Mary Austin, the woman who accepted the sexuality of Freddie Mercury and was unconditional even after his death

(Grosby)
(Grosby)

I wanted to grow old with her. Long before he knew that the electrifying power of his voice would barely fade at 45, Freddie Mercury promised in an interview that he would love Mary Austin “to the last breath”. It was 1985, and the singer did not hesitate: “If I die before her,” he said, “I’m going to give her everything I have. Nobody else is going to see a penny, except my cats. “

By then he was convinced that only Austin – and perhaps Jerry, the cat they shared in their six years of living together, between 1970 and 1976 – had completely reciprocated him in love. And he explained it bluntly: “You can be the loneliest person in the world even if you are loved by thousands, and the frustration is even greater, because it is difficult for others to understand your loneliness. Everybody loves the pop star, nobody loves the real Freddie Mercury. “

But she really knew him and loved him. At the peak of Queen’s popularity, Mary was the only one who dared to tell the truth and even boss this capricious rockstar and always surrounded by a flattering environment in which fame and massive shows had made him. And it was obvious to him: He said that only she made him really happy. “I can have all the problems in the world,” he repeated, “but if I have Mary, I know I can get through them.”

Freddie and Mary at the beginning of the relationship. At first she was his personal assistant. Then he was the love of his life (BM)
Freddie and Mary at the beginning of the relationship. At first she was his personal assistant. Then he was the love of his life (BM)

The writer tells it Lesley-Ann Jones, who participated in several tours of the band in the eighties, when Mary was already the musician’s personal assistant. It was Freddie’s way of making sure he had her around when their courtship ended. That and one more, much more literal: he moved to a house in Stafford Terrace, from where he could see his apartment through the window, as it shows Bohemian Rhapsody, the 2018 biopic for which Austin earned more than $ 51 million in royalties. The film, which sheds light on the history of the unwavering loyalty between the musician and the woman to whom he dedicated that hymn of lovers that is Love of my life (1975), was accused of doing straight-washing, that is, of focusing on that heterosexual relationship when, although Mercury never spoke about his sexuality, he was a gay icon of his time. In fact, she lived until her last days with her boyfriend Jim Hutton, with whom she had a relationship since 1985.

Neither that nor Mary’s two marriages – she had three children, and Freddie was the oldest’s godfather – prevented him from always calling her his “legal wife.” They had separated fifteen years before and never got married, but, Until his last breath, on November 24, 1991, he made it clear that no one was ever going to take Austin’s place: “All my lovers ask me why they can’t replace Mary, but it’s just impossible. She is the only friend I have, and I don’t want anyone else. For me she is my wife. For me it was a marriage. We believe in each other, and that’s enough for me. “ And that confidence transcended his death. As he had always anticipated, he left the woman of his life his entire fortune; also his greatest posthumous secret: where he would be buried.

They had met in 1969, when Austin was 19 years old and was a salesperson at the legendary Biba boutique, epicenter of Swinging London. Freddie was 24, and still on the rise, he used to go to the place with guitarist Brian May, who went out a couple of times with Mary before his partner confessed that he had fallen in love with her, and asked his permission to invite her. “In the beginning, most of the time I came with someone. He smiled, said ‘hello’ and passed – she says in the documentary Freddie Mercury -The untold story-. But his visits became more and more frequent. It must have been five or six months until he finally asked me if I wanted to go out with him. Five months later we were living together and we continued like this for about six years ”.

Freddie Mercury and Mary Austin when they were still living together (Photo by Terence Spencer / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images)
Freddie Mercury and Mary Austin when they were still living together (Photo by Terence Spencer / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images)

Mary was of humble origin and her life completely changed when she began her romance with the musician. She accompanied him in the first successful years of his career: “We grew up together,” she said in an interview with the Daily Mail in 2013. They were happy days: she accompanied him to recordings and on the long nights he spent composing. One Christmas he proposed to her with a jade ring, and Mary accepted. But months passed, and although she was deluded with a dress, the proposal was diluted. “I never questioned him, but he had started to question himself. He probably wanted to get married, but he began to wonder if that was going to be fair to me, “Austin said about the end of the courtship, when Mercury revealed that he was bisexual. “I don’t think you are bisexual. I think you’re gay, ”she told him.

It was the end of the coexistence, but also the moment infinite trust was sealed and the certainty that in her he would find a voice capable of speaking to him truthfully and as equals, if necessary as if he were not a rockstar. He didn’t think she was going to support him, but he found the most sincere form of love: “As he told me, I saw him happier and more relaxed. And it made me happy to see him happy, because being gay was also part of what I loved about him. I couldn’t deny him that because ours was serious love, and true love understands and accepts ”.

That day, Freddie hugged her and told her that no matter what happened, I wanted it to be part of his life forever. “We create a routine of an unconventional life. If there was a meal, I would sit next to him, on one side, and his latest boyfriend, on the other, ”Mary recalled.

Mary Austin, Jim Hutton -the singer's last boyfriend- and Freddie Mercury. She was always with the leader of Queen. And he made her his main heir
Mary Austin, Jim Hutton -the singer’s last boyfriend- and Freddie Mercury. She was always with the leader of Queen. And he made her his main heir

Austin was the first to know that the Queen singer had HIV, the doctor called her to give her the results, because Mercury, who suspected what she had, refused to answer the phone. Mary was an unconditional supporter in her last days, when He took turns with Hutton and three other close friends to lie on his bed and accompany him. One afternoon, he woke up from a morphine dream and when he saw her sitting next to him, he smiled: “There you are, my oldest and most unconditional friend.” For those days was when Mercury revealed that he planned to give her 50 percent of the rights for future earnings of his image and his records, and the Garden Lodge mansion, in West Kensington – valued at US $ 22 million -, in which Mary lives until today, at 70 years old. “If things had been different, you would be my wife and all this would be yours anyway,” he assured her when she tried to convince him that it was too much. He also warned him that it was not going to be easy, and that the others were not going to understand. And I’m glad he did, because Jealousy and envy hit me like a Japanese bullet train Mary said in that 2013 interview. It was very painful. He had left me so much and, at the same time, so much to take care of! I came to think that I was not going to be able to ”.

After the disappearance of Mercury, Hutton, an Irish hairdresser who only received 600 thousand dollars (a return compared to the fortune that the musician bequeathed to Mary), denounced that he had been kicked out of Garden Lodge even though the singer wanted him to continue living there. He used the inheritance to return to Ireland, where he wrote a book about his relationship with Freddie. He had had to share his most painful years with the idol and a widowhood less recognized than that of that first girlfriend that Freddie chose to be the love of his life until after his death. He himself was HIV positive, although advances in the treatment of the virus prevented him from dying of AIDS like Mercury: died of lung cancer, in 2010.

But the biggest challenge for Mary was to be the guardian of the final destiny of the ashes of his friend. “He didn’t want anyone trying to dig him up, like other famous people had. Fans can be deeply obsessive. He wanted it to be a secret and it will continue to be, ”Mary told the Daily Mail.

Freddie with Austin at the 1987 Ivor Novello Awards (Grosby)
Freddie with Austin at the 1987 Ivor Novello Awards (Grosby)

The first two years, he kept the chest with Freddie’s remains in his room at the Kensington mansion. “It was difficult to find the moment. He didn’t want anyone to suspect that he was doing something out of the ordinary. One morning I just sneaked out of the house with the urn. It had to seem like a normal day so that no one was suspicious “, he counted. A few days earlier, he had called his parents, Bomi and Jer Bulsara, to an intimate ceremony at the Garden Lodge in memory of Mercury. But not even they knew where their son would rest forever.

It was speculated that they would have returned to their native Zanzibar, that they would have been buried under a cherry tree in the Japanese garden of the Garden Lodge itself, and that they were in the Kensal Green cemetery under another identity. Austin denied each version and stayed true to his promise: “No one will ever know where they are buried because that was their wish.”. In the docuseries Freddie Mercury: A Life in Ten Pictures, which the BBC presented this year to honor him thirty years after his death, they ask Mary about him: “He left me a lot, but I lost the most important thing, because he was my family, my life. Other than my kids, Freddie was everything to me. He is unlike anyone he has ever met and anyone he might get to know. He was my great love, I would have preferred to go before him. “

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Mary Austin, the woman who accepted the sexuality of Freddie Mercury and was unconditional even after his death