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Just months after finding out he had AIDS he threw the biggest and wildest birthday party for 700 people.

THE MOST OUTRAGEOUS ROCK STAR EVER - PART TWO OF HIS AMAZING STORY; FREDDIE Mercury, one of the greatest rock stars of the century, lived life to the full - and paid the ultimate price. Orgies, drugs and a string of gay lovers took their toll. Queen's front man died from AIDS in 1991. In the second part of our amazing series, we tell how Freddie never let the news that he didn't have long to live get in the way of throwing...THE ULTIMATE PARTY.

Freddie Mercury's 41st birthday fell just five months after the star discovered he had AIDS - the virus which had killed so many of his lovers.

His immediate reaction was to throw the party to end all parties.

The venue was Pikes Hotel on Ibiza. It was the most incredible example of excess the Mediterranean island had ever seen.

It took three days merely to inflate the countless gold and black helium balloons.

The hotel made a special 6ft long cake decorated with the musical notes of Mercury's hit Barcelona.

Waiters opened 350 bottles of Moet & Chandon champagne in less than an hour for the 700 guests.

There were flamenco dancers...and fantasy dancers.

Ever-flamboyant, Freddie played the perfect host. No-one had the slightest idea that the killer disease was already taking hold of his body.

In the cold light of morning, hotel boss Tony Pike meticulously drew up the bill - the largest he had ever presented.

It was to give him an astonishing insight into how the Queen money machine could pay out massive amounts - yet still subject tiny details to the biggest scrutiny.

"I gave the party bill to Queen's manager Jim Beach who went through it very carefully," said Pike.

"There were items like 232 broken glasses - and suddenly he pointed to one entry of four vodka-and-tonics, and said, 'Take it off. We didn't have any vodkas'.

"I said that if it was on the bill then someone must have ordered the drinks. But Beach repeated, 'No-one ordered vodkas'.

"I was about to stand my ground when a quiet voice cut in and asked, 'Is there a problem here?'

"It was Freddie. I explained the situation and he replied: 'Yes, it's correct. I bought those myself for the bar staff'."

As the superstar became weaker with AIDS he became increasingly reluctant to leave his sumptuous mansion, Garden Lodge in London's Kensington. He only ventured out for trips to the recording studio.

To compensate, he held stylish, intimate parties at home.

Apart from his core of friends, guests included Cliff Richard, Tim Rice, Elaine Page and actress Susannah York.

Cliff remembers: "Freddie always seemed to live out the whole fantasy all the time. He had lots of people looking after him, ready to do his bidding.

"He carried the 'star thing' into his private world. You just knew he'd never, in a million years, ever do the washing-up himself."

Another frequent guest was songwriter friend Mike Moran. "There was nothing cheap about Freddie," he says.

"It always had to be the finest champagne and food and his attention to detail was amazing.

"He'd personally triple-check everything. I've found Freddie fussing about the table, checking place settings, china and cutlery and getting himself into a state.

"I'd say to him, 'Hey, Fred, it's only us'. He'd reply, 'That's not the attitude' - and carry on fussing."

Two years earlier, in 1985, life had all looked so different for Freddie...

He stole the Live Aid concert in front of 1.7 billion viewers worldwide and looked every inch the showman superstar - muscular torso, bulging biceps, boundless energy.

Poignantly he sang about death in the number Hammer To Fall. He may or may not have guessed it, but the clock was ticking away. Freddie's decade of reckless gay one-night stands was about to catch up.

Shortly after the Live Aid concert, he was given the AIDS all-clear - but his relief was short-lived.

He received a devastating visit from airline steward John Murphy, a long-time friend since a one-night stand at a New York hotel years before.

Freddie was shocked to see Murphy, a former soldier who once had a perfect muscular physique now looking frail and gaunt.

Murphy told the star that his current lover was dying of AIDS.

Within the month, Murphy and his lover were dead. A few weeks later, Freddie's former steady boyfriend Tony Bastin also died of the disease. For months Freddie hardly left home.

Finally, around Easter 1987, the star's own AIDS tests proved positive.

At first he only told Mary Austin, the former shop assistant he fell in love with before he came out as gay. Then he confessed to Jim Hutton, his final live-in lover.

For the first time, Freddie began practising safe sex. But it was too late.

The star vowed never to admit publicly to the disease. He closed it from his mind and denied that anything was wrong with him although dark red marks appeared on his body showing he was suffering from Kaposi's Sarcoma, connected with AIDS.

The following year, Freddie brazenly lied: "Yes, I did have an AIDS test and I'm fine."

He was plunged into deeper despair to learn that Nicolai Grishanov, a lover he shared with DJ Kenny Everett - who later died from AIDS himself - had also contracted the killer virus.

Freddie finally gave up cocaine and healed the long-standing breach with his devoutly religous parents, who considered homosexuality "unclean".

It was not until January 1991 that Freddie revealed to the other members of Queen that he had AIDS - although by then they had guessed.

"You probably realise what my problem is," he told them brusquely. "Well, that's it and I don't want it to make a difference. I don't want it to be known. I don't want to talk about it. I just want to get on and work until I can't work any more."

Queen guitarist Brian May recalled: "I don't think any of us will ever forget that day. We all went off and were quietly sick somewhere."

Freddie desperately tried to carry on working and filmed a video of the song I'm Going Slightly Mad.

Film-makers were horrified when he arrived looking like a skeleton, even though he wore an extra layer of clothes under his suit.

His make-up was caked on thickly to hide his ravaged features. Worst of all, it was embarrassingly obvious that he was wearing A WIG to disguise the loss of what had once been one of the most beautiful heads of sleek black hair.

He was so weak that a bed had to be set up so he could rest between takes. By November, he chose to come off his medication against his doctor's advice.

By now he was suffering blind spells and night sweats and was plagued by mouth and skin sores. He also needed a breathing mask.

On November 23, 1991, a spokesman finally admitted that Freddie - one of the 20th Century's greatest rock icons - had AIDS.

The next day, an attempt to move him to change the sheets resulted in one of his brittle bones breaking like a dry stick. He even needed help to stroke his favourite cat.

Just before 7pm, he died in his sleep.

He had made his will two months earlier, laying out pounds 1 million on 10 houses for special friends.

His long-term assistants Peter Freestone and Joe Fanelli - each received pounds 500,000 as did his final partner Jim Hutton.

Freddie left Garden Lodge, then valued at pounds 4 million, and half his fortune to Mary Austin - the one person he never ceased to love.

WHY MICHAEL JACKSON GAVE COKE FREAK FREDDIE THE BIG FREEZE

Freddie's addiction to cocaine cost him the chance of appearing on two songs with Michael Jackson.

Freddie actually recorded the two tracks with Jackson - Victory and State Of Shock.

He knew Jackson disapproved of drugs so, at first, he discreetly disappeared to the lavatory to snort cocaine.

But Freddie soon grew careless. Jackson caught him snorting a line and froze their friendship.

The tapes of their two duets were never released.

When State Of Shock surfaced a year later, Mick Jagger had replaced Mercury as guest vocalist!

Freddie's cocaine habit made him violent at times. He would fly into rages, demolishing furniture and shouting abuse. Afterwards, he would remember nothing.

On tour, it was usual for Freddie to dart backstage in the middle of a guitar solo for a cocaine break.

Scott Gorham, lead guitarist of Thin Lizzy, recalls meeting Freddie in the lobby of the studios where both bands were recording. It was the first time he saw him take coke. "Fred was really going at it. I guess that's what was making him buzz the way he was, because he started saying to Brian May, 'Hey, isn't this guy handsome?'

"Then Freddie starts telling me how he had been his school's ping pong champion and he was going on at me to take him on.

"He was deadly serious. The guy wants to win bad. By this time I want to beat him bad and that was our recording sessions forgotten."

Gorham won and despite his drug-induced high, competitive Freddie was not at all happy.

Later, when he finally gave up drugs, Freddie appeared in Spain to perform in a spectacular to mark the run-up to the Barcelona Olympics.

Without coke, his nerve failed and he ended up by miming his hit song Barcelona.

A technical hitch made the tape play slowly and he and operatic soprano Montserrat Caballe failed to synchronise.

It was an embarrassing last public performance for one of rock's legendary showmen.

OOPS! QUEEN'S MEGA-HIT

WAS DOWN TO DJ KENNY

Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, one of the best-selling singles of all time, might have flopped - had it not been for top DJ Kenny Everett.

The song, written by Freddie, spanned seven minutes - too long for general radio air play. But Kenny, even though a sympathetic closet gay at the time, recognised the song's genius.

Freddie had sent an advance copy of "Bo Rap", as it was known, to his friend at London's Capital Radio.

The station did not accept it on its play list. But Kenny was a law unto himself.

On air, he enthused about the record, apologising for not being able to play it. Then he'd say: "Oops, my finger must have slipped."

Kenny played Bthe track so often that Capital's switchboard was blocked by callers asking when it would be released. It eventually sold 1.25 million records in Britain alone.

Kenny was once pictured grabbing Mercury's crotch during a wild night out as the men's lovers - Nicolai Grishanovitch and Tony Bastin - looked on. All four were to die of AIDS.

Laura Jackson,1996. Extracted from Mercury: The King Of Queen, to be published by Smith Gryphon Ltd on May 30 (pounds 16.99). Adapted by MURRAY DAVIES.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:May 26, 1996
Words:1814
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