The dinner for 90 people was certainly lavish. The interior of Mosimann’s private dining club in London’s ultra-rich Belgravia was decked with organza and bunches of grapes, while birch trees adorned tables loaded with gold plates and armfuls of white roses.
Sir Elton John doesn’t really do understated, and this event — thrown to celebrate the birthday of his valet — was no exception.
It was said that the singer paid a staggering £250,000 to make sure that the man he called ‘Brenda’ had a very special night. However, two years on, and the valet, Mike Hewitson, is no longer in Elton’s life.
Once one of the closest people to the singer, he is among a number who have departed his sphere — apparently due to the influence of the singer’s gym-honed, much-younger husband, David Furnish.
It used to be said that Elton could not do without the dapper, handsome and unflappable Hewitson, who started out as the road manager for the pop group the Dave Clark Five.
But this bond — and, it seems, so many other meaningful relationships in the star’s life — has broken.
Who else has gone? Well, manager John Reid went some years ago, as did Elton’s Man Friday, Bob Halley, a driver turned personal assistant. ‘Bob and David Furnish never got on,’ I was told this week.
And I can reveal that over the past 18 months, they have been joined on Elton’s persona non grata list by other key figures in his entourage.
Significantly, Frank Presland, the pugnacious lawyer who fought his corner for over two decades, is no longer at the helm of Rocket Music, the management company of which Elton is co-founder.
Presland, who once represented The Beatles and Dusty Springfield, set up another artist management company for Elton, before starting Rocket Music for him. They were close friends for decades.
He supervised Elton’s legal battles against manager John Reid and others, but left in October last year. He is now on the board of an investment company which has no links to the singer. Meanwhile, I’m told his counterpart in the U.S., Johnny Barbis, has also left.
Barbis, who met Elton 30 years ago used to be the CEO of Island Records and has worked with John Lennon and U2.
His title at Rocket Music was ‘Chairman North America’: essentially he was Elton’s U.S. manager and also a dear friend.
Gone, too, is Todd Interland, an Elton employee of 16 years standing (11 as his manager.) Interland signed and managed artists on the Rocket Records label, including James Blunt and Lily Allen, as well as Elton — and was responsible for all the company’s new business development. But he left last year and took James Blunt with him. Hairdresser John Fallon has been declared surplus to requirements, too, after 12 years fluffing Elton’s wigs.
Fallon, who comes from Beverly Hills, travelled the world with Elton, who insisted on having a hairdresser present at all times.
Could there possibly be a greater position of trust?
And then, last week it emerged that PR man Gary Farrow has gone — quitting amid complaints levelled at ‘Elton’s new management’, which is code for Furnish himself.
Farrow announced: ‘Contractual, media, and PR directional differences between Elton’s new management and myself have proved wider than I ever imagined and leave me with little option but to leave.’
What seems to have happened is that Farrow, who has known Elton since the early Seventies, was asked to sign a draconian confidentiality agreement and, after three decades of loyal service, quit in disgust.
The person who insisted on the document, sources say, was Furnish. ‘It was so hardcore, I’m not even sure it was legal,’ I’m told.
The ‘PR directional differences’ all relate to the way that Furnish, 53, wants to promote Elton’s future career. Critics say he wants to market his husband, who turns 69 in the spring, as if he was a young pop star at his peak, rather than a super-wealthy, high-earning ‘heritage artist’.
Those were the straws that broke the camel’s back, but friends of Farrow also say that he was greatly troubled by the ‘situation’ with Elton’s mother, Sheila, now 90.
The singer hasn’t spoken to her in seven years — and she, too, has been shunned after falling out with, you guessed it, David Furnish.
To recap briefly, she became estranged from Elton after he asked her to cut all contact with his one-time friends John Reid, by then his former manager, and Bob Halley, the departed PA. She refused, saying that Bob, in particular, was like a son to her — and Elton raged that he hated her.
‘He told me I thought more of Bob Halley than I did of my own son,’ Sheila said earlier this year. ‘And to that I said to him: “And you think more of that f—ing thing you married than your own mother.”’
Of course, there are two sides to every story. But this explosive judgment gets to the heart of the matter.
Sheila contends that Elton never fell out with Bob, but that he was ‘got rid of’ by Furnish. ‘Everybody has gone — me included. Everyone who used to be invited to the parties doesn’t get invited any more . . . and we know who is behind that!’
She added: ‘I’d like to give Furnish a punch right on the bloody earhole! If I had the chance, I’d do it.’
Although Elton sent a card and flowers for her 90th birthday, at which — in a depressing tableau — she was entertained by an Elton lookalike, they still don’t speak.
And joining her in the club of Elton’s exes is Farrow, a sweary, bloke-ish type who also looks after rock star Ozzy Osbourne and his wife Sharon.
He didn’t return calls on Elton and Furnish. However, I’m told Furnish — no doubt acting in what he genuinely sees as Elton’s best commercial interests — is behind all the changes.
In an allusion to the power that John Lennon’s last wife had on the Beatle, I was told: ‘Furnish seems to be becoming Elton’s Yoko Ono. He’s like the black widow — he has seen off all of the old guard in Elton’s life — people who’ve loved and supported him for decades.’
It’s fair to say that Gary Farrow is devastated. He and Elton spoke every day for as long as they can remember. Elton was the best man at Gary’s wedding and the godfather of his eldest daughter.
It seems that Elton wants a simple life and he loves and trusts David completely.
But the upshot is that Elton’s inner circle has been dismantled and is now gone.
The changes encompass both the personal and commercial.
Furnish is now Elton’s manager and it is said his vision for the superstar is radical and ambitious — more suited in the eyes of sceptics to someone considerably younger, such as Taylor Swift.
Elton’s former advisers would argue that his true market lies in venues such as Las Vegas, playing his much-loved hits and earning a fortune every night.
The wisdom of the new approach will be tested when Elton’s new album, Wonderful Crazy Night, is released in March.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Rocket Entertainment Group —the umbrella company for Elton’s creative interests — admits there’s been a turnabout of staff but would not confirm nor deny that Furnish is now officially Elton’s manager.
He said: ‘Rocket Entertainment Group has a nucleus of people dedicated to helping Elton manage the various strands of his career. David Furnish is Group CEO of Rocket Entertainment Group, a position he has held for roughly the past 18 months.’
As for Farrow’s departure, the spokesman said Elton ‘wanted fresh ideas on how to present and market the record — ideas which reflect the changing media landscape that we live in.’
That’s said to be why Elton’s changed his publicity team, bringing in Murray Chalmers PR ‘to work on all aspects of the campaign’.
‘It was hoped Gary Farrow would work alongside Murray Chalmers PR on specific elements of the campaign; however, Gary Farrow found himself unable to agree to this. Of course, Elton wishes Gary the best of luck in the future.’
The spokesman declined to comment on suggestions that many staff at Elton’s six homes around the globe have also moved on.
Meanwhile, Elton keeps touring. He has just finished in Australia, and starts in LA in January. He often says he’ll retire, or slow down, but shows no signs of doing so.
After all, Furnish sets quite a pace. In recent months, he has been partying with former supermodel Cindy Crawford and actor George Clooney at London Fashion Week with shoe designer Patrick ‘Patty’ Cox and in fancy dress celebrating his birthday in LA with the actor Colton Haynes.
In what seems an unfortunate coincidence, he was also pictured with Yoko Ono at the Attitude magazine awards this month.
And David Furnish, the person accused of interfering in his career just as Ono was accused of doing with John Lennon — said (without any sense of irony)of his meeting: ‘One of my true heroes. Such a classy lady whose life has such dignity and purpose.’
– Daily Mail
A new report claims John’s husband David Furnish replaced publicity specialist Gary Farrow the week before Christmas in a bid to ensure the 68-year-old music legend’s forthcoming album Wonderful Crazy Night is a huge success.
“David wants to make Elton happy by helping him achieve this – and he’s being very single minded about it,” a source told UK newspaper The Mirror. “Basically, it’s David’s way or the highway. Staff he feels have not helped Elton’s goal have all gone – the latest is Gary.
“David saw his input as being negative.”
Murray Chalmers, who works with Kylie Minogue and Coldplay, is said to have replaced Farrow as John’s new publicist.
In addition to desiring fresh blood in the publicity arena, speculation is rife John wants to rival the success of the recent comebacks posed by his peers.
“Elton is hugely frustrated that he’s making some of his best music for years and it just isn’t selling like it did,” the source explained.
“What’s worse is he’s seen other golden oldies topping the charts, like Rod (Stewart), (David) Bowie, (David) Gilmour, Jeff Lynne’s ELO and even Keith Richards.
“He’s a hugely competitive guy and it’s driving him mad that he isn’t matching them.
“Elton is very proud of his new music and wants as many people to enjoy it as possible.”
John’s upcoming record Wonderful Crazy Night, his 32nd studio album, will be released in February 2016.
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