World Aids Day 2013 falls next Sunday, December 1st. My friend the author and journalist Tim Wapshott has kindly written us this reminder of another landmark date – today’s anniversary of a tragedy that finally helped sway public opinion towards supporting the worldwide fight against Hiv/Aids. [Tom Robinson]
Twenty two years ago today, Sunday November 24, is for many of us the day the music died. In the early evening of the 24th the world lost the enigmatic music talent that was Freddie Mercury – a man who with his band Queen had created his own sound and generated more than £1 billion worth of sales.
Jim Hutton (with Freddie, above) was the man Freddie Mercury called ‘my husband’ back in the Eighties, long before such things were, rightly, possible. Had he lived, Freddie Mercury would have been 67 this year. And his long-standing lover Jim Hutton would have been 64. The lives of both men were tragically cut short through ill health.
Freddie, as the world knows all too well, battled and died from the insufferable AIDS at just 45 in 1991. Jim, who believed it was Freddie who had infected him with HIV, actually went on to outlive Freddie by 18 years. But Jim was a heavy smoker which cannot have helped matters and he finally succumbed to debilitating lung cancer on January 1, 2010 – just three days shy of his 61st birthday.
Jim Hutton seemed to be the unlikeliest of partners for the world’s most extrovert rock superstar. In many ways he was the complete opposite of his showman lover. For an Irishman, Jim seemed especially quiet and reserved, and he could be painfully shy in company. The relationship that blossomed between them was equally improbable – how could a modest gentleman’s barber satisfy the planet’s most eccentric rock performer? And yet, Jim not only could but he did.
I helped Jim to write his memoir ‘Mercury and Me’ in 1993 and 1994. His reason for wanting to write ‘Mercury and Me’ seemed to be that he knew it would be hugely cathartic, a way to exorcise his enduring grief. He saw it as his chance to finally come to terms with his loss and all that he had been through leading up to – and after – Freddie’s premature death from AIDS-induced bronchial pneumonia.
I liked Jim Hutton very much. He might not have been a natural in the glittery world of celebrity, but he remained true to himself and fiercely independent. Unsurprisingly, after almost a decade around Freddie, some of the singer’s sparkle had rubbed off. With a small nest-egg left to him by Freddie, Jim would try to bounce back. He moved from Freddie’s palatial Garden Lodge at Logan Place in Kensington to a suburban setting, a modest three-bedroom house in Ravenscourt Park, in west London.
While they had lived together at Garden Lodge Mercury had resolutely maintained a generous open-door policy with his friends and family. Under Mercury’s tenure, it was a home of warmth and love. But a series of events in quick succession had dealt Jim blow after blow. At least he could find some peace for a while in west London.
But eventually Jim found that living in London without Freddie was simply too much to bear and by the end of the Nineties he had quietly moved back to Ireland. With Freddie’s help, input and encouragement, Jim had built a small bungalow next to his mum’s home back in Carlow. He had designed it with Freddie and it was the one place – perhaps the last place – Jim Hutton could find constant and uplifting reminders of his one great love.
I would speak on the phone to Jim from time to time once he had permanently moved to Carlow. Jim had definitely found a form of contentment and peace there that was so obviously missing all the time that he had remained in London. It was hugely comforting, he told me.
For the Kindle edition of ‘Mercury and Me’ I have written a new introduction to try to bring Jim’s story up to date a little. It seems right to release the book on Kindle so that it might perhaps reach a new, if modest, audience. This was an honest and open book and it remains a poignant tale of gay love in the Eighties when the AIDS epidemic and backlash in Britain both seemed to be at their height.
‘Mercury and Me’, by Jim Hutton with Tim Wapshott, is published on Kindle today Sunday November 24, 2013 at an introductory low price of £2.99. For more information, see mercuryandme.com. You can also follow us on Twitter @mercury_and_me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Wapshott is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in newspapers ranging from the Sun to the Sunday Telegraph, and he has written columns for the Independent and The Times. Tim collaborated with Jim Davidson on his autobiography, The Full Monty, and with Freddie Mercury’s lover, Jim Hutton, on his book recording the Queen star’s last seven years, Mercury and Me. He is also co-author of the best-selling Older: The Unauthorised Biography of George Michael, with Nicholas Wapshott.