A couple of weeks ago we learned that Madonna’s older brother Anthony Ciccone has become a homeless man living on the streets of Traverse City, MI after he was profiled in a local news report about the city’s homeless population. Since that time, Anthony has arguably become the most famous homeless man in the world. Ciccone has previously only given a few comments about his estranged situation with his family but today we get to hear more, much more from the man. According to Anthony, his family has previously attempted to get him into a rehab program … and he refused. He insists his family has washed their hands of him but by the sound of his comments in this new interview, he sounds to me like a man that is resistant to accept any help they might offer.
Anthony, 55, could not look less like his gym and yoga-toned sister. A white-bearded bear of a man, his ruddy complexion, four layers of stained and dirty clothes and pungent smell are testament to his life on the streets. He smokes so many roll-up cigarettes that not only his fingers but also his moustache are stained yellow by nicotine. With Anthony accusing Madonna and other family members of ‘washing their hands’ of him, the startling contrast between his life and his sister’s has inevitably raised the question: how could a woman with a $650 million fortune leave her brother in such desperate straits? Speaking publicly for the first time this week about his troubled past and difficult relationship with his famous sister, Anthony makes it clear the story is not a simple one — as anyone who has ever dealt with an addicted loved one will probably know. It is clear that Madonna knows about his plight, and that she has repeatedly offered to help by paying for him to go into rehab. His father has offered to give him his job back if he gets professional help. But ask Anthony whether his sister and their 80-year-old father, Tony, have helped him and he is immediately riled. ‘I’m a zero in their eyes; a non-person, an embarrassment,’ he tells me, his voice rising. ‘If I froze to death, my family probably wouldn’t know or care about it for six months.’ Anthony, who has considerable reserves of self-pity, but little capacity to be honest about himself, says he doesn’t need rehab, which is ‘boring’. He just needs a job, he says, and to meet the son he hasn’t seen for ten years. ‘My family seem to think rehab is some kind of magic panacea for life’s ills,’ he says, cracking open a bottle of his favourite tipple, Wild Irish Rose, a strong and ruinously cheap fortified wine. He says he agreed to go into rehab six years ago, with Madonna paying for him to spend two months drying out in a clinic in Houston, Texas, for what he calls his ‘supposed’ alcoholism. Perhaps, given that attitude, it’s not surprising it didn’t work … An articulate and entertaining man when sober, Anthony is a voracious reader who likes to quote Mark Twain. Sadly, it is plain he could have done so much more with his life. Though he chooses to make light of his alcoholism, he becomes intensely serious when he talks about his mother, recalling how he and Madonna were the only siblings who viewed their mother in her open funeral casket. ‘It made a lasting impression on us both,’ he says. ‘It was a macabre thing for two little kids to see.’ He lost his only photograph of his mother some time ago, insisting it was stolen by souvenir hunters. As we stand under the gloomy bridge he calls home, the morning traffic rattling overhead and the rain bucketing down outside, his stained fingers roll one cigarette after another as he thinks back to his life in Madonna’s shadow. Anthony’s career path, a mish-mash of dead-end jobs, never crossed Madonna’s, but she did at least share a little of her gilded existence with him. He told me how he once shared a joint with Mick Jagger as they sat around a New York nightclub table with his sister, David Bowie and Iggy Pop. ‘Mick was cool, Iggy was cool, David Bowie was kind of cold,’ he says … He and his sister didn’t get on as children.
‘We hated each other — sibling rivalry, I imagine,’ he says, adding viciously: ‘She was a bitch, just like she is now. She remains true to form. You have to give her credit for consistency’ … He insists he has little time for Madonna’s music, and even less for her films. ‘My sister’s a terrible actress, but she’s a great entertainer and an excellent businesswoman.’ As for Madonna’s taste in men, Anthony says he was friends with her first husband, actor Sean Penn. ‘I used to drink beer with his brother, Chris, before he died.’ As if on cue, the memory prompts a long burp. Anthony describes Madonna’s second husband, Guy Ritchie, as ‘a little pompous?…?he gave me a lecture over lunch about kabbalah (the trendy Jewish mysticism also embraced by Madonna). ‘It was his so-called world view, but it made absolutely no sense. I had a hard time taking him seriously.’ That said, Anthony says he was sad when Madonna and Guy broke up, having been happy that she’d been in a stable relationship. Any contact between the Queen of Pop and the brother living under a bridge is rare, though two months ago Anthony’s father and his youngest brother, Mario, went to see him on her behalf. He got a new pair of prescription spectacles out of it, but promptly lost them.
The full interview can be read HERE. As you may recall, Anthony was reluctant previously to sell stories of his famous sister and family woes but it sounds like the deal was finally right for him to spill his guts this time around. The full interview includes stories from Madonna’s youth as well as other intimate details that only a close family member would know. While I cannot judge this man for selling an interview in order to survive, I do find it a bit disheartening to read of his living situation in such detail … because I truly believe that if he really wanted to fix his life and get off the streets, he could do so easily … IF he was ready to change his life. But, well, he seems pretty set in his ways. I think this interview, in Anthony’s own words, gives the most clear indication of what is going on here. Some people can only be helped IF the want to be helped. Hopefully, Anthony Ciccone will one day accept the help that is no doubt readily available to him, before it’s too late.