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