Queen singer Freddie Mercury was fiercely protective of his privacy, and he continued to guard it jealously even as his health succumbed to the ravages of AIDS — but as guitarist Brian May recently revealed, Mercury's bandmates were privileged with glimpses of their frontman's grueling final struggle. May looked back on Mercury's final days in a recent interview with the Sunday Times (via the Daily Telegraph), revealing that before the disease claimed Mercury, it started taking pieces of his body -- including most of his foot, which had to be amputated.
"The problem was actually his foot," May told the Times. "Tragically there was very little left of it. Once, he showed it to us at dinner. And he said, 'Oh Brian, I'm sorry I've upset you by showing you that.' And I said, 'I'm not upset, Freddie, except to realize you have to put up with all this terrible pain.'"
As May went on to point out, Mercury's death occurred shortly before major advancements in AIDS research led to the introduction of drug cocktails that help stave off the disease, allowing the diagnosed the possibility of long-term management — and helping prevent further agony for patients. Admitting it's difficult to know how close Mercury came to seeing those medications become available, May stressed that he stays focused on the legacy he left behind. "He missed by just a few months. If it had been a bit later he would still have been with us, I'm sure," said May. "You can't do 'what if,' can you? You can't go there because therein lies madness."
It's worth noting that May has publicly expressed his unhappiness with the overall tone of the interview, which focused on the sensationalistic aspects of Queen and Mercury's story rather than the project May sat down with the Times to discuss — the Queen in 3-D retrospective book he painstakingly assembled for release this year. "This woman came into my house, pretended she was a fan and was going to write a nice piece about the book, as agreed; then went away and wrote this pathetic sensationalistic drivel. I'm angry and disgusted," wrote May, pointing out that he'd agreed to give the Times the exclusive on the book, including any photos they wanted to run — and they "used just two of them, one of them reproduced not much bigger than a postage stamp; the rest of the piece illustrated with recycled ordinary snaps from God knows where."
While May didn't single out the earlier quotes as a reason for his ire, he did take umbrage with the piece's focus on what the headline described as "the debauchery of the Freddie Mercury years." Vowing never to give the Times "the time of day" from here on out, he assured fans that the book has nothing to do with the story presented by the article. "I spent over two years fashioning this into the first book of its kind — EVER — a biography of a band from the inside illustrated with my own photographs — and in 3-D, with a fabulous viewer to bring them to life in three dimensions," May insisted. "It's honest, goes deep and is tasteful and dignified (I have been told!) but nobody reading this awful amateurish piece of journalistic opportunism would know it."
Freddie Mercury spent his last days at his house, Garden Lodge 1 Logan Place in Kensington, London. The singer who died from bronchial pneumonia from AIDS, spent his last days with his former partner, Mary Austin, who continues to live at the home. Mercury was diagnosed with HIV in 1987 but kept his condition private until he released a public statement just a little over 24 hours before he passed away on November 24, 1991. Mercury was just 45 years old. The outer walls of Garden Lodge in 1 Logan Place have become a shrine to Mercury, with fans paying tribute by covering the walls with messages for the legendary late singer.
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