Tuesday, 25 November 2014

ANY WAY THE WIND BLOWS, FREDDIE'S HOME SHOULD BE A MUSEUM FOR HIS FANS

It is always thought-provoking to spend time with Queen fans down at Garden Lodge, Logan Place in Kensington, on the anniversary of the Great Pretender's death. We joined the throng at around 7.30pm last night, by which time the candlelit vigil, chanting and singing were in full swing. I was delighted to meet fans from Spain, Romania and Lithuania, as well as several from Poland - and honoured to be asked to speak at the 2015 Polish Queen Convention. I'll be there.

There was a time when Mary Austin, the former girlfriend turned lifelong assistant and companion who lived in the house after Freddie's passing, would emerge from the discreet green wooden door in the brickwork to read out a poem or a prayer, acknowledge Freddie's followers, and share precious moments. Last night, the house sat in darkness. Mary doesn't live there anymore. Those of his co-habiting friends still alive at the time of his death, including his PA, Peter Freestone - 'Phoebe' - were promised that Garden Lodge would always remain their home. Not long after Freddie died, Mary ejected them. 
It won't be hers forever, however. Her legal tenure is only fifty years, almost half of which is spent.

I've often thought she should have opened the house to the public as a museum and monument to her friend. 
A genuine rock shrine - Freddie's own home, the place he died in - to which his millions of fans around the world could make their pilgrimage, pay respects, inhale a whiff of his spirit. The place is stuffed with treasures and artworks from the furthest-flung corners. At least, it was. Such things can be sold at major auction houses for serious prices. Maybe they have been. Collectively, they represent an earthly reminder of the cultured, artistic and unique individual who remains loved by so many. As single pieces, divided and traded, antiques, paintings and furniture are only 'stuff' - deprived of the personality of the man who so lovingly chose, purchased and enjoyed them during his lifetime.

Yes, a museum would have been nice. Apart from a mere bronze statue overlooking Lac Leman in Montreux, there is nowhere else. The fans are all too often derided and scorned for congregating in Logan Place at this time of year, leaving their flowers, cards, letters, tributes and candles. All they want to do is express gratitude for Freddie's life and grief over his death, and draw comfort from each other, strangers and friends. Living in the past? Not the faithful I see down there each year who hadn't even been born in 1991, the year Freddie died.

Much has been done, over the twenty three years since, to deter them from coming. Plastic shields were nailed in place to stop the writing on the wall. Plenty of fans have managed to wedge their tributes behind them anyway. Tough trellising was erected along the top of the walls, a barricade to prevent trespassers from gaining entry. But would allowing them inside once a year have been a bad thing? All they want to see is the cherry tree - beneath which, they believe, Freddie's ashes are buried. In consolation, I can assure them, Freddie is not there.

I hope he rests in peace and makes merry hell. A contradiction, sure. But that was Freddie.

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