Sunday, October 11, 2009

No Matter What: Stephen Gately 1976 - 2009

It is always a tragedy when somebody dies suddenly, when it happens to someone young who was looking forward to getting back to what made them famous even more so.

Last night Boyzone singer Stephen Gately who was on Majorca with his long time partner Andy Cowles, they had a civil partnership ceremony in 2006, went out for a few drinks. When he returned to his accommodation he fell asleep and never woke up. He's been born on St. Patrick's day in 1976 (he shared both my given names*, much as Morrissey also does, as a result).

Indeed his last Tweet on Tuesday said:

"still busy - lots going on. Focussing on finishing my book next so may be quiet here."
The book was his children's fantasy novel The Tree of Seasons which was due to be released for Christmas, this year

The band, who X-Factor contenders should remember made a drastic debut on the Gabriel Byrne's Late, Late Show on RTE, had six UK number one hits from 1994 - 2000. They were managed by Louis Walsh and were preparing for another tour after last year's successful comeback tour. Louis found out after last night's X-Factor and said:

"We're all absolutely devastated.

"I'm in complete shock. I was only with him on Monday at an awards ceremony. We don't know much about what's happened yet.

"I only heard after The X Factor and we will rally around each other this week. He was a great man."

In 1999 Stephen took the brave step at the time of coming out as gay, a former member of the bands security detail were possibly about to out the story. It wasn't the done thing for members of boybands popular with screaming teenagers to remove that curtain of possible romance from their fans, even long term girlfriends were hidden. However, later he said he was glad that he would no longer have to hide his love for then boyfriend of four years Eloy de Jong of the Dutch boyband Caught in the Act. But it didn't take away from the lustre of little Stephen or the adoration of the band or him. After the band had reformed their second new single Better contained a scene on romantic couples including two men embracing as a nod to Stephen and his sexuality.

After the band split Stephen had a short lived solo career, his first solo single New Beginning peaked at number 3 in the UK charts. The follow up I Believe which was inspired when he saw Billy Elliot and appeared on the film's soundtrack, peaked at the 'Stephen Glenn position' number 11. When the third solo single Stay only reached 13 Polydor dropped the artist.

While it may have been a disaster is let Stephen move into musical theatre from early 2003 he took on the lead in Andrew Lloyd-Weber and Tim Rice's Joesph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. His next West End role was a shock for the sweet one out of Boyzone appearing as the child-catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 2004. In 2006 he also appeared as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.

There does seem to be an obligatory Doctor Who reference in a lot of my tributes and this one is no exception. Stephen appeared as Tommy Tommorrow in the Doctor Who audio play Horror of Glam Rock in March 2007, alongside Paul McGann the 8th Doctor and Bernard Cribbens who recently played** on screen Wilfred Mott, the Doctor's companion Donna Noble's (Catherine Tate) grandfather .

He also appeared in the 2007 second series of Dancing on Ice where he skated with Candaian professional Kristina Lenko. Though she said she "did not feel safe" dancing with Stephen and they went out in 8th on 10 February. He also made his debut film role in Credo in 2008.

A sad loss at the age of only thirty three.

UPDATE: I'd forgotten how in 2001 the Lib Dems had used New Beginning as their campaign song, and it has subsequently been used at Conference many times. (Hat tip to Lib Dem Voice). See also Andrew Reeves.

Many tributes have been flooding in from around the world and the best place I can find to keep up with them is on Ronan Keating's official website.

Stephen Gately 17 March 1976 - 10 October 2009

*His full name was Stephen Patrick David Gately.

** Not his first on screen role in the series.

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