Really loved Jim Hutton Freddie Mercury
David Wigg interviewed Mary Austin in Saturday's Daily Mail
The world was shocked when the extravagant Freddie Mercury, who died of AIDS in 1991, left most of his fortune to his girlfriend. But for years the Queen frontman and Mary Austin lived together as husband and wife. For the first time, the woman who loved Freddie tells David Wigg that Freddie's legacy wasn't all about money.
When Freddie Mercury first told his friend Mary Austin that he wanted to leave her his magnificent mansion, her first reaction was shock and fear. In fact, she was so shocked by the enormous responsibility that she urged him to entrust the house with the beautiful furnishings and paintings to a museum.
Freddie considered this possibility, but chose Mary, his lover for 6 years before opting for male partners so that she would have something permanent in her life. Not only did he leave her his villa, but most of his fortune and the income from the enormous record sales (royalties).
In the year of his death, 1991, Mary juggled her son Richard, 9, his father Piers Cameron, and concern for Freddie as he suffered from the last stage of AIDS. At the same time, she was preparing to have her second baby (Jamie, 8).
Long before he told his close friends about his illness, he confided his secret to Mary. From that moment on, she tried to encourage him every day as he gradually got more sick. When he slowly lost his eyesight and his body became so weak that he could only lie in bed, Freddie had decided to face death and refuse to take his medication.
It was Freddie's decision to end it. He knew it was coming, and he was closer than ever before. Then suddenly he said, "I've made up my mind to go". The quality of his life had changed so dramatically and he was in more and more pain every day. He lost his sight. His body became weaker and he suffered from small seizures. It was so painful to watch him grow weaker and weaker. One day he decided enough was enough and stopped all the medical supplements that were keeping him alive. He just stopped. The overwhelming thing for me was he was so incredibly brave. He looked death in the face and said, "Fine, I accept it now, I want to go." But it was peaceful and he died with a smile on his face.
It was the loneliest and hardest time of my life after Freddie's death. I knew I was having trouble coming to terms with his death and everything he left me. I was left to my own devices with what came my way.
I always had Freddie to turn to and he had me when I needed to. Suddenly there was no one left to help me. I realized it wasn't going to be the way it used to be. Just as I was a friend to him, I realized how much he was a friend to me too, just knowing the fact he was there. He was always very protective of me. I realized after he died how very protective he was. If anything happened, he said, "Oh darling, don't be sad, we'll make it through." He was sincere. At the time when he was aware that he had AIDS and only had a certain amount of time left to live, we had a few more conversations where he said to me: "Let's sit down, who knows how long we'll have."
Freddie's team was like family to me, but after his death most of them left because he was so generous to them. I had sleepless nights. I felt like I did something wrong and paranoia set in. One of the fans even said to me that I am just the owner of the house. That hurt. I know some of Freddie's gay friends were surprised that Freddie left me so much. These people thought they were getting the house. They were people who were jealous of me because Freddie left me so much. It wasn't until eight years after his death that I got most of his fortune. But without the money, I didn't know if I could afford to keep the house. I fell into depression.
I lost someone I thought was my endless love. When he died I felt like we were married. We lived our promise. We did it on good days and I on bad days, rich and poor. In healthy and sick. You couldn't let go of Freddie unless he died. That was exactly what was so difficult.
My husband always felt overshadowed by Freddie. It had spread so much in my life. He introduced me to the world of ballet, opera and art. I learned so much from him and he gave me so much personally. There was no way to leave him, ever.
Freddie had a job for me too. I was his secretary in his music and publishing business that he ran from home. It was five years before I slept in his yellow bedroom for the first time. Until then, everything was still untouched. I spent so much time there when he was sick and there were so many memories in that room. I still saw this fragile man lying in his bed and I remembered all the little things I did for him. I combed his hair because he was lying on his back and his hair was standing up. During that time, I felt so much love for him. I sat by his bed for six hours every day whether he woke up or not. Suddenly he woke up, smiled and said, "Oh, it's you, old faithful."
I was 19 when I first met Freddie. My parents were poor. My father worked as a tailor for wallpaper specialists and my mother was a domestic worker for a small company. Both were deaf and conversed through sign language and lip reading. I left school at 15 with no O level. My first job was as an intern at Remingtons, making £ 5 a week. I later became an advertiser in Kengsington. That's when I met Freddie and Roger who had a market stall there. Brian introduced us to a discussion about the group. They were looking for a name for themselves. Freddie wanted to call the band "Queen" while Brian preferred "Built Your Own Boat". I remember Freddie's black hair which made him look like a gentleman. He was very proud of his new white shoes. Suddenly he turned around and asked my opinion about the names. "Oh, I think Brian's 'Built Your Own Boat'." But Freddie went his own way, as he did with most things. They committed to Queen.
Even though Freddie was kind of shy, I was intrigued by this wild-looking musician. He was like no other I've met before. He was very confident with himself and I was never that with myself. We grew together. I liked him and from there it started.
It took me three years to fall in love with him. But I never felt that kind of love before. We initially shared a small apartment on Victoria Road in Kengsington. We had so little money, we could only afford a curtain and we hung that in the bedroom. We had to share the bathroom and kitchen with other people. After two years we were able to afford a bigger apartment on Holland Road. It was £ 19 a week. The group had their record deal and their first huge hit, Bohemian Rhapsody, and all of the photographs for the first album were taken there.
I first discovered his star qualities in the showcase of Ealing College, Freddie's old art school. Later when he got off the stage all these girls and his friends would gather around him so I thought he didn't need me now. I then went away and he ran after me. He asked where I was going and I said I was going home. Things had suddenly changed for him and the band. Freddie was so good on stage, I had never seen anything like that before, as if he was building it up. For the first time I thought this is where a star is being made. He is on his way. I didn't think he wouldn't need me anymore. I didn't feel sad or worried. I was happy that it finally happened because he had talent. He didn't want to let me go. That night I realized I was part of it. When it all took off, I watched him bloom. It was wonderful to watch. It was exciting to see something happen and I was proud that he wanted me to be there.
I felt safe with him. The more I knew him, the more I loved him. He was a person who I think is very rare at this time. One thing that was always constant was love. We knew we could rely on each other. We knew we never wanted to hurt ourselves on purpose. One Christmas he bought me a ring in a big box. We wanted to visit his parents. I opened the box and there was another box inside. This went on up to a tiny box. When I opened it, there was a beautiful Egyptian ring. It should bring good luck. Freddie was very cute and quite shy to give it to me.
It was after we moved to Holland Road and I realized something was wrong in our six year relationship. I didn't want to admit it, but something was wrong. At some point I decided to tell him. I told him I was feeling something and it seems like a noose around your neck. I think it's time for me to go But he insisted that everything was fine. His life would only shoot up with all that success.
Things weren't the same after that. Our friendship cooled. I felt he avoided any confrontation with me. When I got home from work, he wasn't there. He always came home later. We weren't as close to each other as we used to be.
When Freddie became internationally successful, I thought I was going to lose him to another woman, not a man. That all changed when Freddie told me he had something important to tell me. Something that would change our friendship forever. He said, "I think I'm bisexual." I told him, "I think you are gay." We didn't say more. We just hugged. I thought he was very brave. I was a little naive and it took me a while to realize the truth. Afterwards he felt good telling me. He said he had a choice. The choice was not to tell me, but he thought I had a right to my own life. And I thought, "Yes, just like you have a right to your own life."
I decided to move out, but Freddie didn't want me to live far from him. We found an apartment close by. It was perfect for a person like me. His record company bought it for me for £ 30,000. I could see Freddie's apartment from my bathroom. I thought I would never escape from it. But it didn't matter, I was happy there. It was small, but I was happy in small ones
Apartments. My family was poor. We were five kids and my parents had a terrible time, but they made it through. Life was always exhausting for her.
Today my life is far from exertion. I share my house with Nick, a London businessman whom I married two years ago. I didn't tell anyone. We only got married on Long Island to my two sons, Richard and Jamie. I think Nick was very brave to take me on. I came with a lot of baggage, a huge chapter in my life. On the one hand because of the past and broken affairs. I wasn't entirely sure about getting married. Until someone said you won't know if you don't try. But as life unfolds, I can be happy with it now. I can appreciate what I had and what I have now. When I met Nick, everything came a little faster. I wanted something stable for myself and the children. I felt this man could give us that. I lost my family when Freddie died. The boys who worked in his house were my family, but they all left. Freddie was everything to me except my sons. Freddie was very excited about the arrival of my first son and he visited me in the hospital every day. He taught the little one the first few words, "tractor" and "guitar".
Now Freddie's generosity allows me to raise my two sons privately. Sometimes I think it sure was a part of Freddie that wanted a family life. A happy home and children. I don't know how much he wanted from a straight guy. I always thought I lost him because he was gay. But when he was straight, I thought I might have lost him to another woman when he got famous. Women followed him even though they suspected he was gay.
One of Freddie's specialties was throwing parties. The more outrageous, the better. He flew his friends to Munich for a spectacular black and white transsexual ball, to Ibiza for a colorful open air party for over 1,000 guests, and a hat party in his house in Kengsington. At the time, although he shared his home with his partner, Jim Hutton, I was always invited. Freddie lived knowing that he had been HIV positive for seven years. He was 45 when he died of AIDS-related pneumonia. I inherited 50% of his fortune, about £ 10 million and everything to come. His parents and sister got 25%. Jim Hutton received £ 500,000 and a piece of land in his hometown in Ireland where he built a house. Peter Freestone, his personal assistant, and Joe Fanelli, his cook, also inherited £ 500,000 each. Terry Giddings, his driver and bodyguard, got £ 100,000. In addition, I am in trust for the AIDS Foundation with Freddie's name. The Phoenix Thrust is in Montreux, Switzerland, where Queen have their own recording studio.
Only I know where Freddie's ashes are buried. He gave me the responsibility and I had to promise him that I would never reveal where it is hidden. I was very careless about it. I left her in a chapel for a while. I knew I was in charge, but I couldn't bring myself to part with him for good. I did it all by myself, just as he asked me and keep it a secret. That was something his family certainly didn't encourage to like me. I found it all very strange. It was in a plastic bag in the urn. Afterwards I put everything together and locked it. Then suddenly I thought, "You left me a little too much, Freddie."
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