Stephen Gately: Gentle person who had a wicked sense of humour
Showbiz Correspondent Maureen Coleman recalls her memories of the late Irish pop star Stephen Gately
Along with Ronan Keating, Stephen Gately was one of two main singers in the pop band Boyzone.
But despite his high profile position within the group, Gately came across as a fairly quiet, unassuming kind of guy, happier to stay out of the spotlight.
I interviewed Stephen a couple of times; once when he was with Ronan at a concert in Omagh, and again when Boyzone had reformed and were coming back to Belfast.
On several other occasions I met him socially and was always struck by what a gentle person he was.
The first time I interviewed Boyzone, the band had just played a special gig in Omagh leisure centre for 1,000 excited young fans, just months after the August 15 bomb had exploded in the town, claiming 29 lives.
On that occasion, Keating and Gately were put forward as the spokesmen for the band, but while Keating did most of the talking, Gately said little, except to express how touched he was by the reaction of the crowd to the band’s kindly gesture. He may have been quite shy, but he was also very funny and his wicked sense of humour kept his bandmates entertained.
He was also a risk-taker — choosing to reveal that he was gay at a time when it wouldn’t have seemed a wise move for a boy band with a large female following.
But Gately was a very honest person and couldn’t live a lie and after speaking out about his sexuality, it was like a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
He was also the first of the disbanded five-piece to embark on a solo project and when he was dropped from his record label, he didn’t give up.
Instead, he re-invented himself as a West End star, taking the lead role in Joseph And His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
He was delighted when the band reformed and was in great form the night Boyzone began their comeback tour in Belfast.
With a new album planned for 2010 and a children’s fantasy novel to work on, Gately had plenty to keep him busy.
It’s a tragedy his creativity was cut off at such a young age, when he had so much more to contribute.