As A Star Must Fade
Written by Anja Geenen
Chapter One : Rumours
Part One : The Last Show
Mercury is not a planet, it's a star. If we had to give a first name to this star it would be Freddie. He lived his life and sang his song; he touched us in many ways. Dear Freddie Mercury, how much were you the showman we saw and how much were you the person you were born as? Dear Freddie Mercury, take this piece and think about this small part of your life. I hope you feel right about the things you choose to do when you heard you were HIV positive. I hope you can understand what the people, now left behind, do feel and think about you. The battle is not finished yet, there are people still fighting to get it right, to make sense of your death. Think of those who truly miss you and care about them. We still love you Freddie.
It was cold when John emerged from the car, the November wind blowing around him and making him shiver. He saw people walking around, and looking at the many flowers, which were sent. He shivered and pulled the shawl around his neck a bit tighter. For days he could hardly realize what happened, for days he lived in a dream world, nothing seemed real. John knew, this coldness was the reality. It was the same coldness he felt when he had that phone call, though it was different. John let him self-lead by a gentle man into the small church. He was positioned next to Roger who came alone, just like John. Brian sat at the other side of Roger, his eyes red and watery, Anita companying him. People were talking softly, waiting for the last show to begin, the last show of their dearest performer. John drifted away, thinking of their last show, the first symptoms of the last fight.
* * *
He was worried suddenly with a strange comment, glances from the others and a bad feeling. John looked at Brian who was staring confused and amazed at Freddie. John heard Roger starting complaining: "Freddie, you can't mean this! Come on, you can't live without the audience, you need them." Brian stood up and walked over to Roger tapping him on his shoulder: "Hey, let him. He'll change his mind later and in 2 years we're touring again." Roger pulled a face and let the conversation die unwillingly. It was not the first time Freddie had said something like that. John knew Roger had called several people to persuade Freddie to go on this tour. This time it seemed Freddie had made a decision and was not to change his mind. This was going to be their last gig.
John was sitting on the boxes laid down on the stage. He watched the people working, the space what had to be filled with people that night. Freddie's comment was still going through his head. Not the fact that Freddie wanted to stop touring after this one had worried John, but the determination with which Freddie had decided. It sounded not right for Freddie. For years touring was everything what Freddie enjoyed doing, although he hated to travel around and he wasn't able to go anywhere outside the hotel. John couldn't figure out why it was all enough for Freddie, the change was too big. The only thing John could think of was that there was something wrong, but the sky seemed clear, there was no reason to be worried, but still, John was worried.
Time was moving slowly towards the last show which Freddie really wanted to play. He was in good moods and had a good laugh with some people around him. Everything looked normal. The crew running around, the audience making noise, Roger joking around, Brian talking non-stop and Freddie sitting and smiling, listening to the talking of Roger and Brian and smoking his cigarette. John was sitting beside him, easy looking Deaky. "Take it easy Deaks," John's roadie joked. John smiled silently and brought his cigarette to his mouth. He watched beside him, cautiously watching Freddie who was playing with his cigarette. He was silent and it looked like he was in deep thoughts. His eyes cast down on his playing hands, sitting relaxed on the boxes and enjoying the non-stop chatting and joking of Brian and Roger. Freddie felt he was stared at, he glanced back to John. John felt a bit uncomfortable, he wondered if Freddie knew he was still thinking of his comment, it looked like Freddie knew it. Freddie's eyes scanning John's face. John smiled shyly and turned his face from Freddie, feeling embarrassed. He was just worrying that was all.
John watched Roger draining his glass in once and groaning, as it was empty. A roadie filled it immediately by just one wink of Roger. No conversation. Freddie was staring to the stage were Brian was, playing his guitar and playing with the fans. He stood there so lonely, and John knew Freddie would miss all this when it was finally over. When he was sitting at home and dreaming of past wishes, he would wish again he could do that, and maybe he would cry. Roger was staring at him as well, then he glanced back at John, meaningful glances. John had talked to Brian about Freddie, Brian as worried as John. This is no good John, he had said, there's something going on. Both didn't know how to cope with it, both were scared of what was coming. Dear old Freddie didn't do anything without a good reason, there must be something wrong. Brian had given up on trying to figure out what was going on, but John couldn't let go of the comment, the thoughts and the worried feelings. Roger didn't look that worried, he was still draining glasses with water into his throat. His eyes had caught a worried look though, as he watched Freddie, John could almost read his questions in his eyes. Cerulean eyes, most beautiful and perfect blue, now troubled with worries and unanswered questions. John hadn't talked with Roger yet, but he could guess how worried Roger must be. Roger brushed his hair out of his eyes, he was looking cool with those sunglasses, he looked much more relaxed than John.
Freddie did a great show, as usually. Jumping around, his movements, his tune and his audience. John liked to enjoy the view of Freddie jumping around, playing with the audience. John saw Freddie drinking in every response from the audience, weeping them up and playing with them. He was the master and he ruled this stadium, this Knebworth, it was all his this evening. John let himself get caught by the music, drifting away on the tones and Freddie's voice. Brian's guitar singing and weeping and the pounding drumming from behind. The whole stage was swaying on the music, the stadium was jumping on excitement, the audience jumped with it. Sweat was running down Freddie's neck, John could smell him dancing, he saw body water dripping as Freddie played with the tune Brian had set in. John went with it and so did Roger who was now standing in the front of the stage, grinning broadly and sunglasses on his head. Freddie walked around passing Brian and then turning and walking back towards John glancing at Roger. Doing his typical Freddie movements, an elegant turn, arm swaying graciously through the air, chin up, the looks of the master. His microphone stand was swaying graciously with the movement of his arm, totally in control, and Freddie brought the microphone to his mouth. His voice was fabulous, dancing into the audience, a magicians voice on the edge of a breakable point, but perfectly sounding. It was the game of a leader.
Freddie loved playing with the audience. He could let them do anything he wanted. Raising his arms, they sang. Raising his voice, they followed. Raising his personality, they went crazy. They reacted on every move and every noise Freddie produced. His ruling caused waves in the audience, sending his signs to the back rows.
John enjoyed it. So many people in there, their fans. John knew how it felt to fall in love with 100.000 people at the same time. Feeling the mood, the unity, one big crowd. So many colours and so many voices. Countless, it left him speechless. He grabbed the feeling and held it tight, to never let it end.
The evening was growing older as John sat quietly at the table. "The best dinner for the best band ever!" Roger had shouted. The table full of wine, campaign, food and everything that was eatable and owned by rich men. Everything in style, elegant, the most tasteful plates, glasses, spoons, forks and knives. All the people around the table were as elegant as the table itself. The most elegant, chic and famous people were present, except Freddie. John had searched for him and finally asked Brian where Freddie was. "He's gone home," Brian had whispered. Strange, why did he left? John remembered Freddie saying that parties weren't his anymore, I'm living like a nun, he had told one pressman. John had noticed the change of Freddie. It didn't make any sense, it was nothing like Freddie. Freddie was the party, or he used to be the party. Now he was a man who told everybody he grew up, no parties like that for me anymore, he told them. How could one man, who lived the life of the world, change so drastically? Many people asked where Freddie Mercury was, and why did he leave? John couldn't answer one of the questions, he was wondering himself what was going on. Now he was sitting there, on his seat behind the table. All the people talking like nothing had happened, a nice after party. John saw Roger talking with everybody, joking with everybody. Brian was talking and smiling, a friendly conversation. John was just staring and thinking.
The evening had passed and the night had started. John was at home again after being away for a long time. This tour was magic as it was called 'the Magic Tour'. But everything had felt so frightening definite, the last time out with the band and it's crew, the last time with the four of them on that stage, the last time they made magic. And so magic it was, and so definite it was, as it was Freddie's choice. No more touring for Queen. Freddie was the only one who believed in the last tour, all the others thought they would be touring again in two years. Maybe it would take a little longer, but it wouldn't be much. John felt restless as he stepped into bed, feeling Veronica's warm body beside him made him relax a little. Still the thoughts were running through his head, memories from the last days on the road. Not only the performances were magic, but also it being together. It's been a long time John had felt such friendship. They had a lot of fun, they were the 'Scrabble Kings', playing scrabble or 'Trivial Pursuit'. They had some hilarious moments when Freddie was creeping around in the train to find all the pieces back. John turned and hit Veronica in her face: "Ooh sorry," he whispered. Veronica rubbed her face and made some sleepy noises. A sigh, then she talked: "John, I don't mind you're so late, but when you join me, can you please let me sleep." "I'm sorry," repeated John. He moved toward her and found her face pressing his lips softly against the soft skin. Veronica turned back to her old position and sighing she fell asleep again. John stared into the darkness thinking again about everything, but most of all the comment of Freddie. What had it meant? John could clearly remember that specific moment. Freddie sitting in his trailer and telling them: "Well guys, after this, it's done. I really don't wanna do this ever again." Roger went mad, Brian and John were just amazed. John started to put everything in order. Okay, Freddie wants to stop touring, but why? Still he couldn't make any sense of it. His eyes were feeling tired, his last thought, if this was the last tour of Queen ever, it was a great tour, a real magic one.
John drove to the house of Brian to talk with Brian and Roger about everything that happened, but most of all about Freddie's strange comment. Brian and Roger were both uncertain about the meaning of it just like John. Roger was already there, he had parked his car in the broadest way possible, John couldn't get his car in and let it stand behind Roger's. Brian grinning about it opened the door and asked with an even broader grin if John had problems parking and pointed out it wasn't the perfect place where John parked his car. John just shrugged and decided Roger could only leave as John himself would leave. In the living room Roger had taken most of the place on Brian's couch, just like his car, spread out over it and drinking Brian's beer. He grinned broadly as John emerged from the corridor into the living room: "Hey Johnnie, how you doin'?" John smiled softly and sat down on a comfortable chair accepting a beer from Brian's assistant. No wise men, even when they were there by car they would drink. John sighed at his own guilt, but took carefully a sip. Letting the beer rolling inside his mouth, he enjoyed the full taste of it. For a moment there was silence as the men drank their beer and appreciating the fine taste of it. Finally Brian remembered why he asked Roger and John to come and he started the conversation. "What do you think is going on with Freddie?" Brian looked around for anyone to give an answer. "Dunno," Roger said while shaking his head, he glanced at his glass with beer thoughtfully. "Maybe he really feels he's getting too old for it. He told me anyway, that this was the reason." Roger now looked up at Brian and after a few moments of consideration at John. "What do you think John?" John's eyes were unfocused as he was in deep thoughts about it. Finally he spoke: "It doesn't feel right. I've got the feeling there's something wrong." "Me too," Brian admitted: "There must be something, Freddie doesn't say anything like that without a good reason. But that's why I called you, I wanna know what you think is the reason Freddie doesn't want to tour anymore." Roger repeated what he said before: "As I said, maybe he really feels he's getting to old for all this." Brian was not sure about that, he couldn't imagine Freddie would give up touring because he felt he was growing older. John thought the same as Brian but remained silent. Brian spoke out his opinion: "I don't think Freddie would give up touring because he suddenly feels he's getting too old for it." "He actually didn't want to do this one neither Bri. It took me and Crystal a whole lot of talking to get Freddie into this tour, he almost cancelled it the day before we started." Brian pulled a face at this, but had to admit Roger was right. Suddenly John came out of his thoughts and said: "Maybe Rog is right, but it just doesn't feel right." Roger was silent, his cerulean eyes were troubled with worry. It felt so much better to say Freddie was just growing older than saying there was something wrong. They had to let it go, take it away by time. They knew Freddie wouldn't say anything, or he would tell them he was growing older. They knew Freddie wouldn't take their worries away, well maybe temporary, but it would come back later when they were back at home. It was all too strange and they decided they had to let it in peace, time would show them why Freddie decided this way, maybe.
A phone call, it got John thinking about Freddie again. He hadn't thought about it since he left Brian's house. Brian had visited Freddie and called John about it. Nothing… He was none the wiser about the reasons of Freddie's decision to stop touring. He told John through the telephone what happened. "I just dropped by to see how Fred was and I told him so. He was okay with it and invited me in and we talked for a while in one of his living rooms. I asked him why he decided he wanted to stop touring, but all he answered was 'Ooh Maggie,' and he waved it away again. It went on like that for a long time, but you know, I needed to know why he decided this way." Here John was just nodding, although Brian couldn't see it and Brian went on: "Then I asked him if something was wrong. I reminded him of a few rumours that were going on and he went silent. Do you think it has something to do with that John?" "It could be," John answered. "I really got the feeling there that something was going on, but Freddie kept on telling me that he was alright and that I didn't have to worry." Brian waited for a reaction from John. John was thinking for a while before saying: "He went silent when you asked about the rumours?" "Yeah…Do you think these rumours can be true?" "It's possible. I don't know Brian, I know as much as you know and I don't think it has any use to ask Freddie again, he won't answer." "No, I know." Brian was a bit disappointed he couldn't figure out what was going on. He was wondering whether Freddie didn't trust them enough. With this the two men decided to let it rest in peace. Who knows Freddie will tell them one day, till then they had to wait and see patiently.
* * *
Such memories. John awoke finally when Roger poked him softly in his ribs: "Oi, wake up, thing is over." People were getting up, teary eyes and softly crying, feet shuffling over the floor. John followed Roger as they left their seats, slowly moving towards the door. People staring at them in sorrow and compassion. Flowers all over the place, people and tributions, a mix of missing, despair and sadness. A last look towards the flowers, and a memory, forever in his mind.
Part Two : The Truth
John was still thinking of everything, still trying to figure out what just happened. He just left the man he worked with for so long, who he loved so much, so strange all together. He left him for the very last time, but he took with him the great treasure that man had given him, and the ones who sat next to him, crying softly. His memory of these times, together with those guys. Sweet memories, but also hard memories. There was so much he hadn't figured out yet.His life had been; working with and for Queen. Writing, playing, recording and touring. Interviews and press conferences. John remembered it all like it's been yesterday. He also remembered the rumours, the first of Freddie's health problems. He remembered how he lost himself and how he tried to find himself back again.
* * *
As the days would pass, the four members of Queen decided to record another album. Work at it had started under great pressure of the press asking whether Freddie was sick. Freddie kept on answering that he was perfectly healthy, but the papers kept on spreading rumours about his health problems. Brian, Roger and John didn't talk about it anymore because Freddie didn't either, even though the press kept asking them as well about Freddie's health. What could they say? They tried to ignore the press, like they used to and they started recording with new energy their new album.
"Can you give me a hand then?" John had just showed his new song, or an idea for it. "No no no dear," Freddie had exclaimed throwing up his hands. Politely he offered John one hand, John stared at it not knowing what to do with it. Freddie withdraws it and offered his other hand: "This one better darling?" "Whatever," John said as he accepted the hand.
Freddie had offered his help, but John had to come to Garden Lodge, Freddie's place. There they would work out the idea and finish the song. For some reason the two men were drawn more to each other than they used to be. They got more involved with each other and enjoyed each other's presence. John had brought the idea and Freddie looked at it: "Aah yes, I see," frantically he started working on it. John partly amused by it watched his colleague grinning. Freddie gave a sideways look and grinned back: "Let's see what we can do. Let's have a bit of that here and a bit of that there and err…ooh yeah, a bit of this there." John let his eyes go over the scrabbling of Freddie, he gave an amused grin: "Do you self understand what you're doing there?" he wondered. "Nope," the answer was: "But it looks great, doesn't it?"
After a while serious working Freddie went to get something to drink: "Tea darling?" John was okay with, he could always rely on tea. As Freddie disappeared John thought again. Freddie was acting like nothing was wrong, he was doing his work and making fun. But surely something had changed, Freddie never was at home for a long time before. He never took care of any flowers, plants or whatsoever and now he was immensely proud of his plants and his garden, the flowers on the table. John had to see them before they could start working. Freddie led him across the house into the garden en cried out: "Aren't they beautiful!"
Freddie came back with two cups of tea carried by his assistant, Peter Freestone who was nicked Phoebe. "A cookie darling?" John grinned at the sight. Freddie only carrying a bag of cookies, carefully and totally happy. The sprinkles in his eyes grinned naughty as he put down the bag and offered one cookie: "Have one darling." A long silence as the two drank their tea and ate their cookies. John drifted away again on memories. He tried to figure out when their friendship became so close. John remembered touring with the band and hanging around with Brian while Freddie and Roger discovered the city or were having fun in the swimming pool. John also remembered hanging around with Freddie before the show, it that way later on. In the beginning Freddie used to hang around somewhere in the dressing room. Once they lost him just before a show, nobody knew where he was. Finally they found him eating a bowl of something you should eat with breakfast, completely calm. "Hi, want some too?" He even asked, as if nothing was wrong. Roger went mad and started swearing at Freddie, and he was finally dragged away by his personal assistant, Crystal. When Freddie joined them to enter the stage Roger was still mad, but he tried not to bother too much, their audience were waiting. After that show they hadn't talked about it anymore. But John knew it, that was Freddie, a real Freddie action.
John woke up, Freddie had started talking and wanted to go on working. He was writing again, talking and telling him how he thought they could do it best. John followed him, knowing Freddie knew what to do, he was a professional.
It looked like the papers were trying their best to annoy the band as much as possible. Rumours about Freddie's health problems kept on coming, the papers were wondering why they stopped touring and telling the crowd it was because of Freddie's health was the most sensational way to think of. It was distressful to try to get to the studio without having some journalists on your neck. They got used to it through the years, but this time they were even more annoying then they ever had been before. Every little thing was a reason for speculation; The fact that Freddie stopped frequenting parties. That he stayed home growing flowers. That Queen stopped touring. And because Freddie didn't want to give a reaction on all this. The press was trying to catch him, taking photographs as soon they thought they saw Freddie outside the house. One morning, an article in a paper made the whole band and its organization shiver by anger.
Scandal, now you've left me all the world's gonna know
Scandal, they're gonna turn our lives into a freak show
They'll see the heart ache, they'll see the love break
They'll hear me pleading, We'll say for God's sake
Over and over and over again
Their lives were nothing more than a 'freak show', and it looked like it was getting worse every day. The press was annoying all the time, they didn't gave them any rest. All kind of ties were weighing heavy, knots had to be cut, it didn't happen. The press made up rumour after rumour and the band was getting very fed up with it. Freddie, meanwhile, kept on going like nothing had happened and the moment together were bizarre, but warm.
Scandal, now you've left me there's no healing the wounds
Hey scandal, and all the world can make us out to be fools
Here come the bad news, open the flood gates
They'll leave us bleeding, we'll say you cheapskates
Over and over and over again
The press didn't care for the people they actually were, they only wanted the rumours, or a sound, a picture. If that was all it wouldn't have mattered very much, but they took much more than they earned. The band found it stealing, stealing away their lives and ruining their social lives. But the press didn't care, they only wanted their rumours….
So let them know when they stare it's just a private affair
They'll have us hung in the air and tell me what do they care
It's only a life to be twisted and broken
They'll see the heart ache, they'll see our love break, yeah
They'll hear me pleading, I'll say for God's sake
Over and over and over and over again
Going on like this was getting harder, but all they could do was going on and trying to protect their lives as much as possible. They didn't live for the papers and their rumours, they lived to do what they were good at, and to have their lives.
Scandal yes you're breaking my heart again
Scandal yes you're loving on out again
They tried to ignore the papers, they tried to stay out of it, but it was hard, cause now they were the top of the famous society. They met the press for the first time in the early 70's, but they never got used it.
Today the headlines tomorrow hard times
And no-one ever really knows the truth from the lies
And in the end the story deeper must hide
Deeper and deeper and deeper inside
The fairy tale of Queen was so complicated, even the band members didn't know what was real or what was a rumour. More and more they had to seek for the truth, trying to escape from the rumours. Looking inside made them wonder if the truth wasn't a lie and the rumours the truth. They only had each other to hold on, the only one who understood
Roger was all hot, trying to find the article he read that morning. There must be something, if there wasn't, why was Roger so mad and tensed up? John watched him looking, sharing glances with Brian. Freddie hadn't arrived yet, and Roger seemed very glad with that. His blood was cooking, he was very mad, and he only wanted the others to say he was right. The article with a picture of Freddie, outside his house, it showed the people from outside this world what was going on with Freddie. The picture was taken from far away, it a bad view, you could hardly see anything on it. Roger wasn't very sure what was making him so mad. Was it because the press was hunting after them like wild animals in a jungle? Or was it because they caught a picture of Freddie, from so far away and they thought it was the answer to their questions about Freddie's health? Or was it because he even wasn't sure about everything that was happening at the moment, because Freddie wouldn't tell them what was going on. Both Brian and John had taken over the paper and read the article, they watched the picture. There was a furious blush spreading over Brian's face, John's eyes stayed empty. Roger scanned their faces trying to find out what they were thinking. Brian was looking for the right words to speak, John was thinking about what he just read, what he just saw. John wasn't very sure anymore about what this world had to offer him. He wasn't very sure if Queen was what he hoped it would be. Everything was different from what it used to be. Felt Freddie the same? Did he doubt this truth as much as he did? He looked down on the paper, scanning the article, the picture and the words on that piece of paper. Nothing changed, even he would look a million years down at that paper, the words would only dance in front of them, they would make him scared to live with that truth. If he could chose for another life he would probably chose that, he would chose a quiet and anonymous life. Life could be so simple, but he chose the hard way and he still didn't quite understand why. Probably he dreamed of the world inside his head, he probably believed he could create it on this planet. His dreams were false illusions and the hope had disappeared. John still believed the journalist could be people, with their own feelings, now he was losing hope completely. The paper was lieing, this was not the truth. Brian was swearing and Roger swore with him. John needed to get out, he needed fresh air, and time to think, to think about everything that happened.
He sucked at his cigarette greatfully. He sat against the building, no-one could catch him, no-one knew he was there. He listened to the noises below him. The streets with its cars, the people shouting at each other, no idea of reality, they took it as they experienced it. John felt like he was living in the wrong dream, it wasn't exactly his, though he did what he would do when it was his dream. He made choices which he still agreed with, he would chose the same things as he did when he got his first try in this life. John felt more and more he had to break free, he had to live his own life and not anymore the band's life. The last fight he was fighting, he knew he couldn't win, the fight against death had to be lost some day. But John also knew it wasn't really his fight, he fought for Freddie, for their friendship. John had to make clear to himself where the band stopped and where he stared. Who was he, and who had he to be? Which part was the bassist of Queen and which part was John Richard Deacon. John knew he had to know, because when Freddie's was gone, the power of the magician would be gone and there would only be a life left, his life and he had to live that. If he didn't know how to live, he would go insane, he had to prove he could live without Queen.
* * *
A lot had happened, a lot bad things, but a lot of good things too. John found some solutions, but it was still hard to accept all he got from that time, all the pain, all the pleasure. He still had to find his way through the mess Queen left inside his heart, the search still went on. Who was he?