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Buying Madonna's house: A tale of family, fame and misfortune

By Tommy Andres, CNN
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Sat May 26, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Author's family bought Madonna's childhood home, put it on national TV
  • Story of eBay auction became much bigger than one family, or even the celebrity
  • Auction bookended one of biggest events in U.S. history
  • Watch video to hear the whole tale from family members' points of view

(CNN) -- Years before Karolyne Smith sold Golden Palace Casino ad space on her forehead for $10,000, and long before an image of the Virgin Mary was toasted into the buttery crust of a grilled cheese sandwich and hocked for $28,000, there was a little family in a little town in Michigan that imprinted their names onto the awkward pages of eBay infamy with another strange sale.

That family is mine.

Just about everyone in my hometown of Rochester Hills knew Madonna had grown up there, but I would guess there weren't too many who could point out which house had been hers. That is, until we bought it and put it on national TV.

It all started when I returned home from college after my freshman year to find my newfound freedom again weighed down by daily parental oversight. It was that awkward juncture between childhood and adulthood, and one muttered phrase to my dad -- "Did you know Madonna's house is for sale? You should buy it and put it on eBay" -- sent us down a path that would become the story of something much bigger than us, even bigger than one of the world's most famous celebrities.

My older brother Matt almost never tells the story. It was my dad's money of course, but in his mid-20s, Matt became the face of it all because my dad doesn't love attention and youth sells. He and my father have decidedly different takes on the whole ordeal. My brother says he's embarrassed at the outcome and disappointed that in some circles he may always be known for this one stupid thing. My dad chalks it up to a "great learning experience and a lot of fun."

It was a 30-day auction that just happened to bookend one of the biggest events in U.S. history. At the time, eBay was a relatively new phenomenon, and celebrity worship was at an all-time high. When you watch this video, you may judge us harshly, but I want to share this story because I believe it says a striking amount about one of the starkest cultural shifts our country has ever experienced. It's perhaps the least important story you'll ever see on the subject, but I hope you'll find it interesting, because I had to beg to get my family to tell it again.

Madonna's 2012 world tour opens May 31 in Israel

Photo in video courtesy Zillow.com

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