Magazine article Out

Wing Man

Magazine article Out

Wing Man

Article excerpt

HOW ELTON JOHN BECAME THE FAIRY GODMOTHER OF THE MUSIC BUSINESS BY ALASTAlR MCKAY

Fairy godmother: (noun), "a character in certain fairy stories who brings unexpectedbenefits to the hero or heroine" - at least according to popular definition.

Those fairy stories differ on the matter of the appearance of the lady, but real life's showbiz fairy godmother isn't too far off the mark: a portly, gay, aging cherub, previously seen in stacked heels and novelty spectacles but now more likely to materialize behind a grand piano wearing a sober suit and a hat made of alien hair.

Sir Elton John may lack wings - and a working magic wand - but a checkbook suffices pretty well for both. And John's recently publicized intervention to save no other than Eminem is just the latest and most high-profile case in the temperamental Englishman's reinvention as mentorto the (sometimes unwilling) rich, famous, and addled stars.

Late last year, the long-troubled Eminem revealed that John, a.k.a. Reg Dwight, had been helping him overcome a variety of drug addictions, from Ambien to Vicodin. So enthused was Eminem by the benefits of his celebrity-sponsored sobriety that he cheerfully admitted to having doped himself in his wild years with as many as 20 prescription pills a day. That's a serious amount of pep. And there was a death trip with methadone. In those circumstances, who you gonna call? Or, in the current parlance, as Eminem put it, who you gonna "reach out to"?

And, according to a grateful Eminem, this white knight for those dark nights of the soul "can identify and relate to the lifestyle and how hectic things can be." Rarely has the word hectic been employed with such elegant misdirection.

To cynics, Eminem and Elton John may seem unlikely bosom buddies. But the parable of the rat-faced former homophobe from the wrong side of the trailer park and the benign gay uncle in the Versace jacket was recently confirmed by a higher authority. In an uncommon act of direct communication between shepherd and flock (via the BBC's sports-oriented radio station 5 Live), John diverged from discussing his beloved Watford Football Club to confirm that Eminem had, indeed, benefited from an 18-month course of high-level celebrity head massage.

Nor was this an isolated incident. Some years ago, I interviewed the British artist (now director of Nowhere Boy, a movie about John Lennon's boyhood) Sam Taylor-Wood, who commented on John's supernatural qualities. He had helped pull TaylorWood through a course of chemotherapy, when she was being treated for breast cancer. "Besides who he is," Taylor-Wood told me, "he's a very caring, gentle person, really. And he sort of has a sixth sense. Whenever I'm feeling low, he seems to call up. Especially when I was doing chemo- it was almost spooky."

There have been other cases. We can only guess what special favors led to Sir Elton tinkling the ivories at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, though both suffered from bulimia and a near fatal weakness for saccharine melodies. Best not speculate about the utility of John and Elizabeth Taylor's rescue of Michael Jackson after he sought solace in pills during his trial for child abuse.

Then there was poor Donatella Versace, who was forced to tackle her inconvenient reliance on cocaine after John sprung a saintly surprise at her daughter's 18th birthdayparty. Ah, yes, the drugintervention- a perfect coming-of-age present and a gift that keeps on giving!

How did John qualify as a saintly savior of the befuddled famous? Well, the examination was practical, rather than academic. …

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