Archives for posts with tag: Craigie Aitchison

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Lucy Ferry killed herself.  A shot-gun in an Irish village.  Her ‘beloved’ dogs present.  Her death opening the door to a whole world of grief.  In drawing rooms all over London, Palladian homes in the West Country, cottages in Norfolk… pearls were clutched, brows furrowed.

The moment I heard the terrible news I called Simon Finch. We gasped in horror.  Oh no.  No.  There was nothing more to say.  Lucy Ferry/Birley née Helmore was dead.

I met Lucy with Isabella Blow.  Mischievous Isabella, she’d say, “Lucy only married Bryan to save the Helmore family house.”  By the time I met Lucy she was already separated from Bryan.  We had tea often at that saved Kensington home.  A short walk from where I lived on Adam and Eve Mews. “Oh, hello.”  She looked a little confused.  As if my visit had slipped her mind, as if life were happening to her rather than being fully present.  That sweet smile.

Sometimes the younger of her four boys were in the house, rattling around upstairs, but we sat on our own.  She didn’t have to be Lucy Ferry with me.  She was just another addict talking it through.  Another bozo on the bus… as they used to say at AA/NA meetings in Hudson NY.  Just one addict helping another, working the steps.  Even so, she was never a great believer in God… but I bet she called out for him just before she pulled the trigger.

We had dinner at Floriana on Beauchamp Place, pretending to be a couple, mainly her idea to annoy Bryan.  Hosted by Tatler, 19 Mar 2003.  The Evening Standard wrote a vile and libellous take down of yours truly after the prank.  Gratifyingly, the writer of the piece (Deborah Orr told me) died painfully and suddenly a few months later.   I wasn’t moved by his death, nobody remembers his name… as people remember and are moved by Lucy.

Isabella read the piece in the Standard, refusing to understand the humour.  She summoned me to Prada on Bond St. I met her in the dressing room, pulling a jewelled frock over flesh-colored, boned underwear.  She screamed, “What were you thinking? Lucy would never have a relationship with someone like YOU!”

“Issy! You were there. You knew it was a prank!”

“It wasn’t very funny.” She gasped as the sales associate zipped her into the gown.

The dinner at Floriana was thrown for Lee McQueen.  Michael Portillo and Isabella Blow sat either side of me.  Prince Michael of Greece opposite.  Lucy was setting me up with Lee but we weren’t interested.  We were interested in Lucy.  If only gay boys had Lucy’s charm and spunk.  4 years later Isabella would drink poison and die, a year after that… Lee would hang himself.

This week Bella Freud, Jasper Conran, Patrick Kinmonth amongst so many others posted sad obituaries on Instagram.  Conran, a picture of Lucy from his wedding.  Kinmonth, a tiny dead bird by Craigie Aitchison.  All of them wailing plaintively about their friend Lucy.

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Why didn’t she call?  Why was she on her own?  Where were her friends?  Her husband and children?  Was she going to meetings?  Did she have people who could help her live, make the decision to live?  Obviously not.

Every addict wants to die sooner than God planned.  It is a decision none want taking from us.  The needle in the arm, the bottom of the glass, the cold gun.

Hamish Bowles’ piece in Vogue was mawkish and badly written. Painting pretty Lucy shaped pictures of a woman Hamish scarcely understood other than her frocks, hats and shoes.  Of course, he didn’t ask why?  Nobody is asking why.  Is that too impertinent when you expect someone you know well to grow old?  She would have made a very, very grand old lady.  Rasping, funny and chic.

It’s a bit late,  posting pretty black and white pictures of her on social media, Hamish.

Two weeks ago I managed to track her down.  She was a little frosty, we hadn’t spoken for years.  She asked if I was sober.  We giggled about her brother Ed living it large at The Chateau Marmont in LA where I last saw him.  We recalled the Floriana scam and the subsequent outrage.  She wanted to know if I was in love.  I told her about Jake and our disastrous relationship… I told her how overwhelming love can be.  Crippling.  I asked about her husband.  There was a long, painful silence.  She suddenly seemed wistful and bored.  We made tentative plans to meet when she returned from her doomed vacation.

She wondered if I had ever received the green fur hat.  Of course I had.  Apparently, she had never received my written thanks.

Did she stop believing?  Run out of dreams?  Her children, dogs and husband could not convince her life was worth living.  Did she stop loving dressing up, entertaining, preparing lavish dinners, being center of attention?  Perhaps she saw the folly of her ways?  Couldn’t align her feelings with the facts?  Maybe she was drinking and convinced herself suicide a glamorous conclusion?  God only knows.

I have lost more friends/acquaintances to suicide than any other disease these past 50 years.  Suicide.  Touching the lives of almost everyone I know.  He lay on the tracks, he loaded the syringe, he hung himself from the banister, she jumped from the bridge, she blew her brains out in Ireland.   They found him dead in the car park, Boxing Day.  He was badly decomposed.  He stole pills from the hospital.  I knew all these people.

Bye bye Lucy.

Mario Testino was a friend of ours.  He had a studio in an abandoned hospital on Soho Square.  Scott Crolla, Georgina Godley and others were frequent guests.  My boyfriend in 1981 was Mario’s long time friend and collaborator Patrick Kinmonth.

Patrick lived in a tiny apartment in Holland Park, deliberately disheveled, dusty yet filled with beautiful object.  The place was brutally cold in the winter and a furnace in the summer.  Patrick, according to the artist Craigie Aitchison dobbed me in to the police when they were looking for me to ask questions about my credit card and why I hadn’t paid the bill.  It was Patrick who lent me money to buy my Peter Doig and it was Patrick who encouraged me to make art.  He was a vicious snob, exquisitely beautiful and at that time worked for Vogue magazine.  He amused us all by mimicking Mario’s Peruvian lilt.   Patrick is a deft impersonator.  The problem with Patrick?  Nothing ever came of his own talent.  He lives with the painfully shy food photographer Tessa Traeger in the West Country.  He designs opera sets for out-of-the-way operas but never became the great anything everyone thought he might become.

The last time I saw Mario and Patrick we were in LA at The Chateau Marmont.  I was having dinner in the garden they were having a party in the lounge with a bunch of gorgeous boy/men models.  I sat beside Patrick for a moment but I didn’t stay long.  He enjoys scolding me.  I made amends for some indiscretion and left.  Mario looked at me disdainfully.  Patrick enjoys being on Mario’s winning team.  He wrote the forward to Mario’s book and he styles the most interesting shoots.  Neither of them wanted me hanging around.  You’ve seen pictures of young girls on a yacht wearing bikinis, oggled by old men?  This was Mario’s gay equivalent.  I’d already ruined things by talking to him and Patrick, bathed in Mario’s reflected glory, wanted me gone.  He looked down his aquiline nose and told me I could have made so much more of myself.  Yeah, I thought… if you hadn’t worked with the establishment to destroy me.   I probably could.

You know why old men put young girls on yachts?  You’d think… so the girls can’t escape.  No, it’s so their old men friends can’t join the party.  I returned to my dinner in the garden.  Soon I saw Mario, Peter Pan like… screaming and laughing down the stairs with his crew.  Patrick lagging behind like a heavy train on an old dress.

I’ve never written about Mario.  Now, within the context of the salacious revelations and accusations leading to his spectacular firing from the Conde Nast creative family I revisit my association with him.  Let me say immediately,  I didn’t know anything untoward was happening.  I had never heard anything.  The towel series he shot with models were obviously designed to get the model naked and to legitimize Mario’s pervy intentions but I never heard from models who worked with him they felt uncomfortable.

Many of those same models who worked with Mario were not so discreet about their working relationship with Bruce Weber.  For a decade or more I heard story after story from young men who had worked with Bruce and the discomfort they felt being ‘relaxed’ with his hands on their bodies, the ‘breathing exercise’ or asked to take off their shorts when they were alone with Bruce.  I heard again and again about the notorious ‘private archive’ for which Bruce said he wanted their naked picture.  I heard how he tantalized young men with lucrative campaigns and the promise of a life beyond their wildest dreams.  I heard how he set models against each other, how within minutes of the private naked shots… would change his mind about the campaign promise he’d made, playing with them, manipulating them.

Yet, it seems, many models were perfectly happy to have their bodies used by Bruce.  Yesterday I spoke to a male super model I know in NYC.  Last year, after a few drinks, he described in detail how Bruce molested him, removed his underwear and taken pictures of him naked.  I asked if he was willing to come forward, speak publicly.  He told me I should be ashamed of myself for suggesting he told tales on Bruce.  Thus we understand how Bruce, inspiring loyalty in others, groomed them for sexual molestation.

I’ve had my run ins with Bruce over the years.  I asked him to take the Dorian Gray portrait.  He curtly suggested that I wasn’t the sort of person he could do business with.  Oh… how the tables have turned.

Sunday.  I had a late lunch in Hackney with a young gay artist.  We talked about Mario and Bruce.  He asked the difference between flirtation and harassment.  Worried his flirtation might be misconstrued.  How would he know?  Of course, one asks ones self: why doesn’t he know?  He’s a bright lad but his white male privilege is so ingrained he cannot differentiate between the two.  He asked if the men now making complaints were somehow complicit.  Many gay men make excuses for Bruce and Mario habitually devaluing our lives by suggesting the men who agree to work or consort with us are suspect or complicit.  We remain baffled by the notion of consent.  They knew what they were getting themselves into.

“Consent, that’s for straight people?  Women?  Isn’t it?”  He looks confused.

We talk about the abuse of power between men (beyond top and bottom although that too) and how our anti social behaviour and lack of morality has been largely ignored by heterosexual society firstly before equality, because straight people found it distasteful and didn’t really care. Then, after equality straight people were too embarrassed or confused to question how we lived in case they were accused of homophobia or insensitivity.  Recent gay celebrity scandals have shocked many of our straight allies, realizing they don’t know anything much about their gay friends at all.  Like rats we live discreet and cautious lives just a few feet from theirs, scurrying from one assignation to another.

We’ve done a great job passing. For many years the only evidence we existed?  When the police arrested, tried and sent us to jail for being gay. Cottaging. Tricking. Dressing up. Without these occasional mentions in the newspapers our gay lives would remain completely invisible.  I broke the law simply by being born, alive and sexually active. Straight acting wasn’t a fetish, it was a survival strategy… saving a young man from a beating or death. Ironically, this parallel life served many of us very well.  As a young British gay man I enjoyed social mobility, sexual freedom and access to extraordinary financial opportunities my straight peers could only dream of.  Yet, I paid the price for all of those benefits by surrendering my moral imperative.

Paris Hilton is maligned in the press for saying gay men on gay hook up apps are ‘disgusting’.  Which, after being sent 50 or so asshole pics this week… one might be inclined to agree.

With equality comes responsibility.  Some fought hard to enjoy marriage equality.  We fought hard in the UK to have homophobic laws like section 28 overturned.  In the UK these laws were ratified in Parliament and are hard to revoke.  We are tentatively exploring a new moral landscape.  Morals defined by heterosexuals, most gay men are unprepared for these changes and how this shift toward ‘normalcy’ may affect our lives.  Simply, our lifestyle compared with that of the average heterosexual may not bear scrutiny post Weinstein and Mario, Bryan, Bruce and Kevin may just be the very tip of the iceberg.

Entitled, affluent gay white men are especially morally impoverished.  Many still live secret, compartmentalized and shameful lives blighted by addiction, alcoholism and mental illness.  To many straight people we may seem carefree, highly entertaining, a cause to celebrate ‘gay pride’ and drink rainbow cocktails… but, on our own with our second screens we indulge less salubrious, secret lives using hook up apps as the portal, through which many enter a dark and disgusting world of chem sex, lies, cheating and despair.

They say,  everyone lies on-line.  We live in lying times.  Acceptable lies are now morally ring fenced.  The lies most gay men tell before they come out are perfectly… acceptable.  A habit we are loathed to break.  Most gay men are addicted to lying.  Only yesterday I met a closeted 25-year-old gay man.  I asked him why he was in the closet?  He described the same feelings of shame and despair I felt nearly 40 years ago.  Some things never seem to change… however much I am told, ‘it doesn’t matter, nobody cares’.  I explained to him why he needs to come out of the closet.  He needs to stop lying.  The more he lies the less respect he will have for the truth.  As I mentioned in my previous blog gay men get into nasty habits around the truth and the sooner we embrace the truth the less damage is done to our morality and our integrity.

The last time I saw  Mario he was skipping like a teenager down the stairs at The Chateau Marmont surrounded by beautiful teens.  Like Peter Pan, a 60-year-old man unable to face the truth about his failing body and his failing ability to make good decisions.  He could not stop himself grabbing them by the pussy.  He is the same as Trump.  Made of the same stuff.  Gripped by power, fame and entitlement he understood himself to be unassailable.  Nothing would ever bring him down… his legacy would glitter in perpetuity.  The dream maker, the fantasist, the story-teller… the liar.  Conjuring a universe of beauty, Mario forsook a life of loving relationships for an abuse of power.

Anna Wintour, who I confronted publicly about her reticence to stand up to Weber, made this statement last week.

Today, allegations have been made against Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, stories that have been hard to hear and heartbreaking to confront. Both are personal friends of mine who have made extraordinary contributions to Vogue and many other titles at Condé Nast over the years, and both have issued objections or denials to what has emerged. I believe strongly in the value of remorse and forgiveness, but I take the allegations very seriously, and we at Condé Nast have decided to put our working relationship with both photographers on hold for the foreseeable future.

Of course Anna Wintour is torn, it is hard to align what she hears and what she knows of her friends Mario and Bruce.  She is rightfully appalled, but thankfully she doesn’t know the half of it… she merely glimpsed, very briefly into the dark heart of every gay man I know.