Combination of 3 or 4 things have kept me from my computer for any length of time, but here goes...
Even when I met Freddie in 1979 he didn’t wear much jewellery. The days of chains, necklaces, rings and bracelets had been dropped along with the long hair. As his hair got shorter so his liking of wearing bling grew less. That isn’t to say he stopped buying it, though mainly for others. I was present when he bought some baubles for Mary and when he was waiting at Tokyo airport after he changed flight, he bought some beautiful pearls for his mother. It was in 1981, when Freddie and I were in New York he announced we would be going shopping on the morning of my birthday. I was going to arrange his car when he said we would walk! Walk, in Manhattan? Yes, it isn’t far. We were staying at the Berkshire Place Hotel on 52nd Street and we walked across the road to Cartier. We went in and he started to look around. A salesman asked if he was looking for something in particular. Freddie replied ‘yes, one of your gold and onyx bracelets’. He was disappointed when they said there were none in stock. I asked why that bracelet in particular, and he said it was because he had had three before. Why three? Well when I was walking around I would accidentally hit my wrist on something and the onyx would shatter and it would fall off!. In the end he found one of their new lines, a love bracelet that is screwed onto the wrist and got it for me. He also bought a couple of diamond about the size of a coffee table when he was in South Africa. He had been confined to his hotel room by his throat problems and decided to see some jewels. I couldn’t help smiling when I saw these two stones appear on the velvet cushion. Freddie’s eyes light up like the diamonds as he said, ‘Yes, I’ll have them!’
In the last years he used to wear a single piece of jewellery, a ring given him by Jim. He was still wearing it at the end of his life.
Questions about Freddie’s costumes are still coming in. At the beginning he wore cloths he had found in various second hand stalls. The designer wear started with Zandra Rhodes. After that he put together his own wardrobe for a while. I remember the first time I was with Queen, trawling the streets looking for red vinyl trousers and blue kneepads. For the Hot Space tour, arrows were in. Freddie decided what he wanted and various clothes were made up for him in Los Angeles including the VERY expensive multicoloured arrow jacket, that was used only twice ever, the reason being because Freddie used to sweat a lot, it was too hard to take it off. It wasn’t until Diana Moseley came onto the scene when she designed the outfit for Freddie’s video I Was Born To Love You, that Freddie had a collaborator with his designs. From then on until his last video performance Diana was there by his side creating what would suit him best at the time. Sometimes Freddie would want some outlandish pieces, but Diana would bring him back to earth and he would be very happy with the results. She also created special thermal underwear for him for the video shoots in the last year.
What was Freddie’s preparation for a concert like? It was basically life as usual. He had no fitness regime as such. He was the only person I have ever met who had two complete home gyms, one in New York and one in Los Angeles, who never used them. He bought them for the use of friends. As for show days, he would probably talk a little less than normal and once he was at the venue he would be quite calm. He always had his hot lemon and honey drink on hand. About one hour before the show Trip Khalaf, the sound engineer, would come to the dressing room. Freddie would try out his voice and if he had no trouble with the higher register Trip knew to keep Freddie’s voice up in the mix for the top notes. If there was a problem then Trip knew to put up Roger’s high voice in the mix and Freddie would sing down an octave. After he had put on his makeup and costumes, Freddie would slowly start to pump up his body and warm the voice as you see in some of the video footage of before the shows.
Other than his beloved London, Freddie’s favourite place on earth was Japan. He loved everything about Japan, except sushi and sashimi! He had a lovely collection of lacquered boxes, much of his furniture had Japanese motifs, a lot of his crockery and porcelain was from there, and he was acknowledged at one time as having one of the largest collections of antique Japanese wood block prints in a private collection in the UK. He also has numerous Hakata dolls, The porcelain dolls painted with lifelike colours in glass cases dotted around the place.
One of his favourite people was Misa Watanabe who was his personal guide in Japan. She and her husband owned huge chunks of the place, he was Mr. Suntory and Misa was in charge of music publishing amongst other things. It was great to walk around the department store after it was closed and all the people working there had to stay behind waiting at their counters for Freddie to go round making his choice of whatever he wanted, which was then duly packed up and sent to his hotel. Payment was sorted out with Misa at a later date. Freddie felt some sort of contentment in Japan he found nowhere else. Life could be so frantic and Tokyo was always so busy, but he continually found it a place to recharge his batteries.
Once again food and drink is appearing in the questions with fair regularity. As a rough guide it was tea in the morning, champagne/wine in the later afternoon and with food, and vodka and tonic in the evening. As for brands we generally kept to the same throughout the time at Garden Lodge. The tea was Twinings Earl Grey, teo sugars and some milk. The champagne was usually Louis Roederer Cristal and the white wine was his favourite imported from Switzerland, San Saphorin. Freddie was actually quite knowledgeable about wine and he would know which one he would want with various meals with friends. His favourite vodka was Stolichnaya, but in some countries that isn’t available so he would drink Moscovskaya, really the same under a different name. Schweppes was the preferred mixer.
As for food, when I started working for him Freddie loved spicy food, not necessarily chilli hot, but a good mix of spice. This was natural if you think back to his birthplace, Zanzibar, the spice island, and his mother would have prepared many traditional parsi dishes for him. During my time with Freddie he did like traditional ‘home cooking’, as well as the 5* gourmet restaurants. He always used to say at home he wanted mother’s cooking…. For deluxe food there were plenty of restaurants to choose from. As his illness progressed so his taste buds suffered and he couldn’t take strong flavours. At that time we started cooking food with much less spice and made it easy to eat food. A perfect example of that progression was with scrambled eggs. At the start I always cooked the Indian variety with chilli and spices, that he remembered from his youth, but by the last year it was served with only a small sprinkling of salt and pepper. There should be a link to a recipe book that I brought out last year which would give you a good idea of what was presented to Freddie over the years.
Take care of yourselves till next time and I look forward to seeing some of you somewhere in the world this year!