Fred­die Mer­cury? He used to sell leather jack­ets in my shop!

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Bev­er­ley Lyons

FOR four years he em­ployed a lit­tle-known singer named Fred­die Mer­cury in his Lon­don mar­ket stall, sell­ing trendy leather goods to wannabe pop stars in­clud­ing David Bowie.

So when Alan Mair was ap­proached by re­searchers look­ing for in­ter­est­ing back­ground on the late Queen star for the film Bo­hemian Rhap­sody, he was happy to oblige.

Glas­gow-born Mair, who en­joyed fame him­self with 1960s boy band The Beat­stalk­ers, re­calls first en­coun­ter­ing the singer at the end of 1969 in Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket, where Fred­die and drum­mer Roger Taylor also had a shop.

He said: ‘Fred­die was sell­ing his art as well as sec­ond-hand clothes, but his shop wasn’t busy. So I said to Fred­die, “Can you look af­ter my shop in the morn­ing?”.

‘I found him ar­tic­u­late and hon­est, al­though, as the film sug­gested, he was known for be­ing a lit­tle late at times. Some peo­ple would tell me Fred­die opened the stall at 11am, not 10am, but the stock was al­ways sold, so I didn’t mind. I could tell I could trust him.’

Mer­cury worked for Mair un­til 1974, even af­ter get­ting his record deal, and Mair kept in touch with him, oc­ca­sion­ally pop­ping into the star’s Ed­war­dian man­sion in West Lon­don for a cup of tea. Al­though no men­tion was made in the movie of Mer­cury’s mar­ket days, Mair felt as if he was re­liv­ing his past when he saw ac­tor Rami Malek play­ing a young Fred­die with his then girl­friend, Mary Austin. ‘He was al­ways with her in Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket and they got Fred­die’s af­fec­tion for Mary spot on,’ says Mair. ‘He only had one per­son in his life at that time – Mary. In the mar­ket they were known as girl­friend and boyfriend and Mary was a very sweet and lovely per­son. De­vel­op­ments re­gard­ing Fred­die’s real per­sua­sion came later.’

Mer­cury, who would go on to be­come as fa­mous for his excessive lifestyle as his ex­u­ber­ant stage per­sona, died from AIDS in 1991. Re­call­ing how fame changed his friend, Mair said: ‘In 1975, I saw him af­ter the Ham­mer­smith show when it was all go­ing to his head and he was a dif­fer­ent Fred­die.’

At a later gig when Mer­cury showed up, Mair re­called their pre­vi­ous meet­ing and walked away: ‘I heard some heels clip-clip­ping be­hind me and it was Fred­die, who said, “I know I’ve been a bit of an a ****** e but I’ve put all of that be­hind me”.

‘We spent the rest of the night hav­ing a drink and chat.’

STAR QUALITY: Rami Malek as Fred­die Mer­cury

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