Some of the things you didn't know about Freddie Mercury revealed

Publish Date
Thursday, 24 November 2016, 10:11AM
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Freddie Mercury, the legendary rock star and lead singer of Queen, died 25 years ago today on 24 November, 1991, aged just 45.

David Wigg knew him for 16 years and interviewed him many times in the US, Paris, Ibiza, on tour in Munich and at his London home. He was trusted by Freddie and they became friends. As a result his interviews about Queen and Freddie’s solo career became ever more revealing.

Here, as we mark the anniversary of his death, David shares some of Freddie’s most revealing idiosyncrasies...


Freddie liked to collect stamps between the ages of nine and 12, focusing on those from Zanzibar in East Africa, now part of Tanzania, and the British Empire.

He was born in Zanzibar in 1946 to Indian parents, who moved there from India so Freddie’s father could continue his job as a cashier with the British Colonial Office.

But Freddie spent most of his childhood in India at a British-style boarding school near Bombay.

His stamp collection was bought in 1993 by the National Postal Museum, now The Postal Museum, with all proceeds going to The Mercury Phoenix Trust, an Aids charity set up in his name.

In September, to mark their 60th anniversary, the UK’s largest stamp exhibition, Stampex, put Freddie’s collection on display.


Freddie would get his American chef, Joe Fanelli, to prepare a traditional roast every Sunday at his magnificent Kensington mansion where he loved entertaining. A new book is about to be released entitled Freddie Mercury’s Royal Recipes, produced by his former personal assistant Peter Freestone.

Among Freddie’s favourite dishes was cottage pie, and Joe often had to cook a batch of 50 sausage rolls which would go to the recording studio to be shared with other members of Queen. Having been born in Zanzibar, Freddie had a taste for spicy dishes and even the sausage rolls had a spicy tang.


Freddie loved cats and had several. Some of them were exotic breeds and some he had rescued from the Blue Cross charity. There were times when he would have six spread out on his king-size bed purring away with contentment.

There was Tiffany, a long-haired blue point and a gift from his former girlfriend Mary Austin; Delilah, the cat who inspired the Queen song of the same name; plus ginger Oscar, big rangy Romeo, Miko and all-white Lily. Once, when I asked him whether he would like to have a baby, he replied, ‘Yes, but I’d rather have another cat!’

In his will he requested that Mary look after the cats for him on his death, which she did on inheriting his home in Kensington where she still lives with her two sons.


Art and furniture were two of Freddie’s passions. He was especially keen on Japanese art, and had what experts considered one of the finest private collections of antique woodblock prints.

He also collected Salvador Dali prints, as well as works by Spanish painter Miro and Victorian portraits in oils. His furniture too was outstanding, mainly original Biedermeier pieces from Central Europe.

The centrepiece of his enormous sitting room was a black Steinway grand piano, on which he composed many of Queen’s hits, including Bohemian Rhapsody.


Few people realise that Freddie was a talented artist himself. When he was 17 his family fled the 1964 revolution in Zanzibar which left many Arabs and Indians dead and moved to Feltham, near London.

Already a British citizen, Freddie went to Isleworth Polytechnic and then Ealing Art College, and while there he and his friend Roger Taylor, who became Queen’s drummer, used to sell Freddie’s art from a stall at Kensington Market along with second-hand clothes.

He did several paintings and drawings of Jimi Hendrix, who was a huge inspiration to him.

He told me, ‘I’d scour the country to see Hendrix whenever he played because he had everything any rock ’n’ roll star should have; all the style and presence. He was living out everything I wanted to be.’


Freddie was mostly an upbeat person, but when he felt low – usually from a relationship that had disappointed him – he would sit by himself and play records by the Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti. Although he was a world-famous rock star, he was always interested in opera and ballet and the arts.


Freddie was a regular visitor to the ballet and when he was invited to dance with the Royal Ballet for a charity show in 1979, he couldn’t resist.

Choreographers Wayne Eagling and Derek Deane rehearsed him for several weeks after creating two new dances to his songs Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Bohemian Rhapsody.

But Freddie found it much harder than he imagined. ‘For a time at rehearsals it was like I had two left feet,’ he would tell friends.

But he finally perfected the steps and it ended with him being thrown into the air and held upside down by the Royal Ballet’s male leads to a standing ovation. Afterwards a relieved Freddie told me, ‘I always like a challenge. I’d like to see Mick Jagger or Rod Stewart trying something like this.’


Freddie would spend a fortune on the most extravagant parties for his friends, often as outrageous as his stage performances. Undoubtedly, the most amazing was at Henderson’s nightclub in Munich in 1985 to celebrate his 39th birthday.

It was called the Black and White Drag Ball (above), and men had to go dressed as a famous woman such as a film star or a member of the Royal Family, while women had to go as a famous man. But Freddie defied his own dress code by turning up as himself.

The monochrome theme was in keeping with the décor of the place, which Freddie had had decorated black and white. No expense was spared, and Freddie hired a jumbo jet to fly all his friends to Munich and booked them into the Hilton.

Freddie booked make-up artists for the guests and horse-drawn carriages took them to the party, which went on until the early hours. A video was made of the party and Freddie wanted to release it with his new single, Living On My Own, but his record company thought it was too outrageous and vetoed it. The video was later released with a remix of the song, which went to No 1 in 1993.


In contrast to his dominating stage presence, unless he knew someone well he could be quite shy and he worried that people might be disappointed he was not the person they saw on stage. This happened when he first met Montserrat Caballé, the Spanish opera singer.

Freddie wrote their duet, Barcelona, a massive hit in 1987.

‘I wasn’t sure how to behave or what I should say. Thankfully she made me feel at ease right from the start and I realised both of us had the same kind of humour.’

She called Freddie ‘My Number One’.


Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Elton John and George Michael were just a few of Freddie’s famous fans. Jackson once suggested they record together, but the sessions didn’t go well.

Two nights running Jackson arrived at the studio accompanied by his chimp Bubbles.

On the third night, with Bubbles again in attendance, Freddie could stand it no longer and phoned his manager saying, ‘Get me out of here. I’m recording with a f***ing chimp beside me.’ The recording was never completed.

- Daily Mail 

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