Tina Hutchence shares her mem­o­ries of her ‘cheeky’ brother, their of­ten dif­fi­cult child­hood—and their last, sad good­bye

WHO - - News -

His sis­ter, Tina, speaks ex­clu­sively to WHO on the 20th an­niver­sary of his death. Plus, a new book lays bare his life.

Tina Hutchence al­ways knew her brother was des­tined for some­thing great, but not on stage. Born in Syd­ney in 1960 to par­ents Kell, a busi­ness­man, and Pa­tri­cia, a for­mer model turned film-andTV makeup artist, Michael Hutchence was 12 years younger than Tina, and from an early age forged a strong bond with his half-sis­ter (Pa­tri­cia had Tina in her first mar­riage, and after Pa­tri­cia re-mar­ried, Tina took on Kell’s sur­name). “Michael be­gan writ­ing po­etry in his early teens,” Tina, 70, tells WHO. “He was an avid reader and of course he loved mu­sic, as teenagers do. But he was shy so the idea of him per­form­ing didn’t en­ter my mind.”

That in­tro­verted, well-read poet be­came one of the world’s most iconic rock stars as the front­man for INXS, whose shock­ing death at Syd­ney’s Ritz Carl­ton ho­tel on Nov. 22, 1997, blind­sided his fans and loved ones. Be­fore fame, Michael was a “very happy” child who was of­ten put in the care of his el­der sis­ter as the fam­ily moved around for Kell’s work. After first re­lo­cat­ing the fam­ily to Bris­bane, Kell took a job in Hong Kong, where Michael, who also had a younger brother, Rhett, spent his for­ma­tive years, be­fore re­turn­ing to Syd­ney when Michael was 12. After Kell and Pa­tri­cia di­vorced in 1975, end­ing a long-trou­bled mar­riage, Michael and Tina re­lied on their bond to sur­vive the fall­out. For a time they moved with their mother to Los An­ge­les, where she worked on film and TV sets. “Michael had a kind­ness about him,” says Tina, a re­tired makeup artist who is mother of Brent, 45, and Erin, 39, and a grand­mum to five. “He

was a very lov­ing brother, al­ways ready with a hug.” Mark­ing the 20th an­niver­sary of his death, Tina, who lives in Cal­i­for­nia’s Santa Cruz moun­tains, shares with WHO’S Michael Crooks her mem­o­ries of her beloved brother.

“Michael was a happy, easy­go­ing child” —Tina Hutchence

Michael was born soon after I turned 12 and our par­ents were lead­ing very busy lives so­cially and ca­reer-wise, so much of the care­giv­ing fell to me. Ar­riv­ing home from school I’d take over from the babysit­ter and on the days that our mother had to leave for early lo­ca­tion work, I’d take morn­ing duty, too.

Michael was a very happy, easy­go­ing child with a cheeky sense of hu­mour. He was in­stinc­tively aware of his power to charm his way into your heart and I found my­self al­ways cov­er­ing for him—“no, we didn’t stop for ice­cream on the way home”; “No, he wasn’t kick­ing the ball around the liv­ing room—i broke the vase”; “Yes, he fin­ished his home­work, I checked it”…

I played the role of a par­ent for his first five years un­til we landed in Hong Kong. And later when he was a teenager we lived to­gether in Los An­ge­les and I took over parental du­ties once more, with our mother away on lo­ca­tion. We were more than sib­lings.

Ar­riv­ing in LA he was a sopho­more [sec­ond-year high school

stu­dent] and his grades left a lot to be de­sired. He ex­celled in English and so­cial sciences but when it came to maths, sci­ence and bi­ol­ogy, he was un­der­wa­ter. I would sign his re­port cards and Mother never knew, of course.

Our par­ents’ re­la­tion­ship was dif­fi­cult as far back as I can re­mem­ber. An on-again, off-again ar­range­ment, and I be­lieve that had to do with Kell’s fre­quent trips over­seas. Con­se­quently, Michael and I learned to cope by re­ly­ing on each other. We changed cities of­ten and look in­wards to their im­me­di­ate fam­ily. We were close.

Michael be­gan writ­ing po­etry in his early teens. He didn’t ac­tu­ally come out and say he wanted to be an ac­tor, but it was very ob­vi­ous that he en­joyed vis­it­ing movie sets where our mother was work­ing—both in Hong Kong as a lit­tle boy and in Cal­i­for­nia when he was a teenager. He was quiet and ob­ser­vant. After re­turn­ing to Syd­ney, Michael reached out to his high-school mate An­drew Far­riss, a tal­ented mu­si­cian and song­writer who was look­ing to form a band. An­drew had two broth­ers: Tim, a guitarist; and Jon, a drum­mer.

I was quite sur­prised when at age 17 he told me he was join­ing An­drew’s band. I asked him what he was do­ing in the band as he didn’t play an in­stru­ment. I was quite sur­prised when he said he was sing­ing—i didn’t re­mem­ber him sing­ing around the house very much. He sent me some cas­settes of the band per­form­ing cov­ers and then after watch­ing him per­form live in one of their early gigs in Syd­ney I un­der­stood and I could see his vi­sion. He was a nat­u­ral. The Far­riss Broth­ers—a band made up of the three Far­riss sib­lings, singer and lyri­cist

“I could see his vi­sion. He was a nat­u­ral” —Tina Hutchence

Michael, guitarist-sax­o­phon­ist Kirk Pengilly and bassist Garry Gary Beers—first caught the at­ten­tion of Mid­night Oil man­ager Gary Mor­ris, who found them a man­ager in Chris Mur­phy. They be­came INXS, re­leased their first sin­gle (“Sim­ple Si­mon”) in 1980, and would be­come one of the world’s big­gest acts, peak­ing with the 1987 al­bum Kick, which had four Top 10 sin­gles in the US.

As an un­cle to my chil­dren Michael took spe­cial care to spoil them with limos and spe­cial treat­ment at INXS con­certs. One time when he called from tour, my daugh­ter told him her friend was cel­e­brat­ing her 14th birth­day, so he asked to put her on the phone and he sang “Happy Birth­day” to her. That young lady is now a mother of two and she still re­minds me of that phone call.

In 1996, Michael had a daugh­ter, Heav­enly Hi­raani Tiger Lily, with his part­ner, English TV pre­sen­ter Paula Yates. Yates also had three daugh­ters with her ex Bob Geldof, and just be­fore Michael’s death in Syd­ney, Yates and Geldof were locked in an on­go­ing cus­tody bat­tle in the UK, pre­vent­ing Yates from bring­ing the chil­dren, in­clud­ing Tiger Lily, to Aus­tralia.

Michael spent most of the sum­mer of 1997 in Los An­ge­les so we saw a great deal of each other dur­ing that time. He then re­turned after the US east coast leg of the tour for [their 1997 al­bum] El­e­gantly Wasted where he was at­tend­ing meet­ings with film pro­duc­ers. Our last con­ver­sa­tion was the night he was leav­ing for Syd­ney to re­join the tour. He told me he did not want to go, but felt a re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards the band.

Michael died on Nov. 22. The NSW Coroner Derek Hand ruled his death a sui­cide due to a “se­vere de­pressed state” caused by fac­tors in­clud­ing the “pres­sure of the on­go­ing dis­pute” with Bob Geldof, who had not given Yates his per­mis­sion to bring two of their chil­dren to Aus­tralia, com­bined with the ef­fects of med­i­ca­tion and al­co­hol. (See next pages.) I learned of Michael’s death in a phone call from our younger brother, Rhett, at the same time as it was be­ing re­ported over CNN. I firmly be­lieve Michael’s death was a split­sec­ond de­ci­sion made out of anger and frus­tra­tion. I do be­lieve the coroner Derek Hand’s find­ings, though it is a lot more com­plex than this.

Last year, Michael and An­drew Far­riss were in­ducted into the Aus­tralian Song­writ­ers As­so­ci­a­tion Hall of Fame.

I was thrilled and proud when asked to travel to Aus­tralia and ac­cept the stat­uette.

I think Michael’s lyrics, his voice, his par­tic­u­lar unique phras­ing and show­man­ship will con­tinue to in­spire many gen­er­a­tions to come. He is Aus­tralia’s rock star known in­ter­na­tion­ally. What I miss most about him is his won­der­ful sense of hu­mour. He had the most an­i­mated way of telling a funny story. Look­ing back, I re­alise he didn’t use pro­fan­ity to em­pha­sise a point, he used clever vo­cab­u­lary. And I miss his hugs— warm and af­fec­tion­ate and long.

INXS as seen on the cover of their 1984 hit al­bum The Swing.

“We were close,” says Tina Hutchence of lit­tle brother Michael. Tina (with Michael in the early 1960s) of­ten cared for her younger brother when their par­ents were at work.

Hutchence (per­form­ing in the US in 1986) “was one of the most charis­matic rock stars in his­tory,” INXS man­ager Chris Mur­phy told WHO. Paula Yates, Hutchence and Tiger in Syd­ney in 1996. Tina re­cently reached out to her niece in an open let­ter, plead­ing for her to re­con­nect with her fam­ily. INXS in 1996. From left, Tim Far­riss, Kirk Pengilly, Hutchence, An­drew Far­riss, Garry Beers and Jon Far­riss.

Tina is lob­by­ing the NSW gov­ern­ment to honour Michael (per­form­ing in 1996) with a mon­u­ment in Syd­ney. Search “A Statue for Michael Hutchence” on

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