First published in Facebook, December 2016
2016 will go down in history as the year that claimed more male pop stars than any other in living memory. And it ain’t quite over yet.
Can I take comfort in having crossed paths with five of the deceased? Not too much. This bastard of a year got off to the worst start ever by claiming the life of the man who taught me everything. Yes, I knew David Bowie, but in reality as much as any journalist ‘knew’ David Bowie. It was an extremely complex working relationship over five or so years, but I always grateful for the time he afforded me, even when we weren’t always being eye to eye (the book, a certain record Collector article etc).
I bumped into Prince (quite literally) at the American Embassy in London in 1995, and he was kind enough to take a Bowie magazine that I’d just had published (Crankin’ Out issue 3, fact fans).
Having been flown to London by Gay Times (I was living in Holland at the time) to review Dead Or Alive at GAY one Saturday night in April 2003, I bumped into Pete Burns backstage and told him how he’s top of my interviewee list, especially as he was the first pop star that I ever exchanged letters with way back in 1984. What did he do? He scribbled down his phone number in full view of all the acolytes and guestlist junkies and he told me to call him. He gave me two hours of the most hilarious and entertaining anecdotes.
Rewind a decade, and around 1992 I popped into DH Evans (now House of Fraser) in London’s Oxford St to visit my housemate who worked there in the cosmetics department. Rick Parfitt was also in there, flirting outrageously with some of Judi‘s prettier colleagues and as I knew my mum was a Quo fan and vaguely remembered her having the hots for him, I approached him for an autograph. He didn’t look too happy at being distracted from the ladies, even less when I told him it was for my mother!
When I next saw my mum I told her the story, gave her the scrappy bit of paper and wondered why she looked so unimpressed. Oh, Rick? The blond one? No, it’s the other one I like, Francis Rossi! Still puzzled about that to this day.
And so the year (almost) comes to an end as it started, and the loss of someone I’d spent quite a lot of time with over the years, ever since he discovered me cruising Gaydar in 2004 (I’d just joined, he’d been around) from our Hampstead pads (yup, his was slightly bigger than mine). George Michael used to get a kick out of us being the two ‘hairy Hampstead half-Greeks’ (his words), and I guess, so did I (who am I trying to kid? Of course I bloody did!). I wasn’t a fan. Stella Paffordbought the Wham! records, I just used to study the sleeves (if you get me…).
At the same time I got to know the ‘other’ George: Mr George Gina O’Dowd, and I used to be the middle man, listening to them bitch about each other to me, neither of them realising I was friends with the other one!
In a way, George Michael’s death, just six years and a day my senior, is even harder to compute than Bowie’s, although it was well known neither were in the best of health. That doesn’t make the loss any easier, and my thoughts go out to Fadi, Andros and his family. Thank you for all your calls and messages but I don’t think I really have anything else I wish to add at this stage x
Thanks to https://twitter.com/christhebarker for the image