Monday, June 20, 2016

The Sun Interview

WHEN Elton John decided his business affairs were a mess, he turned to the most important man in his life.


But he knew making partner David Furnish his “CEO” would not be plain sailing.

“I call him Yoko now because a lot of people don’t like what he’s doing,” confesses the flamboyant superstar about his significant other of 23 years.

If you recall, many thought John Lennon’s infatuation with Yoko Ono was responsible for breaking up The Beatles.

“David has taken over the complete reins,” 69-year-old Elton tells me. “We’re a family business now and we’re trying to get rid of people we really don’t need.”

I meet Sir Elton Hercules John at his surprisingly discreet West London home to find him in rollicking form, keen to set the record straight on a number of issues.

At one point, “Yoko” saunters in from walking one of the couple’s dogs, offers a polite handshake and retreats.

We’re supposed to be moving to one of the sumptuous reception rooms adorned with priceless items from Elton’s extensive art collection… but never get further than the small, round kitchen table.

Aside from his husband’s new role, he raves about his sons and talks about how they help him through the dark times.

He also reveals his email conversations with pal Rod Stewart about dying and says living in Britain can be “lethal”.

And Elton really does want to sit down with Vladimir Putin to discuss LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) prejudice in Russia.

Between us stands a bowl of perfect fresh white roses (naturally) and he continues at a rate of knots about his new business arrangements.

“We just changed some assistants,” he says. “It’s very unfortunate and I’m very sad about it but we’re trying to run a tight ship. I want to have a business that I can pass on to my boys.

“Not that they’re going to be musicians but I wanted to make sure I’m going to leave them something really worthwhile.

“And when you do that, you’ve got to become unpopular. David is Mr Unpopular but he’s making the decisions that have to be made.”

And how, I wonder, does Mr Furnish react to negativity? “It gets him down but he’s strong. He’s an amazing guy and the office is in the best shape it’s ever been.

“He went to a dinner recently and the head of Universal told him, ‘We’ve never been happier with Elton.’

“In the past, my management would say, ‘We want more money.’ It was never, ‘What can we both do together?’ It was always a one-way street.”

When our chat begins, I find Elton pondering a themed Thunderbirds party for his beloved boys Zachary, five, and Elijah, three. It’s clear they have become his No1 priority, the main reason their other dad is in control of Elton John Inc.

It is their unconditional love that sustains him through choppy waters.

Elton says: “I go to the dark side very quickly. That old thing on my shoulder can push me back there. It’s usually caused by tiredness, overwork and sometimes by frustration that I’m missing my boys when I’m away.

“I was in South Korea in November and I’d never felt so far away from them. I was really down and then I just FaceTimed my boys. They went, ‘I love you, Daddy, where are you?’ and everything felt better.

“Artists tend to be self-destructive. I don’t know why it is. No pain, no gain, as they say. I don’t like the dark side very much and it doesn’t happen very often.”

Right now, Elton says he’s rarely felt happier. “Ninety nine per cent of the reason is the boys. My life is pretty wonderful anyway but when you do get things that go wrong and then spend one second with them, everything goes back to normal.

“They have this amazing quality of making things that are a pain in the ar*e disappear very quickly.

“I spent the morning with Elijah before I came up here. He’s not in school today and he’s just amazing.

“He’s only just three and he’s having incredible conversations. It’s just joyous.”

Although Elton has homes in Beverly Hills, Atlanta and Nice, he wants his family to maintain strong bonds in good old Blighty, where he owns an estate at Windsor and the West London pad where we are meeting.

He provides fascinating insights into his feelings about Britain. “As soon as you live here, they shoot you down and sometimes it’s very painful. I would say Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson would still be alive if they had lived in England because people here wouldn’t have let them get away with that s**t, it’s so down-to-earth.

“The most fantastic thing about this country is the sense of humour. Sometimes I have my ups and downs with the Press but I’d far rather have that than live full-time in America where you’re treated like royalty and it’s too much.

“I love it over there but there’s not enough irony there and it’s not England. This country is absolutely lethal!

“Hence I don’t go on Twitter. Things you say in jest, when you look at them in print, oh my God.”

But Elton does save choice language for his old mucker Rod Stewart. The singing legends go back to the Sixties and are well aware they are among a dying breed.

“Oh my God, Rod and I have been emailing each other a lot recently,” he explains. “He was upset when David Bowie died and sent me an email saying, ‘Oh dear, there’s not many of us left. They’re all dying off, doll — what are we going to do?’ He sent me another saying, ‘I hardly ever have a headache but yesterday morning I had the biggest f***ing banger I’ve ever had. It was because you were on the f***ing radio.’

“I call him Phyllis, so it’ll say, ‘Love Phyllis’ and I reply, ‘You left the ‘S’ off the front of your name. It should be Syphilis.’”

Joshing aside, he even goes a bit misty-eyed when he adds: “I love Rod. We’ve been so competitive towards each other but in the nicest way.

“I’ve kept all the emails I’ve sent him and the ones he’s sent me because they are hilarious.”

Not so hilarious is Elton’s embarrassment at being hoaxed by a prankster purporting to be President Putin. But he remains resolute in having it out with the Russian leader over LGBT rights.

He says: “I’m not going to go to Putin and say, ‘You’ve got to do this and you’ve got to do that.’ There’s no way! Because who the f*** am I?

“But I’m going to sit down, have a cup of tea with him and finally broach the subject of LGBT.

“We’ll probably talk about something else for a while but if I can help towards changing something I have to do it.

“It doesn’t have to be about gay people. It’s anyone who’s having a hard time living under an awful regime. I’ll do anything to help someone make their life better but I’m under no illusion that it’s going to be me who changes things.

“If enough people try, in the end it will happen. If one domino falls, then so will others.

“It’s already happening in America. You’ve got the Christian Right and the Republicans still stomping around about gay marriage but it’s too late. If they don’t like it, tough.”

Another of Elton’s passionate subjects is football. The former Watford owner, now joint Honorary Life President, had a Vicarage Road stand named after him in 2014.

After giving me a full critique of the Hornets’ latest performance, he says: “We’ve done an amazing job. It’s a beautifully run club and the owners are sensational.

“There’s not a negative thing I can say about that club and believe me, there have been a lot of negative things in the past.”

And what does he make of Leicester’s success in giving hope to all the smaller clubs?

“How great is that? I am so thrilled for them because they play brilliant football.

“Danny Drinkwater (who played for Watford on loan) bless his heart. He’s probably one of the best midfielders in the Premier League.

“And Bournemouth play brilliant football. You don’t have to spend billions to have a great team.”

Finally, Elton turns to the consummate skill that made him an international star . . . his music and, in particular, his live performances.

“I’m stuck at the plank (his term for the grand piano), thank God,” he says. “I used to hate it in my early days but now one is hurtling towards pension — well, past pensioner time in fact — I’m glad I’m there.” This leads him into a staunch defence of the Rolling Stones. “I can’t help admiring Mick Jagger because his vitality is the same as when he was younger.

“And Keith, Ronnie and Charlie love to play. Good for them. What else are they going to f***ing do?

“When people say, ‘Oh they should stop,’ it’s bulls**t. They like to play and they like to earn.”

As for Elton, he says he wants to spend more time with his boys but will never give up music.

He believes his last two albums show “both sides of my character. On The Diving Board, you’ve got the very serious, sad, sometimes self-destructive, plaintive Elton. Then on Wonderful Crazy Night, you have the joyous me.

“At this time in my career, I’m so happy I’m not just singing f***ing Motown records.”

- The Sun

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