Copyright 2007 by Madame Arcati
Nicky Haslam’s life appears to have been one long Belle Epoque. Go back to 1963 and there he is at a Park Avenue dinner party introducing Warhol to “Baby” Jane Holzer in the company of Mick Jagger (pre-global fame) and photographer David Bailey. Fast forward to 2006 and there he is dining with Paris Hilton and Rupert Everett at London’s Ivy. Sometime in the decades between these two events, was that him lunching with the Queen Mother at the Castle of Mey?
Profiles invariably describe this A-list party Zelig as an “interior decorator” (clients: the Queen, Prince Charles, Bryan Ferry, et al) and “international socialite” (see above; check Google). Rarely noted are his sharply observed style, society and literary reports and reviews – full of Old Testament certainty and New Testament subtlety – that are plainly the work of a gifted comic writer with a ruthless eye for detail and a long memory: this will doubtless be confirmed when his name-dropping and disclosing memoirs are published later in 2007 – more about which below.
Then there’s the Haslam Exterior. A few years ago he dumped the Savile Row suits and started to model his look on Liam Gallagher before adopting other styles - gangsta rap, mod, bondage, commando, hippie, punk - and more complex creations which he describes as "Brazilian rough trade", "ironic Byronic", "Pirate gypsy" and "Cossack meets Red Indian". This self-described link with “pre-War faggotry” is now, aged 67, a photo op guide to the latest image tropes for the hyper-fashionable (and tragic?).
In a recent Londoner’s Diary for ES Magazine Haslam boasted of his latest style acquisition – a stalker. “The ultimate luxury is a stalker,” he decreed. The “stalker” is a 17-year-old called Fish “because she hates being called Natalie”. They have become great friends.
So, I became a fisher of Haslam details and caught up with Fish herself …
Hi, Fish. Nicky Haslam mentioned you a few weeks ago in his ES diary - tell us again what he wrote about you for the benefit of those who missed it.
[He wrote] "The ultimate luxury is a stalker. I've had one for about two years, and seen him once or twice lurking round my house, or walking by the office. He's about 17, spiky haired, T-shirt and boxer-short-showing loose jeans.
"The other day he met my friend Andrew Merron in a Soho bar, and recognised Andy from pap pics with me. Well, it turns out he's a she, a brilliant artist and cartoonist, calls herself Fish because she hates Natalie, and is one of the sweetest, most giving people I've ever met.
"My music education grows daily as Fish compiles CDs of the latest tunes, and her cartoon strip of me, called King Nicky, is on her website. If only I had the intellectual luxury of being able to access it."
He mentioned a website you'd dedicated to him ...? Did I get this wrong?
It's not a website for him as such. The site that hosts the cartoons he mentioned is DeviantArt - it's a great place for artists of any ability to post their work and receive both praise and constructive criticism - I've been registered there since January 2004.
However, there are two online groups for him - The Nicholas Haslam Google Group and The Nicholas Haslam Myspace Group.
Fish, tell us a bit about yourself, you're sweet 17 ... a student? An artist?
Both, at the moment. I returned to college last September after having dropped out of my last sixth form. I'm studying Fine Art at South East Essex College - fantastic place, jam-packed with fantastic people; it's so refreshing to be in a room full of artists all day, rather than in an over-academic and under-resourced grammar school workroom for an hour or so every other day.
What exactly is your interest in Nicky - why does he fascinate you?
That is a question I've been asking myself for the last two and a half years, and whatever answers I have are difficult to put words to. He is an astoundingly intriguing man in print, and in person, as I've found. Since I've met him, the interest hasn't waned either - he's such an individual, truly one of a kind.
Some think Nicky faintly absurd, what with his preoccupation with youthfulness and parties. Is this fair?
To this, Nicky himself says that "youthfulness and parties have more of a preoccupation with me." He didn't elaborate any further.
If certain people think that he spends all day thinking of ways to 'de-age' himself and then goes out on the party circuit all night, then I find myself wondering exactly what occupies the space between their ears.
He's an incredibly busy man - when I see him, he and everyone else in the office seem to be working their socks off non-stop; yet he still finds time to do everything else on his busy schedule, and then some. It really is quite amazing. I think it's because he's always active, always working at something or other, that he's done so much in his life, and will undoubtedly do so much more in the future.
As for a preoccupation with youthfulness, in an article entitled 'How do I look? Nicky Haslam: Stitch in time' (Peter Stanford, The Independent, April 29th, 2000) "I had a face-lift... not because I was chasing youth, but because I couldn't bear the jowliness. I wanted to look well-er rather than younger. Tighter, tauter."
To me he seems more ageless than anything else... he doesn't strike me as young/old. Listening to him reveals his age a little - both the sound of his voice and the fact that he's so knowledgeable... he's like a walking encyclopedia in a way.
As for the aforementioned 'thickies', I'd suggest looking up as much Nicky-related material as possible - see what other people say about him and what else he gets upto. Maybe dismissing him as some sad "Peter Pan" figure saves them from admitting that they're not getting as much from life as they could do if they strived for it... maybe they're just jealous?
Tell us how you met him.
While the article says I met Andrew Merron (who just rocks my socks, quite frankly) in a Soho bar, it was a bit different. Andy e-mailed me about Nicky after finding out about my interest in the man through my DeviantArt blog; over time we got into e-mailing each other a lot and eventually I met him when I was in London for a gig. He told Nicky about me, which freaked me out at first, but apparently Nicky loved the idea of me and wanted to meet me. We did go to the bars in Soho, and I got stuck in London all night - I admit to being sorely tempted to camp out on Nicky's doorstep all night (it's the warmest one along the road, coincidentally) but didn't.
There's the backstory, I suppose. Meeting him was quite surreal. I was wandering around Sloane Square and happened to be at the top of the road the NH Design office is on and I spotted Nicky locking up his office. I found my feet moving towards him almost instantly, it was one of those "oh, sod it!" moments. As I got nearer him, a car door opened in front of me and blocked my path, and a large van was coming around the bend in the road so I was stuck about fifteen feet away from him. I called out "Nicky!" and waved, he saw me and gave me one of those 'should I know you?' looks - this was when the nervousness started to set in, but I couldn't exactly run away.
"Hi," I said, once I was able to get past the car and over to him, "I'm Fish."
The blank expression on his face completely changed to one of... mild shock, I suppose. "You're Fish?" he questioned, enthusiastically shaking my hand before pulling me in for one of his fantastic hugs, "I've heard so much about you!"
A conversation spanning all sorts of topics from computer systems to TopMan to a Bryan Ferry gig ensued, and before I knew it he had my number and I was walking away... in a state of shock.
What does he think of you?
I don't tend to think about what other people think about me... if I did, I'd probably have some sort of paranoia complex.
Do you see him regularly, talk on the phone, email him ...? Do you gossip together?
Since I'm skint and I live in Southend (about an hour and a half from London), it's difficult to get to the city to see both Nicky and Andy. I ring him for a chat sometimes; it'd be easier to e-mail him, but although he's got an e-mail address he hardly uses it (or so I'm told) and I'd feel guilty if I spammed up Flora's inbox (his lovely PA).
He evidently likes you. Why, do you think?
I have no idea, but I'm glad that he does and that I haven't ended up with a restraining order or anything - I was not a scary stalker! I was just overly curious about him... I never chased him down the street, begging for his autograph or anything.
Tell us one thing about Nicky the world doesn't know.
He doesn't like seaweed. I have no idea why.
You know about his memoirs ... tell us more.
I don't know a great deal... just that Amazon has the titles wrong... to my knowledge, the titles stand as "There and Then" and "Here and Now".
The books look to be amazing and controversial reads. He's had an amazingly interesting life so far and he's put so much work into writing them - he's been away lately and informed me that, at one point, he'd been writing so much that he'd inflamed his wrist... but although he was in agony, he was "soldiering on" - so I urge everyone to get them when they're out, they're going to be great! (I think the release dates may be March and September 2007, but again Amazon may have it wrong).
Have you partied with Nicky, been to his home?
I've been to a Rolling Stones gig with him, which was a right laugh. I seem to remember Nicky going for the food as soon as we got there: "That woman's just had the last sausage... I'm so jealous!" About twenty seconds later, he was off in the other direction: "Ooh! Chocolate cake!" It was a great gig... and the cakes did look fantastic.
There was also the Donna Ida store launch party in South Ken - I helped Nicky to customise a pair of jeans with the King Nicky cartoon, in aid of Jeans for Genes. Cath and I arrived after it had started, and he was just leaving for Tom Parker-Bowles' book launch party. So we got the hellos and the hugs in before he had to head off.
I've not been to his home, no... though I've got pictures of the exterior (and the interior shots from Sheer Opulence). I've sat outside the flat many a time, and reminded him of a day just over a year ago that he walked past two teenagers who yelled "HELLO!" up at him (we'd been on the San Miguel) and he said "Hello" back and then went into the flat. And Cath and I ended up camping out on the doorstep one rainy night of October 2005, after having missed the last train home. That was a great night... although running to a hotel all the way down the road to use a toilet and running out of cigarettes by three in the morning were notable downsides. To top it all off, we didn't see him in the morning... though we did get pictures of his car.
You describe yourself as a tomboy. What does that mean exactly? Is this a psychological state, a sexual one, a sartorial one?
It's most obviously a sartorial one. I haven't been willingly put into anything I'd deem 'girly' since the age of about four. I shop mostly in TopMan (man-boxers are actually fantastic) and the men's sections of other stores like H&M and Debenhams. It's awkward in some places because I'm particular about size, but I manage and I'm comfortable.
I think it's psychological to quite an extent also since I have a great many manly characteristics that I just can't shake. I won't go into everything, but I am certain I have an unhealthy amount of testosterone in my body.
From a very young age I was hanging out with boys instead of girls, my two best friends from the age of about one to seven were guys and at the moment some of my greatest friends are fantastic young men who I love to pieces! If you ask most of them, genders count for nothing in our friendships... which I think makes them that much stronger in a way. Mind you, it has to be said that being stuck at Westcliff High School for Girls for five and a half years evened the balance a fraction (the boys' school is right next door and there's another boys' school across the road, so it seems a bit pointless).
The only downside is on the pulling front. I've got about five women after me at the moment, who just can't seem to accept that I'm straight; but the men who do come along seem to stick around for a long time - I think when they get past the blokey walk and the... well, the general manliness really, they do see that underneath it all is a somewhat erratic and eccentric young woman. I'm all over the place most of the time - head stuck in the clouds and feet desperately battling to stay on the ground.
If you were a magician what would you wish for Nicky and yourself?
Can magicians grant wishes? Perhaps I'll have to conjure a magic lamp first, and then see what sort of mood the genie inside is in before thinking of what to wish for.
What is your main ambition in life?
To live, at the moment. I take each day as it comes... any solid ambitions haven't made themselves known to me just yet. I don't particularly mind where I end up in life, as long as I'm happy and I've got my friends around me... and maybe a little bit of cash, since that always helps.
And finally (for now), what would your friends say of your interest in Nicky if you weren't in the room?
Most likely that it is completely insane, and that they will never get their heads around what I see in the man. And the line "just goes to show, stalking certainly pays off!" would probably figure in there somewhere.
Many thanks Fish. A Happy New Year to you and Nicky.