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Dandy in the underworld

by Sebastian Horsley (2008)

"When Mother found out she was pregnant with me she took an overdose. Father gave her the pills. She needed a drama from time to time to remind her that she was still alive. The overdose didn't work. Had she known I would turn out like this, she would have taken cyanide."

So begins the late Sebastian Horsley's Dandy in the Underworld -- an "unauthorised autobiography", which brilliantly chronicles his extreme life story, from failed abortion to notorious dandy.

Born into a fabulously wealthy family, his childhood was about as dysfunctional as they get. Both of his parents were chronically alcoholic. Horsley went on to have a somewhat chequered adulthood -- expelled art student, failed punk rocker, millionaire stock broker, male prostitute, acclaimed artist, sex columnist, drug addict, narcissist, controversialist, etc.

Following a failed early marriage, his love-life degenerated into more of a lust-life -- he claims to have subsequently slept with more than 1,000 prostitutes. "Of all sexual perversions," he writes, "monogamy is the most unnatural."

This is the definitive laugh-out-loud book. While some of the lines are obvious steals from Oscar Wilde and Quentin Crisp, many of his own pithy quips will be quoted for years to come ("I like younger women -- their stories are shorter").

In March 2009, Horsley was unceremoniously kicked out of America on the grounds of "moral turpitude". Having flown into Newark to launch this book, US Immigration officials stopped the ostentatiously attired dandy and, following a brief interrogation, Googled him.

Alarm bells rang when they discovered Horsley was a recovering crack addict, who'd once had himself crucified in the Philippines as an art project. He'd also worked as a male prostitute and had had a lengthy homosexual affair with a notorious Scottish murderer.

He was deported on the grounds of racism, misogyny, homosexuality, sodomy, drug-addiction, whore- mongering, pimping, perversion and prostitution. The news made international headlines.

Last month, Horsley hit the headlines again when he died of an accidental heroin overdose in his Soho flat. He was just 47, and midway through writing his second book. What a tragic waste of a brilliant and unique talent. RIP.