Peter Freestone was the personal assistant for 12 years Freddie Mercury of Queen until Freddie’s death in November 1991. He has written an amazing memoir of Freddie in collaboration with David evans. He also consulted and helped shape the current Queen – It’s a Kinda Magic Starring Giles Taylor as Freddie Mercury into the hit show we know today. Don’t miss out! Live at Pantages Theater Tacoma this Saturday, September 26, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. Get your tickets here.
How did you get involved with the show Queen – It’s A Kinda Magic?
This show has been going on for a while. It started about twelve years ago. I received an email asking if I would like to attend a tribute show blah blah blah. I just didn’t know at that point. Then, I read it a bit further and it show will be in Singapore. They said they would fly me round trip and pay put up in a hotel. (Laughter) So then I thought, well yes I really would like to see this show. I had never been to Singapore before. I went and met the original cast and producers. On the odd occasion that I had attended that sort of show in the past, I don’t look at the stage so much. I look at the audience. That evening the audience was on its feet waving their arms and singing the songs. I thought, wait a minute, these guys must be doing something right. I started actually watching the show. It was very good. Then after a few years, the producers decided to retire it. They thought it had done everything it could and run its course. When they were working on something else a couple of years later, they discovered Giles Taylor (current Freddie in Queen – It’s a Kinda Magic). They said they found the person that would make them bring the show back. So about a year ago, the director started working with the cast and really putting them through the paces. He worked with them night and day for about three weeks. I worked with them as well. The show is wonderful. Giles Taylor really became the Freddie that everyone loved. The Freddie that makes everyone in the audience feel that he is personally playing for each of them. All of the new technology, lights and sound have gone into this to make it a wonderful show. I go see it any chance I get.
You started the memoirs as a sort of therapy. When did the idea of publishing come about or seem viable?
There was no plan for it to be a book. Basically in about 1995, I thought I was dealing with Freddie’s death somewhat okay. A good friend told me that the world really looks a lot better if you aren’t looking at it through an empty glass. I was just drinking all the time and not realizing it, so therapy was suggested. Being old school, to me therapy is talking to a complete stranger about something they know nothing about and giving them lots of money for the privilege. So I thought the talking bits okay but I would much rather talk to someone that knows what I am taking about. That is why I started talking to David Evans, a good friend of Freddie’s. He knew exactly what I was saying. He would type up all the notes on his computer as we spoke. I would talk for about 3 hours or so at a time. It wasn’t on a regular schedule or even once a week. It was when either one of us have time. When we were finished talking, he would print it all out. All my memories could be cleaned. All my demons would come out and I could see past them. I would clean up the thoughts and ideas for later. We did this for about two years until he said look, you know that there are more one hundred and fifty thousand words here. That is bigger than most books. Out in the world there were still fans asking about Freddie and his life. So, we thought we would publish a thousand copies of the book ourselves. We thought we would make it a coffee table book and that would be the end of it. We really thought that would be all that was necessary. The thousand copies sold out in about three weeks. One of them went to the editor of book sales for a real publishing company. He immediately asked if they could publish it. It is still one of their staples. Being a non-published author we managed to get about a penny per book commission out of the deal. Book sales may have gotten rich from it but not us. It was really never meant as a book. It was always a form of therapeutic catharsis for me.
What would you like people to remember most about Freddie Mercury?
Remember, that was one of the greatest showmen to every grace a rock stage. He was and amazing composer and song-writer. Most of the time I knew him, he was also one of the happiest people around. My best memories of him are at home in Garden Lodge when he could just throw his head back and laugh. If you see him in interviews he is always using his top lip and even his hand to cover his teeth. He really hated his teeth. He really couldn’t do anything with them because it could destroy his voice and the resonances he had. When he was home, he didn’t have to care about the teeth. People should remember that Freddie was any amazing human being underneath this huge showman.
How did you get the nickname Phoebe?
Way back when in English theater all the actors got female names. It was just tradition. Elton John and Freddie decided to revive this tradition for rock stars this time. Freddie became Melina. He was named after the actress Melina Mercury. I got Phoebe because there were no celebrities with the last name of Freestone. Freddie just thought that Phoebe fit nicely.
I read that as his personal assistant you would do a lot of shopping including attending auctions for him. What was the most unusual or interesting item he sent you to an auction to buy?
(Laughter) Yes, there was one thing. He was in Switzerland. Before he left, he told me about this one item that he really wanted. He must have it. He just really wanted it. The guide price was about two hundred and eighty thousand pounds. It was a Joan Miro print. He told me I could have a little leeway to bid. A little leeway was usually about ten thousand or so. Freddie never wanted to bid until it was down to the last person. He just wanted to go in and pay the bill sort of thing. I waited and waited until it was down to one person. It was at two hundred and seventy. I went to two hundred and eighty thousand and immediately they went to two ninety. I thought well Freddie really wants it. He told me he really really wants it. So, I went to three hundred thousand. The other guy immediately went to three ten. Now, I am thinking this is going into stupid money, maybe I shouldn’t bother. I went ahead with three hundred and twenty. The guy immediately came back with three hundred and fifty thousand so I just dropped. I just couldn’t go any further. I went home and Freddie called me. He was all excited asking me what it was like and where have I put it. I said look I just didn’t get it. He asked me why not. I knew he really wanted it. I told him that he said two seventy and the guy bid three fifty. Then Freddie proceeded to ask me why I listened to him at all. I should know he really wanted it. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. He was always really good at those things. He always let me go with my head on those matters. He knew I would go with my head even when he would go with his heart.
Queen – It’s a Kinda Magic Starring Giles Taylor as Freddie Mercury is live at Pantages Theater Tacoma this Saturday, September 26, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. Don’t miss this show. Get your tickets here.