Comedian pays tribute to tragic friend in new book
Julian Clary has spoken of losing a close friend from Belfast to Aids.
The comedian (62) paid tribute to his “cruising companion”, who he named only as Steven, as a “handsome, funny Irishman”.
Before he hit the big time, Julian was a popular figure on London’s gay scene during the 1980s — a time when fear and misunderstanding around Aids was widespread.
“I went out most nights with my friend Steven, a handsome, funny Irishman from Belfast with a gift for living in the moment that made him exciting company,” he said.
“Steven could lock eyes with a man on a train or the street and, through willpower and charisma, lead him astray on the spot.
“We would stroll to the bars and clubs of Soho and Earl’s Court, and we very rarely went home alone.
“I would end up in all sorts of dodgy places, waking up entwined with a man whose name escaped me.”
Julian spilled the beans in his new book The Lick of Love, in which he details the role dogs have played in his life.
The comic, who would later win Celebrity Big Brother, became a household name as a comedian and television star with his sidekick Fanny the Wonderdog.
But he admitted that when he first hit the big time, he went off the rails — and the death of his friend was one of the reasons.
He wrote “My friend and old cruising companion Steven died. AIDS, once again. I say it brutally, and why not? It was too monstrous a thing to stare in the face. I could only respond by shrugging and carrying on.
“Those of us that the lottery spared, who were allowed to live, owed it to our departed friends and lovers, I felt at the time, to live lives worth living. We had to live for everyone.
“The incongruity of being a gay comic at the time of a gay plague was enough to curdle the spirit if I paused to think about it. So I didn’t.
“What I think now is what I thought then: I must press on with the rest of my life. No good will come of too much loitering.
“Add into the mix piles of prescription drugs from a well-meaning doctor, and a psychotic cat called Gloria who would lie in wait for me in the dark then attack, and you can see I was set to spontaneously combust.”
Julian got through the dark times with the help of counselling. He weaned himself off prescription drugs, realising that his “recreational drug use was not helping my recovery”.
He believes now that lost loved ones, especially Steven, are with him in spirit at his gigs.
“Before any show, wherever I am, I always imagine that there’s a circular gap in the sky just above me where departed friends and relatives look down on me, wishing me well,” the comedian explained.
“It is a different selection each night, although Steven, bless him, rarely misses a show, even if I have the misfortune to be playing in Chatham.
“I realise that these fanciful visions are a result of a Catholic upbringing, but the comfort they bring, the fluffiness of the clouds and the beatific smiles from the heavenly dead are so real to me that I choose to open up my spirit to them. It’s better than suffering stage fright.”