October 1, 2020

1986-04-13 – The Observer

1986 04 13 The_Observer_Sun__Apr_13__1986_ 2

Continued trom page 19

disputes between Daitrey and
Townshcnd —— into theatrical dis-
plays of disruptiveness.

T he most famous of these was
Townshcnd’s habit of ' ' his
guitar. One night, late in 1964 at the
Railway Tavern, Townshend dis—
covered that if he banged his guitar
againstthe ceiling‘ it sounded great. '
He did It again the next night, and the
gmtar broke. ‘There were a few
laughs, mainly negative reaction;
everyone was waiting for me to kind
of sob over my guitar . . . I had no
recourse but to completely look as
though i'd meant to do it, so I
smashed the guitar and jumped all
over the bits. It gave me a fantastic
buzz . . . The next day the place
Was packed.’ ’ ‘

_K1t saw at once that'this apparent
disaster provided the band with a
climax to their act. He encouraged
Townshend to make it a regular
event and recommended the others
to )0m in. Moon was particularly
glad to oblige. The Who‘s destruc-
tiveness combined a recognition of
material values with a seornful dis—
paragement of them. '

Kit also understood that this part
of the band’s act, while helliicng to
make them notorious, was 1y to
wreck them. ' replacement
egmpment was simpy too expen-
sive. After a short northern tour Kit
had run up an overdraft of £60,000.

We were getting £50 a night, and
Pete was smashing 'guitar's worth
£200 and amps Worth twice that.’
The only way to avoid disaster, Kit
88W. was to turn to yet another area of
the musie business in which he had
no experience but which offered the
chance of enormoua wealth:

The Who went on to achieve huge
success, first with singlfl, them With

their rack operas, ‘ Tommy ’ and
‘ Quadraphem'a.’ But Kit’s erratic
management and increasing drug add-
iction were to sour his relationship with
thegroup. In I 971 he look a recupera-
tive holiday in Venice with Daria

‘ It’s so beautiful I think I’m going
to be sick,’ he said when they
arrived. The effect on his spirits was
comically evident one lunchtime
when he was eating in St Mark’s
Square and runners in the Venice
Msrathon pounded past his table.
Kit leapt up, threw his raincoat over
his arm, and Was first to the post. A
photograph shows him with his
cravat flying and his startled oom-
petitors gawping in disbelief.

As Daria and Kit explored the city,
they .Palazzo Dario, near the
mon ofthe Grand Canal, and Kit
said, ‘ Look, it’s called after you. I'll
buy that house one day. ’ He was, for
once in his later life, as good as his
word. The Dario is one of the most
fancifully beautiful houses in Venice,
built late in the fifteenth century by
Pietro Lombardo, with an intricate
grey and yellow marble facade into
which are set exquisite discs, rosettes
and plaques. .~ -

It had been standing empty for
several years before Kit saw it,
because the previous owner had been
murdered. But what had deterred
the Venetians excited Kit. The
prospect of living in a palace of ill
repute in Venice galvanised the
snobbery that he had shown as a
iSoung man at Oxford. According to

aria, he saw the house asameans of
renewing contact with the fashion-
able soc1ety his' father had known,
and which had been forfeited during
Kit’s years working closely with The

Eventually, with the help of his
friend and publicity assistant Anya,

‘2 7Z2 tidyedyofi/(lz‘ flamée‘zt

he paid £115,000 through the Swiss
holding company which owned the
Dario. ‘ We taught the 8.30 train to
Switzerland to clinch the deal,’ Anya
says, ‘ Kit with a terrible hangover,
eating filthy sandwiches, and spilling
coffee all over himself. We got off at
Milan and were met by a lawyer,
Giorgio Manera . Kit dro all the
papers which he was ho , and as
they blew down the platform said,
“ That’s it. That’s total] bad
luck.” ’ Eventually the d went
through in Lugano at a smart hotel
where Kit once again spilt coffee
down himself and walked around
with a copy of The Times tucked into
his waist to hide the stains.

Sense of adventure

Before Kit moved into the Dario,
he took rooms in the Gritti Palace
Hotel, invited friends to stay and
even celebrated his new sense of
adventure by taking flying lessons at
Venice airport. Two days after
moving in he held an official opening
of the house, which was attended by
most of the well-connected people of
the city — Peggy Guggenheim,

Anya persuaded Kit that his new
acquaintances should be entertained
in the style to which they were
accustomed. He brought out, Anya
says, ‘ masses of- stuff from London
—an enormous set of Spode, for
one. I had to smuggle endlessly.
Once I brought out £5,000 in a paper
bag and a silver candelabra in a
suitcase. ’ The city warmed to Kit as
enthusiastically as he did to it,
particularly since he persuaded Sir
Ashley Clarke, the former British

Ambassador, that he would be a
generous supporter of the charity
‘VenieeinPeril.’ Kiteven ‘

a dinner-party at the Gritti to
celebrate his first don ation, at which
a pudding of his own invention
provided the climax. It was a model
of the Salute and was wheeled in to
strains of the 1812 Overture, covered
in lights, with fireworks whining out
of its huge mass.

Kit’s life in Venice obviously
satisfied his social aspirations (he was
delighted to find himself referred to
by the locals as ‘Barone’). After a
few weeks, however, he began to
miss his fellow rock’n’rollers. ‘ A lot
of the pop sycophants went,’ Town-
shend said later, ‘ but none of the
band. He desperately wanted us to

o, butwewere not interested, or too

usy. ' The one pop star who did visit
contacted Kit by accident, and before
he had actually moved into the
Dario. Kit himself later told the story
frequently and proudly :

{iwals stérying at theggie'tti, the lien

etc in uro . . . evening

downforadfienkandaeeMick] :2

and Bianca arrivingbymotorhoat. e

has escaped iron the world’s press

after their marriage in the South of

France, and come to Venice incognito
for their honeymoon. The staff show
him into a room like a matchbox. It
looks on to a brick wall three feet away
on the other side of the canal full of
turds and cabbage stalks. So I inter-
vene and say to them: ‘ Look, if you
don’t mind aharin a drawmg room, I
have a spare doub e room and you can
have that. ' There they are, billing and
cooing, and he ' shneked at the
sight of their match it they gratefully
accept when they see (my) fourposter
and a balcony. I never see them as they

lock themselves in their room most of
the time, butsoonwegetintn thehabit
of having dinner together. When they


say, ‘I’llpaytheirbill’ . . . Thenext
Paradise, or at least another room. It‘s
got flowered wallpaper now. But then,

when I'm fully awake, I realise that
I'm surrounded by 24 dozen

red. Mick must have exhausted the
entire contents of hali-a-dom flower
ahopsinVenioe. '

Over the next few year: financial
difficulties ruined Kit’s Venetian
dream and he was finally forced to roll
the Daria in 1979. Thereafter his
health declined rapidly.

During the s ' of 1981 Kit’s
condition worsened tiealiy:he
began to iniect heroin rather than
merely snort it. Hts erstwhile coll-
eagues still showed no sign of
wanting to help him and his new
friends expected nothing more than
contusion illuminated by flashes of
his former self. ‘He had the tem-
nants of wonderful mannexs,’
saidDariaShuvalo . ‘ltwaslike
gm eoald alwmbnnghimu 83:3

“ a a very '

Kit’s feelings for his mother were
particularly vexed. Hetelt ashamed
in her company: ashamed of his
homosexuality, oi the collapse of his
career and of his inability to form any
durable friendships; In the last few
to resurrect his father Constant’s
re utation, he also made regular

one to resume what might be
considered normal relations with his

. mother.

Flo welcomed the attempts, but
was horrified by his deterioration.
She remembers him coming to see
her when she was making mince pies.
He wandered round the kitthen,
shivering and dazed, talked
increasingly wildly for a long time,
then suddenly seizing the filling for
the pies and patted italloverhisfaoe.

Neither his mother nor any of his
friends expected him to survive for
long, but the end was more brutal
and .confuaed than their worst

' . On the evening of Satur-
day 25 g ril, Kit appeared at his
mother’s nt door in a terrible
state, saying he’d been mu and
hadnomoney.’Flo paido ’ taxi,
sat himdown and heardhisstory. He
told her that he had been to a club
called The Yours and Mine and had
been beaten up by four men in the
lavatory. As he spoke, he ' kept
filling out of his chair—he was
really in a terrible state—his face
wasbruised ancient. He asked mefor
a brandy and I told him “you’re

' me to kill you." He insisted,

and when I gave it to him he dropped
it.’ ' -

Banged his head

Kit’s account of the eVening was
inarticulate, but. Flo’s su uent
interpretation is plausible. 'e.he
was talking, she says, he produced
‘ some white powder drugs wrapped
in silver per from a cigarette

cket.’ 0 an posed that he had

it beaten up use he had been
unable to gay for the drugs he had
got. The ‘ ourmen ’ had pushed him
heavily' gainst the stand-up lavato-
nee and banged his head.

Flo sensibly decided that the best
thing was to get him to bed. Before
doing so, she rang the police to report
the attack, but they were too familiar
with Kit’s reputation, and with The

Yours and Mine. 00 tile h?
seriously. ‘ asKen think we 1)
nannies .9 ’ they ed her. Kit, 110!
showing signs of recovering from the
shock of his assault, was becoming
unruly. He begged her to, let him
drink more brandy and, when she
denied him, he ran u tairs, flung
himself into a bath, ambered out
and eventually went to bed.

Flo told him that he was ‘on no.

account to it) downstairs again,"
fearing that e t disobey her
Instructions about e brandy, then -

weirt to bed herself. A short while
later she was woken up by the sound*
ohhim falling downstairs and dis»
covered him unconscious at the -
bottom step, ‘ bleeding from the nose
and mouth.’ .
Kit was taken by ambulance to
Chafing Cross Hospital, where he
was diagnosed as having suffered a
brain hemorrhage, and put on a life-
sapport machine. He showed ‘no

e a

signs of consciousness and "
his doctors deciged that mote spei- '

cialist care was needed, so moved
him to the Middlesex (Central)
HospitalinActon. Asthe news ofhis '
accidlentshspriaad, onlgha. very few ‘
peop e ow enou interest to _
“Slims? d; ' 27 April
v on y momma, ‘ ,.
opinions were unanimous. The dam-
age to. Kit’s brain was irreparableh
and his hfe-support machine We:
turned off. Hewas45yearsold,ant_i .
withinafortni htoflivingforexactlyx,
aslongashis ther had done. .- 9t
Kits eniuswastounderstandand
reflect e 313th of the 19603; hie
tragedy was to find himself beaqhedx‘
by the changing titles of fashion.,
Recklessness was the essentta .
ingredient of his success, and the
inevitable cause of his downfall. Like
his father and grandfather before
him, he was never less than halfin
love with disaster.