Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

Underworld dandy: Sebastian Horsley dies, aged 47, of suspected overdose | Ben Myers

He was an artist, writer, Soho peacock and much more – yet perhaps Horsley's defining obsession and achievement was himself

It's hard to know exactly how to describe Sebastian Horsley, who has been found dead today at the age of 47 of a suspected overdose.

Artist? Yes. He remains most notorious for having himself crucified in the name of art in the Philippines in 2000. Writer? Undoubtedly. His autobiography Dandy in the Underworld – named after an album by his hero Marc Bolan's T Rex – is as memorable and witty a confessional since Quentin Crisp (another Horsley reference point) last put barbed pen to paper.

Journalist? For a while. He enjoyed a six-year run writing a column for The Erotic Review, which, when it transferred to the Observer, lasted a mere four months due to readers' complaints about his endless descriptions of anal sex. Critic? Yes, he was that too. He criticised everything, sometimes professionally, as in his appearances on the likes of The Culture Show.

He was also a dramatist, it could be said. After all, from birth to death his life was a living drama full of heroic triumphs, tragic downfalls and a deluge of one-liners, and which only last week made the leap from street to stage in a West End adaptation of his life story. A story so good, in fact, that it had also been optioned for development by Stephen Fry's film company.

Horsley was many other things besides: a wit, a bisexual bedroom adventurer, a drug addict and a hustler in all senses of the word. He claimed to have made £1m on the stock markets in the 1980s, then spent most of it on crack and heroin and prostitutes, a profession that he himself dabbled in. Perhaps most of all, though, he was a peacock: a strutting, smirking Soho peacock, the likes of whom Britain seems to produce only every generation or two to enliven the drab lives of us everyday folk. The type of person that makes people stop and stare in the street.

Few others but Horsley could turn such a frustrating experience as being denied entry to the US in 2008 into something of an event. Moral turpitude was the reason given – "… travellers who have been convicted of a crime which includes controlled-substance violations or admit to previously having a drug addiction" – and you sensed that he was tickled pink by such a Victorian-sounding accusation. In echoes of Oscar Wilde's US entry, upon his return Horsley quipped that he had prepared for entry into America by removing his nail polish. He must also surely have taken pride in the fact that he was deemed more of a threat to America than Wilde had been.

Reading Dandy in the Underworld, you get the sense that here was a man whose major obsession and achievement was himself, and whose brilliance would not be fully appreciated in his lifetime. With his passing, a new English legend has been born. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Don't be the product, buy the product!