Published August 15, 2008
Madonna — who turns 50 on Saturday — and Guy Ritchie separated in 2003 for a short time, according to British author Wendy Leigh. It was a bombshell that she left out of the bestseller she wrote with Christopher Ciccone, "Life With My Sister Madonna."
Wendy, you see, took umbrage at an item that appeared here a few days ago about sales of "Life with My Sister." She pointed out that the book had sold more than the 35,000 copies Nielsen Bookscan had counted and, in fact, still was on the bestseller list after less than a month.
While we talked over breakfast on Thursday at a downtown hotel, Wendy told me the whole saga of how she and Madonna’s brother had come to be partnered on the book, and then she dropped this bombshell.
Madonna, she told me, had written many letters and e-mails to Christopher over the years. The latest was in 2003. "She detailed her marriage to Guy in a way that a woman usually doesn’t discuss her husband with her brother," Wendy told me.
"It showed a side of her that made her very human," Leigh said. "But think that this was so soon in the marriage. She was having grave doubts. But so was he. The separation was initiated by him."
The letters are only briefly mentioned in the book, Wendy said, because it’s illegal to quote from them. Even paraphrasing is tricky. But the gist of it is that Christopher was Madonna’s confidant as recently as 2003.
The separation came in February 2003, less than three years into the marriage and birth of their son, Rocco. According to Leigh, the couple went for "counseling." It’s unclear whether this meant Kabbalah or just regular shrink stuff.
In any case, the marriage continues. At the time, Leigh said, "Madonna had serious reservations" about the marriage and about Guy and expressed them to Christopher in the letter. There were details about Guy’s past and Madonna’s insecurities. The letter took my breath away. It showed me how bright she was and the woman behind the Madonna-constructed image."
Ciccone apparently has a huge cache of letters and cards, all decorated and designed by Madonna, that are securely hidden in a safe deposit box. When Ciccone showed Leigh the letters, she was convinced of the siblings’ closeness.
Leigh told me how this book project began, lest I think Madonna had anything to do with it (you never know what the Material Madge might do for publicity). She says that Ciccone approached her over a year ago in Miami about writing a memoir but didn’t know if anyone would be interested. (We have to suspend disbelief here.)
What followed was a series of cloak-and-dagger sessions at Leigh’s Key Biscayne home, with Ciccone arriving in disguises and using code names. (He was "Mr. Blake" after a famous English spy.)
Ciccone cancelled the first meeting because it fell on Madonna’s birthday. "He said, 'No, I can’t do it today,'" Leigh recalled. "He was extremely nervous."
Several times, Ciccone became very upset during the writing process. One instance was when he and Leigh watched Madonna rolling around on their mother’s grave in her documentary "Truth or Dare."
The pair delivered a proposal to her agent, and an auction among publishing houses followed in New York. Publishers, she said, came to a loft Leigh rented downtown and met Ciccone behind a curtain. They were given a list of 100 reasons this book was different than past Madonna biographies. Simon & Schuster’s Spotlight Entertainment division won.
Through all of it, Madonna never found out a book was coming until a month before publication — and that only happened because Ciccone asked his father for pictures. That would have been around June 12. Leigh said a flurry of phone calls followed from Madonna, which Christopher ignored.
I did ask the attractive, chipper Leigh, author of many celebrity bestsellers, about Ciccone’s betrayal of his sister. It seems to me that it’s caused a permanent rift between the formerly close siblings.
"What if your brother did this to you?" I asked Leigh, hypothetically. There was a long pause. "I can’t say," she answered. "I can’t guess."
"Does he not care about the future of their relationship?" I asked.
Leigh said, "Until the end, the whole thing didn’t seem real to him. He didn’t think anyone would be interested; he didn’t think we’d get a publisher. I don’t think he thought that far ahead."
She paused. "I do think he has more stories to tell."
Josh Bernstein is a nice Jewish boy who was raised in Manhattan and should have been a banker, lawyer or doctor. For some reason, Josh became fascinated by survival camping and now lives in Utah. He also hosts the Discovery Channel’s "Into the Unknown," which starts again on Monday chronicling his adventures all over the world.
But get this: Until six weeks ago, the 37-year-old Cornell grad and brother Andrew — who is a banker — didn’t know they were identical twins.
"We always thought we were fraternal until we took a DNA test," Bernstein told me over lunch at Café Ruhlmann in Rockefeller Center hosted by Travel & Leisure’s Nancy Novogrod. "Now we have all these issues to sort out." You can see what they are: Andrew probably has a co-op. Josh lives in a yurt. …
More on the Lyor Cohen/WMG saga. I told you on Wednesday that he cashed out more than $6.7 million in stock on Monday. If only I’d read hitsdailydouble.com! They scooped that he sold "nearly a quarter" of all his shares in the company. Why? Rich Greenfield of Pali Capital surmises that the dollar amount is equal to the price Cohen paid this summer for a tear-down house in Southampton.
Cohen writes: "So while WMG continues to reduce staff and scale back compensation for its employee base, its senior management continues to carry on as if the music industry was in its heyday — this simply cannot help morale at WMG." Cohen sold at $8.45. WMG closed Thursday at $7.61. …
If you want to fund-raise for a political candidate, do it in the Hamptons. Last week, I’m told Star Jones had a gathering to get some dough for Barack Obama. There was also a quiet get-together for New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who you know has his eye on the governor’s mansion one day (Andrew’s father once was governor, you know).
Power players like Joe and Nazee Moinian and Andrew and Sandy Farkas were guests of investment banker John Howard. Gov. David Patterson should take note. …
More from the place that Billy Norwich once so appropriately dubbed the Cash-hamptons: I’ve never seen "Real Housewives of New York" on Bravo, a channel that used to show quality programming until it discovered "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."
Nevertheless, it’s a hit! The stars of it go to everything they can get their names on the guest lists of, and the paps eat it up. Last Saturday, they hit Henry Buhl’s famous Sunflowers After Hours benefit in Southampton. The evening raised a staggering $425,000 for The Association of Community Employment Programs. You see, there is no recession in paradise. …
With a nod to the late Isaac Hayes, Stax Records legends Booker T & the MGs — Booker T. Jones, Duck Dunn and Steve Cropper — play B.B. King’s in New York Friday night. There are two shows. Don’t miss ‘em … Isaac (not to mention Rufus Thomas) will be smiling from above. …