I will always remember the moment when a pretty faced, slightly chubby blonde boy turned up at the door of The Cha Cha Club wearing a rather hideous blue velvet cape. He told me his name was Leigh Bowery, followed by, “Graham sent me to you!” It was late October 1981.
My friend Graham Parnham had met Leigh at Andrew Logan’s “Alternative Miss World” earlier that month. Leigh didn’t know anybody on the club scene in London, so Graham had sent him along to my club, telling him that I would look after him.
“You’ll like him,” Graham had told me. “He’s Australian and a bit bonkers.”
Graham was right. I liked Leigh immediately. He had a generous spirit and sharp wit, was extremely polite and charming. I told him I’d be glad to let him in to the club so long as he promised me that he would never wear that velvet cape again. We laughed, the first of many laughs that we were to have.
It would be two or three years before Leigh started creating looks and dressing in his extraordinary and very outrageous style. Back in 1982 and 1983, he wanted to be a fashion designer and would create 1940s-inspired pyjama suits for me, Trojan (1966 – 1986) and himself.
He’d make me dresses to wear to the club, shrewdly knowing that they would be photographed aplenty. He’d hand write labels with indelible laundry marker and stitch them into his creations. I would look forward to the Tuesday afternoons when Leigh would arrive with something new to wear out that night.
The world quite rightly remembers #LeighBowery as the brilliant and unique performance artist that he became. Though we remained friends throughout his life, for me there is a sweetness to remembering our close friendship of those early years and the extraordinary evolution of the pretty faced, slightly chubby blonde boy in the hideous blue velvet cape.
We lost Graham Parnham to AIDS in the Spring of 1994.
We lost Leigh the same year, on New Year’s Eve.
Happy birthday, my friend.