The Funeral Service
We had been booked into the Sir Stamford Hotel in Double Bay , which looks across to the Ritz Carlton just one street away. We turned down a side street and into an alley behind the hotel. Even there, I spotted some huge camera lenses resting on shoulders. One of the men explained that the building, in particular the front entrance, was surrounded by photojournalists. Entering the hotel from the parking area, we were instructed to remain in the vehicle as they checked for more photographers. I doubt the press would recognize, or be interested in, Martha or me, but they were just doing their job. We were also checked in under the ‘Edwards' name. A security man was stationed nearby.
I gave particulars of my children's flight, and hurried off to my room, exhausted. I noted that it was five doors away from Rhett's but resisted knocking on his door. I just wanted to get in to call Mother. She said she would call Rhett to let him know I had arrived. Mother sounded so anxious to see me, I just dropped my bag and ran directly to her room
I have never seen her so distraught. If I had thought my heart would break when I heard the terrible news about Michael, when I saw my mother standing there, in such agony, my whole body crumbled. I simply held her for a long time and then Ross held us both. We were united in a grief we never imagined we would ever have to bear. Then Rhett and Mandy arrived with little Zoe, who looked totally bewildered. They had been to the Ritz Carlton, as Rhett wanted to look at Michael's room and the makeshift memorial outside of the hotel lobby, and they had been followed by journalists back to the Sir Stamford. After a brief conversation, Mandy and Rhett left with Zoe to return to their room, inviting me to stop by. Ross and Mother and I stood in their suite trying to make sense of this nightmare.
While I was there Mother took a call from Kell, who reiterated that he wanted Mother to call Harry Miller. She told me that Kell had come up with the idea earlier that day after noting the growing swarm of journalists surrounding his apartment and our hotel. With Paula arriving the following morning, he thought we needed some help controlling what was shaping up to be a frenzy. Again he asked Mother to make the call. Kell and I also spoke briefly and he gave me the number of the morgue. He suggested I call early and have them delay the autopsy so that Martha and I could go to see Michael together.
Mother already felt as if people were manipulating her. Where to stay, what name she would be under. I told her that they probably thought it was for the best. Photographers were already clustering and all they had to do was follow Rhett who, at a little over six feet tall, with dreadlocks and wearing a Hawaiian print shirt, was quite conspicuous. For reasons of his own he had made several trips to the Ritz Carlton - in particular to room 524. It was almost as though he was inviting photographers and journalists to take his picture or talk to him and I'm sure he sensed our unease about this, but that's Rhett. He cares little for convention and has always been prone to do the opposite if he feels he is being pressured in any way. Returning to my suite, I resisted knocking on his door, as I could hear many voices coming from within, and the last thing I wanted was to be with strangers.
Early next morning I called the number Kell had given me for the Glebe Morgue, but was only able to leave a brief message for someone to call me. By 9am I had still not received a return call. I checked the number with Kell: he'd given me a wrong number and by the time I got through I was informed that the autopsy was to begin in less than an hour. Too late. I could go afterwards, the counsellor told me, but I want to see Michael whole. She assured me that I would not see any incisions. I was truly upset about this, I felt that somehow it would not be the same if I had to see him after medical examiners had been all over his body. But there was nothing I could do, and there were so many things already out of my control. As I slowly placed the phone receiver in its cradle my attention was drawn to the television news. It showed footage of Paula arriving, the anchor person describing how she had arrived on a 6am flight from London , and had gone directly to the morgue…..
I called Martha and said that Mother and I would be right over. We wanted to tell her about the meeting which, at Kell's insistence, Mother had set up with Harry Miller. It was important that Martha kept up on our decisions, and liaison with the band was necessary.
As usual, Martha was on the phone when we arrived. I wondered when she ever had a chance to take care of her own needs. There was a crib in her room, which seemed odd and out of place and when I asked her about it, she jokingly said that maybe the management thought she was pregnant as she had put a few pounds. We sat on the couch and half watched a television special on my brother's extraordinary career, while we filled her in on the plans to involve Harry in an attempt to control the media circus.
Back in my room, the hotel manager called. Apparently, the Ritz Carlton had sent over all the cards flowers, stuffed animals, photographs, candles and loving wishes being left by fans outside their lobby. He asked if they could all be sent up to my room. I suggested that they also send some to Mother's suite. I was not ready for the buckets of flowers that would arrive each day. Throughout the week, we received more and more bouquets from friends around the world, to the extent that the Sir Stamford ran out of vases. We filled our baths with flowers, sharing them with Mandy, and with Erin too when she arrived. One day they were delivering as I was running out my door. I looked around the room, which was completely overwhelmed by floral arrangements, and having no more room in my tub, I simply placed some in the toilet bowl until I returned. But the flowers were very comforting. I liked to breathe in their scents, which transferred into love and respect from very special people who had given Michael many hours of pleasure throughout his career. I'm sure those who left or sent the flowers and mementoes thought it such a small sign of respect that we would barely notice them, but it meant a lot to the family. During that horrendous week, they reminded us all, just how much Michael was loved.
We began our meeting with Harry in Mother's suite. Kell was late, the minders were picking him up. I did not understand why they always had to collect him. Didn't he have a car? Last I remembered he was driving Michael's Jaguar. When he came in, he greeted me warmly and wished me happy birthday. I had forgotten that the day before had been my birthday. Who could remember anything so insignificant when we were facing the crisis of our lives? Kell then went on to explain why he had not bought a gift with him! I couldn't believe it, our world had caved in and he is discussing my birthday. It rocked me that he was so concerned with my birthday with what we had at hand, though I guess he was in shock and was trying to find some normalcy. There were many interruptions during our meeting. Kell's phone, Harry's phone, and of course the phone in Mother's suite. Lots of questions, too many opinions.
Harry Miller is a dynamic personality who commands attention. His mobile on constantly, you just know that he is working on two dozen deals at once. I was actually intrigued that he was helping us. He was accustomed to representing celebrities, and we were just civilians. But he seemed to understand and size the problem up immediately. His plan was to shut down the press outside the hotel by sending out a statement to the effect that there would be no press releases unless they came from his office. He proposed that we allow just one television channel in the cathedral, where the funeral was to be held, thus avoiding the danger of what he called "a bum fight" in the church. Channel Seven was interested, and they agreed to feed small segments to other international networks for the evening news.
During this meeting, Kell kept asking if anybody had heard from Michael's financial advisor, Colin Diamond. Someone said that he was on his way in from Indonesia . From what I understood, Michael and Colin had purchased some land on a small island off Lombock in Indonesia . Michael had told me that they were building separate houses there for us all. However, I could not understand why Kell considered it so important that Colin be in Sydney , except of course, to attend the funeral. Kell became extremely agitated and claimed that he needed peace and quiet to make a phone call. He went to the door of the suite and I assumed he was standing in the hallway, but when I opened the door to call him back in, he was nowhere to be found.
I eventually found him twenty minutes later, making a call from the hotel breakfast room. He did not see me at first, and was saying something about someone being in mid-flight. I wish I had been more observant at the time. He looked surprised when he saw me and cut his call short. He began rambling on to me about some abalone cargo, which he had to get out that very day to Hong Kong . It was obvious that he had not been speaking about the abalone he traded in, but who cared, I asked myself, we had just lost Michael. Yet how could he even pretend to focus on a shipment of fish? I left him to make another phone call.
When he arrived back in Mother's suite, it was obvious that he had spoken with someone who objected to Harry because if he had been positive about his involvement when he exited the room, and had done a 180 turn by the time he walked back in. He announced that perhaps we had been too hasty in contacting Harry, even though it was he who had insisted on Mother calling Mr Miller, it was she who had been hesitant. Now, he wanted to think about it. Think about what? The wagons were already circling, and this man was offering to take away the circus. Harry, to his credit, said he would leave it with us and to call him if we needed help. His office was only ten minutes away.
Once Harry had left, Kell said that we should look through the phone book. Maybe there was someone else who could do a superior job. Who is better than Harry Miller? Mother and I asked. Why a change of heart? The important thing was to get the press shut down. Kell said he would give it some thought and hurriedly left the hotel. Mother and Ross and I were confused, contacting Harry had been Kell's idea, and Mother had resisted until we were all sure it was for the best. An hour later, in a phone conversation to Mother, Kell told her what he now had in mind. He wanted someone who could represent us in the media, in other words, he saw this as an opportunity to make money. His exact words were, “You know I'm thinking that - why should a roadie or someone make money out of this; it could be a house for Rhett.”
Shock does not even come close to describing the feeling I had when I heard him say this. Who had said anything about receiving money? Certainly not Mother or Ross or me or even Harry. Who could give a thought to profiting from this horrible tragedy? I think Kell must have been crazed with grief when he said this. When I thought back on how Michael had sought his privacy, loathed media attention, I could well imagine how sad this would have made him.
How do I know he said that about a house for Rhett? Because, I was on the other line. It's important to realize that not one call was taken in that room without someone else on an extension. We were all paranoid, due to what Michael had relayed to us over the years about the press. The journalists were really beginning to mount in number and we were all on our guard. I had counted thirty-two photojournalists across the street alone, with huge lenses trained at our windows; and several more on the other side, downstairs in the underground car park and directly outside the front door of the hotel. Although, it was blazingly sunny weather in Sydney , we had to keep our curtains drawn at all times.
When Mother replied that all she wanted was for the circus to stop, and she trusted Harry to do this for us, Kell finally agreed to return to the hotel and sign an agreement allowing him to handle the press and the arrangements for just one camera to be in the cathedral. It was agreed that it would be unobtrusive and at a distance behind the congregation. This was done with absolutely no money exchanging hands: Harry was doing us a favour. If Channel Seven made money by selling to other networks, that was their business. For our part, it put a stop to potential pandemonium in the church. Another suggestion Harry made was to put a gag on the coroner's office in regard to the official autopsy report. Harry explained that there was already speculation in the press, and the coroners' report might spark even more tabloid fodder when it was released in two to three months' time. He made a quick call to an attorney, a friend of his, who took care of this immediately.
Over the ensuing months Kell was to tell this story two different ways. To one journalist he said that in relation to Harry Miller's involvement, Ross and Harry Miller had shown up at his apartment where they barged in and demanded that he sign a release for Harry to handle the press. In Vince Lovegrove's book, ‘Michael Hutchence' , he said that he rose from a nap around 11pm on Sunday evening to find a note under his door. He said it was from Ross who had delivered it there with Harry, and it said that he should call Mr Miller regarding dealings with the press. Both stories are ridiculous. To begin with, you can't slide anything under Kell's door, and Mother had not even contacted Harry Miller at this stage. Not only was she putting it off, but it was Sunday evening and she did not have Mr Miller's private number. She knew it could wait until Monday morning when we were all thinking more clearly.
How Kell was planning to capitalize on this catastrophic event, we did not care or dare to ask at the time. However we found out about ten days later when he announced that he had retained an entertainment attorney and had made a deal with Channel Seven in Sydney , for an interview with him and Rhett. They reportedly received AUD$175,000 for the thirty minute interview, and neither has denied this figure to me. Anybody who watched it must have realized that Rhett was in no condition to be exposed on national television. He was drowning in grief and anger, and it was inappropriate for either of them to appear on national television this way.
Martha called from her mobile. She was on her way back from a long interview at the Rose Bay police station. We were arranging a rendezvous, as we were going to the morgue and did not want to be followed by the relentless and thoughtless people with their cameras. We had to be careful, as so far, the journalists had managed to snap pictures of each of the other family members leaving the morgue, even with police escort. The side fire-escape seemed the logical answer. Answering a knock at my door at one thirty sharp, revealed a minder was standing with a hotel employee holding a massive key ring. She took us out a locked door and down some stairs to an exit where there was a van waiting. The minder was pretty serious about it, again, I thought it was silly. But he was just doing his job.
Martha was waiting in the van and told me some of the highlights of her interview with Inspector Duclos, the chief investigator on the case. She had given a statement to the police, but felt that apart from the fact that she knew Michael was depressed and that he had left two desperate phone messages for her, she had little to offer. During our drive she was going over the phone log from Michael's hotel bill and had figured out who most of the numbers belonged to, but asked me if I recognized the ones she did not. I wasn't much help.
She had also been to see Paula, who had arrived with Tiger Lily and an entourage which included her friend Belinda Brewin and Belinda's fiance, barrister and business associate of Colin Diamond, Andrew Young. The same Mr Young, who had been influential in the recent negotiations between Paula and Bob. Apparently it had not been a smooth flight from London . Paula had clashed with airline personnel and hurled a glass of champagne at a flight attendant, so it was a good thing she was traveling with legal counsel: - the airline had threatened to leave her behind at the stopover in Bangkok.
She was in her hotel room under sedation, and had, according to Martha, asked to see me alone. I was surprised, as I would have thought that the first person she would want to see would be Mother, if only as one mother to another. We had had brief telephone conversations but I had actually only met Paula, four months previously in Los Angeles . Perhaps she thought I occupied neutral territory, as so far, I was the only one in the family she had not had a mild clash with. I declined a meeting for the time being and Martha said she understood. As it turned out, the only time either my mother or I saw Paula in Sydney that terrible week was at the funeral, where it was impossible to speak.
We reached the morgue and hurried inside. It was summer but I was shivering. There is no way to create a warm ambience in a morgue, and it must take a special type of person to work in a place like that. I thought of all the times I, in my job as a make-up artist, had actually demonstrated the colours and special stippling motion with a sponge to create a cadaver for film. In fact it was to this very morgue, in the late eighties, that we would bring our students to view bodies so that in time they could create a more realistic corpse. Not once on any of those visits did I imagine that I would ever be visiting a loved one in this place, especially not Michael. The memories of the smells and bodies had made me nauseous then and even more so now.
A counsellor was waiting for us. As we sat with her, Martha asked some tough questions. I was glad she was doing it in front of me and not my parents. She asked about drugs and their attendant paraphernalia, alluding to illegal substances, and was told that there had been no evidence thus far. Definitely no suspicious circumstances . Martha and I went in to see Michael together at first, then I left her alone with him. I could hear her weep loudly.
It was my turn, and the counsellor had left a small envelope and scissors next to Michael. I wanted some of his beautiful hair. My mother was right, he did look as though he was in a peaceful sleep. I tried to hold his hand, but it was cold and stiff. I stroked the hair on his arm and rearranged the hair on his head. I gently clipped three small locks of that curly hair of which I had always been envious. One each for my children and one for myself. I ran my fingers over his eyelashes and expected him to pop open his piercing, chocolate eyes and say, "just fooling, Sis". His cheeks were so cold, I wanted to warm him up. I felt that if I could just throw myself on top of him and make him warm, he would come back to me. I noticed a small cut over his left eyebrow and a little dried blood. At the time I wondered how, and when, that had happened, I later found that it was surmised that the cut had occurred when his body fell forward and his face hit the door. I stroked his cheeks and kissed him over and over. I whispered loving thoughts to him, hoping he could hear me. After a long time, I pulled myself away with difficulty and walked outside.
I turned back, compelled to see him again. The counsellor told me to take all the time I needed. All the time I needed . I wanted another thirty-seven years.
Michael was more than a brother. Long before Erin and Brent, there was Michael. He was the first child I held in my arms, the first baby I bathed and soothed to sleep. I had learned most of my mothering skills with Michael. My brother's life was extraordinary and full and I'm sure he gave me more love and laughter than many get from their siblings, but I wanted much more. I felt cheated, I wanted to stay there, be with him in case a miracle happened. But I finally pulled myself away for the last time, and felt incredible numbness as I was driven back to the hotel.
A meeting was about to begin in my mother's suite. Mother, Ross, Rhett, Martha, Andrew Farriss, INXS publicist Shawn Deacon, the funeral Director Rodney Claxton, his assistant Marcella, Harry Miller and myself had assembled to make arrangements for Michael's funeral and final resting place. Arriving late, Kell announced that he had just come from a meeting with Colin Diamond who had informed him that Michael had stipulated in his will that he wished to be cremated.
Everybody in the room was visibly shocked. There followed a short discussion on this astonishing news. In our family a request to be cremated had been unknown. To my right, Andrew Farriss sat shaking his head and looking at the floor. Martha, who was seated on my left, looked at me incredulously, asking if Michael had ever said anything about this to me. He had not. But then, he was a young man so why would we speak of such things? We all questioned Kell who had been so keen on an elaborate funeral service, and a monument of some kind. I'd always thought a large headstone was only for those with a grave. He said, if Colin said it was in his will we should respect Michael's wishes.
I was getting increasingly anxious to meet Colin Diamond, as I was curious as to why Kell was not making any kind of a move without his okay. I assumed that I would have the pleasure shortly as he was in town for the funeral and Mother had left a message at the Sheraton for him to call her. This aside, we all agreed that if Michael was to be cremated we, just his immediate family and his brothers in the band, would take a boat and scatter his ashes over Sydney Harbour . He had loved that place. Rodney Claxton said that the Premier of New South Wales had offered all the security we needed for the day of the funeral. We still had to decide on the day however. There were only two houses of worship in Sydney which could accommodate a large crowd, St Mary's and St Andrew's Cathedrals. Mr Claxton suggested that St Andrews was the better for security reasons. He made a call to check on either availability and reported that Thursday afternoon would be the best time for St Andrew's.
Rhett objected: he thought that it should be on Saturday because it would give extra time for people who were arriving from overseas to pay their respects. He was adamant and insisted on a vote. He was voted down. Do disputes about our dead brother have to start so soon, I wondered. Rhett also wanted an open casket but Mother and Kell did not. How are you going to file 1000 mourners past a casket and maintain security? You can't frisk people coming into a church as you can at a rock concert. Once more he was voted down. The last thing we needed was to make this even more of a security nightmare. We had to think about who should be in the cathedral and how we would control the guest list. Someone suggested passes and someone else suggested a password - 'Tiger Lily'. This was getting ridiculous. We were all stunned and bereaved, yet here was this parish council meeting with a whole set of different agendas and some egos needing attention too. Rodney Claxton suggested that along with the irises we agreed upon for the casket we should have one large, beautiful Tiger lily and we all liked this idea. Later a newspaper inaccurately reported, that the flower was placed there by Paula with a note from her and Tiger. Paula did not join us to help make any of these decisions. She could have taken part in the planning but we were told when we gathered that she was highly sedated, resting in her apartment at the Quay West.
Seated next to me, Andrew Farriss, Michael's devoted friend and writing partner, was meticulously taking notes. He agreed to speak for the other band members at the service. Rhett said he would like to speak, and Mother asked me to say something. Mother and I had seen Richard Wilkins on Channel Nine the previous morning, speaking eloquently about Michael, and Harry said he would approach him about leading the eulogies. Two years later we read that Michael was not an admirer of Wilkins, though this statement had been made in Lovegroves' book by a friend of Michael's who wanted to remain anonymous. If this was so, nothing was said by Andrew or Martha that day. Rhett wanted to be a pallbearer along with the INXS members. Andrew was hesitant to be a pallbearer as he was already unsure if he was up to speaking and afterwards "carrying my best mate on my shoulders". This was perfectly understandable and my heart went out to him. Andrew and Michael had shared a long and very special, enduring, friendship. He has always been a thoughtful, circumspect man and takes his time before making a comment on anything. Rhett suggested that Brent stand by in the event that Andrew found that he was not up to it.
We also had to decide on the music. Martha suggested we ask Nick Cave to sing ‘Into My Arms' . Although Mother and I had not met him we knew that Nick was one of Michael's close friends. Martha said she would ask him. Next day we received a call from Harry saying that Nick Cave 's manager specified that he did not want to appear on the televised service but that he would sing for his friend's funeral if his face did not appear on camera. Of course Mother agreed and Harry suggested that Channel Seven show footage of Michael over the song.
It was soon getting very noisy in the hotel suite. Mr Claxton asked Mother, Ross, Kell and myself to join him and Marcella, his assistant, outside to go over the service announcement for the newspapers. I don't think he meant to leave Rhett out but I do think that what he had witnessed in the suite made him apprehensive about asking for his opinion. It was a while before we came up with the correct wording and the order in which to place Michael's loved ones and when completed it was faxed to several international publications. He then asked us to make up a list of INXS music we would like played although it would have to come down to just two songs. Incredibly, Kell suggested the upbeat, ‘Stay Young' . Mother and Ross requested ‘Never Tear Us Apart', and ‘By My Side' and these were settled on. We adjourned, with Mr Claxton making an appointment for Mother and Kell to meet with the Dean of St Andrews to discuss the service.
We all felt like prisoners. Mother remarked that if this was the way Michael had to live most of the time she could understand his depression. There was always somebody stationed on the third floor entrance, but Mother said he was one of Michael's bodyguards, although when Michael was in Los Angeles he hadn't needed them. The sun was brilliant outside, but we all had to keep our curtains closed, and were told to give notice if we wanted to go anywhere. I thought this was crazy: nobody knew me. I supposed that Rhett, having lived in Australia most of his life, might have been more recognisable – but so what? He's an outgoing guy who didn't mind the attention at all, although he did not refrain from threatening the press if they got too close. That afternoon, Ross and Mother wanted some bottled water. I slipped out a side entrance and into a shop across the road where I saw a newspaper on the counter with some headline about Michael and Bob Geldof. The place was quiet with only one other customer. As I waited for the man to fetch the water I tuned into the conversation between the sales person and the other customer beside me. “Of course he bloody killed himself, what do you expect with Prozac and booze?" The sales person said. I felt immediate anger rise up inside and found myself screaming at the stunned woman, "Shut up, shut up, you didn't know him!" Both women looked at me in disbelief as if, I were insane. At the time I was. I was insane with grief.
I finally asked Rhett what really happened to Michael. I knew none of the physical details and had been afraid to ask. I had not read any newspapers but I knew Rhett had been over to the Ritz Carlton hotel room several times and had also spoken to the police. As I looked around my own room, I could not work out how it could physically be done. I could not see anything to thread a belt through which would take the weight. Rhett lead me to the door of my room. He looked up at the closing mechanism, the long metal hinge, which prevents the door from slamming and pointed while he told me. From then on, I could not go out of my room without looking up at the mechanism and thinking about how desperate Michael must have felt to deliberately do such a thing.
Brent and Erin arrived from Los Angeles . I was so relieved to see them. They were bewildered about having been spirited in via the hotel's underground parking area instead of through the main entrance. Eventually, they came and went as they pleased, but I would never trust myself to leave the hotel without either Brent or Ross at my side after that first incident. I also worried that I had nothing to wear to the funeral, as Erin seemed to have packed my bag with more shoes than dresses. Knox Street , where we were staying is known for its' dress shops. So I took the children with me across to the boutiques while I searched for something black and conservative. I tried something on in the first shop and burst into tears. Erin asked the salesperson for tissues and a glass of water. I couldn't go through with this and just decided to buy the first decent dress in the first shop we tried. Erin hugged me and said, "It looks really good on you Mom, Michael would be proud." As we hurried past the photographers, Brent put his arm around me.Trying to lighten things up, he mocked a tough-guy attitude and whispered, "You want me to smash a camera for Michael Mom?" I thought, how courageous my children were to see some irony in this. They were handling this situation better than I thought they could have. Michael would indeed be proud.
Mr Claxton had arranged an appointment with the Dean of St Andrew's Cathedral to discuss the service and funeral arrangements. When Ross and I arrived we found that Kell and Sue had bought along Kell's sister Croy. The Dean began by suggesting to Kell and I that we tell him about Michael -where he went to school, his career, what he was like as a child, that sort of thing. Before I could form any words, Kell went into a dissertation of his private and complex problems with Paula and Bob Geldof. He pushed on to the divorce, child custody fights, stipulating that Geldof was the satanic cause of it all. He was turning this into a counselling session! I kept asking Kell to get on with the real reason for us being there and was ignored, so after about fifteen minutes of this, I rose and said, "Call me in when you are ready to discuss our son" . I walked outside. Ross settled me in a chair and returned to the room to see if he could get them back on to the reason for our being there. Kell continued on. After about ten minutes, Ross said, "That's enough. I am going back outside to bring Patricia in and you had better be prepared to talk about Michael".
I returned to the room and we got through the meeting. The discussion over, decisions made we went out into the Cathedral to meet Mr Claxton. He showed us our seating arrangements in the church. We returned to the Sir Stamford for further meetings on the final funeral arrangements -cars, flowers, security. Halfway through, I noticed that drivers and bodyguards were coming in and out having discussions at the other end of the room. In fact, there were many uninvited people, and the room was getting so noisy with various cell phones going off, I was so distressed by this that Mr Claxton suggested that we adjourn to the hotel breakfast room. We had literally been forced out of our own hotel suite. Kell, who continued to whisper into his cell phone, came scrambling behind.
Mother wanted a collage of family photographs to be placed near the casket. She had brought some with her, Rhett collected some from the lockup he shared with Michael and Erin had brought some from Los Angeles . Since she and Mandy are the artists in the family it was decided to let them take care of this task. I visited Erin 's room that night while she and Mandy were working on the large board of scattered family memories. I had not realized that the work would leave Erin drained and depressed. I tried to keep little Zoe occupied because she wanted to help and she kept rearranging the photographs. Poor little Zoe, it must have been such a confusing week for her. She kept saying, "Daddy sad. Daddy cry. Zoe cry too".
While we were cut off from the world, engulfed in such sad undertakings, Colin Diamond and Andrew Young were visiting their other client Jon Farriss at his home. There were several people in the house, drinking their grief away downstairs as Jon sat upstairs in the master bedroom. Diamond and Young were overheard by several of Michael's friends discussing Rhett in a contemptuous way. Rhett is not one to let things rest and over the course of that day he had been playing detective as usual, asking a few leading questions of Colin Diamond. This was mainly concerning Michael's state of mind, how no one in his management or the band could have been so blind so as not to notice the decline in his mental well being. He wanted to know how these people could have ignored this situation. He was also asking questions about Michael's financial position. Diamond was overheard saying to Young, "I'd like to have his legs broken and I will if he doesn't get into line." This was a callous, threatening, thing to say. Anybody who knew Michael was aware that no matter what transpired between the brothers, whatever temporary estrangement's, Michael loved Rhett very much and the feeling was reciprocal. Rhett was following his instincts asking the questions we all wanted to ask.
That same evening I heard that Rhett had Kym Wilson in his room. It was well known that in lieu of a face to face interview with inspector Duclos she had her attorneys deliver a statement to the police station. I was livid as I could not understand why she would not want to do everything possible to help with the investigation especially if she and her boyfriend had spent so many hours with Michael just before he took his life. They must have talked about something. I thought they were claiming special treatment. When Rhett's door opened, Kym Wilson appeared with a big smile on her face, asking if she should also answer their phone. "Sure" , said Rhett, inviting me in but I declined: there were too many other people there. And I just did not think that it was right for Kym to be speaking in front of a roomful of people, when she was refusing to speak to the police. I asked him why he had Kym Wilson in his room, why was she so freely talking to him in front of others and not the police. We walked down the hall, talking heatedly. He said that he just wanted to know what happened that night. Mandy came out to try to calm me down and said that it was natural for me to be feeling angry and upset, that I should not be directing it at Rhett. In some ways she was right, but I just felt that he was going about his grieving in a peculiar manner.
Four days later Kym Wilson was featured in a front page story in the morning newspaper and one week after this, she sold her story to an Australian magazine.
Many things happened the day before the service. We began hearing reports that remaining members of INXS were unhappy with our decision to restrict the press, including televised coverage of the funeral although, none of them actually called us to say so. Not even Martha had said anything about that. Now Rhett decided that he did not like the idea either. I agreed with my parents and felt restraint was the best way. Anyway, it was their decision. Except for the diehards, most of the photojournalists had by now dispersed from across the street. Because they had been told that everything had to go through Harry, so we knew that there would be no shuffling and fighting for places in the cathedral because only one network, and one photographer had permission to be there.
The day before the funeral I heard from Michael's hitherto elusive financial advisor, Colin Diamond. Martha had told me that I needed to speak to him but he had canceled every meeting. I thought he was calling to change yet another plan but he explained that he did not have long to talk as he had been up most of the night at a hospital with Tiger Lily. He had taken her there after she had suffered another seizure. This of course gripped me with alarm. He said that he might need my help on the Gold Coast, adding it would be "something similar to what we had to do last year with Tiger." He was referring to the 1996 drug bust when he put Paula on a plane back to London while Michael hid out with Tiger until they found a suitable nanny. His exact words were "I may need your help in getting Tiger away from Paula to the Gold Coast. Something like we did last time." I continued to be alarmed in more than one way.
When I responded with, "What do you mean?" he became confused and, seemingly fumbling for words, said that he would have to call me back then hung up. I came to the conclusion that he had actually meant to reach someone else's room. The only other female guests at our hotel connected with the family also registered under the name of Edwards, were Mandy, Martha and Tina. It wouldn't be Tina he would be addressing in such a familiar way as she had yet to meet him. Finally some of my fog lifted and I began to wonder about the crib in Martha's room, but any vague worry about Martha planning to take Tiger was put aside amidst everything else. I also had the strangest feeling I was actually speaking to Stephen Diamond –not Colin Diamond. Mr Claxton has since said he felt the same thing when speaking on the phone with Colin. Sometimes brothers are difficult to tell apart on the phone.
Despite the chaos that Mother had endured in those five days and given that she had been expected to make decisions on her elder son's funeral service and was forced to say goodbye to him in a very public way we tried to think of positive things. We were all concerned about Tiger and how we could help Paula out a time like this. Mother asked me if I would return to Australia and help raise Tiger if this proved to be a sensible option. I did not think it through but agreed without hesitation. In fact I was rather charmed by the prospect of raising another child, especially Michael's Tiger Lily. Of course I had a life and two children of my own in California , and I can't imagine this would have been an option Paula would have been keen on, but for the moment, in the midst of such a crises, I wasn't thinking straight about anything.
Colin Diamond has since discussed this incident of Tiger's seizure publicly, in a short-lived magazine called AXS, the masthead of which cited Andrew Young as ‘Legal Adviser' and incidentally interviewer .
Kell later told me that during the week of the funeral Colin had intended taking Tiger to Michael's Gold Coast house, whilst sending Paula back to London . Quite how he expected to accomplish this piece of diplomacy still eludes me, although Tiger did have an Australian passport and Colin seems to be able to accomplish many things which, one would think impossible.
After this call Ross, Tina and I went back to working on the list of friends and family for the cars when the phone rang again. It was Kell, furious as he reported a meeting with Paula the previous evening. It had been more of a confrontation. He had gone to see her in good faith to advise her of the funeral arrangements, but he told me that he found her "popping pills, downing champagne and looking at magazines and breastfeeding" while he was trying to speak to her. Evidently she informed him that she did not want Andrew Farriss to speak at the service and that she did not want any of INXS, Michael's non-blood brothers, to do anything at the funeral other than show up . She was livid that Helena and Kylie had called Martha to say they would be there, she did not mind if Bono came but objected to his wife, Ali. I think she must have been confused: this was our son's funeral where his friends and family wanted to pay their respects, not a backstage party.
Kell told me that he had informed Paula that she had nothing to say about the arrangements now, everything had been taken care of, and she would be in the fifth car, after Michael's family and his extended family, his brothers from INXS. He said that he made it clear that he would arrange for her to have a bodyguard, adding "and I told her if she made one wrong move she would be bodily picked up and carried out of the cathedral and dumped in the gutter where she belonged".
According to Kell he screamed at her "You and that husband of yours killed my son!"
Then she came at him swinging, attacking him with her fists. Tony the bodyguard later told me that he interposed himself and had a tooth broken. Colin, who had been standing by, finally dragged Kell out of the room. As he was leaving Detective Duclos arrived to take Paula's statement. When Kell heard her refuse and stomp off into her bedroom he broke free of Diamond and ran after her to demand that she give it. She was eventually coaxed into doing so the following day.
After our confrontation at the hotel in LA just four months before I assumed I was persona non grata. News of the seizure meant that I was seriously concerned for Tiger's welfare. But having now heard of Kell's encounter with her I feared that she and I could end up in the same sort of situation as he had. I was also worried that Paula was so unstable that she might try to physically harm me. I voiced my fears to Martha who made light of them, joking that Paula would be far more inclined to do something about the ex-girlfriends adding, "She would run out of bullets before she got to you". Very re-assuring. Fortunately, with everything that transpired that week and in the weeks that lay ahead, I always had another person on the extension phone, either Ross or Tina. I don't know why but I somehow knew it would be important someday. In any case, at the time I was being bombarded with all kinds of confusing information and they helped me to understand it.
The next slice of news to hit us in the morning newspapers came the day before the funeral. In an interview the Dean of St. Andrews announced that his house of worship was open to anybody who wished to come and pay their respects to Michael. This presented us with a huge problem. We had tried to ensure that the service would be as private as possible, considering the number of friends and the celebrity status of some of those who were coming to the church. Now this man was throwing the doors open to the public. It was not generally known, even to the press and certainly not to us, that the Dean usually has his own video crew which offered videos and audio tapes of special services performed at St Andrews . No doubt the proceeds go to a good cause but I can't even begin to express the anger we continue to feel at discovering for ourselves so late in the day that the cathedral expected to film and tape Michael's service for financial gain. It seemed to us so wrong when the Church's principal obligation in such circumstances is surely to offer comfort in grief, rather than to see the occasion as a business opportunity. Maybe in less public circumstances it might be fitting to make use of this service, but given that we had taken steps to restrict the press it just didn't seem appropriate. The only solution was to ensure that the programme for Michael's service did not contain the usual promotional wording on the back, and that the church cameras were not operating. We informed Harry Miller and Rodney Claxton of our wishes.
I was in my mother's suite when Martha called to say that Michele was in the hotel. Would we see her? Of course we would. She walked in looking as beautiful as ever, but frail and shaken. I had so many mixed emotions, knowing that Michael had loved her so truly and so long. We hugged and I brought Erin in to see her. She had been just a little girl when they last met, and they greeted each other warmly. Talking with Michele brought back floods of memories. She said that she had felt in talking with Michael that past week that he had come full circle, that he seemed strong and ready to begin again. She added that with the encouragement he had received from the motion picture industry in Hollywood he was optimistic about his acting career and also wanted to establish a simpler way of life. He could accept that it would take some effort to cross over to an acting career and he was prepared for that, but he wanted his personal life to be less complicated.
Eventually Michele asked about Rhett. I took her to his suite and was surprised again to find a room full of people. Since Rhett had been to his and Michael's Sydney lockup he was sitting on the floor going through a box of Michael's personal papers. He was sharing some of Michaels' most precious thoughts with a room full of people. He even pulled out an old letter from Michele and began reading it aloud as she sat there horrified. I begged him to put the box away but he didn't. Fortunately, after knowing Rhett for so many years especially through Michael's eyes, Michele accepts and understands Rhett's unconventional behaviour – you just can't stay mad at Rhett and in a funny way you just love him for what he does.
That afternoon a memo was placed under every door in the Sir Stamford and presumably sent to each business on Knox Street . It stated that at 1pm , Thursday, November 27th the street would be blocked off for a short time. The police had advised that this was for the best in order to get the cars lined up for the procession to the cathedral. I realized that although I had many wonderful memories of my beloved brother bouncing around in my mind I still had to come up with something to say to express my feelings in the cathedral. The fact that it held 1000 people and the service was to be telecast live did not bother me. I would simply be there for Michael, his brothers in the band and most of all for my family and I wanted to do my best for them. I realized that it would be Thanksgiving Thursday for Erin and Brent and me. Our last Thanksgiving had been spent with Michael and I felt compelled to mention this. Erin had arrived with a book of poetry by e.e.cummings. She suggested a verse which spoke of one's passing but it was not quite right. As we flipped through the book we came across another which gave some hope and was fitting to the occasion and the man. Just as my mother was relying on me for support, I was also relying on my children for strength.
Mother made arrangements for us to go to a beauty salon. She thought it would make us feel a little better if we looked better. Lloyd Lomas, the owner of the salon, kindly offered to come to us on the morning of the funeral but I was in need of a little more help. I slipped out the side entrance and ran down the alley to Lloyd's salon. It was very low key and none of his staff knew who I was. It was greatly appreciated because in the eternity of those past four days I had noticed that people in and around the hotel staring at us, almost waiting for someone to break down. When he had finished weaving his magic he guided me down an alley, through some doors, and then I was back in my hotel room. Cars were arriving to take us to the funeral parlour at 6pm for the final viewing. At the appointed time, we made a short, sombre ride to see my brother for the last time. We waited while Kell and Sue had their time alone with Michael. When Kell emerged he seemed aloof and distanced. I could not quite define my unease and since nothing untoward had transpired between us I put it down to his expression of grief.
Andrew arrived with Martha, just before we entered the chapel. I greeted her but immediately felt a strange detachment from her as well. I was well aware that a funeral parlour is not a place for warm ambience but I do imagine that in most instances, friends and relatives try to comfort each other. I felt no empathy from Martha who, up until then had always been so friendly. Again I put it down to overwhelming distracted grief. Mother, Ross, Brent, Erin and I went into the small chapel together. Michael lay there so peacefully, dressed in one of his beautiful suits sent over from his stage wardrobe. We stood around the casket and each of us placed something special with him - photographs and letters. Mother and I had each taken a flower from our room. I laid a lily by him and Mother placed an iris in his hand. Then she began to weep. Brent and Erin were standing back a little and gradually came closer as we spoke to him. Mother stroked his hair and I noticed that they had attempted to cover the cut on his eyebrow by rearranging his curls. Strange as it sounds we were all comforted by how peaceful he looked. There had been such a change in his face over the last year, he had rarely looked at peace.
Just as it was getting too painful to bear Andrew came in and put his arms around us. He talked to Michael and then said something that gave us real solace. He reminded us that Michael would not be alone on the other side. He was referring to his mother Jill, who had always loved Michael and knew him to be Andrew's brother in a way. She had died much too young in 1993. Andrew said "He's not alone, he has my mum to look after him and they'll have each other now." My mother managed a painful smile. He went on "She'll take care of him for you." I can't explain why this gave us relief from some of the pain. It just did: the idea that a loving and familiar face was waiting to care for him there, I suppose. Mother's face lifted when she realized what his words meant. We will always be grateful to Andrew for that loving, unselfish thought. Over more than twenty years of backstage meetings and various social gatherings, as well as award ceremonies and so on, we had come to know all the boys in the band pretty well. INXS staying together for so long was partly due to this unspoken importance of this extended family. But I guess Andrew will always be the most special INXS brother of all because his friendship with Michael began with him defending Michael from bullies at school.
I walked outside to give Mother and Ross some time alone. Rhett called me over and began objecting to the proposed live telecast, trying to enlist my help in cancelling it. Now, for someone who took so many trips over to view the flowers, cards and stuffed animals outside the Ritz Carlton, never once disguising himself but wearing, au contraire , brightly coloured shirts which were likely to draw reporters' and photographers' attention, I would not assume that having one camera at the back of the church would be a problem. I struggled to keep quiet. For some reason, it was okay for him to be organizing a wake but he objected to Mother and Kell controlling their son's funeral. Our discussion was getting heated because he could not bring me round to his way of thinking. He tried to drag poor Andrew into it. I said that there is no way for us to really know the pain that Mother and Kell must be going through. We have nowhere to learn to become parents far less to know how to deal with this most unnatural thing – the death of a child. I mumbled that we just try to deal with sorrow as it arises and as a parent and this was a tragedy that I hoped neither he nor I ever had to face.
I tried to hug him as we left for the hotel. He was stiff at first but softened. I also hugged Andrew, who had joined us outside and heard most of this difficult conversation and had agreed with me. Then I joined Mother who was waiting to leave. As we walked away she noticed some programmes, which had been printed by the funeral parlour. The front read "Thanksgiving for the life of Michael Hutchence-January 22, 1960 - November 22, 1997 " . And sure enough the back cover invited people to purchase video copies of the service for $25.00. The audio tape was priced at a bargain $5.00. My blood boiled again. Mother was almost beyond fury and insisted that the programme was reprinted before the ceremony. I wonder how those who criticized my parents for the carefully restricted telecast which was beamed to international destinations and for which they took no money, would feel about those videos and cassettes being on sale for the next few months, if my mother had not stopped it right there and then.
Mother and I were confused by the unfriendly messages we were getting. There seemed to be some sub-text or hidden agenda that we were excluded from. For one thing, apart from some beautiful flowers from Andrew and Shelly Farriss, and a phone message from Tim Farriss, we had not heard from the rest of the band. We found this very strange, as in the past we had all been part of an extended family. I realized that they were grieving the loss of a friend and creative business partner, but having been in each other's lives for twenty-four years, I thought a call to my mother could be expected.
On the morning of the funeral I woke with a pounding heart shaking and sweaty. Memories came flooding back. I lay there trying to calm myself. I put my hand out to feel for ross who was sleeping quietly and peacefully beside me. I was trying to take long breaths, concentrating on exhaling slowly while pushing all of the air out, hoping this would slow my heart rate. I did this for some time but I felt I was hyperventilating. I looked at the clock beside the bed – 4:25am . I could hear voices from the street below. Cars, voices, shutters being opened. I got up from the bed and went to the bathroom. My face looked swollen and puffy. I had cried myself to sleep again. How could I get through this day?
I walked over to the bedroom window and pulled back the heavy velvet curtains, opened the windows wide to get some fresh air. I looked down to the street below and saw the outside broadcast van pull up. Then I saw a couple of photographers arrive to stake their claim outside the entrance to the hotel. I could see their cigarettes glowing in the dark –the sun was not up as yet. I watched them move around chatting to each other, getting ready for another day in the quest for that front page shot.
I looked up at the sky and suddenly from out of nowhere I saw two birds –two doves. They were chasing each other across the sky criss-crossing back and forth in front of the window. I could not believe my eyes. I felt they were sending me a message to tell me Michael was at peace. I will never forget that moment. I wanted to wake Ross, but could not tear myself away from this incredible sight. I remembered a beautiful photograph of Michael holding a dove in his hand, which was used in an advertisement for Amnesty International. It was one of my favourite photographs.
By this time my panic attack had subsided but I was still feeling strange. I went back to bed and thought about those doves. I wondered what had brought them there at that moment. Ross woke up and made tea for us. I told him my story, and he listened with tears in his eyes. Ross is a very special, and gentle man, and he loved Michael dearly.
I showered and tried to prepare myself for the day ahead but was feeling so shaky, bewildered and teary and did not think I could cope with the day ahead of me. Ross insisted on sending for a doctor. She arrived about an hour later and said I was under such extreme trauma and stress and needed to take something to calm me down. She gave me a tablet to take I asked her what it was and she said it was a Valium. I panicked, as I never even take an aspirin unless my doctor advises. She sat talking to me for some time, so I eventually decided to take it to get me through the day.
Lloyd came to my suite to do my hair and also my sweet granddaughter Erins'. He was astounded at the likeness between Erin and Michael. Time to dress and put my makeup on. I was feeling quite calm at this stage and my dear friend Jan and her daughter Cassie arrived to give me a stone to hold and rub –it was meant to calm me more. They made me some ‘calming' tea to drink and by this time I was so calm I was almost comatose! Cassie offered to make up my swollen eyes for me. Cassie, a former student of mine had won the BAFTA award(British Academy Award) for her makeup on Priscilla, Queen of the Desert . I remember reminding Cassie to keep my eyes very soft. I never usually let anyone do my makeup for me. Tina arrived, and Brent came to my room to give me a hug. Then there was a knock on the door and Harry Miller came in to discuss certain final arrangements to control the filming. He knew Jan and they chattered on about old times. I remember listening to the chatter and even interjecting occasionally myself, while at the same time wondering why I was feeling so animated. When they all left to allow me to dress, I went over to the window. The stillness was eerie. The outside broadcast van had left, and all the photographers too. Knox Street was deserted, but for a few pedestrians standing outside the hotel -not a car in sight or even a taxi on the rank outside. But there was no sign of the doves now.
I took off my dressing gown a wave of sadness overcame me, my Valium-induced calm giving way to a flood of tears. The outfit I had decided to wear that day was the suit I had bought that happy day in London with Michael.
Thursday November 27th , 1997 fell on Thanksgiving Day itself. It was also the day that we would be giving thanks for Michael's life. Mother called and said that she was on her way with a statement for me to check through before I read it on a radio show. Actually her thoughts were very concise and I had to change very little. She left and the phone rang while I was still furiously correcting details. It was Harry. I took the call, thinking that he was going to discuss this whole radio interview business, but before I had time to draw breath, he transferred me direct to the Alan Jones Show. I later found out this has the largest listening audience in Australia and that Mr Jones can be quite caustic. I thought I had nothing to worry about in that respect as he was also a client of Harry's and I was given to understand that he was doing us a favour by allowing us to put our case across to his audience. He began by asking questions about Michael as a child and extended his sympathies to the family. He then said that many people were curious and suspicious of our motives and feared that we were trying to make money out of tragedy. I then read out Mother's statement, improvising here and there. I flatly denied that we were getting a cent for the live telecast and added that we were indebted to Harry for his help. It was important for me and Mother to establish this as Harry had been horribly impugned and we wanted to do what we could to correct the record.
Later, when I went to check in with Rhett, I was alarmed to find his room still resembling Grand Central station, with a constant flow of people. He was still publicly going through Michael's boxes. He suggested I came along with him to see Paula before the funeral. Rhett had only met Paula three times, at Zoe's christening and then again at Christmas 1995 and 1996 . These were all very happy occasions and he and Paula had got on well. He had not seen Michael's deterioration in 1997, had not even spoken with him other than briefly the morning before his death. Though he had heard stories from friends, he was oblivious to the turmoil Michael's life had taken on with Paula's domestic problems. He did not know of Michael's depression. Although I wanted desperately to see Tiger, out of respect for my mother, I declined to go with him. Paula had yet to call her and I did not think that right. Besides, I couldn't help feeling Paula had swept into Sydney with entourage as if she was the grieving widow, when I, and many others who were close to Michael knew, although being the mother of his child, he was not intending to marry her and he was even seeing other women. It seemed to me that Paula was still trying to give the impression that there was blissful happiness and an impending marriage.
I went to see Martha. She was taking phone calls in between trying on dresses which friends had sent over. She had been too busy to go shopping, she explained, and would have to make-do with a borrowed outfit for the funeral. She was waiting for news on her husband Bill who was due in from New York an hour or so before the service. Bill had known Michael since the early days of INXS when he was first employed to check their contracts with the record companies. We wanted him to say something at the crematorium. Martha said that she had not had much sleep the two previous nights and that she had been at the hospital with Colin and Tiger on one of them. This was news to me as Colin had not mentioned to Mother that Martha had been with him – but it suddenly reminded me of Colin's remarks about Tiger's illness and I noticed that the crib was still in her room. Since Martha would have had to climb over it to get to one side of the bed. I wondered again why she had not had it removed. Why I forgot to ask her about it I can only put down to extreme exhaustion, grief and other pre-occupations. And as usual, we were constantly interrupted by phone calls.
As I waited for her to become free to speak to me she took a call clearly pertaining to the seating in the cathedral. I don't know who was on the other end but she would stop every now and then and say into the phone "Just a minute, I'm not sure about that one, Tina's here I'll ask her." Then she turned to me and asked something like "What do you think, should the [tour]crew be seated in front of the girlfriends?" We both agreed on that one. Michael respected the people he worked with for so many years and they should be seated directly behind the band.
When I returned to my room, slightly disquieted, I found several messages. Chris Murphy, Wendy Murphy Moss, Hiraani, Jonnie and many others had rung. There was also a fax from Gibson and Tina Kemp, my good friends in London , sent via a mutual friend in Sydney . It had been difficult for friends to find us as we were all booked in under assumed names. Gibson had sent me a beautiful, uplifting verse on the passing of a loved one. I decided to read it out at the cathedral. I also thought the INXS brothers would find some comfort in it as it was from such a dear old friend and the words were so fitting:
And from those lips which did sing,
a rose beget the spring,
do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.
These lines, were written by an unknown soldier.
As I dressed on that terrible morning and tried to keep myself together a friend of Michael's came to my room and gave me a beautiful crystal to hold at the church, along with some calming tea. Actually I had taken a Valium and was approaching 'Valley of the Dolls' style calm. All I had to remember was to stay in the first limo, sit on the right side of the church, and walk up to the podium with Rhett.
I went to my mother's suite, stopping briefly in the lobby where a few relatives and friends had gathered. Mother was also sedated. She does not believe in drugs of any kind and she rarely ever even takes aspirin, but it was obvious that today she would break her rule. Rodney Claxton had already delivered a satin- lined box which contained the small, silk, purple and yellow Versace kerchief from Michael's coat pocket and the six beautiful Vivienne Westwood buttons he had carefully removed from his jacket before closing the casket. Mother had asked for these items the night before but was surprised when he brought them to the hotel. She chose to carry the kerchief for comfort. After the funeral Mother divided the buttons between Rhett, Brent, Erin, Martha and myself as keepsakes. The sixth she kept and was later to have it set in a ring. Shortly before we had to reach the lobby the phone rang. Nick Cave was on the line. There were no words of condolence and he was quite businesslike as he explained that he was willing to sing ‘Into My Arms' for Michael's family but reiterated that he objected to being seen on television. We were confused as we had already gone over this with Channel Seven and assumed that the message had reached him. Mother assured him that the only image on the screen during his song would be Michael's.
After greeting our friends and relatives in the lobby we had to depart - quite early, as we were to pick up the INXS brothers and Paula plus her entourage from another hotel. As we walked from the quiet of our hotel to the limousines I looked up and saw people hanging out of windows and lined up and down the street. I realized they weren't staring, they were paying respect. The first car carried Mother and Ross, Kell and Sue, Croy and me. Rhett, Mandy and Zoe, Erin and Brent, our aunt, Maureen and our cousin Melissa were in the second car. INXS members and partners rode next. The other cars carried close friends and family to the church. We were terribly moved by the outpouring of grief from crowds along the route. Mother and Ross and I were taking it in of course, lost as we were in our private thoughts. Kell and Sue found it necessary to comment upon the turnout for Michael, saying things like "Look at that person with the banner.” “Look at all the flowers.” “What a gorgeous day it is for Michael.” I was on edge by the time we reached Paula's hotel and definitely felt like taking another little yellow pill, just about remembering my ‘Right side, right side, right side' mantra.
The careful plan was to break the two front cars just ahead of the Sheraton entrance so that the three other cars, including Paula and her companions, Belinda Brewin, Andrew Young, Nick Cave, Tony the bodyguard and presumably Colin and Stephen Diamond , could pull in behind and follow to the cathedral. This would mean that Paula was in the fifth car, a potential insult to dignity and status that had not occurred to me. We had no wish to slight her. Besides, we had rather gratefully accepted the advice of our funeral director who was used to orchestrating these miserable occasions.
The door of our limo opened all too soon. I was out first and was greeted by the Dean and a blaze of flashbulbs. I cannot remember what the Dean said, but as he spoke, I was aware that people were running behind me into the cathedral as if on their way to a gig venue. I still felt light-headed. Right side, right side…. As I walked, blinking, across the threshhold of the packed and dimly lit cathedral, flashbulbs, blazing sunlight, outside and Valium all playing their part, INXS' publicist Shawn Deacon caught my arm and congratulated me for coming across so well on the Alan Jones Show. I just hesitated for a few seconds, then I was shoved several times by people running through the door behind me as my parents were still trying to enter the church. Then the way was finally clear for me to walk down the centre aisle to take my place in the front pew, the front right pew.
I was aware that many eyes watched to see who might be walking to the front and felt suddenly weakened without certainty of my family behind me. Almost there, not much further, right side, right right side. Oh no, it can't be. The right front pew was occupied. There sat Tony the bodyguard, Nick Cave , Paula's friend Belinda and sitting with her feet up on the railing was Paula, bouncing baby Tiger on her bare, extended, legs. I realized that the people running into the cathedral ahead of me while the Dean and Shawn were detaining me, must have been Paula and the others from her car. How else could they have been in their seats before me? Behind them were the band, the crew and some of the girlfriends. I quickly glanced back to see my family still detained at the door. Feeling the weight of many eyes upon my back, I just slipped into the front left pew. My parents were visibly confused and upset when they finally made their way to the front and saw me seated on the left. Not realizing that I had failed to reach the front first they thought that I had made the mistake and Kell was furious with me. Of course it was the fault of the funeral director because he had not properly directed traffic. Who knew that it had become a first come first seated affair? I was expecting an usher or a cordoned-off area. I still do not know why it had been allowed that everyone could choose their own seating after all that planning. There must have been some plan that the band's crew and girlfriends had been told about. Why else had Martha taken the call while I was in her room that morning? I do not know if our original, respectfully traditional and formal, seating plan had been tampered with by others, but it was unsettling and upsetting. Then again, who could have known that the occupants of the two front cars would enter the church behind the occupants of the fourth and fifth limousines? By the time Rodney Claxton realized the mistake the cathedral was just about full.
Perhaps to some this just seems like an unfortunate muddle. I'm acutely aware that silly, snippy pride and concerns about breaches of conventional protocol were insignificant on the day. We were all there to wish Michael our love and that was the only thing that mattered, finally. However, the fact that, despite my Valium haze, I recall this confusion so keenly and with such pain suggests that the memory of some other agenda lingers.
We had two choices. Either we could ask everyone in the first six rows on the right, which included the band, to move to the other side in an orderly fashion while about 1000 pairs of eyes looked on. The other was to sit on the left, which is what we did. Seated directly behind the enormous collage of family photographs, I couldn't even see my brother's casket. Rodney moved it but replaced it with the enormous arrangement from Bono and Ali. I could now just about strain to see a corner of the iris corsage lying on top of the casket. The piano from which Nick Cave was to deliver his song and the pulpit where the Dean was giving his address were both on the other side. Everything had been arranged to ensure that right side could have a better view of proceedings. This is why the family was traditionally seated on the right.
I did not see Rhett until we arrived at the cathedral, and when I saw him I wondered to myself why he had chosen to wear such a loud outfit for this sad occasion. It was a red and grey striped suit Michael had given him one Christmas at the villa. It stood out vibrantly among everyone else's more sombre colours. Then I realized he had chosen it for the same reason as I had mine – to remember Michael.
We walked up the aisle to take our places only to find them already occupied by Paula, Belinda Brewin, Andrew Young, Martha Troup and a few others. We were confused, but saw other seats on the left were vacant and so sat in those. Mr Claxton came to us to apologize, and asked me if I wanted to ask them to change seats. I looked across to see Paula with her legs up on the front pew, jiggling them around in front of the Dean. I decided it would be more embarrassing to move, and we stayed put. I did not think moving would embarrass Paula, as she was doing a good enough job of that herself.
More unhappy surprises were to come. Just before the service began Paula slipped out of her seat, and came across the aisle with Tiger Lily, as if for a social chat. It was the first time I had noticed what she was wearing. There, leaning over the pew, and facing the television cameras, was Paula in a short, tight, red and black dress with a plunging neckline. She had Tiger Lily dressed in matching Chinese pyjamas.
Remembering Kell's words, "I told them to lift her bodily and throw her into the gutter!” I was astonished to see that she had left her seat without any interference. As she approached, Kell and Sue, smiled broadly. I guessed that they were so stunned that they had forgotten what had happened the day before as now they both smiled and kissed Paula and Tiger on the cheek. Then Paula moved on to me. I did not feel I could be a hypocrite and embrace her, and I turned my cheek away as Paula attempted to kiss it. After kissing Tiger, I told Paula to go back to her seat as the service was about to begin. Ross did the same. Nobody else could have possibly heard this exchange but saw the interaction, and there was an even deeper hush in the church. Tina was next in line but by that time Paula had decided not to press her luck. Returning to her seat, Paula put her ankles back up on the railing and jiggled her legs. Belinda hit the leg closest to her, obviously trying to get her to behave herself. They went through this routine several times throughout the service. In normal circumstances we would be together with Michael's child and her mother. This had been my first interaction with Paula since her outburst at the Mondrian four months before.
Tina and Rhett had each written a eulogy for Michael and went up to the lectern together to deliver them. It must have taken so much strength to overcome their grief enough to do that. I looked at their pained faces, and have never felt so much love and pride in all my life.
The sound of Michael singing 'By My Side' filled the church. As the service began, Kell alerted Rhett to a photographer standing over on my side, about thirty feet away and not bothering anyone. This was the one photographer Kell had agreed to allow into the church beside the Channel Seven camera crew. Without warning, Kell had Rhett leap out of his seat and very pointedly demand the poor man move. Something had definitely happened in the last twenty-four hours but my head was too fuzzy to address it. I only wanted to focus on Michael. It was as if there was a secret society to which Kell had been admitted and Rhett had been ordained but I guessed that they hadn't had time to tell Mother and I about it.
The service began smoothly. Then, just as Nick Cave was singing, a man in the balcony yelled, "This is how he did it Paula, this is how he died" and attempted to jump. Someone caught him before he fell but as he crashed against the side of the railing he smashed a light bulb. Glass splinters shattered all over two of my friends, one of whom was very pregnant. Security rushed to bundle the intruder off to a police van. I blame this disturbance on the Dean, who had invited one and all to come into the service. I later found out that this person had been allowed in simply because he was carrying a guitar.
Andrew was moving when he spoke of his friendship with Michael. Then Rhett and I walked up together and as I began to speak I felt my throat constrict. I pushed on trying not to look in my parents' direction, for I knew I would never be able to finish. I tried not to focus on any faces especially the ones I knew but faltered when I looked out at one point and locked eyes with Chris Murphy. Rhett put his arm around me and I continued. He was very nervous reading his prepared eulogy fast, but it came from the heart. He told of his close relationship with Michael and how wonderful and how difficult it had been at times, to be his brother.
The service ended, the music for ‘Never Tear Us Apart' swelled, and again Michael's voice rang through with his beautiful lyrics . 'We could live, for a thousand years and if I hurt you, I'll make wine from your tears, I told you that we could fly, ‘cos we all have wings, but some of us don't know why'. I could feel it through my body and the pain was excruciating. We followed Michael's casket down the aisle and as we got to the door, where we could see Andrew, Jon, Tim, Kirk, Garry and Rhett, placing the casket into the hearse, a friend of Michael's whom I did not recognize at first, pushed through next to my Mother's ear, and yelled out, "Three cheers for Michael" . The crowd outside responded. My poor mother had taken all she could stand. I watched her sink back against Ross.
We passed groups of mourners on the side of the road on the way to the crematorium and were so touched. I don't know if they could see into the limousine, but we mouthed thanks to them for coming out in tribute to Michael. We reached the crematorium with only the immediate family and friends, although as we exited the cars and I looked up on the hill I was surprised to see that we were surrounded by what looked like the whole of the New South Wales police department. When we were asked to enter the small chapel behind the coffin, Paula turned on her heels and walked away when the Dean stopped her from walking ahead of the immediate family members. Bill gave a fitting and beautiful speech. It was hard to watch Michael's casket being engulfed by the flames, so final.
It was only when we all met outside the crematorium that I really noticed who else was there, as the cathedral had been a blur for me. I wandered around and spoke briefly with INXS members, although it surprised me that they never came over to my parents. It was so unnatural. I approached some very special people who had been influential in the success of my brother's career, including Chris Murphy, who was taking his death especially hard. Kym Wilson came over and introduced herself to me. She offered me her phone number should I want to ask any questions about that last night. I doubt she has the answers to the questions that I would have for her. I think that only Michael or God would be able to answer those.
Kell was in a limousine with Sue and Croy. It was hot and humid by now, and he wanted to leave. Ross requested another car because we were not ready to leave. This was impossible, I looked over at the car we had arrived in and saw that it had steam pouring out of the engine. Also I could see that guests who had not originally gone to St Andrew's with us in the limousines were now getting into them whilst some of our relatives had apparently been left stranded at the cathedral. No doubt the same rules had applied as when we were on our way into the church: it was first come first seated –even in a limo! Film footage of the exterior of St Andrews later confirmed this. I saw no humour in the situation then -and little now. It reminded me of the backstage hangers-on, determined to claim close connection with the band.
On the way back to the Sir Stamford I was seated next to Croy and next to her was Sue. Across from us Mother, between Ross and Kell. There was incessant chatting from the other three about which relatives were buried where. Mother and I looked at each other, and I could see that she was about to lose it. Kell was speaking very loudly, as he had forgotten his hearing aid. Then he started on about Rhett. Why didn't Mother speak to him? He needs to be pulled into line he said. She defended Rhett, praised him on a beautiful eulogy and told Kell to speak to him himself if he had something to say. She told him that she did not want to speak of it now, we needed some quiet time to ourselves. Kell exploded and then Mother did lose it. Without looking, she flicked her open hand back; her heavy gold bracelet caught Kell on his open mouth. He immediately began pummelling her head with his fists. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Ross interposed and put a stop to it. In my head I was saying, Michael, please don't watch this ugliness. Climb inside my mind, and I will tell you how much we all love you.
By now, Kell was covering his bleeding mouth with a handkerchief and moaning about all the work he just had done on his two front teeth. We later found out that Mother loosened five of his new caps and caused several months worth of dentist's appointments. But despite this scene Sue and Kell's sister were clucking away like old hens. Mother begged them to be quiet, buried her face in Ross' chest, and took out something to dab at her tears. It was the Versace kerchief. Recognising the precious piece of silk from Michael's jacket, Sue's eyes grew large and then squinted into furious 'pins'. I was trying to find something interesting to watch out of the window, while I literally sat on my hands to stop the impulse I had to hit something. I could not look at Mother for fear that I would burst out laughing as people sometimes do in a tense situation. It certainly changed the mood.
Mother's wrist and cheek were bruised and swollen by the time we got back to the Sir Stamford. She must have whacked Kell harder than I thought, but he had connected with her also. As she left the car, holding her wrist -which had a tooth indentation -she said, with great aplomb, "I hope I don't get rabies." But we had further concerns about the incident: the tabloids. After all , Rodney Claxton's assistant Marcella who was riding up front with the driver had overheard everything. With the price of a good story these days, all this could be all over the newspapers by tomorrow morning we thought. The three of us, Ross, Mother and I, took her aside and begged her not to discuss this with anyone. She gave her word and as far as I know she has kept it.
There had been no sign of Colin Diamond at the funeral. We would not have known this, as the cathedral was so crowded, but later heard from the lead detective that it had been noted that Diamond did not attend his client's funeral. We called Martha who was at the wake by now. She said that her husband Bill was to have a conference call with Colin later that evening and she assured us she would make certain that Colin called Mother. She told her "It's important that he talk to you" . We wondered what could have been so pressing that it kept him away from his friend's funeral it didn't make sense that he would fly in from overseas for two days and not attend the ceremony he had come for. In his later AXS Magazine interview he is quoted as saying that he had not attended the funeral because he had gone to Queensland to get a second opinion on Tiger's condition. Although he made the trip without Tiger! To this day we don't know if he was in Queensland , or Hong Kong or London or in a café around the corner. What we do know now is; he was very busy during that week making decisions that Michael's family should have had the chance to make.
Mother and Ross did not attend the wake but I went for a short time. I did notice that Rhett was particularly cold toward me. Mandy later told me that it was just down to whatever substance he was on. I did not see Kell and Sue as they were in a very noisy area that I was avoiding. I guessed that Mother had not done that much damage, as it certainly did not keep Kell away from the wake. Paula, Belinda and Andrew Young were not there. I spent my time with people who had been close to the band in the early days, old friends with comforting, familiar stories. Little Stevey Murphy, Michael's godchild was now a beautiful teenager. Hiraani and her husband sat close by and talked softly about what a beautiful man Michael was. Molly Meldrum came up to me and complimented me on my choice of words for the service. I was pleased to see my children were enjoying themselves with their Australian cousins: they needed to let off some steam after the week they had been through.
We were all featured in the newspapers the following day, amidst photographs of Paula's cleavage. Excerpts from the service played over and over on newscasts. I would walk past a television and suddenly hear my own voice, the painful start of reliving that day over and over. We read that Paula was returning to London with Michaels' ashes. In panic I called Paula at the Quay West. We just wanted to know if she had already left Sydney . Paula's voice came down the phone in a very matter-of-fact voice, "Hello Tina". I placed the phone on the cradle, realizing that I had nothing pleasant to say to her. So we knew she had not left, but what about the ashes? Surely that part of the story must be another mistake? Rodney Claxton assured Mother that Paula was not leaving with Michael's ashes; he could not release them due to a document signed by Colin Diamond as executor.
I am at a loss for words to explain our confusion upon hearing this. This was my mother's son. My brother. What could Colin Diamond possibly have to do with his ashes? We understood that he was a financial advisor, but just how far did his powers extend? We would soon find out. Apparently he had signed a statutory declaration required under New South Wales Public Health Regulations before the remains of a dead person can be cremated. But why, and did Kell know about this? After all, it was he who had broken the news of Michael's wish for cremation. He who had been in constant contact with Colin Diamond. Could this connect with the strange sense of distance we felt? Kell did not return our calls that day.
END CHAPTER THIRTEEN