Friday 23 August 2019

This Man's Life

  

Bret Easton Ellis. Photo by David Conachy
Bret Easton Ellis. Photo by David Conachy
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Judge him at your peril because he has long hair and dresses like one of the Twelve Apostles styled by Iggy Pop. I find Guggi - for it is he - to be one of the most reliable, and nicest, of gentleman. If he tells you he will be somewhere, there is never a last-minute text to say that something came up.

He has come to parties at my house and events I have been involved in for many a year. They usually end without incident. Though one year in my old house in Portobello, he climbed out over the gate the worse for drink and unable to get his skinny arse over it in one go, damaged the top of the gate with his Iggy Pop boots.

He returned the following day with the relevant missing piece for the gate.

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That's the sort of gent our Gugs is. You could set your clock by the former Virgin Prune. So it proved last Tuesday night. At a charity concert, Rock Against Homelessness in aid of Focus Ireland, that I put on every year at the Olympia, he turned up on the button at 7.45pm, his hair flowing in the wind behind him on Dame Street.

He doesn't look remotely his 59 years. This has probably something to do with that he has the spindly frame of a 17-year-old boy who has run away to join - not so much the circus - as The Stooges or the MC5.

In fact, when Guggi turned 17, he moved out of the family home in Crumlin (his neighbour and pal was a fella who went on to be the lead singer in a well-known Irish combo) with his younger brother Trevor (otherwise known as Strongman, 15 at the time).

Between them, Strongman and Guggi got a flat on New Cabra Road, in which they proceeded to run amok. It wasn't long before the Rowen brothers from Cedarwood Road wrecked the new gaff on New Cabra Road. "We wrecked so many places that we moved into," Guggi told me a few years ago.

Somewhere they didn't need to wreck, however, was a squat in Ballymun Flats where Guggi and Strongman lived for six months.

The address wasn't very good, he says, but there was free heating and any amount of hot water. They knocked a door down to get in.

So, sadly, did the burglars who broke into the flat one night while Guggi and his younger brother Guck (Andrew, to his mum) were in the pub.

The thieves stole Guggi's record collection and, heartbreakingly for Guggi, his tank of newts.

Every possession he had in the world was gone.

"I had a little fox's head from my childhood and lots of tiny precious things were stolen as well," recalled Guggi, the artist who went on to have acclaimed shows in New York, Tokyo, London, Berlin, Buenos Aires and Monaco.

Worse was to come. His girlfriend broke up with him, too. All Guggi had left in the world was his Fiat 900 van. Worse was to come.

Not long after the robbery by the heartless thieves, Reggie the Dog, a friend, came up with the perfect way to cheer up poor Guggi on his 22nd birthday.

Reggie the Dog turned up in the middle of the night and, as a total hoot of surprise, completely and utterly wrecked the van. As you do. This was the 1980s.

Reggie The Dog sprayed on the back window 'F**k Off!' and 'Happy Birthday Gugs, Love Reg' on the front window.

"That was my birthday treat!" Guggi laughed. "Reg has a great sense of humour. Bono's very first car, we wallpapered it and broke all the lights for his birthday surprise when he was 19! We used to do this kind of stuff to each other. Another member of U2, we tried to push his car into the Liffey with him lying down in the front of the car."

Guggi turns 60 on May 13. I can only hope that his pals don't spray F**k Off on the back window of his car or push him into a well-known river in the aforesaid automobile.

Then, to paraphrase his lifelong friend, Guggi would be stuck in the Liffey he can't get out of.

The Guggi life.

*******

Last Wednesday evening, I met Bret Easton Ellis. He told me he was staying in the George Bernard Shaw suite of the Westin Hotel. The last time I met Bret was in the summer of 2009. He was staying in the Merrion Hotel and wearing a fluffy bath robe and slippers. He was in the throes of a breakdown and having the worst year of his life.

This time around the most controversial novelist of his generation was in flying form, not least because White, his first work of non-fiction (his first book in nine years) is a rollicking good and entertaining read.

It is full of things that will possibly, even deliberately, annoy you (he isn't anti-Trump) and wind you up ("the widespread epidemic of self-victimisation… is actually an illness") and maybe even have you going 'Who cares?' ("In the late 1980s, when Tom Cruise and I lived in the same building in downtown New York, I saw him only twice - both times in the elevator.")

But as Bret writes in White: "Maybe when you're roiling in childish rage, the first thing you lose is judgement, and then comes common sense." The enfant terrible has aged well.

Last Thursday night, before bedtime, I read my four-year-old daughter Zog by Julia Donaldson for the millionth time. Zog, in case you didn't know, is the keenest dragon in school.

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