In the 1980s there was a group of young people who used out to hang out in the King’s Road trying to look cool. We went shopping, we went to clubs, we fell in and out of love. Evenings would start at Pucci Pizza, where we would gather to discuss where to go that evening. There was Ben and Miggy, Andrew and George, Marco, Tammy, Louise and me. Ben and Miggy went on to form Curiousity Killed the Cat; Andrew and George formed Wham! (they were known to our crowd as “the wallies from Wham”); Marco went off to work at Le Manoir in Oxford and is better known these days as ‘three star Michelin chef Marco Pierre White’; Tammy set up Jimmy Choos and made millions; Louise became a top model, started taking heroin and died alone in a council house at the back of Habitat.
And there was me. I went to Durham University and then became the world’s worst financial journalist. I was desperate to show that I was serious. God knows why. When my husband, then a colleague, asked why I didn’t work at somewhere more suited to my talents, such as Tatler or Harper’s, I was bitterly offended and didn’t talk to him for a week.
And then there was Heathcliff. Of course he wasn’t really called Heathcliff, but as I always thought of him as Heathcliff let’s stick with that.
I first saw him at the bar at Pucci Pizza, in fact I think it was Marco who introduced us. Heathcliff was tall, dark, handsome, druggy, sexy, well-built, rich, funny, intelligent; your average 17-year-old girl’s dream and everyone else’s nightmare. From that moment I was in love. But in love in a way that only a teenage girl can be. Totally obsessed is closer to the truth. If he didn’t show up one night my life was ruined. I even started to take drugs to get closer to him, although I have always hated drugs and hated the feeling of losing control. If he talked to me I felt like I was floating (with or without drugs). He was the most compelling man I had ever met. The way he looked at me made me feel things I had never felt before, I literally went weak all over. Just thinking about him made me go weak all over.
I was mad about him for years, carrying a picture of him with me when I left London to study for my A’ Levels and go to university. I had other relationships but until I met my husband no one came close. The last time I saw Heathcliff was at Marco’s restaurant in Wandsworth in about 1987. He was still devastating.
Sadly to Heathcliff I was more of an Isabella Linton than a Cathy. He liked me well enough; he once even told someone that if he ever had to get married “I would marry Helena”. But he was never in love with me. He was in love with another girl from the same crowd, Rachel Weiss who went on to become a famous actress. Bitch.
Marco’s phone call in Los Angeles of course brought it all back to me.
“I opened the Daily Mail and couldn’t believe it,” he said. “There you were. So I got my people on to the Mail and they came back with your address. I said I don’t want her bloody address, get me her number. How are you? Are you happy? Married? Children?”
We talked for a while and all the time I was longing to ask him the one question he might know the answer to. How is Heathcliff? But they had probably lost touch by now. Last I heard Heathcliff was living with a model in Colombia, so he was probably dead by now. If he wasn’t dead he was bound to be married so actually was there any point in asking?
“Frith Powell, it’s so good to talk to you,” said Marco. It was really good to talk to him too. Talking to someone who has known you for over twenty years is quite an experience, especially for someone as peripatetic as me. It made me feel very secure.
“And you’ll never guess who I’m in touch with on a daily basis,” he added. I could almost hear him grinning on the other end of the phone all the way from London.
Oh yes I will.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007