Wild: ‘Cocaine every four minutes’
IN the new Christmas advert for British department store John Lewis, we are presented with a sugar-coated, glossy version of Sir Elton John's life.
But what the advert makers of the much-anticipated ad The Boy & The Piano failed to include - no doubt because it didn't quiet fit into the wholesome image - were the years John, 71, spent addicted to drugs, drink and sex and that, at its peak, saw him take cocaine every four minutes.
Instead, we watch him reflect back on his early years as the innocent blue-eyed boy playing on his grandmother's piano in the 1950s, to the multi-million pound music icon he became in the 1970s where he sold out stadium tours, travelled on private planes and continued to perform on stage and TV well into the 2000s.
DRUG ADDICTION AND BULIMIA
John revealed in a past TV interview that he could easily have died like singer Whitney Houston because he "did as much cocaine as she ever did", spending much of the 1970s and early 1980s as a drug addict, with people "dying right, left and centre" around him yet being unable to stop.
John's addiction was so bad in 1975 he swallowed Valium and jumped into the swimming pool of his Bel Air mansion - all in front of his mother and grandmother, while screaming: "I'm going to die!"
But he didn't die and the drug use continued, despite previously revealing he would turn blue from epileptic seizures after using cocaine, only to snort more when he came round.
"I never considered myself a drug addict," he said. "I thought drug addicts were people who stuck needles in their arms - and I was the biggest junkie there was. I came very close to dying."
In a TV interview with Piers Morgan in 2010, John went into detail about those days.
"This is how bleak it was: I'd stay up, I'd smoke joints, I'd drink a bottle of Johnnie Walker and then I'd stay up for three days and then I'd go to sleep for a day and a half, get up, and because I was so hungry, because I hadn't eaten anything, I'd binge and have like three bacon sandwiches, a pot of ice cream and then I'd throw it up, because I became bulimic and then go and do the whole thing all over again," John said.
"That is how tragic my life was."
The 1970s and '80s were marked by John's legendary tantrums, fuelled by his then-raging cocaine habit.
One time he was woken up in his hotel room by a storm outside, and John rang his management office and demanded they do something about the weather.
One later incident happened while he was playing tennis at the Hotel du Cap near Antibes on the French Riviera.
This was shown in a biopic - Tantrums and Tiaras - made by his now husband David Furnish in 1997. It shows a passing fan recognising him and innocently calling out "Yoo hoo", which then triggers a monumental meltdown that climaxes with the singer storming into the hotel demanding to be flown home in a private jet.
"I'm never coming back to the south of France again," he screams.
There have been many onstage strops too - such as the one in Las Vegas a few years ago, where he reportedly badmouthed his production team, threw his piano stool and a glass of water across the stage and went off early. And the public scenes, such as his run-in with photographers in Taiwan, whom he described as "vile pigs".
"In the past, particularly when I was on drugs, there was a monstrous side to me, but I'm not really like that. I can be like that briefly, but everyone can," he told The Guardian in 2013.
John was notorious for his promiscuity during the '70s and '80s, telling Rolling Stone magazine in 1976 that everyone was bisexual to a degree and alluding to the voraciousness of his sexual appetite.
"I just think people should be very free with sex - they should draw the line at goats," he said.
On a trip to Russia, Elton had sex with a KGB agent who had been working in his entourage.
"I went to Russia in 1979 and I knew we were being watched all the time," he said.
"I had an interpreter that they'd clearly set up. I ended up having sex with him on the hotel roof."
He then surprised everyone on Valentine's Day 1984, by marrying Renate Blauel, a German recording engineer. They divorced four years later, the same year he told Rolling Stone he was "comfortable being gay".
He went into rehab and got clean in 1990 but has since said he's lucky to be alive, setting up the Elton John Aids Foundation in 1992, a charity devoted to fighting the spread of HIV and helping those with the infection.
Among his ex-lovers was John Reid, his former manager, with whom he was involved in an unsuccessful $14 million High Court battle in 2000.
During the case, in which the singer claimed Reid mishandled his business affairs, John's extravagant spending habits were revealed as he admitted spending $70 million in less than two years, including an average of $26,000-a-month on flowers alone.
Another ex-lover was an unnamed filmmaker 15 years his junior, who committed suicide in 2010.
"Years back I had a relationship, and I had absolutely no idea in the world he was going to do this … there was so much grief," John told The Sunday Telegraph in an interview afterwards.
The singer now lives a far more relaxed lifestyle with husband David Furnish. The pair entered into a civil partnership in 2005 and married in 2014. They have two sons - Zachary, 7, and Elijah, 5, born to the same surrogate mother.
While he may appear all calm and controlled at the piano, John's famous diva-like strops and spats indicate he is a man not to be crossed.
In 2012 an eruption began when D&G's senior partner, Domenico Dolce, 58, told a magazine he did not agree with gay adoptions. "The only real family is the traditional one," Dolce said, before turning his attention to IVF. "You are born to a mother and father, at least that is how it should be. I call children of chemistry synthetic children."
John, whose two adopted children were born through IVF to a Californian surrogate, retorted on social media: "How dare you refer to my beautiful children as synthetic? Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times. Just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce &Gabbana again." He signed off with "#BoycottDolceGabbana".
He also feuded with Keith Richards, whom he labelled "an arthritic monkey", after the Rolling Stones guitarist scoffed that John could only write songs about "dead blondes".
Then there was Madonna, who he called a "fairground stripper" because she was apparently rude about his friend Lady Gaga.
"She is a nightmare. Her career is over," he added.
At an awards ceremony in London in 2008 he also exchanged vicious comments with singer Lily Allen, who told him to eff-off.
"I'm 40 years younger than you, I have my whole life ahead of me," Allen said.
"I could still snort you under the table," John retorted.
He's laid into the record industry, claiming it was run by "idiots", who didn't understand creative talent. He also fell out with Simon Cowell and refused to appear on the talent show impresario's American Idol.
So there really is a lot more to Elton John than just a talented man and his piano.
This story originally appeared on The Sun and is republished with permission