintings still rankles. I may have forgiven her, but I haven’t forgotten. I decide to be more self-protective this time around, as I am determined that she will never put me in the same position again. From now on I won’t lay out any of my money for her. So I draw up our first decorating and designing contract. Just to soften it, I call it a “Letter of Agreement.” It reads: This is a letter of agreement between Madonna Ciccone (the Client) and C.G.C. Art + Design (the Designer). For interior design service to be rendered at [her address], Los Angeles, California.
Fee for services rendered for phase one of the job as discussed in meeting on Thursday, July 11, 1996, at above location will be $50,000 (fifty thousand), one half of which is due upon the signing of this agreement. The other half is due one week after Madonna Ciccone occupies the premises. If this agreement is canceled by the “Client” prior to final payment the retainer is forfeit. If the agreement is canceled by the “Designer” the fee will be prorated per day from the date of the signing of this agreement to the 15th September and paid on that daily rate from the signing to the date of the cancellation, any outstanding monies will be returned. All items billed by C.G.C. Art + Design must be paid in full prior to purchase of said items. All sales through C.G.C. Art + Design are final. Any items purchased directly through the wholesaler or retailer of said items are not the responsibility of the “Designer.”
C.G.C. Art + Design will oversee work but takes no responsibility for any work done by sub-contractors not billed through the “Designer.” C.G.C. Art + Design takes no responsibility for any items damaged or destroyed in shipment or en route from one residence to another. C.G.C. Art + Design takes no responsibility for any delays due to inaccessibility of the premises. C.G.C. Art + Design promise to make its best efforts to see that the job is complete on or about the 15th of September but makes no guarantee to do so by that date.
Signed, I am not altogether sure how she will take me asking for a contract, so I fax it to her along with this cover letter: Dear Madonna, I realize that this is the first contract that you and I have ever signed between us and at first glance may appear one-sided and to the point, but it is fairly standard as far as design jobs go. I also understand that you are concerned about my supposed lack of interest in the job. That could not be any further from the truth. I would like to do this job for you if that is what you want. I am well aware of your “condition” and all that that implies and it would bring me pleasure to be able to provide you with a space that will be comfortable for you and Lola. I believe I have proven my abilities to you in the past and would hope that that would give you some measure of relief.
I have no doubt that the house can be put in order in the time allotted, obviously I could not guarantee that but I will do my very best to achieve it. I feel that I should also say that if it is your desire to approach other designers to do this job I will not be offended. That is surely up to you. We have achieved great things, you and I, both in private and public and I would never begrudge you the opportunity to try something new and different. I suppose I have seen too many people latched on so tightly to your star only to see them come crashing down when one feels the need for change. Obviously I am not made of stone and using another designer would give me some pause, but alas I am only human. So read the agreement and let me know how you wish to proceed.
Yours ever, Christopher I go out to run some errands and come home an hour later. The red light is flashing on my answering machine. I don’t have caller ID, so I don’t know ahead of time who has left the message. I push the button and Madonna’s voice screams at me. She is pissed off that I sent her a contract and calls me a fucking piece of shit, and tells me she made me what I am. She ends by telling me that she’s not signing the contract and that I am not working for her anymore. Click. I freak out, furious that just by asking for what any designer would has automatically unleashed this monster. I stare, livid and hurt, at my answering machine, the rage building in me. I sit down at my desk, open my computer, and write a response in which I push every button I know Madonna has.
To even bother discussing whether or not you have done me favors in life or if I’m taking advantage of you is a waste of my time. I know what you have done for me and you know what I have done for you. Further, I know that at no time nor in any way have I taken advantage of you. More often than not it was the other way around. It has become very clear to me these days that it’s your preference to have someone’s nose up your ass rather than hearing the truth. That, I suppose, is the prerogative of an aging pop star. But it is not a path I will walk, the truth had always worked for us and I will take no other route. Nor will I be spoken to or treated as you treat the sycophants around you. I am not Ingrid.
You may not address me in the manner that you did on my phone machine. No one does and no one will. Your questionable status as a star does not give you the right, nor will it ever. I expect a full apology from you and an explanation of your rude behavior before I will speak to you again. And I want you to know that it saddens me to think of your child living in the world you seem to want to create around you. It’s amazing how the love you have for a person can turn to hate. For me it has not been easy, but if you persist in treating me like you treat others, that is where it will remain and then, one day, it will sadly turn into indifference.
I know her vulnerabilities, and I hit on all of them. I am furious and I am not thinking, and I don’t step back, I just do it as a gut reaction. Soon after I send the fax, I hear through Darlene that Madonna is furious with me and thinks I am a complete and utter drug addict. This is her explanation as to why I wrote her such a vitriolic letter. I must be an addict. I must have been high when I wrote the letter. She can’t imagine that I was angry when I wrote the letter or that she hurt me deeply. I realize that these days she only hears what she wants to hear. Nothing gets through to her. But I have finally said some things to her that have been burning within me for years; the concept that I don’t matter. Not treating me as a person, the lamps, the paintings, the fees, the fact that Danny didn’t exist for her. Worst of all, I now understand, after all this time, that to my sister I am just as disposable as any other flunky who might get out of line. She doesn’t respond to the letter. A month passes and I start hearing from people around town that she is telling everyone that we are now estranged. I don’t call her, but I begin to regret having written that letter. As I ponder the professional repercussions, and my status in Hollywood, I know that I am fucked and have to somehow rectify the situation. Darlene compounds this when she tells me that I can carry on fighting with Madonna, but that having her as an enemy won’t do me any good. Darlene suggests that I swallow my pride, apologize, admit to my hubris, and make the admission sound sincere.
In a replay of the angel-food-cake scenario, I am about to admit to everything of which I am innocent. I write a letter to Madonna in which I apologize profusely, although I don’t mean a word of it. I basically say, “You are right; I need to get control of myself. Drugs are a problem. I am going to take care of it. I am extremely sorry I wrote the fax and I hurt you. I have not been feeling like myself lately, please forgive me.” She believes me and is taken in by my apology. I now realize that she doesn’t know me at all. Getting to know someone on a deep level just isn’t her style. From her perspective, she is the only person in the universe, so why should she take the time to get to know anybody? They need to get to know her. Nonetheless, I do believe that she still loves me and that her love has depth. She replies immediately. She draws a heart at the end of the letter. She says that she is relieved and happy to have received my fax and that our not speaking feels “strange, foreign, and extremely uncomfortable.” Without exactly apologizing for the message she left, she lets me know that it’s hard for her to trust people and often feels pulled in too many directions. True to form, she tells me that she knows that my rage wasn’t directed at her at all, but that I was angry at the burden of being her brother—then adds that although she sympathizes with me, she isn’t going to apologize for that, since being her brother has also brought me great opportunity, which is undeniably true.
Half of the letter, however, is Madonna outlining her insecurities to me and explaining that they were partly the reason for her outburst against me. Reading it, I feel she is being sincere. And if I am still feeling hurt and defensive about her, she fully disarms me by ending her letter with: “I will tell you once more how supremely talented I think you are and how much your happiness means to me. And of course how much I love you.” I LOVE HER, too, but that love is tested to the limit after I fax and ask her for a decision regarding designing Cockerham, and she faxes me straight back just a few lines without any explanation—“I’ve decided to use someone else.”
I am hurt and annoyed, but most of my annoyance is directed at myself. I hate myself for having sent that fax. Then again, a small voice also tells me that perhaps I did it deliberately, perhaps on some level I feel too attached to my sister and really need to detach from her. At the same time, I can’t blame her for cutting me out after the nasty things I said to her. And she did forgive me. Nevertheless, I’m still angry with her, but far more angry with myself. October 14, 1996, Madonna’s assistant Caresse calls and tells me that Madonna is about to give birth to Lola. I jump into my pre-owned black 560SEL Mercedes, which I’ve finally managed to buy, and drive to Good Samaritan Hospital. Outside the hospital, hundreds of press scream out my name.
Security checks my credentials from the list of five—Caresse, Melanie, Liz, Carlos, and me—who have clearance to visit her. I go up to her suite of rooms, 808, on the eighth floor—living room, bedroom, chintzy florals everywhere, and browns and pinks—hideous, and not Madonna’s or my taste, not that it matters. I am happy she is about to have the child she’s always wanted so much. I put aside my hurt and anger at the way in which our relationship has deteriorated so badly.
She is lying in bed in a white flannel nightgown. Her hair is washed and pulled back. She isn’t wearing any makeup. She looks pale and wan. “I love the decor,” I tell her. She throws me a weak smile. She is in a break from labor. She tells me that they may do a C-section. “Is that what you want?” I ask. “Well, they think it’s best. They just want to make sure the baby is all right, so I think I’ll agree.” I tell her to do whatever she thinks is best. She doesn’t seem afraid at all and says she is looking forward to giving birth. “I can’t wait to get this thing out of me.” Then her mood changes. “I wish Mom were here.” “I wish she were as well,” I say. “She would be so happy to see you give birth, and to know her grandchild.” Outside the suite, Carlos is pacing the hallways. Liz is there, too, and so are Caresse and Melanie. Around noon, they take Madonna away for the procedure. Melanie suggests I go home and wait for news there.
Just after four, Melanie calls and tells me that at 4:01 p.m. on October 14, 1996, Madonna gave birth to six-pound-nine-ounce Lourdes—“Lola”—by Csection and that mother and daughter are resting comfortably. I am simultaneously relieved and overjoyed. The following day, I go to visit Madonna at home. I bring her gardenias, and a tricycle to give to Lola when she’s old enough. Arriving at the house, I feel strangely ambivalent. I am excited to be seeing my new niece, but I also feel weird about visiting Cockerham—the only one of Madonna’s homes I have not designed—for the very first time. I loved creating and designing the look of my sister’s homes in the past, but now I feel cast out in the cold.
The house is a Spanish, single-level Wallis Neff house. A brief glance at the interior and it’s obvious that all Madonna has done is bring over the furniture we purchased for Castillo. It hurts me to see furnishings I’d purchased for her now redone and reorganized by someone else. For the first time ever, Madonna’s home is foreign territory to me. But I am gratified to see that my painting of Eve is hanging in the living room and hope it indicates that, on some level, she still intends me to be part of her new life. I go down the hall to Madonna’s bedroom to see her and to meet Lola. Madonna looks tired and places Lola in my arms. “Lola, this is your uncle Christopher.” “Hi, Lola, you’re very pretty,” I say, terrified that I’m going to drop her. I hand Lola back to Madonna and ask how she’s doing. “I’m exhausted; I feel like I’ve given birth to a watermelon.” Then she shows me the incision on her belly. I can’t believe how small it is. No more that five or six inches. I am amazed at the thought of a baby fitting through such a tiny opening.
I can see my sister is really sleepy, so I leave quietly. On the way home, I remember thinking how thrilled I am for her, how sweet Lola looks, but how her birth means that our relationship will change even more. There is now a growing distance between Madonna and me. I don’t feel as close to her as I did before. For the first time ever, I have no connection to her home and no longer have my own room there, either. She has always been more my family than anyone else, but I can sense that connection weakening immensely. I’m happy that she’s starting her own family, just as she wanted; still, I mourn the loss of the old “us.” And I miss Danny and think about him constantly. I feel bereft and sad.
THANKSGIVING 1996. MY parents fly out to see Lola for the first time. The entire family gathers at Madonna’s house, including my older brothers. Melanie and I are in the kitchen, cooking. Madonna pops in every now and again to check that everything is all right. Although Melanie and I are doing the cooking, Madonna is still somewhat frantic. I set the table. Madonna flies past me. I sense something odd about her tonight. I go into the kitchen and bring back a stick of butter on a butter dish. Madonna takes one look at it and blows up. “What the fuck are you doing putting butter on the table, Christopher?” she yells. I am completely thrown by the tone of her voice—the identical tone she used with me on my answering machine many months back. “But, Madonna,” I say patiently, “we are having bread. So we need butter on the table.”
“But we have enough butter in the food. We don’t need it on the table as well.” She snatches the dish from the table. I grab it back from her. “I want butter on my bread and so will everyone else.” “Well, I don’t.” She picks up the butter and stomps out of the room with it. When she isn’t looking, I put it back on the table. It dawns on me that she hasn’t really forgiven me for my fax at all. Just as my apology was fake, so was her forgiveness. I thought I was handling her, but realize that, in actuality, she was—more than skillfully—handling me. In fact, we were handling each other. She is still mad at me, still angry, and our relationship has altered almost beyond recognition. Nevertheless, after the butter incident, from that point on, Thanksgiving Day passes uneventfully. I visit Lola in her crib, which is in Madonna’s bedroom—the most feminine bedroom I’ve ever known her to live in, pink and cream with silk curtains, pretty and soft. After dinner, Melanie and I spend a few moments in the kitchen, bitching about Madonna. Then we all go home.
Despite the tensions between us at Thanksgiving, Madonna still invites me over for Christmas Day, which also passes uneventfully. Madonna spends the rest of 1996 promoting Evita wherever and whenever possible. I believe that the movie deserves to do well, and that she should be honored for her performance, but audiences are not flocking to see it. She invites me to be her date on March 24, 1997, at the Oscars at the Shrine Auditorium. She has already won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy, for Evita, and I’m disappointed that she’s not up for the Best Actress Academy Award. At the ceremony she performs “You Must Love Me,” written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, which she sang in Evita. It wins Best Original Song, and this reflects on her well, and I am delighted. WHEN Madonna: The Girlie Show—Live Down Under is released on DVD, I am temporarily pulled back into pleasant memories of our work together. But I am now playing hard, doing drugs a couple of times a week, and Madonna is hearing about it. She calls me and says, “I am hearing awful things about you. Are you addicted to cocaine?” I don’t think that I am, and I tell her so. She hangs up, unconvinced.
Big Sister is watching you. Adapted from 1984 by George Orwell IN MAY 1997 I direct Dolly Parton’s “Peace Train,” my seventh music video. We meet and she is friendly. She’s dressed in a tight dress, but her arms are covered, as they will be whenever I see her. She tells me she doesn’t want a bunch of dancers behind her. I ask her what kind of dance she plans to do herself. “I’m a mover, not a dancer. And I’m a bit top-heavy…” she says. Before the shoot, she asks that we send a car to the airport to pick up her wig lady, and a second one to pick up her wigs. Some of the video is shot with her placed on a dolly in front of a wall. As I don’t want the wall to be much higher than Dolly, I call her manager, Sandy Gallen, and ask how tall she is. He says he will get back to me. After a few hours, he calls: “Dolly is five foot nine in hair and heels.” She’s probably five three without. On the day of the shoot, I arrive at 5 a.m. The wig lady arrives at six in one car, as do the wigs in another. Dolly arrives at seven, completely made up, in a wig and outfit. She disappears into her trailer for two hours, while the makeup man does her makeup. He leaves, then the wig lady goes in and does her hair.
Dolly never wears the same dress twice in public. She has three dresses made for the shoot, all in a similar cut: long sleeves, tight cleavage, arms covered. On the set, she is casual, easy to work with, cracks a few dirty jokes, and says, “I’m not all boobs; I’m partly brain, too.” She finds it difficult to move around, though, because her shoes are so high and her wig so carefully balanced. She ends up doing a little wiggle that I christen the Dolly Chug, and she is amused. We break for lunch and she sits between me and my producer, Michelle Abbott. Dolly is rail thin, with a tiny, tiny waist, but orders fried chicken and collard greens. Michelle asks her how she can eat that kind of food and stay so slim.
“Well, aah always leave a little on ma plate for the angels,” she says. In part of the video, we use doves supplied by a dove wrangler. Dolly is supposed to hold one of the doves, then let it fly away, but the doves refuse to fly. So every time the wrangler puts a dove into Dolly’s hands, instead of flying away, it flops to the ground again. He puts it in her hand again, she throws it up in the air, and it flops to the ground. “I’m sticking my finger up its ass, but I think it likes it,” Dolly jokes. She’s great to work with, we have fun, and everything goes really well. The next morning, she leaves me a phone message: “Hi, Chris, I just want to tell you that I had a good time last night.” I am so amazed by that. The first time in all the videos I’ve shot that an artist has done that. Not long afterward, I suggest to Dolly that she and Madonna record an album together, each one recording five of the other’s hits. Dolly tells me she thinks it’s a great idea, but Madonna just says, “I’ll think about it,” which really means no. She and Carlos have now split for good, and I am not surprised.
I ADD ANOTHER string to my bow; I’ve become a screenwriter. Before I started, I read a basic book on the rules of screenwriting, then just began to write. I know I could take screenwriting classes, but I don’t want to. As usual, plunging headfirst into a new endeavor without any training for it challenges my creativity.
My screenplay, “Nothing North,” is inspired by a documentary I see about a female bullfighter named Christina. At first, though, I write it as a short story set in Seville, Spain. I send it to Madonna. She calls me and says, “This is a really beautiful story. Have you ever been to Seville?” I tell her I haven’t. “Well, I have, and you described it perfectly. What are you going to do with the story?” I explain that I am going to adapt it into a screenplay. She tells me to go for it, then offers me space at her Maverick Records offices in West Hollywood, and I am grateful. I write for four months, and when the script is finished, send it to Madonna asking whether she would like to help finance it. She says she wouldn’t. Naturally, I am disappointed. Her clout as executive producer could easily have gotten the movie financed, but she simply doesn’t want to get involved. I find her refusal both disappointing and confusing. But once my disappointment has subsided, I come to the inescapable realization that— because I so wanted my sister to like my script—I had mistakenly jumped to the conclusion that her sisterly enthusiasm and encouragement meant that she wanted to produce it as well.
IN MAY 1997, Naomi, Kate, and Johnny Depp—whose movie The Brave is showing at the Cannes Film Festival—rent a house in Cannes. Naomi invites me to join them and generously offers to pay my fare. So I fly to France, and by the time I get to Cannes, the Gallagher brothers (Oasis) and Marc Jacobs join me at the house. After a day or two—with the exception of Johnny, who only smokes pot—we are all well into the party scene and have a great time. Later, on May 11, I meet Demi Moore at the opening party for Planet Hollywood, and we immediately hit it off. Iggy Pop sings, and during his song he accidentally spits on Kate. I duck. Kate is swigging champagne straight out of the bottle and doesn’t even notice. All of us—Kate, Naomi, Demi, Harvey Weinstein, and Johnny Depp—go back to Demi’s room at the Hotel du Cap. Naomi dances around the room in a perfect imitation of Tina Turner, while Johnny and Harvey have a serious conversation concerning why Harvey doesn’t want to distribute Johnny’s film. “Because it’s bad,” Harvey tells him in the end.
Later that night, Demi invites me to go to Paris with her in the morning. I tell her that all my stuff is at Naomi and Kate’s. She sends someone to pack up my stuff and bring it to the hotel. I am duly impressed. We stay up all night. Everyone is having a blast. At around four in the morning, for some strange reason, I decide to take a bath. I turn on the water, then promptly forget about it. The next thing I turn, Demi’s Louis Vuitton luggage is floating around the room. I feel foolish, but she laughs it off. The hotel staff promptly set about cleaning up the room. In the morning, we fly by private jet to Paris and hang out there together.
From then on, Demi and I get closer and closer. On June 5, 1997, I am her date at the Gucci evening for AIDS Project L.A. From that time on, we hang out together at least once a week. I like her enormously, but am slightly put off by her heavy-handed spiritual sensibility. She carries around a deck of cards that look like tarot, but aren’t, lays them out for me, telling me that they will predict my future, but I’m not that interested. I’m focused on the present. In the past, Demi has had drug and alcohol problems. She’s been sober for years, but still exhibits obsessive habits. She lives on coffee, Red Bull, and dried green apples. One night, we go to dinner at Benvenuto on Santa Monica. She brings with her two cans of Red Bull. She orders pasta, which she doesn’t eat, drinks Red Bull and coffee, and smokes Marlboros in rapid succession.
Some nights, she picks me up with some of her girlfriends and we all go to this Latin drag-queen club on La Brea, where Demi gets onstage and dances with a group of drag queens. She and I also make great dance partners. At Christmas she sends me a black-and-white card featuring a little boy in a suit and bow tie dancing with a Kewpie doll. In it, Demi writes, “Someone to dance with when I’m not around.” By now, she and I are very close. Sometimes a little too close for my comfort. “Are you sure you are really gay, Christopher?” she would ask me over and over. “I mean, couldn’t you turn straight for me?” Later on, when I meet Farrah Fawcett and start hanging out with her as well, she also repeatedly poses the identical questions to me. I don’t know how serious either of them is, but I do have some experience with women who have the hots for me. Ever since my college days, I have been pursued by women set on luring me into their beds. Of course, few of them have succeeded.
Thanks to Demi, though, the media are about to start posing interesting questions about my sexual preference. One Saturday night, when I am hosting an evening at Atlantic, Demi and three or four of her girlfriends show up. As always, at around eleven, we clear the center of the restaurant, a DJ starts spinning music, and all of us— along with the restaurant patrons—spend the rest of the night dancing. All great fun. On this evening, at around 3 a.m., Demi—a girl who no longer drinks, but clearly still relishes having fun—persuades me to get up and dance on the black granite bar with her.
Within moments, I’m up there and we’re dancing wildly. Demi pulls off my shirt, gets behind me, and starts grinding into me. Normally at this time of the night we would have had the restaurant doors bolted shut, and the blinds would have been pulled down tight, so that anyone passing by would have assumed that the restaurant was closed. But by some strange Murphy’s Law, although I didn’t realize it at the time, that night one of the blinds is left open enough for some enterprising paparazzo to point his lens through the crack and snatch a photograph of our revels. THE FOLLOWING MONDAY, I am walking through Los Angeles airport, about to catch a flight to New York, and out of the corner of my eye catch sight of what looks like a picture of me on the cover of the National Enquirer. I walk up to the rack and discover that I am also on the cover of the Star.
Both covers feature fuzzy shots of Demi and a shirtless me dancing together on the bar at Atlantic. Inside one tabloid is a spread and the eye-catching headline “It’s Three A.M. No Bruce, No Bra, No Problem.” The second carries the cover line “Demi’s Big Night Out with Madonna’s Brother.” I am a little troubled that both articles might give Demi pause and cause her to think that I set the whole thing up to get publicity for Atlantic, which I definitely did not. I was afraid she wouldn’t believe me and would then lose trust in me. But I am innocent, and thankfully Demi believes me. Apart from that, I enjoy all the unexpected attention. I am on the cover of the Enquirer and the Star, both in the same week. For just a few days, I feel as if I am a star and I like it. I am, after all, my sister’s brother. ON JULY 15, 1997, in front of his mansion on Ocean Drive, South Beach, Gianni Versace is shot at close range by crazed killer Andrew Cunanan. Madonna and I are both deeply shocked by his senseless murder. Just a few weeks later, we are both shaken by the death of Princess Diana in Paris. We think back to how we were also chased through Paris by the paparazzi and realize that, but for the grace of God…
ON SEPTEMBER 8, 1997, Madonna and I attend the Gianni Versace memorial service at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Madonna and Gianni have always had a business relationship, have never been great friends, but out of respect to his memory, Madonna and I attend the memorial service anyway. We gather in the museum’s Temple of Dendur, which is decorated with magnificent white flowers. Madonna reads a poem she’s written to commemorate Gianni; Elton John and Whitney Houston sing. Many of the supermodels—Stephanie Seymour, Christy Turlington, Helena Christensen, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, and Amber Valletta—are there. So are Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Tom Ford, Ralph Lauren, and Marc Jacobs. Donatella, making her first public statement since Gianni’s murder, gives a speech commemorating him and touching on the profound influence he had on her and her brother Santo. “By the time he was calling Santo and myself to be part of his dream, we were already part of it. He let me do many things that made our mother pale…. I laugh when I remember the adventures that came with being his little sister…. Each time Gianni would ask me to do what back then seemed like these impossible things, I’d tell him I couldn’t do it, he’d tell me I could, and I did. He was always the most exciting person I knew; he was always my best friend.”
Her speech, which brings tears to my eyes, is close to what I might have said about Madonna, with the exception of the last line: “In spite of his giant personality, it was impossible to feel overshadowed by him, because his special art was to shine the light on others.” The speech is extremely moving, and I am very sad for Donatella. Afterward, she invites us back to the mansion off Fifth Avenue. Like the Miami Versace mansion, the five-story Manhattan Versace mansion is all done in heavy neoclassical style, lots of gilt, marble, black-marble floors, and Picassos on many of the walls—hard to relax in, extremely formal. Madonna and I join a circle of guests in the small garden, sitting on clear plastic folding chairs, all arranged in a circle. Madonna sits on my right, and a woman who looks like a bag lady sits on my left. Madonna whispers to me that the bag lady is Lisa Marie Presley. I am incredulous, but on second glance realize that she is, indeed, Lisa Marie. Then Pavarotti makes his entrance and, although we all know exactly who he is, goes around introducing himself. “Hello, I’m Pavarotti. Hello, I’m Pavarotti,” he announces to each and every one of us.
Courtney Love is also there, but Madonna avoids talking to her because she thinks Courtney is crazy. Courtney and I have a moment’s conversation in which she says, “I see Madonna and me as Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, but I can’t work out who is who.” I smile and shrug. At around ten thirty, Madonna, who always goes to bed at eleven on the dot, leaves, but I stay. By this time, Donatella has changed from her black outfit into white jeans and a white shirt. Her face isn’t tear-stained, but she looks pensive. She sits down next to me briefly, then excuses herself and disappears. I go upstairs to the bathroom. When I pass one of the guest bedrooms, I see Courtney—dressed in a beige silk minidress with spaghetti straps, her hair as messy as ever—sitting on the bed, looking sad.
She is all by herself, so I sit with her and we start talking. Then she pulls out a packet of coke, which may well have been half an ounce. “I’ve got this,” she says, “but I’ve never done it before. Would you like to do some?” I fight to stop myself from bursting out laughing. “You’ve never done it before?” “No, I’ve never done it before.” “Would you like me to show you?” Courtney nods, so I go through the pantomime of showing her how to cut lines, which I suspect we both know she knows only too well, but I play along. We start to party together. Then Donatella beckons from her sitting room across the hall—furnished with black leather sofas, with a white mink rug on the floor—and we join her. I break my rule about not doing lines and we all do them. It’s patently obvious that the drugs are a continuing symptom of her anguish at the loss of Gianni.
Every time Courtney does a line, she proclaims, “Okay, that’s my second time. That’s my third time. That’s my fourth time.” In the end, I say, “Courtney, just stop counting.” Meanwhile, Donatella keeps saying, “Chreestopher, Chreestopher, play ‘Candle in the Wind’ for me.” So I put on the CD, and the moment it ends, Donatella asks me to play it again. “Chreestopher, Chreestopher, play it for me one more time, one more time for me, Chreestopher.” I do. Over and over. All the while, Courtney is still counting. “This is my fiftieth time. This is my fifty-first time.” Then the doorbell rings and it’s Ed Norton, whom Courtney is seeing at the time. She says, “Christopher, go tell him I’m sleeping.”
I refuse. Then I decide that the time has come for me to escape this surreal scenario and get back to reality, so I leave. ON OCTOBER 14, 1997, Demi invites me to escort her to the premiere of G.I. Jane. I am slightly nervous that the memory of the photographs of our wild dance at Atlantic on the cover of the Star and the Enquirer might still rankle with her estranged husband, Bruce Willis, who will be attending the premiere that night. As I don’t want there to be any lingering misconceptions about my relationship with Demi, or about my sexuality, when I am introduced to Bruce, I say, “I want you to know that I’m not having an affair with your wife, and I’m a fag.” He says, “Don’t worry about it.”
Just before Demi meets Ashton for the first time, I am in Manhattan and so are she and Bruce. She invites me over to her apartment at the San Remo. When I tell her I am flying to L.A. the next day, she says that she and Bruce are flying to Idaho the next morning. She is stopping there with the children, but he is flying on to L.A. Would I like a ride? I would and accept the offer. Their private jet is comfortable, with a sofa, a dining room, a banquette full of candy and mags, a galley, and a big bathroom, and all can smoke whenever they want, which suits me fine.
I suggested to Madonna that she should get her own plane, just so she could fly whenever she wants to. But she says, “That’s too expensive. I’m not spending my money on a plane. And I don’t have to! I’ll use the Warner company jet.” She does, and we travel on it together quite often. Demi and I talk during the flight, then play cards, but Bruce and I have little to say to each other. We land in Sun Valley. Demi and Bruce have split up and live in separate houses there. She drives to her house alone. While the plane refuels, Bruce and I drive over to his house in his Suburban to get something he needs to take to L.A. He points out the little theater he’s restored and all the property he owns there. He seems like a good guy, but a sense of unhappiness surrounds him, a sadness that he and Demi have split up. We stop at his house. I remain in the car and realize that his home is across the street from hers. During the short flight to L.A., awkward silences occur between us. We smoke cigarettes and read magazines, but the short flight feels like five days to me. When we land, Bruce’s Bentley is awaiting him. I have a car pick me up and we go our separate ways.
I see Bruce and Demi again when they bring their daughter up to a music school in Traverse City, Michigan, while I was there visiting my family. They call and ask if they can come over and I show them around the vineyard. There, Bruce meets one of the blondes who works in the tasting room and starts flirting with her. Demi is wandering around somewhere else, and I tell him to stop flirting with the staff. Three weeks later he calls me. “Remember that blond girl I was talking to? Well, I’d like to go on a date with her. Will you call her up and ask her?” “Sure, no problem,” I say in amusement. So I call my father, ask for the girl’s name, and call her. “Listen,” I tell her, “this is going to sound rather strange, but Bruce Willis would like to go on a date with you. His daughter is at school in Traverse City so he is coming up here a lot. Do you feel like going on a date with him?”
She says she doesn’t because she has a boyfriend. I tell her to dump him, but she just laughs at me. I give Bruce the news. “Too bad,” he says. I don’t feel that bad for him, though. After all, he’s Bruce Willis and has a thousand romantic options. A year later, he calls me again and asks about her, if she’s still with her boyfriend, if she’ll go out with him. She is and she won’t. And then again a year after that. The blonde is still with her boyfriend, so Bruce strikes out. I AM STILL painting. In Miami, over lunch with Ingrid, I meet a fourteenyear- old Colombian schoolboy named Esteban Cortazar, whose parents are artists. He tells me that when he grows up, he wants to become a fashion designer. I sense a fire burning in him—an intensity that reminds me of the young Madonna. Following my instinct, I invite him to dinner that night with her and Bruce Weber.
Once I study Esteban’s fashion design book, I discover that my hunch about him was right—he is an original talent. So I tell him that I believe that he has a bright and brilliant future ahead of him and that I want to make a documentary about him that I will film over at least ten years. After his parents consent to the project, I set up a dinner for ten of the people closest to Esteban and interview them about him on camera. Over the next decade, each year I will do the same thing, as well as film him during important moments in his life. At the time of this writing, Esteban has just been appointed the head of women’s wear for the house of Ungaro. I almost burst out with pride in him and am also delighted that my faith in Esteban has been eminently justified.
THANKSGIVING 1997 AND Madonna says I can invite a few friends down to the Coconut Grove house, which she doesn’t visit much anymore now that she has Lola. Naomi, Kate, and Demi come down; so does Barry Diller. I realize that I am getting far too caught up in the celebrity thing. It’s fun, but I am also quite lonely. At the start of 1998, Madonna calls and tells me she is planning to go on tour and asks me to come over to Cockerham and talk possibilities with her. I am thrilled at the prospect of touring again. I bring my ideas book, in which, through the years since Girlie, I’ve been collecting photos, art, anything that I think might be inspiring.
Madonna and I have an in-depth conversation about the tour. I suggest that onstage, she have a big tree with leaves that change color, symbolizing the change in seasons—and that her songs parallel those changes. She likes the idea. She keeps the file containing my tree concept. I am excited, and—once more craving the heady euphoria of collaborating creatively with my sister and the adrenaline rush of being on tour with her—can’t wait for rehearsals to start. A few weeks later, she calls and tells me she has decided to postpone the tour, and I am bitterly disappointed. However, I don’t voice my disappointment to her. And I am happy when, on July 1, 1998, she invites me to see the Spice Girls concert at Madison Square Garden with her and Lola. We arrive at the last minute. When the crowds see Madonna, they start shouting and screaming. Madonna and I sit on either side of Lola and are invited backstage to meet the girls forty-five minutes into the show, during intermission.
We go into Madonna’s old dressing room, and it looks just like a girls’ dorm room. Clothes are everywhere. The girls are sitting on the sofa, eating hot dogs. Madonna can’t believe her eyes. “What are you guys doing? How can you eat a hot dog and onions in the middle of the show, and then go out and sing?” They tell us that it doesn’t bother them, and when Madonna and I go back to our seats, it seems that the hot dogs don’t have any impact whatsoever on their singing or dancing.
“They can’t really dance; they can’t really sing. And who the hell eats hot dogs between sets!” she says, shaking her head in disbelief. For Lola’s sake, we endure another fifteen minutes of the show, then split. Madonna and I see Cabaret on Broadway, starring Alan Cumming and Natasha Richardson. The production is set up with the audience seated café style in front of the stage, affording us the illusion that we are participating in the show. Madonna loves it, even though she isn’t big on Broadway musicals. By now I have written a second screenplay, “Fashion Victims,” based on a Cunanan-style serial killer, who sets about murdering all the world’s great fashion designers. I show it to Madonna. She tells me I am going to get in trouble over the script, as it is a daring but funny take on the fashion industry. I go ahead anyway and try to interest producers in it, but no dice.
DONATELLA VERSACE AND I are now extremely good friends. Only a year has passed since the death of Gianni, and she is extremely delicate. She was his sister, his muse, but was never intended to run an empire. Nonetheless, in July 1998 she launches her first collection and invites me to Paris to see the show. She is still wounded by the loss of her brother, and I can see the sadness in her eyes. She tells me how frightened she is about doing the show on her own. I know that everyone is waiting for her to fail, and I sympathize with her.
I suggest that I make a documentary about her, starting in Calabria, where she was born, through her brother’s death, and ending with her first solo show. She loves the idea. She arranges a ticket for me and a room at the Meurice. I arrive there at seven on a Sunday morning, take a nap, and call Donatella, who tells me to come over to the Ritz and bring my camera. Liv Tyler, Billy Zane, and Catherine Zeta-Jones are all staying there as well. I say hello to Donatella, then sit in a corner and film the models. Suddenly, I notice that none of the clothes have been completed. I can’t understand how Donatella can put on a show in five days. Then she walks me into the Ritz ballroom, where fifty Italian women, all with sewing machines, are primed to make the collection. In a second ballroom, the fitting models are waiting around, with cloth draped around them. The following three days, I go over to the Ritz and shoot. Every half hour, someone brings food down for Donatella to eat, but she refuses to touch it. Every couple of hours, she grabs me, pulls me up to her suite, and we do blow together. This goes on 24-7 for three days, during which I get about two hours of sleep a day.
The show models arrive on Thursday. On Friday, an hour before the show, Kate walks in, comes right up to me, and says, “Christopher, I need some coke and a glass of champagne.” I say, “Kate, are you crazy? You just got out of rehab and you are not getting it from me.” The day after the show, Donatella and I are supposed to fly to London together, but when I get back to the Ritz, I find out that she is sick. Her assistants tell me she is staying in Paris and that I should go ahead to London without her. I check on her, thank her for arranging for me to come to Paris, and wish her well. Just as I am about to leave, someone pulls me back into the room and hands me a film canister full of cocaine. “Take this, we need to get it out of the room,” he tells me. I tell him that I can’t take it with me because I’m about to get on a plane. He forces it into my hand and says I should do whatever I want with it, but just get rid of it.
I take it back to the Meurice and stare at it regretfully, trying to work out some way of keeping it because the cocaine I had with Donatella is the best I’ve ever had in my entire life. I sigh and flush ten grams of the finest blow in the stratosphere right into the French sewer. It’s just as well. This week, I’ve done way too much and I’ve started to like it more than I want to. I take the train back to London, then fly to L.A. There, I view the footage, and it’s fascinating. A few days later, Donatella writes and tells me that the family doesn’t want her to do the documentary after all. I am disappointed, but understand. I still have other options: directing videos, painting, designing furniture, working on Madonna’s new tour. Although I don’t dwell on it, I am acutely aware that most people look at me and see Madonna. A prime example: I meet a tall, thin, blond, lively young man at a party in L.A. We talk a lot and I ask him if he wants to go on a dinner date with me that Friday. He tells me he does. I pick him up, and we go to Benvenuto on Santa Monica. Afterward, we have drinks at the Abbey, then he invites me back to his apartment in West L.A.
When we arrive, we go straight into his bedroom. The lights are out, and the room is only illuminated by a small candle. We start making out on the bed, then, all of a sudden, he clicks on the light switch. There, above his bed, a life-size picture of my sister, half-naked, draped only in a sheet. For a second, I stop breathing. Then I look around the room. Pictures of my sister all over every inch of the wall, and on every surface. Talk about a buzz kill. I immediately throw my clothes on and run out. The experience freaks me out completely. Later, however, we become very good friends, simply because I now know exactly where he is coming from. He’s a Madonna fan, not some weird stalker, and I feel that I can trust him. ON DECEMBER 9, 1998, Donatella hosts the Fire and Ice Ball at Universal Studios in Hollywood and asks me to design and create for it a Diva Room for her at 360, the penthouse restaurant with panoramic views of L.A. So I devise a French-courtesan boudoir look: pink heavy brocade drapes, pink flowers, candles everywhere, a massive chandelier, and a baroque baby carriage full of Cristal Champagne.
On the night of the event, Goldie Hawn arrives dressed in a halter dress, looking great. I dance with her, and she seems a bit tipsy. Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow arrive. Madonna introduces me to Gwyneth. It’s love at first sight. But before we get to know each other, I meet Jack Nicholson, who is at the party along with Dennis Hopper. Jack, Dennis, Donatella, and I go into the Diva Room. Donatella pulls out some cocaine and hands me a key. Jack takes one look at me dipping the key into the bag of cocaine and says, “I’ll try that. I’ve never done it like that before.”
I think, Bullshit. Famous people like Courtney and Jack never want to admit anything about their drug use. I make Jack a bump. He does it and so do all of us. Afterward, we have some inconsequential coke chat, then Jack leaves. I never see him again. But I’ve just done a key bump with Jack Nicholson! ON FEBRUARY 24, 1999, Madonna and Ray of Light are nominated for six Grammy Awards: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Pop Album, Best Dance Recording, Best Recording Package, and Best Short Form Music Video. Although Madonna won a Grammy in 1992 for Best Long Form Music Video for Madonna: Blond Ambition Tour Live, none of her albums or songs has ever won a Grammy—it’s about fucking time and I am rooting for her. She asks me to design and direct her for the opening number. By now I have a new boyfriend, let’s call him Mike. We have been dating for three months and he is artistic and charming. He tells me he isn’t a Madonna fan, though I haven’t introduced him to her yet.
On Grammy night, Madonna is in her trailer at the back of the Shrine Auditorium. I check the stage and make sure that the cameraman knows he mustn’t shoot her closer than midshot, as she refuses to allow close-ups. I run through shots with the director, just to be on the safe side. I go back to see Madonna in the trailer, and I take Mike with me. She’s in a rush. I introduce Mike to her. She says, “Great to meet you,” and he says, “Likewise.” As we leave, he turns to me and says, “She looks old. Is that really her hair?” I am stunned, but am far too busy to say anything. I’ve already invited him to the after party at Le Deux and haven’t got enough time to disinvite him. As an afterthought, I tell him that as I am going to be busy at the party, he should invite a friend. He does.
I am thrilled when Madonna wins four Grammys, including Best Dance Recording and Best Pop Album. As she accepts the award, she has tears in her eyes. “I’ve been in the music business sixteen years and this is my first Grammy— well, actually I’ve won four tonight. It was worth the wait,” she says. Technically, she had won once before for the Blond Ambition tour video seven years earlier, but winning awards for the Ray of Light album and single made it feel like the real thing.
I tell her that she does really deserve it, and she glows. When we arrive at the after party at Le Deux, I meet up with Gloria Estefan and Lenny Kravitz in the garden. Madonna stays inside, and out of the corner of my eye, I see that she’s dancing wildly, blissed-out to have won. After an hour or so, I’m outside in the garden when I hear her yelling my name. I run inside the restaurant and see her crouching on the floor, picking wax off her arms. Wax is all over her hair as well. I can also tell that she’s had a few lemon drops too many. Ingrid and Liz are standing over her. “Someone dumped a candle on me,” Madonna says. Liz whispers that Madonna’s had two lemon drops.
She and Ingrid take her into the bathroom and help her get the wax off. A trail of women follow her. Two stand guard outside the door. I can hear a lot of chattering in the bathroom. I grow impatient and peek in. Madonna is standing at the basin trying to remove the wax from her hair. Everyone around her is yelling helpful hints at her. I push my way through to the sink and help her. Then I tell her that I think it’s time for her to go home. Ingrid and I, and Chris Paciello (Ingrid’s then business partner) walk Madonna to the restaurant door. As we are about to get her into the car, Mike springs out of the shadows, pulls out his camera, and says, “I want a picture of Madonna.” “Over my dead body,” I say, and grab the camera. He runs over to Madonna, puts his arm around her neck, and says, “I want to kiss you good-bye.” We pull him off Madonna and then throw him out. Exit artistic boyfriend, never to be seen again.
MADONNA NOW HAS a $6.5 million contract with Max Factor to promote several new cosmetic products and appear in commercials throughout Europe and Japan. I see the commercial and note her geisha look, remembering the evening we spent together at the geisha house, and applaud her for remembering and using the image. ON MARCH 21, 1999, I go with Madonna to the Academy Awards. Afterward, as we walk into the Vanity Fair party at Morton’s, a fifteen-piece salsa band is playing. The party is jammed. Fatboy Slim is deejaying. Warren, Barry Diller, Ricky Martin, David Geffen, and all of Hollywood are here. But only a solitary couple is on the dance floor. The band strikes up a great salsa number. I ask Madonna if she wants to dance. “Let’s go,” she says. I offer her my hand. We go onto the dance floor together.
Within moments, everyone stands back and watches us on the dance floor. We fit together perfectly. She responds to my slightest touch, and I to hers. This truly is dancing with the stars. We are completely in step. We are so in tune that night—my sister and I—genetically so similar, trained by the same teacher, ideal dance partners. Cameras film our dance, and it’s displayed around the entire restaurant and outside in the street. The music stops, we end on a perfect dip, everyone at the party applauds. A precious memory, and though I don’t realize it at the time, my last dance ever with my sister. MADONNA IS STILL hearing about my partying—which I generally just do on a Friday or a Saturday night, and not more—and she continues to disapprove. She is not altogether wrong. After partying so hard in France, I am finally forced to confront the fact that I am clearly capable of sliding down the slippery slope far too fast, and make the decision to cut back once and for all.
Nonetheless, presumably as a result of her suspicions that I am partying too much, Madonna opts to have a London decorator, Irishman David Collins— who designed for Victoria’s Secret, as well as many celebrated London restaurants—update the New York apartment instead of me. When I see the results, it is as if someone sticks a knife into my gut and twists it. He has taken my timeless classic design for the New York apartment and made it déclassé. He has changed the living room lighting, installed a chandelier that is far too big for the room, replaced the furniture I bought with oversize pillows that don’t suit the apartment. He has painted both the walls and ceiling of the media room a bright kelly green and, in my opinion, has destroyed the feel of the place completely. I am relieved that he hasn’t touched the blue bedroom I had custom-made for Madonna. But it hurts that she hasn’t hired me. I tell myself not to be angry with her. It is after all her home, and she can change whatever she wants. I suppress my anguish.
I realize that the main reason she hasn’t hired me is because she believes that I have a drug problem. Drugs have never impacted my work. Although Madonna has taken Ecstasy and smoked pot in the past, she won’t tolerate anyone who does drugs on a regular basis, in particular, cocaine. There is no middle ground for her and although I just dabble—and like most recreational drug users, don’t let my use impinge on my professionalism—Madonna views drug-taking in black-and-white: either you do drugs or you don’t. PERHAPS BECAUSE OF my feeling of alienation from Madonna, I hang out more with Gwyneth Paltrow. In a way, without perhaps realizing it at the time, ever since Madonna’s role in my life lessened, and our relationship started to downward spiral, I have established a Daddy Chair of my own— except that, in my case, it’s called the Sister Chair. Kate, Naomi, and Demi have all been candidates, but I feel that Gwyneth fits my Sister Chair better than any of them. She isn’t seeing anyone at the moment, so we spend time commiserating. She is more real than any of the other actresses I’ve met. Besides, she never mentions Madonna to me at all, a stellar qualification for my Sister Chair.
Around this time, I design a line of furniture for Bernhardt Design, a furniture manufacturer, which includes a scroll-armed sofa, a Vanitas table, and an armchair I’ve named “Leda.” The line is launched at the end of September 1999, at a party thrown at the Oriont, the newly opened restaurant on Fourteenth Street, which I spent six months designing. The restaurant is inspired by my vision of a Shanghai bordello, complete with black tile floors, deep-olive velvet banquettes, and chairs covered in a blood-red silk that I unearthed in New York’s Chinatown. The restaurant gets rave reviews for food and design. But just a month later, an electrical fire starts on the third floor and the restaurant burns to the ground, leaving me unpaid and incredibly unhappy. Fortunately, my furniture is well received. In July 2001, rather than spend thousands of dollars on a high-priced designer, President Clinton personally selects my Prague furniture line for his Harlem office. I am extremely pleased.
In March 1999, Madonna asks me to work on a new addition to the Coconut Grove house, and I fly down to Miami and spend some time there working on it. Madonna comes down for my birthday on Thanksgiving. Naomi and Kate decide to throw a birthday party for me at the Delano. Madonna takes some coaxing to agree to go. “I don’t like those model girls,” she says, “and I don’t like that you are hanging out with them.” “Look, Madonna, they’re very good to me. I trust them. They are just girls having a good time.” “Yes, but I don’t want to have it with them.” “Well, then, come or don’t come,” I say, exasperated. “But it’s my birthday, and I really wish you would.” She finally agrees to go, and we drive to the Delano in separate cars. At the Delano’s Blue Door restaurant, of which Madonna is part owner, a big table has been set up.
Kate and Naomi have done the place cards. Madonna, dressed in black Dolce & Gabbana, is at one end of the table with Ingrid. I am at the other end with Kate on one side and Naomi on the other. I am seated with the hostesses and enjoy this rare occasion of being in the same room as my sister and not being eclipsed by her. I can see her looking down her nose at Kate and Naomi and whispering to Ingrid about them. Kate gives me this funny pack of dirty girlie cards from the fifties. Even from far down the table, I can feel Madonna’s disapproval, but I don’t care. I’m enjoying myself. The cake is served. The girls toast me. Madonna joins the toast. Then the girls start getting raucous. Madonna makes a face, then she and Ingrid get up abruptly and leave. Kate, Naomi, and I all go dancing after dinner. I arrive back at the house at five and set off the alarm by accident. Madonna is livid and accuses me of doing drugs. She isn’t wrong. I am not painting much and am just hanging out, kind of lost, playing with supermodels. My mood is growing darker and darker.
Madonna, in contrast, is very much involved with Lola and immersed in the Kabbalah movement, and has a new man in her life, ten years her junior: British director Guy Ritchie. Trudie and Sting introduce him to Madonna when they both attend a lunch party at their home in Wiltshire. Like Sean, Guy comes from a middle-class family, with links to the Scottish military dating back to the twelfth century. I later find out that Guy has been named after two forebears who served in the Seaforth Highlanders, a romantic-sounding Scottish regiment. His greatgrandfather Sir William Ritchie was a gunner major general in the Indian army, and his grandfather Major Stewart Ritchie was posthumously awarded the Military Cross after he was killed in the escape from Dunkirk during World War II. Guy’s father, John, was also in the Seaforths, and Guy’s stepfather, Sir Michael Leighton, is an English aristocrat. All in all, young Mr. Ritchie seems to have a lot of history behind him, and a great many illustrious forebears casting a heavy shadow over him. It seems to me that he has a great deal to live up to. Consequently, in a way, I can understand why—instead of focusing his filmmaking talents on immortalizing his patently distinguished family history—he employs them on making what some term a “homophobic” movie about London gangsters, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I am eager to meet this Brit who appears to have captivated my sister so much.
The Wedding Guest sat on a stone: He cannot choose but hear. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner DECEMBER 31, 1999, Donatella has a New Year’s Eve party at Casa Casuarina, her Miami mansion, where I first meet Guy Ritchie. He is friendly to me, and I remember thinking that he looked boyish and seemed like a nice guy. He is conventionally dressed in a white shirt and dark-blue trousers and jacket, and I warm to him. He is personable and respectful and seems as if he might be fun to hang out with. Nonetheless, I tell myself that I doubt he’ll outlast Madonna’s usual two-year relationship cycle. I go into the garden with my good friend Dan Sehres. We find Donatella sitting at a corner table, glamorous in a silver dress. She looks beautiful, but seems depressed—no doubt thinking of Gianni and happier times at the mansion. She chain-smokes, lighting cigarette after cigarette with her glittery pink diamanté-covered lighter. Next to her, her own special packs of Marlboro, exclusively designed and manufactured for her at the Milan Versace atelier—with the words SMOKING KILLS eradicated and replaced by her initials, inscribed in Gothic script. We have cocktails with her at the table, along with Madonna, Guy Ritchie, Rupert Everett, and Gwyneth, who is currently in a flirtation with Guy Oseary, now running Maverick Records for Madonna, and sits close to him. Just before midnight, Ingrid rushes out into the courtyard. “J.Lo is here,” she announces, “and we’re not talking to her.” I flash back to a recent newspaper article and remember that Gwyneth and Madonna are feuding with J.Lo because J.Lo was quoted by a journalist as saying that Madonna couldn’t sing and Gwyneth couldn’t act. Most unwise. Everyone, with the exception of Donatella and me, gives J.Lo the cold shoulder.
At midnight sharp, we are all momentarily distracted from the dramatic J.Lorelated tension when we all gather round the TV screen and watch the New Year’s Eve celebrations all over the world. The pope gives his blessing, then they cut to fireworks. It looks as if the pope has blown up. We all dissolve into hysterics, then, of course, look up warily toward the heavens, just in case. I dance with Donatella on the acrylic dance floor that covers the sunken, giltinlay swimming pool. Then someone, I don’t recall whom, comes over to me and whispers into my ear that a bunch of us are going to do half a tab of ecstasy.
Around two in the morning, we all move on to the VIP Room of the Bar Room, Ingrid’s new club. The VIP is a dark room, small—about fifty by fifty—with large glass windows overlooking the main dance floor. We all drink Veuve Clicquot, and I can tell everyone is feeling good. Madonna, Gwyneth, Ingrid, the two Guys, and I are all sitting in a booth. Gwyneth gives me a playful, lascivious look. I jump up and pull her onto the dance floor. It’s now around four in the morning. Madonna, who is definitely feeling no pain, is dancing on the table. Gwyneth joins her, and they dance together. In the middle of the dance, Madonna grabs Gwyneth, and kisses her full on the mouth. It is that sort of a night.
My friend Dan has brought a nineteen-year-old boy to the party with him. The boy is always handling his crotch. And as a result, I call him Scratchy. Madonna, in a knee-length pink chiffon Versace dress, is on the dance floor, dancing with a group of people. We all look good together, and we know it. Suddenly Scratchy squeezes up to Madonna. He edges between us, puts his arms around her, and they dance a slow dance close together. Within an instant, Guy Ritchie strides across the dance floor. He kicks Scratchy in the leg to get his attention and drags him away from Madonna. Then he swings his fist at him. I push Guy back and yank Scratchy out of the room. THE MOMENT PASSES. The dancing begins again. I’m on the dance floor, dancing with Gwyneth again. Suddenly I sense someone coming up behind me. Guy grabs me from behind and starts bouncing me up and down like a rag doll.
“Put me down!” I say. I extract myself from his iron grip. I shove him up against the wall, push into him, and grind my hips right into him. “If you want to dance with me, this is how we dance here,” I say grimly. He flushes and pushes me off. I walk away. I don’t give Guy another thought. Rupert, however, is watching us intently, and apparently does. Later, in his autobiography, he comments, “Guy and Chris were from different planets, and in a way the one’s success relied on the other not being there.” At that stage, though, I don’t focus on Guy’s actions because I’m distracted by a commotion on the dance floor: two people are openly doing drugs. Security grabs them both and throws them out. We all keep on dancing. The evening fades away. Somehow, and I can’t remember how, I get home.
The next day, Madonna throws a barbecue in the garden, but most of us are so hungover that we just chill out, lounge by the pool, and speak softly. We only come alive when Lola starts screaming that Mo, Rupert’s puppy, is drowning. We dive into the pool and rescue him, whereupon he collapses, and we are terrified. Fortunately, though, after being ministered to by Elsa, the New Age priestess, he recovers. The afternoon ends, and everyone leaves. Throughout the day, Guy and I haven’t said a word to each other. I decide that he is a bit of an oaf, particularly on the dance floor, a drawback with regard to Madonna, as she likes her lovers to dance well. Above all, it has always been of paramount importance to Madonna that the man in her life be able to deal with the gay men in her life. I can’t imagine that Guy will be around for long.
I am wrong, of course. Perhaps I was too close to my sister, too caught up in the drama of that New Year’s Eve, to read the writing on the wall. I have no intimation whatsoever that the advent of Guy in Madonna’s life is the death knell for my relationship with her. THE DECADE ENDS with The Guinness Book of World Records listing Madonna as the most successful female solo artist, citing her as having sold 120 million albums worldwide. The Blond Ambition tour is named the Greatest Concert of the 1990s by Rolling Stone. Entertainment Weekly lists Madonna as the fifth Top Entertainer of the Half-Century (1950–2000). She is anointed Artist of the Millennium by MTV Asia.
Madonna’s latest movie, The Next Best Thing, which she makes with Rupert Everett, opens on February 29, 2000. She invites me to the premiere. I go with Billie Myers, a good friend and favorite singer of mine. Madonna is sitting two rows in front of me. The movie is awful. I pretend that I have to go to the bathroom and hope no one notices that I don’t come back. Instead, I stand in the hallway and listen, but at least don’t have to watch. Afterward, I tell Madonna that she was great and the movie is funny, but this isn’t true. I am glad that I am not alone with her because if we had a proper conversation about the movie, I know she would realize that I am lying. She has no idea whatsoever how bad she is in the movie but I realize that nothing good would come of speaking my mind so I decide not to. The movie has already premiered, and there is nothing that can be done anymore to improve it or my sister’s performance in it. Commenting on it negatively to her would be both pointless and destructive and I refuse to go there. THAT SAME MONTH, four months after I finished the latest addition to Coconut Grove, Madonna decides to sell the house. The end of an era. She also still hasn’t paid me my final installment for work on the addition. She is now living in London, where she starts the year by filming her “American Pie” video. In America, The Immaculate Collection is certified as having sold 9 million units, and on March 20, 2000, Madonna announces that she is pregnant with Guy’s child. I am still not convinced that Guy is in her life to stay, reasoning that she had Lola with Carlos, but still didn’t stay with him.
On August 11, 2000, Madonna and Guy’s son, Rocco, is born at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in Los Angeles. I am in Miami working and so am not there for his birth. Madonna clearly doesn’t intend to stay in California, though, as she is now permanently based in London. There, she meets Prince Charles at a charity dinner at his home in Gloucestershire and, later in the year, gives her first UK concert in seven years, at Brixton Academy, which is seen by 9 million viewers throughout the world and is the biggest live webcast ever, breaking Sir Paul McCartney’s 1999 online record of 3 million. She will become so much a part of life in her new country, England—the country she and I once disliked so much during our first trip there together, all those years ago—that she is even asked to present the prestigious Turner Prize at the Tate Britain Gallery. Doing so, she demonstrates that she hasn’t quite lost her American-style Madonna ability to shock: “At a time when political correctness is valued over honesty, I would like to say, right on, motherfucker, everyone is a winner!”
Her comments so scandalize the British television-viewing public that Channel 4 is compelled to issue an apology for them. Along the way, she breaks the news to me that she and Guy are getting married. I tell her I am glad for her. I am, because I realize that she is vulnerable and needs him. Apart from the fact that Guy must remind her of Sean, she is getting older and needs a father for her children. She casts such a big shadow, and most men just aren’t prepared to subjugate themselves to her. I guess that Guy isn’t either, but at least he is prepared to marry her. BY OCTOBER 2000, my finances are in shambles. I have been working on Central, a new restaurant on Sunset Plaza, for most of the year and haven’t been paid. I have no choice but to downsize. I give up my apartment in Hollywood and rent a three-bedroom house in Los Angeles proper, renting out the other two rooms. Madonna continues to stall my payment for Coconut Grove. I protest, and we argue.
On October 9, 2000, she sends me a letter saying that she is putting her “indignation aside”—referring to our payment dispute—and inviting me to her wedding. In a backhanded compliment, she says that she is inviting “my close friends and family members that are not insane.” She adds, “We will be married by a vicar in the Church of England because Catholics are a pain and GR doesn’t want to convert and besides I’m a divorcée.” I am not keen to attend the wedding, as I really can’t afford it. Moreover, I no longer have any affinity for Guy. So I call to make my apologies. Madonna isn’t around, but her assistant Caresse calls me back: “Madonna told me to tell you if you want to be paid the final payment for Coconut Grove, you have to use the money to buy a ticket to her wedding.” A knot forms in my stomach. “You are joking, right? Because if you aren’t, then she is blackmailing me.” I hang up. Caresse calls back. “We are going to take the money Madonna owes you, buy you a ticket to Scotland, and send you the money that is left over.” I ask again if she’s kidding, and she tells me she isn’t. This is how Madonna wants to proceed.
I spend a few days mulling over the situation. I feel I don’t know this person who is attempting to blackmail me into attending her wedding. However, I am consoled that my sister and I can’t be on such bad terms as she really does seem to want me at her wedding. So I capitulate. Caresse gives me the rundown of the wedding plans. I will fly to London a week before the wedding, be fitted for a tuxedo, and the following morning fly to Inverness, a forty-five-minute drive from Skibo Castle, in Dornoch, on the shores of Dornoch Firth in the Scottish Highlands. On December 21, Rocco will be christened, and the wedding will take place on December 22. Later, I discover that before the wedding, the staff are forced to sign a fourpage confidentiality agreement, that none of the guests is allowed mobile phones, and that we are all banned from leaving the castle during the five-day wedding celebrations. Moreover, seventy security guards will be on hand to ensure that no press infiltrate Skibo, and no guest escapes either. Colditz Castle, here I come!
A business-class British Airways ticket is messengered to me from Madonna’s office. When I check the price, I discover that only a few hundred dollars of my final fee remain. Once in London, I follow Caresse’s instructions and go to Moss Bros on Regent Street to rent my tuxedo. They hand me this gray cutaway that all the male guests are supposed to wear. It’s pure polyester, and when I slide the jacket on, it burns my fingers. The shop assistant presents me with the rental bill. “Put it on Guy’s bill,” I say, and walk out. That night, I go out to dinner with friends. We party, and I end up going to bed at five in the morning. Consequently, I miss my flight to Inverness. At the airport, a BA official takes pity on me and arranges for me to fly to Edinburgh, and from there to Inverness. I am not particularly happy, but I am still curious about Scotland and am interested to discover what it’s like. A car meets me at the airport. After about an hour’s drive, we arrive at Dornach, drive up a sweeping beech-tree-lined drive, and Skibo Castle looms in front of me cloaked in mist, big: beautiful, mysterious, and set on seventyfive hundred acres of prime Highlands land. A flag featuring the Union Jack on one side and the Stars and Stripes on the other—a tradition stemming from Andrew Carnegie, who restored the castle in the nineteenth century— flies from one of the turrets.
My first sight of the Skibo main hall is straight out of any Hollywood movie featuring an ancient Scottish castle. A crackling log fire burns brightly, the walls are Edwardian oak-paneled, some with stuffed animal heads displayed on them. A sweeping oak staircase leads to a landing with a stained-glass bow window, where Madonna’s wedding ceremony will take place. I expect Errol Flynn to swagger down the magnificent staircase at any moment and start fencing with me. My fantasies are punctured, however, when at the reception desk I am asked to hand over my credit card for incidentals. I tell the receptionist that I didn’t bring my credit card with me. The result is that all my charges will be billed to Madonna and Guy. My white lie is, of course, motivated by my reaction to Madonna having blackmailed me into attending her wedding. I don’t want to feel that way, but I just can’t forget her bullying, overbearing behavior toward me. I follow Skibo’s kilted “greeter” to my accommodations, assuming they will be baronial and splendid, given the grand entrance hall. We walk up two flights, three flights. We walk up four flights, five flights. We walk up six. Along the way, we pass various suites, all magnificent, all with four-poster beds and furnished with antiques.
My room is on the top floor in a turret attic. I go through a little door, into a small hallway, then into a room about six by six, with a claw-footed Victorian bathtub in the middle and a toilet against the wall. That leads to another doorway, another low-ceilinged room, and there is my bed. The phone rings and I am informed that dinner will be at eight. Moreover, it is black-tie. Madonna never warned me that there would be black-tie events. I’ve only brought one suit with me—Prada—so it looks like I’ll be wearing the same suit every night. I go down six flights of stairs. I pass a library and a billiards room. I take a walk outside, see the small gym and serene spa, and the historic Edwardian indoor swimming pool. Skibo is imposing yet beautiful, and I think to myself that I can deal with this for a week. A pretty girl rides by on a horse. She introduces herself to me as Stella. The penny drops. Stella McCartney. Madonna’s maid of honor. As far as I know, she and Madonna have only just met, yet Madonna has chosen her—not Ingrid or Gwyneth—to be her maid of honor. Stella designs and makes a free $30,000 dress specially for Madonna. Still, Ingrid can’t be happy. Stella explains the drill to me. Every morning, the men will go shooting, and the women will have a themed luncheon. She knows, because Madonna has told her.
“So I either have to go to lunch with the women or go shooting?” I ask Stella. She tells me that no men are allowed at the lunches. Shooting is out of the question for me. I dress for dinner, then go into the library. Guy’s friends are in there. I don’t know any of them, but one or two look familiar so I guess I’ve seen them in some film or another. They are relatively friendly, and they all clearly have a history with one another. We have cocktails and I try to make small talk. I ask how the shooting went and they tell me that they have shot three hundred birds. I ask them if they are kidding. They tell me they aren’t. They are going to get hung up, where they are meant to rot. I flash back to the goat heads I saw hanging in a primitive Moroccan village all those years ago. Guy and his friends may be civilized Englishmen, not North African peasants, but their pursuits are similar. “So are we having them for dinner?” I ask. They all laugh and tell me that we aren’t. I GO TO dinner. Madonna walks in, says, “Welcome to Scotland,” and gives me a hug. Guy shakes my hand.
Trudie and Sting arrive. I met him when he played the Pacific Amphitheatre in 1993 and like him. Melanie and her husband, Joe, walk in, and I’m glad to see them. The large dining table is set for ten. Madonna has a seating chart, and on this first evening she’s put me next to Melanie and Joe, and I’m glad. Scottish food is served. For a while, I pick at it halfheartedly. Then I ask for some chicken. Tonight, and every night afterward, the guests toast the bridal couple. Tonight, one of Guy’s friends makes the toast, which culminates in a crack with the subtext “Wouldn’t it be funny if Guy were gay?” I don’t laugh. It wouldn’t be funny. After dinner, I decide to read up on Skibo’s history. I learn that the castle stands on the site of an original Viking edifice. Through the years reduced to ruin, Skibo was reborn in 1898, when it was bought by Scottish-born philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who immigrated to America at age twelve and as an adult accumulated a $10 billion fortune by manufacturing steel. Having made a fortune beyond his wildest dreams, Carnegie returned to Scotland, determined to buy the castle of his dreams, and spent $2 million restoring and decorating Skibo.
Since then, King Edward VII, Edward Elgar, Lloyd George, Helen Keller, Rudyard Kipling, and the Rockefellers have all stayed at Skibo. Moreover, Paderewski even played the vast organ in the Great Hall. I relish Skibo’s illustrious history, but still feel lonely there. In the morning, I am awoken by a bagpiper playing under my window— apparently, a Skibo tradition dating back to Carnegie. When I go down to breakfast, where all manner of Scottish delicacies are on offer, I discover that I am condemned to spend the day on my own. The guys are scheduled to go shooting, the women to spend the day behind closed doors taking part in various female pursuits. Madonna doesn’t suggest any alternatives for me. Generally, a prospective bride isn’t responsible for entertaining her guests, but I can’t help wondering about the point of inviting someone to a wedding in the middle of nowhere, then leaving him to his own devices.
So I work out and then read. I’m curious, though, about what’s going on in the girls’ room. It’s all very hush-hush. After a while, Stella comes out and says, “I’m tired of the girls, I’m going to ride my horse.” In the evening, I check the seating chart and discover I am sitting between Trudie and Sting. At first, they talk about the castle and the weather. Then Trudie leans in to me and says, “Christopher, do I have BO?” “Huh?” “Do I have BO? Do I smell?” “Not that I can tell,” I say, perplexed. “Are you into that sort of thing?” Before I can think of an answer, she chips in, “Mightn’t you be?” “Isn’t the smoked salmon delicious?” I say. GUY’S PRIDE IN his own heterosexuality swells noticeably when he’s in the presence of a gay man like me. And during this wedding week, when there are nightly after-dinner toasts made by his male friends—many of which are aimed at underscoring his overt masculinity—he is in his element. I, however, am far from amused when many of the speeches trumpeting Guy’s heterosexuality include the word poofter, a derogatory British expression for “gay.”
Ignoring all the other guests—Sting, Trudie, Stella McCartney, my sister Melanie and her husband, Joe—Madonna, who is at the head of the table, stands up and issues the instruction, “Christopher, tonight it’s your turn to give the toast.” I lean down the baronial table and, with great emphasis, reply, “Madonna, you really don’t want me to do that.” It’s a statement, not a question. Madonna looks back at me blankly. “I think you should ask someone else,” I volunteer helpfully. “No, Christopher, it’s your turn!” she bark in a tone identical to the one she always used as a kid when she and my siblings all played Monopoly together; if she didn’t get Park Place, she invariably stamped her feet and said, “But it’s mine!” In those days, in the face of her strong will, I always capitulated and rescinded my purchase of Park Place. Nothing seems to have changed. I stand up. My fellow guests fall silent out of respect; the brother of the bride is about to make a speech.
I raise my glass, “I’d like to toast this happy moment that comes only twice in a person’s lifetime.” Then, without skipping a beat, I go on, “And if anybody wants to fuck Guy, he’ll be in my room later.” Everyone erupts in peals of laughter. Everyone, of course, except Madonna, who keeps saying, “What did he mean? What did he mean?” and Guy, who I suspect knows exactly what I mean, says nothing.
AFTERWARD, HE AVOIDS looking at me. Soon after, I go to my room. I’m walking along the corridor, thinking that at least I got my dagger in when Trudie comes up behind me. “That was hysterical,” she says. “Your sister didn’t get it, but I’ve been listening to all those homophobic jokes, and if you weren’t pissed off, I’d be worried about you. I just want you to know that we were aware of how you must be feeling.” At that moment, I fall in love with Trudie, and she knows it.