Parents’ anguish at Alexander McQueen HIV 'lie’ in new book
The parents of fashion guru Alexander McQueen's former partner have accused the publishers of a new biography of smearing their son's reputation and causing them huge distress
He was one of Britain’s most lauded fashion designers, a man regarded as a guru by many in the industry for the way his radical vision and masterful craftsmanship revolutionised the catwalk before his suicide at the age of 40.
Now, five years after Alexander McQueen’s death, the parents of his former long-term partner, who died shortly afterwards, have accused the publishers of a forthcoming biography of peddling a lie about their son and causing severe distress to their family.
The book, Alexander McQueen: Blood Beneath The Skin, by Andrew Wilson, claims that George Forsyth had contracted HIV before McQueen’s death and that the designer believed his ex-lover had passed it on to him.
The film maker, who became McQueen’s unofficial husband in 2000, before same-sex marriages were legalised, died at the age of 34 after taking a large amount of painkiller for a neurological condition he was suffering – a few months after the couturier hanged himself in his Mayfair flat.
His parents, Alan and Sandra, say the claim that he had HIV and infected McQueen is completely false and have accused publishers Simon & Schuster of refusing to remove it from the biography before its publication.
The book is understood to quote McQueen as telling a friend that Forsyth had infected him with the virus.
Mr and Mrs Forsyth asked Simon & Schuster to remove the HIV claim from the book before its publication on Thursday.
When they were told this would not be possible, they urged the publisher to at least insert an erratum slip in each copy of the book making it clear the claim was false. The publisher said it was unable to do so in time for the first edition but would make a correction for the second print run.
In an email to Mr and Mrs Forsyth, one of Simon & Schuster’s senior publicists apologised for the inaccuracy, stating: “May I say on behalf of Simon and Schuster that I’m very sorry for any distress which has been caused to you and your family.
“I can’t imagine how upsetting it is to read things about your son which are untrue and sensationalised and I am deeply sorry that this has happened. I have been in touch with the book’s editor who is looking into how we amend this when the book reprints.”
However, nine days later Simon & Schuster’s lawyers wrote to the Forsyths stating that the publicist’s apology was a “voluntary act of kindness” and did not give them any legal basis for a claim for damages against the publisher on behalf of their dead son.
They added: “As a gesture of goodwill Simon & Schuster will not include the words referring to George Forsyth detailed in your letter in reprints of the book or in eBook editions.”
Mrs Forsyth, 73, a retired architect, said: “We soon realised they couldn’t really pulp every copy, but the least they could do was amend the inaccuracies in an erratum slip inserted in each book on publication. But they refused, saying only that they would amend the book and remove the inaccuracies before its second print run.”
She added: “It is extremely upsetting to have these lies written about George, who was never HIV positive and therefore could never have passed it on to Lee [McQueen].
“He regularly tested himself and always came back HIV negative. Indeed a joint test he carried out with a new boyfriend, after his relationship with McQueen had collapsed, showed he was HIV negative.
“After Lee split with George he took many drugs and slept with lot of people, so if he was HIV positive he would have contracted it this way.”
The book also makes the claim that Forsyth died of an overdose of the painkiller codeine. His parents deny this, saying that he had accidentally taken a large amount of the drug after it was prescribed to him as part of treatment for a neurological problem that left him in severe pain and unable to use his right arm.
“The coroner at George’s inquest ruled his death was accidental. He did not die of a drug overdose,” said Mrs Forsyth.
She added: “This book has come out five years after our son’s death, just at the point we have reconciled ourselves to him going, and it brings back up an awful lot of upsetting memories for us.”
Mr Forsyth, 70, an architect, said: “To knowingly print something that isn’t true is a terrible thing for a serious book publisher to do. I think it is terribly cynical behaviour.”
The parents became aware of the HIV claim after the publication of a newspaper article in January, based on the book. When the couple complained, the newspaper issued an apology, stating that the filmmaker was never HIV positive.
Alexander McQueen died nine days after his mother Joyce succumbed to cancer aged 75 – and the day before her funeral.
Another book published this month, Gods and Kings, by Dana Thomas – on the lives of McQueen and fellow designer John Galliano – has been criticised for describing his suicide in graphic detail.
Alexander McQueen with Naomi Campbell, left, Kate Moss and Annabelle Neilson (Rex)
Mr and Mrs Forsyth believe the claims made in Andrew Wilson’s book are not only personally upsetting, but also betray the memory of their son’s relationship with McQueen.
Speaking after McQueen’s death in 2010, his ex-partner said of their first encounter in a London bar in 1999: “We just got on really well from the very beginning. He was an East End boy, I’m a North London Jew. We could talk for hours.”
Mrs Forsyth said: “They had a tempestuous relationship, yes, but a lot of the time it was very loving. Even when their marriage collapsed they remained friends. To read this kind of false claim about them is very upsetting.”
Simon & Schuster refused to comment.