World Exclusive : Rock Legend's Sister In First Interview About Her Brother's Death As She Tells How Yorkshire Painter Provided Memorial Inspiration.
By Geoff Fox
A WEST Yorkshire artist has joined forces with the sister of rock legend Michael Hutchence to launch a global art foundation in memory of the dead star.
The Michael Hutchence Foundation – launched today to coincide with what would have been the INXS frontman's 45th birthday – will provide financial assistance to talented but underprivileged artists.
The foundation is the brainchild of Michael's sister, Tina, who was inspired by a portrait of her brother painted by Castleford artist Joanne Shaw.
In an exclusive interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post from her Los Angeles home, Tina said she hoped the foundation launch could also help to strengthen her relationship with Michael's daughter Tiger Lily, who has been brought up by Sir Bob Geldof since the death of Michael's partner and Bob's ex wife Paula Yates in 2000.
Joanne's painting, together with some of the artist's other work will form the basis of a worldwide rock memorabilia exhibition.
Tina told the YEP: "I had been thinking for a while there ought to be something else other than Michael's music as a legacy. "He was involved with Amnesty International, Greenpeace and in many children's causes."I thought about a scholarship but didn't know how to go about it until I saw Joanne's painting and contacted her manager."
She added that the decision to establish an artistic foundation suddenly made perfect sense and was very much in keeping with her brother's way of life. "Michael loved art and always wanted to be a great artist. He wasn't! He became an artist in other ways, but I still have some of his art work here."
Michael's band INXS enjoyed a 20-year career, experiencing chart success around the world.
The Australian-born singer was found dead in Sydney's Ritz-Carlton Hotel seven years ago hanging by a belt from his bedroom door. The coroner recorded a verdict of suicide.
Tina said she was hopeful the foundation, which she has established with the help of Joanne's manager Alan Black, could bring the family closer.
"This is something for Tiger Lily," explained Tina, who spoke fondly of her niece.
"I want her to have something she can look up to.
"I want her growing up knowing that her father was wonderful man.
If I can introduce her to this, maybe we can have a healing with Bob as well."
And she added she was hopeful Bob would support the foundation.
Joanne, whose rock art website www.rockartonline.net attracted 165,379 visits last week alone, has agreed to create a number of images to help promote and fund the foundation.
Joanne said: "I always admired Michael and his work. I've known what it is like to struggle as an artist and so I'm only too pleased to lend my support to something that could help other artists around the world."
The foundation will be run through art colleges. Further details can be found at www.rockartonline.net and www.michaelhutchenceinfo.com
His death was a horrible shock. It broke the family
Tina Hutchence talked exclusively to YEP reporter
Geoff Fox as she fondly remembered the rock
star and the man that was her brother Michael
As the image of her brother gradually revealed itself on her computer screen, Tina Hutchence admits she was forced to catch her breath.
The eyes and hair which materialised took her back to a time before her brother tasted fame to a degree few ever experience.
By the time the emailed version of Joanne Shaw's painting of INXS's flamboyant frontman was fully revealed, Michael's sister was inspired.
That moment in the mum-of-two's Manhattan Beach home in Los Angeles has led, in just a few short months, to the creation of the Michael Hutchence Foundation, an international art project.
The launch is likely to generate the kind of exposure she has always shied away from, particularly since her brother was found dead seven years ago.
"In my mind, I never thought I'd live longer than Michael," said Tina, who was 12 years older than her brother."To me he had so much to live for. His death was a horrible, horrible shock. It really broke the family."We disintegrated. It completely turned us upside down."I was running a school for motion picture make-up artists and giving lectures and demonstrations in places like Las Vegas to up to 1,000 people at a time.
"But as soon as that (Michael's death) happened I had to shut all that down, I couldn't do that anymore."
She added: "For the last year of his life I knew he was very, very unhappy and was going through so much."He would sit in my living room and tell me things but if someone else came into the room he would slip into the 'other Michael'."He didn't want people to think he wasn't having the life he thought they wanted him to have.
"I felt he was so busy and had his five friends watching out for him, what could go wrong? "I knew he was on Prozac and thought he was being monitored by a doctor, but he wasn't, this stuff was just being doled out."
Michael's demise was a far cry from his happy childhood in Australia.
His mother, Patricia Glassop worked in the movie industry.
Dad, Kelland, worked in the import/export business which could see him away for up to six months at a time.
This left Tina playing a significant part in Michael and younger brother Rhett's upbringing.
"To me he was like a first child. And just like a parent and child he used to look up to me and then over the years he became the one I would go to. It was a really lovely relationship and one I miss terribly."
Following the break-up of their parents' marriage, Michael and his mother moved to the US when he was 15, joining Tina in Los Angeles.
Michael returned again to Australia and joined a rock band that would eventually become INXS.
"When they started sending me tapes of the covers they were doing I would write back and say 'that's wonderful darling, and what else are you going to do?'
"I couldn't imagine how they could make money with this.
"It wasn't until they started writing their own songs that things started to pick up.
I went to one of their shows at a little pub and just stood there stunned."
INXS cut their first record in 1980.
Within five years they were playing to 50,000 fans and were enjoying massive international success with Michael's on- stage performances likened to Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison.
Tina said: "On stage he (Michael) was essentially so shy and introverted he became another person. Until the day he died, he always called that 'the other Michael'.
"He was no shrinking violet but he took on a different persona. I was so proud, and still am of what he left us."
Tina explained she was sad that while Michael had been able to play a part in the childhood of her two sons, she had not been able to take on the same role in eight-year-old Tiger Lily's early years. "I haven't seen Tiger Lily since October 2000. Michael took enjoyment in my children but I'm really not in a position to do the same because Tiger Lily's so far away. So my contact is on paper and I write to her every week."
The remaining INXS band members are set to star in their own reality TV show later this year to find a new lead singer – a move which Tina said was "surprising".
Tina now concentrates on her writing career and is keen to see the Michael Hutchence Foundation flourish. She said: "Artists need help and I hope we can produce a few more Michael Hutchences." 22 January 2005
(article as featured in Yorkshire Evening Post on 22nd January 2005)