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10 June 1991 – Freddie’s goodbye to his dear American friends

10 June 1991 – Freddie’s goodbye to his dear American friends

“It was quite obvious that Freddie wanted to say a final goodbye to his three remaining American friends in person, Lee, Brandon, and myself. We were quite surprised when Freddie offered us a first-class flight to London and a return flight on British Airways’ supersonic jet, the Concorde. Lee and I arrived early. Brandon, due to his work, would meet up with us a few days later.

Lee and I were given a thousand pounds each and were told by Freddie to have a good time. Freddie sadly looked like a shell of the man that he once was…..
Unknown to me at the time, one morning, Freddie took Lee on a tour of the garden that he was so proud of. Freddie took hold of the camera and took some gorgeous photos.”

Thor Arnold
Vignette 16, The Final Week, June 10, 1991

“June 10, 1991, was an overcast day in London. It was a dark, overcast day. It might seem inessential to use both adjectives to describe what is an average day of weather in London, but the dark was a feeling I sensed since the day we had arrived there. This was the day we would say goodbye to our friend. There was the presence of solemn silence and soft-spoken conversation. As we passed each other in the house throughout the morning, there were exchanges of smiles, that relayed the message from everyone present that, ‘Yeah, I feel that way too.’

Because of the trip on the Concorde, Freddie had told us on the phone to bring the proper wardrobe for such an experience. As he had said to us before in much lighter times referring to his performing on the stage, ‘Darlings, when you just have nothing left to give them, give them wardrobe!’ With this in mind, we decided not to make it a black-tie event, (which is what I had suggested as a joke). We brought some more than your average day-travel outfits. Preparing for the airport, there was a feeling of, how can we make this morning go slower? In a useless desire among us to put off the inevitable, and the undeniable feeling that this was not going to be an easy trip, the morning passed.

Freddie knew what photos meant to me, the amateur photographer during all of our good times. Without even asking, he suggested making our goodbyes a photo opportunity. He had not been photographed for quite some time and might have said, ‘Oh, darlings, just look at the state of me.’ To us, he was as handsome as ever.

The last photos taken prior to this day were the ones associated with the last Queen album, ‘Innuendo’, containing the song ‘I’m Going Slightly Mad’. Some have said that Freddie was not the ‘full quid’ during his last videos with that being the reason for such a song. That couldn’t have been further from the truth, and at that particular photo shoot, Freddie had told us that actually, Brian, Roger, and John decided to dress up in white face as well, to make Freddie feel better. The final version of the video does not include the rest of the band in white face, but each member of the band had an eight by ten taken, and the four of them were displayed on Freddie’s grand piano in the salon of The Garden Lodge.

I don’t know who asked him if he might not want to be in the group photo we were about to take. True to his style, however, his response was simply and loudly, ‘Fuck It’ and he joined the group. I can still hear his voice saying that to this day. Smiles became more and more difficult, but we were all being brave. In attendance on the grounds of The Garden Lodge was Mary Austin, and of course her little son, Freddie’s godson, Richard, Phoebe, Joe Fanelli, Thor, Brandon, and myself. For whatever reason, Jim wasn’t there. I felt as though perhaps he really didn’t feel like he fit in with what was about to take place.

In what seemed like a blink of an eye after starting the photos, our car had arrived. It was the time, that dreaded time. I remember Freddie and Phoebe being impressed with the car that was sent for us. I wish I could remember exactly what kind of car it was, but it was over the top… a final treat from our generous friend.

The final hugs and goodbyes took place, Phoebe walked us to the curb, and our last view of Freddie was of him heading back into the front door of the house, alone. The three of us drove away, in silence. There were no words between the three of us in the car. Any dialogue would have disturbed the moment the three of us were experiencing.” 💔💔

Lee Nolan
Vignette 17, When We Look, and We Find, We Still Love You

Both extractions and photos from the book:
‘Freddie Mercury – Don’t Stop Us Now! In New York’
By Thor Arnold and Lee Nolan

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