I can remember when Freddie Mercury died aged just 45. My mum couldn’t quite believe he (nor Rock Hudson) was homosexual. I can recall seeing him for the last time on television at an awards ceremony looking gaunt and shrunken. He didn’t say anything and looked like he’d turned into a puff of smoke if you touched him. I’d grown up with Queen and they’re still my joint favourite top group. Nowadays he’d receive treatment and be alive but in the nineties AIDS was a sprint to the grave.
After wandering round the back of Harrods I strolled down to Kensington to find Garden Lodge where he lived and died. You turn off the snarling noisy Cromwell Road and see Logan Place on the left – a quiet narrow affair with a mishmash of different houses. As you walk up the volume suddenly drops. At the end, passed terraced houses, you see the walls of a unique house. There aren’t three or four in a row, just the one. I’d seen the tall walls of Garden Lodge on many documentaries but not what kind of lane it sat on. It seemed a bit odd to be there on a late Wednesday afternoon.
Every inch of the walls are coated in a semi-glossy film that must have cost a lot - anti graffiti film that repels marks and paints. This was once London’s top musical shrine and Freddie-worshippers had been daubing messages on the walls for a couple of decades (the walls had been built higher.) The door has been made more secure, too and every motion, blink and bum-scratch is caught on cameras that point down the walls. Freddie ex-girlfriend Mary Austin still lives here with her family and she must have grown tired of thousands of fans who have visited. Though Freddie was wearing his boyfriend Jim Sutton’s engagement ring when he died he left the house to Mary. He said that had he been straight she’d have become his wife and inherited the house. I’m not sure the very private Freddie would buy this place now. The tall walls don’t block out views from the tall apartment block across the way. I’d guess Garden Lodge is worth about £10 million.
When Freddie was dying medication would be bought in hidden in CD cases. When he had to go to hospital for treatment a decoy would be set up to divert the countless camera lenses. He died in bed surrounded by close friends. Oddly his mum and sister weren’t present though they must have been continually updated, especially when Freddie refused to accept further medication. As death’s shadow passed over him he issued a statement saying he was HIV-positive and died the next day. (two of his former partners had already died.) A man in a van watched me taking photos. I’m sure everyone near there knows this was a rock star’s home.
Freddie died aged 45 on Sunday evening on 24th November 1991 from bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS. His friend Dave Clark (of The Dave Clark Five) was by him when he slipped away. Three days later there was a funeral service at West London Crematorium for family and 35 friends. Mary took possession of his cremated remains and buried them in an undisclosed location. In 2012 articles appeared in the media showing an official memorial plaque dedicated to Farrokh Bulsara (Freddies birth name) in Kensal Green Cemetery. He was cremated there so his ashes were probably there too. Generous in death as well as life Freddie left most of his wealth to Mary including his home and recording royalties (the rest went to his parents and sister.) He left £500,000 each to his boyfriend, chef and his personal assistant and £100,000 to his driver.
What a waste of life. How many more albums would Queen have created had he lived on? I did a sturdy salute and left.
About to head up Logan Place…
Freddie’s is on the right…
Inside Garden Lodge?...