Monday, 15 September 2014

NO ORDINARY LIFE: 'DRAWINGS' BY VICKY ARAM

Vicky Aram is the author of 'Coal Mines, Confessions and Dance Halls', one of the most searingly honest memoirs I have ever read. 'Drawings', the County Durham-born lass's latest publishing venture,collates for posterity the cuttings of her first career, more than half a century ago, as a fashion artist. Her first published line drawings of models at London's couture collections appeared in 'Fashion Forecast', a respected trade magazine of the day. Indeed, the book is dedicated to its late editor and Vicky's mentor, Nina Hurst. Although still only a teenager in the 1950s, there was such style and maturity in Vicky's illustrations that the observer might be forgiven for thinking that she must have been much more mature when she drew them. It occurs to me now, perusing them again, that the woman Vicky was seeing in these lines, a little further down the line, was herself. Capturing the elegance and flair of Dior, Chanel and the rest in her own image, she lifts them to an uber-chic dimension with her own highly-stylized take on physical features – particularly limbs, eyes, lips and hair (she sketched haircuts for Vidal Sassoon.) In the long-legged, provocative languidity of 'Midnight Hour', she captures her free-spirited future self perfectly.

Designing the next phase of her life, Vicky met and married the distinguished architect David J. Wager, with whom she had three children. She began to draw for newspapers, notably the Daily Telegraph. In addition to Royals, celebrities, the personalities of the day, her pencils and pens now recorded locations and events. A political tea party in Hampstead and a Windsor ball for HRH Princess Alexandra are irresistibly evocative. She taught fashion-drawing at Hornsey Art College, was hired by Mark Boxer to draw for Queen magazine, and did some exquisite colour work for Flair. She digressed into dress design, when Yves Saint Laurent's Lady Rendlesham mistook her for a designer. Her suit range actually went on sale in Harvey Nicks. Emboldened by the diversion, her developing style took another swing, embracing pop-art quirks and surrealism. Her book also features many of her gorgeous portraits.

Hands up: I got to know Vicky when I interviewed her for a book of my own: 'Ride A White Swan: The Lives & Death of Marc Bolan' (Hodder & Stoughton, 2012). Vicky, by the late 1970s a singer-songwriter and pianist with an engagement at the Berkeley Square private members' club Morton's, was the last woman to see Marc alive. She has never overplayed her part in the tragedy, and only recently went public with what really happened on the night of the 20th Century Boy's death in 1977. Her reticence renders her memories the more remarkable.

At seventy eight, knock twenty off that when you meet her,Vicky is still drawing, writing and recording as if there is no tomorrow. I'll have what she's having.

Friday, 5 September 2014

FREDDIE MERCURY DIDN'T WANT TO LIVE FOREVER ...



He would have been sixty eight today. I can never imagine him as an old codger. He was in his fortieth year when Roger Tavener from the Express and I hung out with him for a night in the White Horse in Montreux. After years spent following Queen around the world, we got closer that night than we had ever done. It was Freddie's bar, his territory. He gave us a different guy that night, talking candidly about the price of fame.
'It's the thing that keeps me awake at night,' he admitted, cadging Marlboro Reds off Tavener.
'I've created a monster,' he went on. 'The monster is me. I can't blame anybody else, it's what I've always wanted. Success, fame, money, sex, drugs - whatever you want, I can have it. But now I'm beginning to see that as much as I created it, I want to escape from it. I can't control it as much as it controls me.'
He said much more.The pub closed. He asked us to wander down to the lake with him.
'Just throw my remains in there when I go,' he said. He repeated this at least twice.

Tavener and I had a world exclusive. We had proof, there were two of us. What did we do with it? We committed a sackable offence. We agreed, in what may well have turned out to be a case of double jeopardy, but didn't, to refrain from selling Freddie's confidence for a cheap page lead.

Freddie and his gang were great people. It had been a blast of a night. He'd opened up to two relative strangers, and had exposed his soul. He knew we were journalists, he must have assumed we'd stitch him up. Everyone did. Perhaps he even wanted us to, to prove a point: that reporters are invariably bad news.

Maybe we didn't get it at the time, but his behaviour that night later made sense. He must have known that he didn't have long left. He was living as if there were no tomorrow. He wasn't far wrong.

Up came the dawn. Down the path, away from the snowy mountains and into our hotel we fell. Neither of us spoke. Nothing left to say. Tavener smoked his last fag.