Freddie Mercury's 'first girlfriend' says he was an 'ardent lover'
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Everybody knows about Mary Austin, Freddie’s famous “love of my life.” But before he dated the famous teenage beauty who worked at iconic boutique Biba, teh Queen frontman was enamoured of another fashionable young woman. Freddie met Rose Pearson at Ealing College of Art in the late 1960s, and between 1969 and 1970 they were lovers.
Rose said: “He was charismatic, dressed outrageously – sometimes in shorts, no top and a fur coat – and was determined to make it as a singer. He was a clown, so much fun to be around.
“Freddie was also the only truly fearless person I ever met.
“I think I was Freddie’s first girlfriend. We had a physical relationship and he was a very ardent lover.”
Rose added: “He was different. I liked the fact that he was somehow preoccupied with some creative activity. I didn’t know what it was. I didn’t know he was going to become a singer then. But I had a suspicion he might.”
She has rarely spoken of their relationship and admitted she struggled for many years with the way it ended.
In a new interview with Radio Times, she described the heartbreaking moment she realised her boyfriend was interested in men.
Rose said: “We went to see Ken Russell’s Women in Love and he was dumbfounded by the wrestling scene.”
The 1969 naked scene between stars Oliver Reed and Alan Bates is one of the most notoriously homoerotic moments in cinema history.
Reed says: “Nothing mattered except somebody to take the edge off being alone…” Asked if he meant “the right woman”, he added: “Of course. Failing that, an amusing man.”
It’s understandable that the ensuing scene of two naked and very sweaty men, grappling on a Persian rug in front of roaring fire might strike a chord with a young man in the audience wrestling with his sexuality.
Rose said: “He (Freddie) wanted to stay in the cinema and see the whole thing again. My blood ran cold, not because it was a bad film but because of the implications. That was the tipping point.”
On what appears to have been a bizarrely wrestling-themed day, Rose also revealed the film followed an earlier cultural trip that afternoon.
She said: “We had been to the V&A and seen Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs of men wrestling in the nude. I could see he was enamoured in a way that went beyond art appreciation.”
Within weeks, Rose decided to break up with Freddie because he “desperately wanted a relationship with a man.”
With the benefit of hindsight, this may have been true in the long run, but according to Mary Austin and Freddie’s contemporaries at the time, he may not have been ready to admit that so openly to himself or anyone else in 1970.”
In a Channel 5 documentary in December 2019, Rose said: “He see-sawed between wanting to be with me and wanting these other adventures. He seemed to want both at once. Even when I was with him late at night sometimes, he would be warm and affectionate, then say, ‘I wonder what it’s like with a man?’
“I found it very hard to take. I felt I was not enough for him and my confidence sank.”
Rose had a circle of gay friends from the art world, including future creative superstars director Derek Jarman and artist David Hockney.
Freddie was desperate to meet them but Rose would not let him: “I felt that if he ever met these people, then that would be it. They would take him from me, and I would be shut out.”
In the end, their break-up was painful and Rose was not able to keep Freddie in her life life Mary did, years later.
“It was awful. He begged me not to go, and said he didn’t understand. I knew that I could not bear to be simply his friend, hearing about his other relationships. So it had to be the end.”
Rose cut Freddie off completely but many years later, after a successful career as an artist and lecturer, said she was able to accept his role in her life and look back with gratitude at what they shared.
She says: “I haven’t acknowledged until now the massive impact knowing Freddie had on me. For me, he was the ultimate model of how to follow your dream. The experience of loving him left me feeling rejected and uncertain, but in the end, it gave me the impetus to be my own person, to try and do what he had done.”
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