Nobody who was half conscious in London in the s and s can have missed him, or forgotten him: he made it his business to be unforgettable. What was it he actually did again? Nightclub promoter? Pop star? Costume designer? He flitted between categories.
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Remembered now chiefly as a performance artist, his bizarre, outlandish costumes and make-up have influenced generations of artists, from Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen to Lady Gaga. It was in a club that he met Sue Tilley and the two soon became close friends and party companions. Boy George was later to write the story as a musical, creating a part for Tilley. It was Bowery who took the New Romantic penchant for dressing up to the level of art, attracting the attention of Lucian Freud, who was fascinated by him.
Freud painted Bowery and then Tilley herself. His portrait of her, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, went on to be sold at auction in New York in for 34m, the highest price ever paid for a painting at the time. As one of his closest friends, Sue Tilley has written the definitive biography of the man who came to embody the hedonism and excess of an era, with the intimacy of a true confidante.
Told with a breezy warmth and camp humour, a language she clearly shared with Bowery, and with the full cooperation of his family, friends and wife Nicola Bateman, this is not only a portrait of the man but also a riveting tale of the eighties demi-monde and the raffish, but immensely talented, characters who inhabited it.
Her account is compulsive and heartfelt. He employed her as cashier at his nightclub Taboo and introduced her to artist Lucian Freud.
Leigh Bowery: The Life and Times of an Icon