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For 28 years John Reid and Elton John were closer than husband and wife .. it's going to be a messy divorce; ONE 2 ONE.

It was hardly love at first sight when John Reid spotted a pounds 10- a-week singer-songwriter called Reg Dwight playing the piano at a Tamla Motown Christmas party.

The welder's son from Paisley dismissed him as a "dumpy little guy in a funny jumpsuit".

Just weeks later, Reid and the future Elton John were living together in an exclusive apartment at Marble Arch called The Water Garden.

That was 1970. Since then, they have behaved more like a married couple than the most successful business partnership in pop, always arguing but ferociously loyal to each other.

They could not live with, or without, each other. Now they are going to have to learn.

Over the last 28 years, Reid has seen Elton through drug binges, alcoholism, lawsuits, divorce, bulimia and the loss of his friends Diana and Gianni Versace.

Who knows what Reid saw in Elton. But it was enough to transform him from a podgy nobody with one flop record to his credit to a glittering extrovert sitting at the top of the charts.

Reid was an unlikely pop Svengali. The son of a welder, he spent his childhood years on the tough streets of Paisley and attended St Mirin's Academy before leaving to study marine engineering at Glasgow's Stow College.

But student life in his room and kitchen with outside toilet wasn't what he was looking for. He dropped out and headed to London, still swinging in 1969, with just pounds 50 in his pocket.

His ambition to get into the music business took him around the record companies of the day and landed him a job as a record plugger for EMI.

Reid's first big break came when he was appointed UK label manager of Detroit's legendary Tamla Motown label when he was just 19.

It was Reid who put Elton in touch with songwriting partner Bernie Taupin and encouraged him to wear the fantastical clothes and huge glasses that made him a household name.

The move helped them carve out one of the UK's most successful music partnerships, one which has given Elton a personal fortune of pounds 150 million and also made Reid a multi-millionaire.

Today, Reid has luxurious homes in London, New York and Los Angeles as well as a magnificent estate in St Tropez, with George Michael and Joan Collins as neighbours. And Elton is never far away at his own hilltop villa in Nice.

Former Simple Minds manager Bruce Findlay first met Reid when he was managing Billy Connolly in the70s.

Findlay said: "The relationship between John Reid and Elton John is very much like a marriage. They know each other so well and know so many personal things about each other that a manager can't talk about.

"Having seen Elton's documentary Tantrums & Tiaras, when we all saw him being a complete queen and a bitch, it must have been hard living with him for 25 years. But he would also have been a lot of fun, too, because he's a character.

"If there is a royal family of rock stars like Elton, then John Reid is up there in the royal family of managers. They were definitely close. John must be devastated now that he and Elton are breaking up."

From the start, their relationship wasn't just a business partnership. Following that chance meeting at the Motown bash, Elton's then record label, Dick James Music, realised they needed someone to act as a round- the-clock manager for their rising star.

When Elton named Reid as his manager in a deal worth pounds 10,000 DJM staff were astonished to find the two were already living together. They seemed total opposites.

Elton was plump and wispily pale in his purple and silver rock 'n' roll drag, Reid was small, tanned and always in a suit. Elton was the soft- hearted artist and Reid the hard-headed businessman.

AFTER the youthful Reid had given up on the chance of a shipbuilding career to pursue his musical dream, parents John and Betty Reid thought he'd come back disillusioned and peniless.

Instead, he returned with wealth beyond their dreams and bought them a bungalow in Linwood.

Reid started his own company, John Reid Enterprises, in 1971 with a few hundred pounds in savings and a pounds 5000 loan.

When the hits began rolling in the 5ft6in entrepreneur bought up homes and offices around the world and would swap trinkets with Elton, including yachts, Porsches, Lamborghinis, Jaguars and Faberg clocks.

As business partners they have made each other fortunes. Today, Reid is worth more than pounds 30 million.

Reid said: "When I met Elton, I didn't even realise his potential. I've never claimed to have discovered him. In fact, when he suggested I should manage him, I wasn't enthusiastic."

It's hardly surprising their private lives have been less than calm over the years. Both Reid and Elton have strong opinions, so there were bound to be arguments and tantrums amid the tiaras.

In New Zealand in 1974, Reid knocked journalist David Wheeler on to a nightclub floor and kicked him after an argument over the lack of whisky at a Press launch. Elton John also grabbed his shirt.

At an Auckland magistrates court, Reid was sentenced to over a month in prison, while Elton was discharged without conviction. It was the first, but not the last, time Reid's temper and explosive nature had been seen so publicly.

In 1979, he was arrested by San Francisco police after striking a hotel doorman with his silver-handled ebony cane. The pair had argued over a car waiting parked outside the hotel for Elton.

The day after Elton's bizarre, ill-fated wedding to German sound engineer Renate Blauel in Sydney in 1984, Reid allegedly beat up a tabloid journalist.

Reid and Elton's relationship hit an all-time low the previous year when, with the singer in the depths of a booze and cocaine addiction, they had a fight while filming the video for I'm Still Standing in the South of France.

The singer guzzled eight vodka martinis in 30 minutes and woke to find the room trashed. There had been an argument, during which Elton sat on top of him and punched him until his nose was broken.

In a fury, Reid jumped in a car to return to London but it broke down. And when he realised his RAC card had expired, he sacked his entire staff.

Whatever the real reasons for their business split, Reid and Elton's domestic relationship ended in 1976 when the singer moved to a new mansion in Old Windsor.

But Reid has always been his manager although, in a strange role-reversal, it was Elton who began looking after the one- time protector he knew affectionataly known as Beryl. Like his most famous client, Reid - who managed 80s pop duo Bros, Kiki Dee, dancer Michael Flatley and Scots pop group Blue - battled against alcohol addiction. In 1991, he checked into the same exclusive recovery clinic that Elton used, to dry out.

Reid said: "Elton called me regularly. He was a tower of strength. I went into the hospital for treatment but didn't take it seriously. I just skated over the whole thing and didn't do myself any good at all.

"I was there for a month when I felt low and vulnerable but I wasn't disciplined enough. So, after that, I had a lot of problems with drink.

"You can't break out of it. I became very depressed after a friend died of AIDS. I was drinking lots of wine, brandy, gin - up to a bottle of spirits a day most days. If I had carried on the way I was, I would probably have killed myself."

Elton has also made no secret of his addictions to alcohol and drugs, as well as suffering from bulimia, the compulsive eating disorder.

TALKING about this low point in his life, Elton recalled: "I wouldn't wash. There would be vomit on my dressing gown from bulimia. I had no life. It was pure craziness.

"There would be empty whisky bottles, mirrors with coke on them. I would be desperately searching the carpet for cocaine. I'd become an animal, a pig."

Despite their differences, Reid was a guest of honour at Elton's 50th birthday celebrations last year. Now, 47-year-old Reid has Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lionel Richie and R&B group Another Level under his managerial wing.

Another Level singer Dane Bowers said: "John is one of those managers who has been there and done it all and is an amazing guy to work with.

"We are a new act in the business and we've been able to learn a lot from him. His management expertise makes it easier for us to concentrate on our job and gives us the freedom to make music.

"We were surprised when we heard about the split. We're hoping it won't affect us, and it shouldn't because John Reid Enterprises is a big firm."

Bowers said he hopesReid will be free to come to Scotland next month when the band support Janet Jackson.

He added: "Having a name like John Reid behind us makes all the difference. He is well-renowned as a manager, a big guy who everybody recognises. John Reid opens a lot of doors for us and then expects us to take it from there.

"He got us on the Janet Jackson tour and can get us on TV shows because of his pull. We always get taken to nice restaurants when we are in Scotland because John Reid comes from up there."

Elton was furious recently after news that his accountants were worried about huge spending sprees. He blamed a leak from John Reid's office but later a computer hacker was charged with illegally accessing the information.

For now, both Elton and Reid are keeping quiet. There are too many skeletons in both their cupboards to go public with the reasons behind the split.

Now it is a question of who will guide Elton into the twilight of his career.

Could he ever replace his friend and mentor or will he, like his pals the Spice Girls, manage himself?
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Dingwall, John; Fulton, Rick
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 13, 1998
Next Article:I'LL GO TO PRISON TO SAVE MY BULLIED SON; Mum's vow after attack on her boy, 10.

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