The following chapter appears in the book “TMI: My Life in Scandal” By Perez Hilton, with Leif Eriksson and Martin Svensson; published by Chicago Review Press on Oct 6. Reprinted with permission.
I met Amy Winehouse for the first time in London at a fashion magazine party in late 2006. At that point in time, I was in London pretty often, because I had become — in the most unlikely of ways — good friends with the owner of a hotel there.
It all started when the hotel owner’s girlfriend sent me some fan mail (by email, of course). That in itself wasn’t so strange, but her boyfriend also started getting in touch to share his appreciation. At first I thought he was being ironic, but I quickly realized that he genuinely liked the things I wrote, and so we kept in touch. He told me he owned a boutique hotel in West London (the now-closed Hempel Hotel) and that I was welcome to stay there whenever I wanted — for free.
“Really?” I wrote back, suddenly suspicious, not used to that kind of generosity.
“Of course,” he replied. “Come whenever you like. Just let me know a few days in advance.”
London had been one of my favorite cities ever since I went there during college, so being given the opportunity to stay there for free felt almost too good to be true. But when I flew over there a month or two later, I discovered that my new friend was also covering the costs of room service while I was there. I really can’t express how grateful I was for that, and for giving me the ability to explore London and attend events there. I made new contacts and found a whole load of exciting content for the site. If you’re reading this, Paul Murtagh, you’re awesome!
It was at one of these events that I met Amy for the first time. Kelly Osbourne was actually the one who introduced us. Kelly and I had known one another a while, and I had written several positive pieces about Amy since she released her first record in late 2003.
I had been struck by her unique voice, among many other things, and began to follow her career. I remember watching her on a British TV show in which she and the host sang a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” together. Amy was so drunk she was slurring, and she forgot the words midsong. She could barely even stand up straight. The poor host kept glancing over at Amy with a look of panic in her eyes, and though it pained me to watch, the whole thing was just soooo rock ’n’ roll.
I had a flashback of that moment when Amy and I started chatting at the party. I liked her right away. There was something fragile and rebellious about her, and her style was so deliberate, with the beehive hair and those clothes that had already become her signature.
* * *
The next time I bumped into her was in Austin, and then we met for a third time just a few weeks later, at my birthday party at the Roxy in L.A. in March 2007. We began to develop a friendship. Like I said, I was genuinely fond of her, and the feeling seemed to be mutual. I have to say I didn’t like her boyfriend, but later that spring they got married.
I saw the two of them again at Lollapalooza in Chicago in early August. Amy was headlining the festival, and I planned to interview her for a series of TV specials I was doing for VH1, flying in with a film crew from L.A.
We set up for the interview in my suite at the Hard Rock Hotel, and I sat down and waited for over an hour before I finally heard a knock at the door. I got a real shock when I opened it. Amy had changed so much in just a few months, and she really did look sick. Her dodgy husband was with her, but he didn’t say a word.
“Hi,” she mumbled shyly, absently, giving me a quick hug before sailing into the room.
Her husband nodded but didn’t look at me, and I felt a knot of anxiety in my stomach — a knot that grew as Amy announced that she needed to go to the bathroom before we started the interview.
“Sure,” I said, casting a quick glance at my increasingly impatient film crew. “No problem.”
Next thing I knew, Amy and her husband had disappeared into the bathroom together, locking the door behind them.
My immediate, panicked thought was I hope to God they’re just having sex in there! I didn’t even need to look at the team to know they were thinking the exact same thing: they’re doing drugs.
While we waited, we sat on the two couches in another part of the room. No one said a word, we were all just trying to work out what was going on in there. We couldn’t hear anything from the bathroom, and time continued to pass. The room was hot from all the lights, and I was stressed, wringing my sweaty palms as I checked the time.
Eventually, the bathroom door opened and Amy and her husband came out. As she sat down next to me and we started the interview, I didn’t need to wonder any longer. Amy was obviously high, and there was nothing I could do about it. Instead, I put all my effort into getting enough material to cut it together into something we could show.
Later, once Amy and her husband left the suite, everyone relaxed. I sat numbly for a long time, torn between a number ofconflicting feelings. On the one hand, I was furious at Amy for letting that idiot drag her into trouble, threatening her career, but I also felt a strong sense of concern for her. I had only just gotten back to L.A. when I heard from her again.
“Hey, it’s me, Amy,” she said. Thankfully she sounded much more alert than she had that afternoon in the suite. “Want to hang out?” she continued.
I met her at the Coffee Bean in West Hollywood a few hours later — without her husband this time, fortunately. Apparently, he was back home in London. She explained that they had gotten into a fight a few days earlier, which didn’t surprise me, because their relationship seemed anything but healthy.
In any case, we had fun that evening, and the next morning, as I sat working in the Coffee Bean, she turned up again. Though it wasn’t particularly warm outside, she was wearing nothing but a pair of tiny denim shorts, a tank top, and some ballet pumps.
“Hey,” I said in surprise. “You’re up already?”
Amy nodded and explained that she was staying at Chateau Marmont on Sunset, which wasn’t too far away.
“How did you get here?” I asked.
“You walked?” I said skeptically, adding, “Alone?” I searched the room in vain for some kind of bodyguard or assistant from her label. Unlike many of the other stars, Amy didn’t make a big deal of the fact she was famous. In fact, she always looked exactly like she did onstage or on her records.
“Do you want anything? Coffee?” I asked.
Amy shook her head and said she felt like going to visit some of the record stores nearby.
“Cool,” I said, closing my laptop.
We walked over to the Virgin Megastore, and the minute we got inside, Amy marched right up to one of the guys who worked there.
“Where’s the blues section?” she asked.
The guy recognized her immediately and couldn’t manage to say a word, he just pointed to an area toward the back of the store.
“Thank you,” said Amy, marching over there. I followed her, fascinated by how confident she seemed in what she was looking for. Within just a few minutes, she had picked out a whole stack of CDs — maybe ten or twelve in total.
“OK, I’m done,” she said, heading for the checkout.
The same guy who had given her directions earlier now ran everything through the register, and as Amy passed him her card, he suddenly seemed incredibly embarrassed. “Uh . . . ” he said, “it . . . uh, doesn’t seem to work.”
At that point, it was Amy’s turn to look embarrassed, so I quickly said, “I’ve got it, I’ll pay.”
“What do you want to do now?” I asked once we left the store.
“I think I need to eat,” she said.
My eyes scanned the other side of the street, and I pointed to the McDonald’s on Crescent Heights Boulevard. “Will that do?” I asked.
Amy nodded, and we crossed the street and headed inside. Yet again, I was fascinated by the way she behaved: she bought a ton of junk food, whereas I ordered only a Diet Coke. I found us a quiet table where we wouldn’t be the center of attention (which wasn’t possible).
While we, or Amy, ate, she became increasingly preoccupied by a text message conversation. It was clearly getting to her, because she alternated between swearing nonstop and sighing deeply.
Eventually, she must have realized she was being a little rude, because she said, “Sorry, it’s just my husband. He’s such an idiot.”
“Well,” I said. “Maybe you should think about –”
“No,” she interrupted me. “I love him.”
She kept texting and cursing him for the rest of the day, and it made no difference what I tried to tell her, she defended him regardless.
Somewhere, deep down, I thought it was great she was so loyal, but I could also see the danger in it. He clearly wasn’t good for her, and I wasn’t the least bit surprised when she died — just incredibly sad. The only thing that surprised me was that she didn’t die of an overdose. She drank herself to death and died of heart failure.