Madonna has written a tribute to her friend David Collins who passed away from skin cancer last year. The somber remembrance is a testament to Madonna’s writing abilities and will leave you feeling sad for a woman who lost a dear friend, something that all of us has, or will face at some point in life. The piece is to be the introduction to a new book about David Collins’ design work which will be published next month.
Yes, David helped me decorate my homes in New York and London. Yes, he built beautiful handcrafted furniture for me. Yes, he found gorgeous linens and silks in Greece, Italy and Thailand and brought them back to transform into curtains or reupholster an odd set of chairs. Yes, he took me to antique shops in Paris and turned me on to the most exquisite Fornasetti lamps.
And then there was his infectious appreciation for the subtle beauty of every gradation of blue. When I think of David, I think of blue. Then again, when I think of David, I feel blue – because I miss him! I'm always in desperate need of his advice, input and direction.
When I look around my houses in New York or London, I am struck by what an influence he has had on me. He has left his souvenirs everywhere: his touch, his taste, his flair and his blue.
He has influenced the way my homes look, of course, but he's had a much bigger impact on my life.
Nevertheless, he showed up when I was feeling lonely and working in London for a long period of time without a single friend to drink with, gossip with or cry on the shoulder of. At that time, I saw London as a bleak, grey place, full of men-only pubs, bad food and a culture I could not appreciate or access.
Now don't get your knickers in a twist all you Brits, because obviously I don't feel the same way any more. But at the time, London and Londoners were foreign and unfamiliar, and my time there felt like a prison sentence.
That is, until David walked into my life – or should I say swanned in... looking dapper of course. This handsome Irish fellow with strawberry blonde hair, nerdy glasses and trademark blue suit changed my life.
He seemed to know everything about the film I was preparing for – much more than myself – including the costume designer and the hair stylist. He knew every song that Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber have ever written. He knew when there was a sale at Prada. He knew what kind of books I liked, and even handed me three to read the day we met. He then whisked me off to an Italian film at the Curzon in Mayfair, and later on introduced me to a handful of people who, decades later, I am still very close with.
Finally, and at last, we dined at a very chic restaurant that he had designed. What a shocker! The food was yummy, the Martini was dirty and the evening was sublime.
As the weeks went on, I found myself being picked up and ferried away nearly every day in his convertible Mercedes, squished into the back seat next to one gorgeous boy or another, staring up at the sun with Shirley Horn blasting from his stereo, and thinking, "I think I can get used to this!"
And so I fell in love with London. Through the eyes, ears and heart of the thoroughly Irish David Collins. The next four months with him were like the first few days, non-stop, full-out fun. There were visits to art exhibits and costume retrospectives, fashion shows and dinner parties with crazy aristocratic Colombians who served hash brownies for dessert without telling anyone. I was often a guest in David's wonderful home where he always threw marvellous parties, mostly for me.
He knew how much I missed my dogs in America, and one day a small Chihuahua showed up at my hotel with the name Evita engraved on her diamanté dog collar. I'm not sure how pleased the hotel was, but I fell in love and she turned out to be the most intelligent and well behaved of all my dogs.
There were endless trips to the Curzon to see more foreign films I had not heard of, but was forever changed by. David knew everything and everyone. He knew the best masseuse, the greatest florist, the perfect lip balm and the newest, most incredible play that we had to see in the West End. Later on, when I married, moved to England and bought a house, he did everything he possibly could to make me feel at home, from helping me decorate to turning me on to the best lemon tart. I could always count on him and he was always there for me.
He took to calling me Muriel after we saw Muriel's Wedding, because he said it was sacrilegious and downright ridiculous to say my name in public or private. Did I mention his witty and irreverent sense of humour? Shame on me.
David always had a naughty story to tell, or an amusing anecdote or the juiciest gossip. He did not tell jokes – he was just damned funny, even when he was not trying to be.
After I gave birth to my son Rocco, I was feeling fat and unattractive and convinced that I resembled a milk truck. David took me shopping, bought me slimming clothes, and reminded me that thousands of girls would pay good money for the size of my breasts. I said they wouldn't pay good money for the size of my stomach, and he threw a corset at me and insisted we go dancing to sweat off those extra pounds of baby fat – such a sensible man!
Speaking of children, he was amazing with mine, and I know how important family was to him. I'm pretty sure he called his mother nearly every day and was always consumed with and/ or worried about his sisters and brother: for their mates, their jobs and their health. In fact, David seemed consumed and worried about everyone but himself.
In my darkest hours (and there were plenty of those) he always managed to say something that made me laugh and stop feeling sorry for myself. He never allowed me to indulge. He would say, "Muriel, stop complaining, it doesn't suit you. Let's go to Ibiza!" And he meant it. He loved going to Ibiza: yes, the gorgeous men; yes, tripping the light fantastic; yes, the occasional tab of X; but most of all he went for the music.
Here is something most people do not know about David: he had impeccable taste in music, and could have been a record producer or a songwriter, had he focused on that instead of art and design.
He was always recommending great playlists and DJs, and often wrote lyrics or poems and sent them my way to be considered for songs I was working on. They were often bittersweet and full of melancholy. It was obvious that David had his share of heartbreak. Who hasn't? He was a romantic at heart, and the way he wore his heart on his sleeve always touched me.
Occasionally, I would incorporate his lyrics into a song I was writing, and even though I was tempted to take credit for his genius wordplay, I could not, because that is not the kind of girl Muriel is.
Besides, David was a genius.
So very good at so many things, but most of all he was a loving friend. Always there for me no matter what, loyal and true, and this is what I will remember him for the most, his friendship.
Yes, I miss his good taste, his recommendations and his never-ending knowledge of all things chic and beautiful. But mostly I miss his big, beautiful, generous heart. Perhaps he was too generous. He seemed to take better care of other people than of himself. Even when he found out he was sick, he underplayed it. And because of this, I was not able to be there for him in the final weeks of his life and I never got a chance to say goodbye. So David, wherever you are, I hope you are reading this.
I miss you.
Whenever I arrive in London, I automatically dial your number.
"I need a restaurant to go to."
"What's playing at the Curzon?"
"I want to go out dancing."
"I need an antique mirror in my hallway."
"Should we go to The Connaught for a drink?"
"When is the next series of The Fall coming out?"
"I'm sick of the curtains in my sitting room, got any ideas?"
"I need you to cheer me up, tell me one of your saucy stories..."
"Tell me about your latest adventures in South Africa?"
"I need you to make me laugh."
"I want to see the crow's feet wrinkle up on your freckled face when you smile."
I still can't get used to the fact that you are gone.
But you aren't really gone.
You are everywhere.
The balm you gave me to rub on my temples when I feel anxious is still in the drawer next to my bed.
It's suffered from overuse.
The smell reminds me of you.
Lavender: another one of your favourite colours.
I want this smell to last forever.
The memory of you certainly will.