Outside Alexander McQueen’s flat, 5pm, Thursday

This is a crosspost by LuckyJimm

On Thursday I was at the Apple store when I read that Alexander McQueen was dead. I met Dan and told him with a detached sense of shock.

When I was a courier I’d often pick up packages from McQueen’s offices in Clerkenwell. But the news of his death affected me simply because it was so unexpected. I knew the legend: one of six children of an East End taxi driver, he’d turned fashion into high art. I had no conception he’d be the type to kill himself.

Dan and I walked down to Mayfair to look at the outside of the Park Lane property which the kids had squatted for a party that night. On Green Street I saw two men sitting on a doorstep. They had digital cameras plugged into laptops and I figured were uploading images.I looked up and saw a row of photographers and journalists facing a police community support officer who was standing outside the door to an apartment block. “Is that alcohol you’re drinking?” the PCSO officer asked Dan. Dan turned round the label of his small bottle of cider. “No, it’s apple juice. What’s going on here?” He woudn’t tell us.

As we crossed the street to ask the journalists, I realised we’d stumbled on the flat where Alexander McQueen had lived and died. We listened to a reporter giving a piece to camera. By now it was 5pm and “the body” had been taken out an hour earlier. A man, possibly McQueen’s boyfriend, had arrived in tears.We chatted with two photographers. Why had he done it? “It was love, probably” said one photographer. “Love or the lack of it. It’s always one or the other.”

“Well, his mother had just died” the other one said. “They were very close.” And for a horrible moment I had a premonition of the despair I’ll feel when my own mother dies, I hope many decades from now.

Oh Mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head. Then I remembered the old man from Chaucer’s Pardonner’s Tale who wishes to join his mother in death:

And on the ground, which is my moodres gate,

I knokke with my staf bothe erly and late,

And seye, “Leeve mooder, leet me in!”

I wanted to linger there in the gloom of death, I’m unsure whether out of voyeurism or respect. But Dan wanted to drink his cider; so after a few more minutes we walked dully along.

I went off to the first night of The Gambler at the Royal Opera House and didn’t hear til the next day that the kid’s party had ascended into chaos. Courtney Love had been due to play a Hole reunion show in Camden. Instead she spent the night trapped in her room, a street away from the flat where Alexander McQueen had died.

Half my lifetime ago, the suicide of her husband Kurt Cobain was the first celebrity death to really affect me. When someone commits suicide we regret that they were in pain, couldn’t live through it; we also regret our loss; we wanted to keep hold of them; we wanted their talent; their genius; we wanted to think we could mean something to them too (whether we were family, friends, or just fans), and save them from themselves.

At the vigil in Seattle on the night he died, Courtney Love found a simple way to sum up the complex feelings we have at someone’s suicide. She got the crowd to call Kurt an asshole.