Sebastian Horsley: Ten years on

Clair Woodward
4 min readJun 17, 2020

I’m not going to write anything new on the 10th anniversary of his death, just republish a piece I wrote on my Urban Woo blog on the day he died. Much missed.

Such a modern way to be shocked. I opened Facebook this morning to see that Victor Olliver had discovered that he’d died. True? Not true? So I rang Greg at the PR company for Dandy In The Underworld, who confirmed it.

I feel such a fraud to be so upset at his death; I wasn’t a close friend, but merely an acquaintance, but I liked and admired him very much, and found him a bizarre inspiration. As regular readers may know, we met through the Bolan connection, and I was rather shy to be introduced as here was a man who had a voracious appetite for all the dangerous things in life, and me, a rather wet and wet-behind-the ears woman in awe of this strangely beautiful creature.

Sebastian Horsley by Gabriella Meros

He and Rachel showed me a lovely kindness at the Cafe De Paris, bringing a chum of theirs they thought I might like to meet as they knew I was single. Nobody ever does that for me, so for a couple like them to think of me was a very sweet thing to do.

Sebastian’s book is wonderful; brazen, wild, reckless — and sad. I’m so sorry there will not be a second volume; I hope the first will be as inspirational to others as it was to me. Even being on the very periphery of Sebastian’s life taught me a lot. I thought that it was amazing that someone so well-connected, beautiful and stylish would ever want to exchange emails with me, let alone spend afternoons in Maison Bertaux in my company. Gosh, how lovely it was to be with him in those hugely-cuffed shirts and beautiful suits, sat in the sunshine talking about life, Kiss, love, men, women, Bolan and all of it. And for a man who made a career of narcissism, he was a good listener, full of good advice.

Meeting him and Rachel made me pull my sartorial boots up — those who know me may have noticed a general sexed-up vibe about the way I dress — as I could see that hey, maybe it was fun to be a bit sexy, as opposed to buttoned-up and repressed. Knowing him a little also made me take risks a bit more — and when I did, and collapsed into love with the wrong man(one who could have benefitted from having Sebastian’s truthful nature) not only did Sebastian write me the loveliest email (cut and pasted from others that he had in stock for female friends, I’m sure, but hey) which made me weep, but he also stylishly berated the chap concerned on the phone. That was kind, and I’m not very used to men being so kind to me.

Mark and I had had such a great time at the Dandy aftershow on Tuesday, and you could tell that the room was full of love for Sebastian; lovely people all there for him, from all kinds of places. I suppose one of the sweetest things about him was that no matter the looseness of the connection you had with him, he had a gift of making you feel close and conspiratorial, and special. I’d glammed up for the party, and was glad I had, as I saw Sebastian sweep into the theatre in a peacock-blue velvet suit, and into the party in his trademark red velvet — one has to keep up.

Seeing him afterwards, I was — as I usually am, even without the taking of drink — a bit emotional. Thinking about it on Wednesday morning, I felt rather embarrassed that I’d taken his face in my hands, given him a kiss on the lips, said how great the play was and how lucky I felt to have him in my life. Now I’m glad I did.

I am sure that people will write about the drugs, the sex, the women and the excess in Sebastian’s life now he’s dead, but what I hope will be remembered — as Alex Larman, who knew him far better than me, does here — for all the other things he was, and what a good friend he was to so many people. He was a very sexy, and sexual man, but what I saw in him was a little boy, and I felt a very strong urge to protect him — ridiculous, isn’t it?

Six of us — Astrid, Kate, Stephen, Sarah, Helen and I — went to see the play on Monday night. It was great, and I emailed Sebastian to tell him so. ‘Delighted you all like it. It means a lot to me,’ he replied. ‘If the people who really adored the book had a problem with it, we would all be in trouble.

‘But it seems we are all happy in the garden.’

Dear Sebastian, I hope you are.

* 10..30pm addendum: this just in from RoMo, who was at the play with me on Monday. ‘I think Sebastian always wanted to be loved, but didn’t know how to be. I still feel haunted by the picture of him as a kid on the wall of the set. He looked so scared and there was a “save me” plea in his look that really shook me.’ I think that hit the silver nail smartly on the head. He didn’t know how loved he was, and got lost in the embrace of something ultimately fatal instead.



Clair Woodward

Journalist, editor. Writes about arts, entertainment, life. Follow and commission me — Twitter @clairywoowoo