While many performers regard their on-stage personas as something of an alter ego, far removed from their more placid, ordinary selves, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury very much lived up to his own grandiose, larger-than-life reputation.
In his private life, Mercury was notorious for throwing the wildest, most bizarre parties that pushed the bar of rock'n'roll excess into new heights. In 1987, for example, he threw one of the craziest parties the rock world had seen, complete with nude waiters and waitresses, men biting the heads off of live chickens, and naked wrestlers. His penchant for partying was known amongst his friends too, such as Elton John who once said: "Freddie Mercury could out-party me, which is saying something. We’d be up for nights, sitting there at 11 in the morning, still flying high.”
It comes to no surprise then that Mercury was something of a night owl, crawling between various London clubs into the earliest of hours, a habit well documented in the 2018 Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
One of the most fascinating tales about the frontman's busy nightlife was the time he allegedly helped dress up Princess Diana as a male model, and snuck her into a South London gay club.
Given the security risks this would have posed, it's an unbelievable-sounding tale, and, as such, was explored (with amusing actor enactments) on Urban Myths, a comedy drama series on Sky Arts that explores popular yet unproven anecdotes surrounding pop culture.
However, various people that were allegedly there on the night have verified it as the truth, with the anecdote being retold, for instance, in actress/comedian Cleo Rocos' book, The Power of Positive Drinking.
Rocos recounts that she was hanging out with Mercury and Princess Diana at Kenny Everett's home sometime in the 1980s, drinking champagne and watching episodes of Golden Girls together, while dubbing their own “naughty dialogue” over the muted visuals. After asking about their plans for the evening, the "People's Princess" was told that the group were planning on heading out to the “notorious” gay bar, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in South London.
Declaring that she was in "full mischief mode", her request to join them was wholeheartedly supported by Mercury who suggested that she should be allowed to have "some fun". Of course, a nightclub was not an ideal place for a royal and future Queen of England to visit, especially one whose every move was meticulously documented (and often scrutinised) in the British tabloids.
Nevertheless, the team made sure that Di's desires to let her hair down were met, and had the clever idea to put her in a disguise so that no one would recognise her. Apparently, the group of friends garbed her up in a more masculine style, comprised of a baseball cap, sunglasses and an army bomber jacket.
Wary of whether the plan would actually work, she remembers, “When we walked in… we felt she was obviously Princess Diana and would be discovered at any minute. But people just seemed to blank her. She sort of disappeared. But she loved it. She did look like a beautiful young man.”
As they successfully made their way into the club undetected, pleased that they had pulled off their well-devised scheme, Rocos adds: "Diana and Freddie were giggling, but she did order a white wine and a beer. Once the transaction was completed, we looked at one another, united in our triumphant quest. We did it!".
Further elaborating on the moment in her book Kenny and Me: Bananas Forever, she says: "Freddie said, 'Go on, let the girl have some fun.' […] Scrutinising her in the half light, we decided that the most famous icon of the modern world might just – just – pass for a rather eccentrically dressed gay male model…
"We inched through the leather throngs and thongs, until finally we reached the bar. We were nudging each other like naughty schoolchildren."
A night well worth celebrating: well done everyone.