Sometime in the week following Valentine’s Day, when everything was upside down and my emotional life was in bits, I received an email from one Lennie Nash concerning all-round would-be bad egg, Sebastian Horsley. It’s rather interesting, and I reprint it here with permission:
I don't know how to say this, but you are so wrong about that Sebastian Horsley. After reading about him with interest (mine not yours) on your excellent blog, I went to see him do a reading at Foyles book store.
At first he was spectacularly bad, and I kept thinking 'how right you are Stan, how right you are!' He came on, called everybody 'cunts' because they were clapping, then called some women at the front 'sluts' because they were women. One looked so offended, her face crumpled up like a baboon pissing glass.
Then Horsley read from some of his bad reviews, which was petty funny, but I don't think I heard yours mentioned.
Then more name-calling and a couple of passages from his book. No more genius to declare than that really.
But it was what happened next that made me realise there's more to the man than some third-rate Wildesque cad, frothy with wit in 140 characters.
I hung around, earwigging, at the end, near the handful of people wanting photographs etc. And what amazed me was how incredibly nice he was to them. He was gracious and softly spoken and I could go on, but I'm not sure if you'll believe me anyway.
Also, I noticed he liked human contact - when people wanted their photos taken with him, he put one arm around them and rubbed their backs slowly. It was like he needed the warmth of proximity. This might put all the whoring in context (his not mine), then again might not.
Then something splendid happened, Stan. He was talking to this couple, and I heard him say, "Well, I tell you what, you can have this copy", and he handed over the book he'd been reading from to a couple who couldn't afford to buy their own copy. Just like that. And he inscribed the inside front cover at length too. They both sort of squealed with delight. And I think I did too. It was very generous. His inscription was about 100 words long and seemed to end with the words, "remember me".
I was so impressed, I had my photo taken with him. I said: "You're actually a really nice guy, aren't you? All of this calling everyone 'cunts' stuff is just a big act." Sheepishly he agreed.
"You've got to confuse the enemy," he replied, rubbing my back. The person who’d taken our picture returned my phone camera and said "Is that alright?" Horsley replied, "You look great, I look terrible", and then muttered something about his skin flaking off his face. I told him he looked great, wished him well and left.
When I told someone heading to the same Tube stop what he'd said about confusing the enemy, she replied, "He is the enemy" - and I think she was right. Horsley is his own worst enemy, spending all that time and effort being outrageous and getting people to hate him, when all he really wants is a little love. But I suppose, there’s only one thing in the world worse than being talked about...
Anyway, I thought I'd better tell you the truth about Horsley because I think if you met him, you'd probably quite like him.
All the best,
What was particularly satisfying about reading this was that it’s more or less exactly what I’d predicted here. And I quote:
He’s carved out this niche for himself, created this character, this rather contrived cocktail of the Marquis de Sade and Oscar Wilde who struts through life, whoring, pontificating, smoking crack and playing the gigantic ‘I am’, when all he really wants is someone to hold him close, mop his furrowed brow and tell him that everything is going to be alright.
Interestingly, Stephen Fry’s production company Sprout Films recently bought the rights to Horsley’s memoirs, so everything probably is going to be alright.
Thanks for the story, Lennie, and particularly the baboon-based imagery.
Lennie Nash blogs about his failure to become a professional chef at Chef Sandwich.