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.
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.
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 boy friend 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 scolded me. I made amends for some indiscretion and I 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 blogged 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 over 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 had 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. He was 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 the 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 somehow suspect, 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 blending in. For many years the only evidence we existed was when the police arrested, tried and sent us to jail for being gay. Cottaging. Tricking. Dressing up. Without occasional mention in the newspapers our gay lives would remain completely invisible. I broke the law simply by being alive and sexually active. Straight acting wasn’t a fetish, it was strategic and could save you 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 for her she doesn’t know the half of it… she merely glimpsed, briefly through the portal and into the dark heart of every gay man I know.
Dinner on Friday night with Ian Drew at Essex and Beauty. Large, noisy new restaurant..a bit too blingy for me but the food was excellent and paid for by the restaurant.
Try the steak tartare on the thick, tasty rice cake.
After dinner we went to a miserable East Village gay bar where men sat beside each other trying to snag other men elsewhere on Grindr. Their faces lit up by LED screens causing them all unwittingly, with their ghostly green visage, to look like that Ingres portrait of Napoleon.
Ian finished his drink. We left.
It has been startlingly cold. I love the cold. I get to dress up! Hats, hats, hats. Coats, waistcoats, velvet scarves. I love my burgundy velvet scarf. Last night I wore my Dior cape. It did not pass unnoticed.
Dressed accordingly, the Little Dog and I, walked to Soho House and began to write my film. Then, oddly, I had another really great idea for a film (or novel) inspired by my new, young HIV friend. It gushed onto the page like a waterfall. First, second and third act. Beginning, middle and the end.
Met and flirted with Brendan Fallis who is super cute. Steam room buddy.
Even though I am having a great time, I still irrationally fear bumping into Jake. Consequently there is something utterly ruined about these New York streets. Like after a blitz or something. Strewn with emotional rubble.
There seems to be a Jake clone on every corner and every time I see a man who looks like him I shudder.
I think of the special moments we shared here. Making love in the Jane Hotel. Reaching out and touching him in the street. Kissing him for the first time this time last year in the back of that bar on Third Avenue. Then the sadness comes. The questions, the feeling that I have been punched in the stomach.
If I’m hurt…can you imagine how badly that girl feels that he deceived for 7 years? Poor love. I hope she got herself back on her feet. Found somewhere nice to live…met a nice guy. She’s lucky she escaped. If he was beginning to do meth when I met him he’ll be HIV positive in no time at all. What a fucking cliché.
Hurt people, hurt people.
Yet, I exist in two completely different spheres. The reality of my life outweighs the fantasy.
As if to prove a point I had dinner with Federico, my artist friend from Palermo. We ate at Westville. The food came late but the conversation was very lively so it didn’t seem to matter. Then, my NYU poet friend Anthony joined us and we headed west to meet Hamish Bowles.
Hamish greeted me warmly. We’d met a couple of times many years ago.
Hamish is the real deal. The man Patrick Kinmonth and Issie Blow wished they could have been.
My fantasy about Hamish: that he went to Eton, life served effortlessly to him….couldn’t be further from the truth.
We actually had rather a lot in common. He too lived in Kent during his formative years. Went to a grammar school in Canterbury. We would have been knocking about Canterbury at exactly the same time…probably both very horny gay teenagers wondering where we could get cock.
Like Fenton Bailey he succeeded in spite of everything. In spite of his difference.
Hamish is primarily an academic, but his glamorous day job is the European Editor at Large for Vogue. He is a respected authority on both worlds of fashion and interior design.
In April 2001 he was appointed creative consultant at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, with responsibility for organizing and mounting the internationally renowned and critically acclaimed Costume Institute Exhibition, “Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years—Selections from the John F. Kennedy Library Museum”.
Hamish has a huge collection of haute couture that he lends to museums and galleries all over the world. The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Fashion Institute of Technology, and The Museum of the City of New York in Manhattan; the Palais Galliera and The Musee de la Mode, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Museum of London in London among others.
Recently he curated the Cristóbal Balenciaga show at The Spanish Institute. Opened by Queen Sofía of Spain entitled, “Balenciaga: Spanish Master,” the show examines the work of Cristóbal Balenciaga and his Spanish influences. 60 pieces of clothing and accessories including some from Hamish’s own collection and many unseen publicly before.
I am going to see the show on Tuesday.
We discussed Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre, he had just seen at a private screening for Anna Wintour. You’ll remember that Jake and I met Cary this summer in Whitstable with Mia. Hamish said that, although a bit slow, he loved the film and cried all the way through. He reported that the costumes were perfect and historically accurate. He said that Mia’s performance was excellent.
Discussed Michael Bessman’s house that once belonged to the Baron de Meyer.
I cried all the way home. I couldn’t help myself.
I should be really happy. Deep down I am. I just need to learn how to consistently mine the joy I know is there.
This is the calendar that I kept in my cell. I marked off the days one by one.
The month before I was released from my ten month stay in prison in 1983 was perhaps, like many prisoners, the most difficult of any time I spent there. I had what is commonly known in British prison parlance: Gate Fever.
The terror at the prospect of release.
Since my arrest the preceding February I had spent time in both Brixton prison, at that time a holding pen for the unconvicted or remanded prisoner, then once convicted I was transferred to Wormwood Scrubbs Prison in West London. I was offered the chance of going to an open prison which would have been very comfortable indeed but I had fallen in love with Tommy, the prisoner with whom I shared a cell.
Our relationship lasted the duration of my sentence. I was released before him and upon his release he returned to his wife and children.
Foolish love, it seems, has always caused me unnecessary repercussions.
Why in hells name was I in prison? Well, I hadn’t murdered/raped/robbed anyone.
I was convicted at Knightsbridge Crown for Criminal Deception a charge relating to my not paying a credit card bill..my own credit card. Not, as commentators would have it, someone elses.
At the time it never really occurred to me that I was being unfairly treated. I had not paid the credit card bill and had avoided doing so. In retrospect the sentence of fifteen months in prison seems like a gross over reaction by the court to what was surely a nothing sort of crime.
Stephen Fry At 17, absconded with a credit card stolen from a family friend and as a result spent three months in Pucklechurch Prison.
Fry stole someone else’s credit card and got 3 months at exactly the same time I was handed a 15 month sentenced for over using my own.
I was 22 years old when I was sent to prison for this non-violent victimless crime. A crime like mine in 2010 would not even be a crime in modern Britain. It was nothing short of class warfare that sent me to prison in the first place.
Posh versus Common.
Let’s face facts, I was sent to prison for my unusual back-story. A back-story that should never have been mentioned in court because I was pleading guilty. A back story that included royalty, the ruling class and a working-class upstart like me.
The Lords and Ladies who had become my friends during the time I pretended to be a Lord were indignant but I don’t think any one of them would have wanted me to be sent down. The class outrage that caused such a harsh sentence was, of course, motivated by the aspiring middle class.
Judge Babington was a bourgeoise, one-armed circuit judge who died in 2004. His family was described embarrassingly as ‘well-to-do’ and in so being was in awe of the aristocracy, in awe of a title and outraged that I had simply acquired mine by lying about it.
Stephen Fry took me to the Garrick Club years later and there he was, Anthony Babington sitting in an over stuffed chair reading a broad sheet. I looked at his withered arm and chuckled.
Stephen once said to me, “They don’t want to forget that you have been in prison Duncan. It’s very unfair.”
Prison has defined my life. I am that guy who went to Prison. Jay Jopling would tell people, “Duncan has an amazing story.” In this way I became a very British performance art piece. A social freak.
When I am scolded for treating 30 year olds who make mistakes like grown ups I often remember that I was forced in a very public way at a very young age to accept my wrongs and grow up.
Even though, when I was released, I did not crawl away and die like Patrick Kinmonth suggested. Prison left an indelible mark on my psyche as well as my public and private standing.
Sure, had I not been sent to prison I would never have made as much money as I consequently made from AKA or telling that story over and over for TV, Radio and the like.
I would never have developed a taste for working class heterosexual men and I might have kept on the straight and narrow. Prisons in the UK are often described by those of us who have experienced both as reminiscent of British boarding schools. Consequently I rather enjoyed the routine, the monotony, the sex.
Once you have been imprisoned unfairly..YES IT WAS UNFAIR!..one has a very low regard for society and the rules of society. Part of my fearlessness comes from knowing that if sent back to prison I would know what to do immediately. How to behave. Whom to defer. Who to fuck.
I would not miss the endless choices of the modern world. I would not miss a full wardrobe, a well written menu, compulsive internet use? No. It would be a relief.
I would miss my dogs.
If I could only get back there without breaking the law.
I have no shame about going to prison because I should not have been there in the first place. It was like visiting a foreign country. That’s what it felt like when I was 22 years old..like visiting a foreign country and I, a mere anthropologist, sent to eat their food and study their culture. My crime and the associated press amused my fellow inmates and warders (screws) alike. Nobody took my Criminal Deception very seriously.
Some of the men that I shared cells with whilst on remand in Brixton (the red headed rapist) are still in prison. They never left.
There was one slight man who murdered a little girl. Tiny little thing he was. Never wanted to leave prison. Never applied for parole. Wanted his own death so badly. Already dead inside. Sad. Those who killed loved ones, family members were the saddest of all. Wishing that they were dead. These men were not abstract villains, their names writ large on the covers of tawdry newspapers, they stood beside me in line waiting for cabbage and sausages. It amazes me now how forgiving and accepting I could be with them…however ghastly their crime.
Funny, isn’t it, that I could accept and forgive the most terrible people capable of the most terrible crimes but I could not forgive you my dear JB.
So, today I am free?
I am free? I am free to choose? I am free to say what I want when I want to? I am free to love a man? I am free?
7am Friday morning Los Angeles. It’s time to come clean.
This week last year was the last I would spend with my Darling Big Dog who is now buried in Malibu.
I miss her so much.
The occasions when I just breakdown and cry for her are fewer nowadays but it still happens.
If it weren’t for the little dog I don’t know how I would have survived the darker days this year, the dread comes upon me but I have to get up and go on because his needs come first. He is a little dog, he comes from a damaged place and I made a promise to him..
There is, I hear, something quite magical about drowning. There is a euphoric moment just before death that could make a long swim quite an attractive prospect.
Up and down, up and down. The trip home will, I know, keep me balanced and sane. So much to do and see. Spoke to my travelling companion last night. He seems well and happy.
Yesterday I woke at dawn and filled my time until I could legitimately start the day. The little dog sleeps as I potter around in my bathrobe and read the news. I am going to climb Runyon this morning.
Over in Malibu I saw another huge snake in the garden but it was hot and angry so I didn’t fetch my shovel. Anyway, I still feel guilty for killing the last one. So may people asked why I didn’t keep the meat and eat it.
The problem with changing your life so completely is that you are left with a huge hole where your life once was. Sex Addiction meetings are not enough to keep me happy or secure or in touch. Gratitude lists look paltry when written down. Even meeting up with my friend and mentor can’t seem to shift the immense longing I have in my heart that periodically casts such a deep shadow over me.
My happiness eclipsed I look to the usual suspects to shine light into the darkness. Sadly their batteries are dead.
Listening to loud and uplifting music can go some way to making life better. My choices may seem suspect, Elton et al. I can’t listen to Joni, her obsession with lost love merely plays into the pessimistic thoughts I am already prone to when the sun stops shining.
Dentist yesterday. The dentist gave me a lecture about flossing and I lectured her about the perils of white flour/sugar/rice etc. I don’t think any kind of doctor here likes being told anything because they are so used to dispensing advice and usually remain unchallenged. She tried to scare me with apocalyptic visions of the bone around my teeth falling away that can only be solved, she said, by spending thousands of dollars and endless hours in the dentist’s office.
I think I will ignore her advice and see my lovely dentist in Sydney when I am there this winter. Oh yes, I am going to Sydney this winter. I decided this morning.
After seeing Sebastian this week I thought a great deal about my father. Dead, maligned, reviled..much like I expect I will be.
Another Sebastian to think about, my friend Sebastian Horsley who has finally become the glittering star he always wanted to be. I knew it. In death he has become the man they wanted him to be. Death becomes him. In death we can acknowledge the fantasy of who he was rather than the stinking reality, the crazed drug addict. I will remember him for twenty-seven years from Edinburgh to London. I will remember him struggling to stay clean, vulnerable, and helpful to other heroin addicts. How can I forget?
I stopped in on Andrew yesterday. He had a square, roughly glazed vase of white hydrangea mixed with other tiny, yellow flowers. The mere act of filling the house with flowers lifts the spirits. They have hung huge photographs and his found chair collection grows weekly. I fell asleep on the sofa and when I woke up he was gone. When did I stop appreciating these tiny gestures of good will? When did I stop buying flowers? How did my house get so full of other stuff? That’s why I like going to the Malibu because I have stripped out all of the mess. I am left with an African seed pod on a porcelain plate.
When did I start forgetting that aesthetic? The aesthetic that Patrick taught me when I was Andrew’s age?
Meanwhile I am dealing with the birth of a monster. One I can scarcely contain. One I have done my level best to avoid for many years. The goblins hold a cracked mirror to your face and all you can see is the ugliness. Not the age, (because I am sure of my age) but how very ugly one is. My confidence stems from this: that when I look into the mirror I appreciate what I see and hope that others may see me just as I see myself.
OK, off to Runyon with the Little Dog. Time to go now. Time to get on with the day. Busy, busy, busy.
Whitstable, that’s where we grew up. The High Street, a shingle beach, abandoned oyster beds, abandoned boat yards.
I knew I wanted to make something. I never knew quite what. Writing, knitting, print-making, drawing, theatre, acting, fashion. Good… but never good enough. Wanting to be included but unwilling to participate. Confident to be part of what was going on but seldom sure. Always there, never present.
Had I been allowed, as planned, to go to St Martin’s College of Art to study fashion I would have become a fashion designer. I still have note books crammed with crude fashion drawings and swatches of hideous fabric made when I was 8 years old. Each ‘season’ I would design a new collection and between ‘collections’ I would write and illustrate articles about the history of fashion.
An avid fashion commentator who had unwelcome, prepubescent opinions about everything. My damning critique of Princess Anne’s ‘boring’ ivory duchess satin wedding dress in 1973 irritated my short-tempered, royalist Grandmother. “Look at those ghastly sleeves…”
I was an industrious child. At boarding school I excelled.
When I wasn’t busily designing imaginary runway collections I worked hard remaking my life, a life I could control. A life reimagined included: a 30 page illustrated story about a happy family of mice. A precocious teenager at boarding school I spent months writing and rewriting rambling plays about unrequited love with other boys.
Theatre! I must make theatre. The lights, the tension, the smell of the theatre. The warmth and silence of the audience, laughter erupting around me, muffled crying from the red velvet stalls.
Oddly, I had absolutely no great passion for film or television. Of course, I had seen many films but it wasn’t a world that piqued my interest. I had a fondness for black and white Hollywood films from the 1940’s (particularly musicals) that I would either watch on the television on my own or walk up Whitstable High Street to the cavernous Oxford Cinema.
I was inspired. Stealing an idea for my ‘new collection’, a sleeve or muff. I watched the credits roll: costume designer Edith Head… Funny Face. Adrian, who designed the costumes for The Wizard of Oz.
I’m 12 years old. I discover Marilyn Monroe without ever knowing she is already an established gay icon. The following year I insist that my parents buy me Norman Mailer’s illustrated biography for Christmas.
Theatre and fashion people referenced film but nobody I knew would ever have thought about making one.
The years after I left Shotton Hall School in 1976, before I went to prison in 1983 were culturally the richest of my life. I scraped into Medway College of Art and Design with one ‘O’ level. I befriended punk rocker Billy Childish. I learned how to etch and screen print and draw. Punk was determining music fashion and graphics but scarcely impacted the institutionalized, established, sewn up world of British contemporary art. Britain would have to wait until 1989 until Michael Clark, Tilda Swinton and Leigh Bowery performed in the Anthony d’Offay Gallery.
Whilst at Medway, I saw a very ordinary man wearing a badly cut suit his tie askew commuting from London to Thanet holding a copy of The Sex Pistol‘s single God Save The Queen and nearly fainted in fear. I was wearing a pair of my mother’s bottle green woolen tights. I wonder what he must have thought about me? He alighted at Rainham.
Unable to study fashion at St Martin’s College as my garrulous stepfather refused to let me. I had to get a job. The job I was offered, selling clothes at Yves Saint Laurent on Bond Street, London became the beginning of what would turn out to be a great, although misguided, adventure. An adventure that would shape the rest of my life.
I met Lady Clare Rendlesham and within a few months I was in Paris pretending to be her son.
Along with changing my identity, in Paris I threw myself head long into the very accommodating worlds of fashion, performance art and theatre.
The land of sublime artifice.
During the pret-a-porter I would run with my friends through the streets of Paris from show to show. Although my time in Paris seems less, in retrospect, about theatre and more about fashion and art, I was introduced to Robert Wilson and members of his company, traveled to Holland to see Lucinda Childs in Dance with music by Phillip Glass and travelled more to see beautiful work by Pina Bausch.
Pina Bausch died this year.
I was one of the first people in Paris to wear a Walkman. I think I may still own that original item. Some rich friend of a rich friend left it at my place. He had bought it from Tokyo where he’d been modeling and never asked for it back. Suddenly I had my very own soundtrack. My life scored by Super Tramp. The optimistic opening bars of Take The Long Way Home soaring over the controversial rebuilding of Les Halles that seems only recently to have settled into its surroundings. Music altered my perception of where I was and how I experienced it. Paris was never so beautiful.
It was during this time in 1978, as a willowy teenager, I chanced upon Fred Hughes at John Jermyn’s Rue de Bellechasse home. That beautifully, wonderfully decorated house… rococo monkeys fucking on the drawing-room walls painted by Harry Gromelion and acres of Fortuny silk.
Fred had been, the year I met him, diagnosed with MS and had become nihilistic and surly.
“When Fred got sick, he had to go to the American Hospital, and I decorated his room. I went to visit him, and brought pictures he liked, from his house and flowers…” Julian Schnabel
Fred, so reviled, cut a sad and lonely path through his own life ending up incapacitated and angry. At the end, surrounded in his Lexington Avenue home by the most beautiful things, nothing could placate him. His terrible Texan mother moved in to help, firing his loyal assistant. We never saw him again.
When I met Fred he had slicked back black hair and tailored suits, he lived in an apartment on the Rue du Cherche-Midi and was, to a provincial teenager, incredibly glamorous… a true dandy.
“It was I who found Fred Hughes his Paris apartment on the Rue du Cherche-Midi, where Warhol would stay.” Pierre Berger
He liked me because he thought I was a British aristocrat. He was a terrible snob. Later, when he knew the truth, he would laugh and mock the moment we met and feign outrage. He only ever called me Anthony.
Fred took me to New York, bought me Vetiver and appropriate underwear, gave me drugs at Studio 54, lent me shirts that belonged to Farouk, the last King of Egypt. He wrapped me up in linen sheets and laughed at my jokes. Fred introduced me to Yves St-Laurent and his muse LouLou de la Falaise, Baron Eric De Rothschild, flame haired owner of Egoiste magazine Nicole Wisniak. I sat entranced by these people. Wearing clothes Fred had bought for me, a brand new name. Sloughing off the past… a past for which I had no need.
Perhaps we understood each other because we had both abandoned our past for a far more thrilling present. After his death he was described as ‘a consummate liar, social climber, and a bespoke SOB who grew to total ghoulishness because of his connection to Andy Warhol.’
Isn’t everyone a social climber of some kind… and why the hell not? It’s galling to have Fred’s memory so maligned. From what I saw he managed or rather… baby sat Andy Warhol, pulling him out of relative poverty, protecting him from the unworthiest.
Was that a lie? I really don’t have a clue. As a teenager I thought he was just swell.
It is so sad to see him like this, stricken with MS:
This photograph is amusing. Tim Hunt, Princess Anne of Bavaria, Me and Alexis de Toqueville at Anne’s apartment in Paris. Like so many beautiful young men from that time, Alexis would die of AIDS. Hid family refused to acknowledge his life as a gay man and his death as a gay man.
Samia Saouma’s Gallery (another social hub as great galleries tend to be) I was introduced to the work of The Baron de Meyer, Man Ray and Joseph Kosuth. I followed the crowd and applauded the sparse and mannered work of Robert Wilson. We saw I Was Sitting on My Patio This Guy Appeared I Thought I Was Hallucinating and Death Destruction and Detroit.
In Paris I learned about artists and their power and prestige. Most of these men and women, invited to Europe during the late 70’s early 80’s, were American. Flooding the world with new ideas; polemical and challenging.
What happened to the arts? Even though British theatre seems to have maintained it’s edge, British art has become increasingly bland and decorative. Says nothing of the war or the bloody peace.
Paris was just how Paris is meant to be: an education for a young man.
Before we leave Paris there was one sublime moment. It was a moment. We all need them. Romantic. I had been invited to the house of some elderly Duke. On an orange velvet wall hung a huge sunset by Turner. Surrounded by furniture, a light supper served in front of it. This is how art should be enjoyed. Domestically.
Returning to England I was given the telephone number of Erica Bolton by The Princess Anne of Bavaria. I met Erica at The Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, West London, where she worked as a publicist. My great love affair with the theatre began in earnest.
Erica Bolton, in turn, introduced me to a community of successful writers and directors. Men and women who inspired me to make my own theatre, my own films, my own art.
I listened and learned.
Erica sneaks me into the theatre to see Kantor’s sold out show Wielopole, Wielopole. I sit in the Gods looking down at syphilitic soldiers marching, wax figures strapped to the living, a monochrome set with Kantor in the middle of it all tweaking his memories and watching sadly as the dead come back to life.
It was triumphant, breathtaking theatre and in sharp contrast to the very British, academic work of Peter Gill (Cherry Orchard) who I met that year (1978) and his then assistant David Levaux the now hugely respected Broadway director.
There were so many exciting people to hang out with at The Riverside like the precocious Hanif Kureishi fresh from his triumphant stint at The Royal Court.
Pioneering David Gothard, the artistic director, the genius at the very heart of the Riverside Studios. Responsible for bringing Tadeusz Kantor, Miro, Shuji Tereyama and many others not only to Hammersmith but to the UK. Night after night we sat in the canteen drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. I loved every moment.
In 1979 I made my way to Paris to see Peter Brook’s Bouffes du Nord. To Paris by boat and train to see Brook’s Conference of the Birds. The raw brick walls and magnificent arches quite unlike any other performance space. I can’t remember where I stayed that night. I was in heaven. I remember the Persian rugs on the floor, the chirping of the cast as they imitated different birds..a chorus… the dawn chorus.
I wanted to make theatre so badly. When I finally got around to it I made just one good work The Host. The other works (as it turned out) a preamble for my later film making and really not that good.
In 1981 I moved into a small flat in Furlong Road, Islington. The home of director Michael Darlow. The flat came with a job: nanny to their wayward 13-year-old adopted son. Wandering the streets I discovered the derelict Almeida Theatre where I would end up having my 22nd Birthday thrown by designer Scott Crolla. Furniture Designer Tom Dixon was our doorman. William Burroughs came.
‘Come Dressed at Duncan Roy’ the invitation demanded.
Here are Kadir Guirey and Tom Dixon in their band Funkapolitan…
The Almeida Theatre, bought and renovated (Bouffe de Nord style) by Lebanese born Pierre Audi. I managed, by chance, to witness the birth of an institution. Even when derelict, Pierre used the space as a theatre. Amongst many, early notable Almeida productions I saw A Dybbuk For Two People with Bruce Myers and in 1982, at Saint James’s Church, Chillingworth Road at the Almeida International Festival of Contemporary Music, John Cage at 70. Stunning.
Early 1983 I was arrested and imprisoned for running up a huge bill on my credit card. I spent the next ten months starved of theatre and art but found another altogether unexpected beauty.
I was 23. Prison, as I have said before, was beautiful.
People like Erica bid their adieu and I would never really see them again.
1983, months after I left Wormwood Scrubbs Prison I answered an advertisement in Time Out Magazine. Neil Bartlett was looking for performers to open his show PORNOGRAPHY, a Spectacle at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. It was a gruelling process, one I found particularly hard to get to grips with. Acting, as you may know, requires the performer to be real and at this time in my life I really had no idea how to do that at all.
As with my appearance in the ‘A’ list thirty years later, people mocked my decision to be in a gay play about sex and sexuality. Life is for the experience… isn’t it? One grand adventure after another.
Pornography: A Spectacle. 1983/84 Actor
Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, 6 city UK tour, Poor Alex Theatre, Toronto, Canada
Devised with Ivan Cartwright, Neil Bartlett and Robin Whitmore
“Pornography is quite wonderful, outrageous, intentionally shocking — but with real human beings stepping through the sensationalism at regular intervals to speak between the screams of cliché in normal conversational tones about who they are and how they really feel. The recurrent theme is one of intense pornographic description, which the actors suddenly stop, pause, and say, “of course that was merely a quotation,” or “but it really wasn’t like that.” Sky Gilbert
The Critic by Sheridan: 1984 Actor – Mr. Puff
The Host: 1987 Writer/Director
Institute of Contemporary Art London and National Review of Live Art Glasgow with Georgia Byng and Tatiana Strauss
Bad Baby: 1989 Writer/Director
The Penny Theatre, Canterbury, Kent, Hen and Chickens Theatre, Islington North London
Using a cast of local Kent performers this play examined issues of child abuse using Beatrix Campbell’s Unofficial Secrets as the basis of the text.
The Baron in the Trees: 1990 Writer/Director
Adapted from the Italo Calvino novel of the same name for The Penny Theatre, Canterbury, Kent
Copper’s Bottom: 1991 Writer/Director
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, starring Aiden Shaw
Call me Susan: 1993 Co-writer
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh; Edinburgh Festival Fringe;
Call Me Susan explored issues surrounding prostitution across Europe. A dramatized discussion between two prostitutes interspersed with real-life recorded testimonies and pictures of prostitutes working in six European cities.
I thought about Whitstable today. I miss you so much! The shallow lazy sea, the honey coloured shingle, buying espresso from Dave’s deli, walking the little dog on Duncan Downs. I wondered, like I do occasionally, if I could ever live there again.
Part of me wants to be there but most of me is perfectly as ease with where I am right now.
If I went back what would I be returning to?
It’s a great place to visit but maybe it’s never going to be my home. Maybe it never was.
Walking to Mayfair. Sweet-scented drawing rooms, thick carpet and polished silver. Oh God. I know why I am thinking about this! I am dreading being left on my own on Tuesday evening when the man/boy leaves for Italy.
I want to travel too! Paris, Sydney, Whitstable or New York where do I go next? If I go what am I running away from? I’ll tell you what: a great, gaping God shaped hole.
18th Century boy/man was up until 2.30 last night pottering around, tidying, making a mother’s day card and finally fell into bed exhausted. We had dinner at Axe on Abbott Kinney. I ate the farmer’s plate with prosciutto. This morning we toured the Santa Monica Farmers Market and bought fresh almonds and pale pink hydrangea and delicate budded peonies.
He reminds me of Patrick Kinmonth, the same sensibilities and creativity. He is so tall and elegant, so curious about everything, which can all at once excite and tire. It is good to live again with someone on my arm that has such an extraordinary zest for life. He wants me to teach him how to sew. I would love to do that, pass on a few of the many skills I have that were meant for some unborn child in an imaginary family.
I wish that I hadn’t killed the snake but I was scared that it would bite the little dog then where would I be? John watched the video of me killing it and looked delighted at the very manliness of my snake murder. I should have been more proud but I wasn’t. I value life, even the life of a dangerous snake or the rat I killed the previous week.
Josh, my sober A gay friend and I toured Barney’s yesterday. Trying on expensive clothing neither of us would ever buy. Bumped into a friend of Charlies who was wearing cut off denim shorts, a sleeveless tee, a man bag and Jackie O sunglasses. What a fucking STATE. Also bumped into my friend Jody who has recently had two surrogate daughters-the $250,000 a pop kind. I asked, like I would my straight friends, if he is signing them up for pre-school. He spat back that he had no intention of sending them to pre-school as their nanny had them on the Einstein system for infant learning. He said that he wanted to control who came into their lives as he had no intention of letting them socialize with other kids as they might pick up bad habits. Now tell me if that doesn’t sound unhealthy? Child as project. Lot’s of my gay friends have chosen this route when they become parents. However, this is not peculiar to gay men, I know straight parents who do this too. In my opinion it can only lead to disappointment and resentment.
I thought about my mother and where she might be this overcast mother’s day. I wondered if my brothers had brought her flowers or sent her a card. I did not. Then I thought about Kristian’s mother who seems to loathe the idea of his friends getting together to celebrate his life and I wondered how she could be so bitter about this simple act of remembrance?
I pay scant regard to my creative life. My desire to create comes in huge waves that crash inconsequentially and leave me feeling tired and unfinished. Why can’t I seem to finish anything? My novel remains unfinished, my film too-as for everything else? I don’t know.
As his departure looms so do the morbid thoughts.
I find myself thinking about the NYC man and grieve for what was and what is lost, broken or as dead as the headless rattlesnake. I am all at once in celebration for what I have and desolation for what was and how that affected me. Man/Boy asked if I was on the rebound last night which I strenuously denied. But, of course, there is some truth to his accusation. John cautioned me yesterday about euphoric recall, the yearning for an acting out partner rather than the fully fledged, present young man who I now have.
I have no reason or right to have wanted more from NYC man. As I have said before I was an inconsequential blip in his life. It’s hard to own that. Yet, in a way, it has made me a stronger man for what I have now. I look at this new man and love him and care about him with new eyes. The eyes of a man who has loved and lost but is lucky to have loved at all.
As for my sobriety, I am sober! I have that to be grateful for. Gratitude is key!
Have to write for the Good Men Project. I am going to write about how to be a man when other men don’t recognize the sort of man you were born to be: A quest for validation.
Breakups are never usually times to relish but this breakup has been very good to me.
This is exactly the time in my life to take action and find a new perspective.
I took action by finding my peers in gay AA who might, in turn, shed some light on my relationship with the other.
In the scheme of things I was just an inconsequential blip in his life and I would be kidding myself if I thought differently.
I certainly could not compare with his other enduring relationships. Anyhow, we seem to be communicating like friends and I am largely over what he may or may not be doing-though sitting here alone writing causes me a certain doleful curiosity.
Let me tell you about the past few days.
On Saturday I went to the Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills to see the Andreas Gursky show with my friend Dom. We ate lunch at the Montage-he had the steak tartar and I, the charcouterie.
The Gursky show was good but uninspiring. Huge photographs framed in monstrous oak frames. Big forgettable pictures…that’s all.
Huge photographs of the insides of neutrino splitting machines buried miles under Japan and filled with super purified water. Satellite images of the great oceans. It was all spectacle and no substance.
After our gallery visit I bought a pair of very baggy white trousers in some outlet store. Gucci $48.
We popped into the new Missoni on Rodeo designed by my once boyfriend Patrick Kinmonth. The outside is PERFECT, like a huge basket, woven metal softening the corner of Rodeo and Little Santa Monica.
The inside, however, is a bit of a mess.
I suppose the concept is the shopper wanders down a grand boulevard with variously sized vitrine to grab ones attention. It was too theatrical.
The men’s area, the woman’s area, the home store etc. It doesn’t work, it’s a mess. The interior finishes are very beautiful but the layout left too much to be desired.
Again, the outside is exquisite.
I could tell you very wonderful stories about Patrick but I will save them for another day.
The last time I saw Patrick Kinmonth he was reclining on a velvet sofa at the Chateau Marmont with Mario Testino.
He drawled that I could have been so much more than I was. He is, after all, a very grand queen; something I long abandoned aspiring to be but glad that I had the chance to meet.
For a few glorious months at the age of 21 he totally indulged me.
Sadly, I didn’t really fall for him. I fell in love with his impeccable style.
Actually, he may very well be the Diana Vreeland of our age. That plaudit might have been reserved for Hamish Bowles but Hamish doesn’t dress well enough or take enough care with his appearance.
Saturday night we celebrated Josh’s continuing testicular cancer treatment. Every one of his friend brought ball-shaped hors d’œuvre to commiserate his recent loss and the chemo that began today.
He is an incredibly brave 29-year-old and described his cancer as an ‘inconvenience’. I have huge respect for that young man.
GLADD awards and party on Saturday night that I was not invited to. Odd really as I was the only out gay man in recovery ever on a Dr Drew show. I am definitely not pretty enough for GLADD.
I suppose that this was the Velvet Mafia’s way of expressing their disapproval. The sex addict message is not one the gays are eager to hear.
Even though conversion parties, bug chasing and crystal meth are discussed at length amongst the young gay men I know. Perhaps this is only a myth? A meth myth? It is much easier for the gay community to concentrate on attacks from the outside than focus on the damage we do to ourselves.
On Sunday I met Gore Vidal again (the last time was with Dennis and Elizabeth Kucinich during Dennis’s run for President) he described the sad state of the USA, describing it as rotten and then said (rather surprisingly) that he would like his bones buried in France and not, as he has always said, beside his lover in Washington.
I wonder if he was just being dramatic. It was lovely to see him… even though he is beyond frail.
Others at the party included the divine Ben Barns who played the other Dorian Gray, he told me how disappointed by the film he was.
Quite right! Not nearly as interesting as our deeply flawed Dorian. Eric Mc Cormack, Rufus Sewell and Michael Sheen all friends from different places and all at Stephen’s party. I had a wonderful time.
So nice to be included by someone who the British might describe as a National Treasure.
Stephen is, of course, the most gracious of all hosts. The food was excellent, the Pellegrino..well there’s not much more I can’t tell you about Pellegrino.
I took my friend Dane who looked a bit like Tarzan. He was wearing a tiny black vest… nipples like peanuts.
Met a British director called Toby and after Stephen’s we decided to hit WeHo where I met a whole host of adoring sex rehab fans but regardless of their drunken attempts to get into my boxer briefs-I slept alone.
It is simply too soon to start meeting folk again-especially after the feast of affection, love and intimacy I have gorged myself on this past few months.
If I miss anything about dear old HIM I miss that I will never kiss him again, that he will never nestle in my arms and sleep as lovers do. Hey ho, that’s going to be a hard one to replicate any time soon.