“Daphne, thank you for being my friend – we’re like polar opposites, aren’t we? We’re from opposite ends of the spectrum!’
– David Barron
“You’ve got to get that out of your head. We’re not polar opposites, we’re the same. I have issues with people who have issues, or make divisions – because they don’t see people for what they are, they just look at what they have, or who they are, or where they come from. I mean, I probably had it the other way around, but as human beings we have to put it into perspective. They don’t realize, there is no nirvana of cooldom”
– Daphne Guinness
The emotional instrument of my guts fanned bellows of agony up my spine heavenward as I turned the management key in a junction box at the Young Men’s Christian Association and again relived the pillory of my mother’s hands around my neck, as she screamed atop of my two clamoring sisters, as testament to what a ‘selfish bastard’ I was. Leaning my body against the breeze brick wall of my workplace with mind betwixt worlds, as motors gathered up five sets of metal shutters in a twisting strain that rattled against the rotting single glazing of this large dilapidated high-street unit where I spent sixty hours of my week. A detached stare sheathed my face as I felt with numb recall, the ferocious clamp of mothers manicured digits compressing deep into my windpipe, whilst my elder sisters pummeled my bloody crown with clenched fists as my pleading partner held father back from joining the assault. Until a halt of gears gave curtain up to a new day of trade, where never the twain of my outward and inward life shall meet – daylight once again flooding in, to renew my efforts of daily action in making presentable and fully stocked, four street facing window displays of charity wares.
Once a Radio Rentals television store on a thriving Lancashire high street, now a decaying shadow of a bygone era with which I had created an arm of income through training and placements for the chronically unemployed, marginalized, and unskilled – in a profitable Y.M.C.A charity shop and warehouse to which they had appointed me, General Manager. Purveyor of second, third, and fourth hand junk. Proving that one person’s trash can indeed be another’s treasure, where I orchestrated counselled and nurtured those conscripted into workplace development.
I wondered how the mind and body could be this productive and present when the seat of my soul ached so harrowed, damaged and ill at ease, when familiar taps across glass sounded, and in swept the part of my psyche that arrives to pause trauma – carrying me through with a surface level prowess.
‘Good Morning, Darling!’ I called out with a quick enthusiasm that carried no sign of anguish as I jaunted over to my part-time Assistant Manager, clocking her bright waiting face, reciprocating her enthusiastic smiles whilst accurately choosing the right key from a heavy bunch tied to my belt.
‘Come in! Come in!’ I whooped, letting the key violently return to my hips on its elastic runner. I took hold of her arms – turning her into the shop with country-dance style skips…
‘Susie! Susie! Susan! Oh…my god, Susan! You’ll never guess!’ I exclaimed.
‘Oh, boy…’ she said blithely, mock worried, ‘… a certain Ms Guinness, perhaps?’
I cupped her hands and pressed her flesh, as though I held word from God himself.
‘Susan…’ I said dramatically, ‘my entire life depends upon your next decision!’
‘Let me get me jacket off, kiddo…’ she said in her Mancunian lilt – fighting to release her arms from a grey parker jacket in a micro gesture that displayed a quick enthusiasm to help.
‘I’ll let you make our morning brew.’ I said magnanimously, holding out the details for added anticipation as I threw myself onto a battered leather Chesterfield sofa and opened the morning paper in a frond flanked reading area I had created opposite our rather professional looking cashier’s desk. Electrical, furniture, menswear, womenswear, and a children’s area. I had even created a music and video station, and a beauty bay, with cheap perfumes akin to those found at a Turkish market. Donations poured in, allowing me to compartmentalize the grimy wares and rare gems into a shop with changeable departments, and displays – where my imaginative whimsy and eye for detail flourished and the Y.M.C.A’s weekly sales soared.
Susan came back carrying a tray, struggling physically but visibly impressed that I had provided filter coffee, croissants and magazines for her day ahead.
‘You do look after us, Mr Barron.’ she said, correctly, ‘now come on,’ she said, hardly waiting – ‘what’s the latest..?’
‘My Empress invited me to Ireland last night. To make a documentary…’
Susan froze into something between surprise and intrigue, and as she blotted coffee from her chin, I continued an appeal, informing her all about the night before…
Amusing oneself with a tablet window into the world of social media – such was my naive devotion to the infant years of twitter – I was pondering what to post next when the beige reality of my small living room shrank to a pinprick of levitating urgency that threw me into blind obeisance. Answering the telephone I heard, enthralled, the stretched out phonetics of my name. ‘Dayyy-vid,’ came the cut glass greeting that both delighted and terrified me.
Starlight once again dialling into my modest world, where whatever my plans hither or yonder, I would drop everything without question, when she to whom I was platonically and single-heartedly devoted called upon me to do so – no matter the difficulty.
She was to me though, as you might know – something as high as the heavens to me, and it was easy to forgive her teases about what fun she might find in taking a civilian train up to Greater Manchester to see where I lived. Always I was there on the phone, biddable and dependably placed in the same small house tucked up in the Lancashire hills by two old mills – primed to take her calls from any of her sequestered and gilded seclusion’s.
In any case, my tiny living room, my decidedly un-grand world, and working-class reality came back to size, as questions rained down to earth with pointed stabs.
How long will I stay? Do I have enough money? What will I have to wear this time?
Can I even take the time off work?
‘But, Susan…’ I said, ‘I had to speak to you before anyone… please, PLEASE, would you cover the shop?’
‘Well…’ she said slowly, allowing my panic to rise, ‘I’ll… well? I am…?’
‘PLEASE…’ I said, impatiently, ‘if you can’t, if you won’t, I will die!’
‘David,’ she said with a smile… ‘I covered ya London trips….’
‘YES…?’ I shrieked, expectantly. Bolting up, clasping hands to chest and whimpering with glee as I jumped up and down with a delight of the rarest quality.
‘Of course I’ll bloody cover for you…’ she said.
‘Oh, my god,’ basking in relief, ‘I thought you’d have other plans?’
She rolled her eyes as though no trouble at all, ‘I have, but I don’t have a swinging brick for a heart, and I know this means a lot to you…’ she said with a calmness that tempered a rapture.
‘I think you deserve it more than you even realise’ she said, coming forward to me, clasping my elbows as my eyes itched to water, when we both pivoted our heads to the sudden entrance of one of our daily bargain hunters dressed head to foot in charity finds.
‘Ohhhhh, I would think you were both having an affair’’ she said in a camp tone, ‘if I didn’t already know what a waste of a beautiful man he his…’ she said, pointing me up and down.
‘Morning luv,’ we said in stereo… and so, another of our days began with the odd folk of Lancashire…
‘Av ya any of them fans, you know – little electric ones I can ‘old hold against me girls…?’
Susan, still holding onto my elbows, laughed hard upon the sight of this un-self-aware customer breathlessly wafting her blouse against a sweltering cleavage.
‘Menopause is it…’ asked Susan arrantly, gesturing for her to sit in the space I now vacated.
‘Right, I’m off!’ I said in half-joking disgust, ‘Susan is here for all your lady woes.’
‘You go sort things out. I’ll be fine down here,’ she said, discreetly amused by my gently retreating, taking my surface level prowess out back, to throw myself against the wall again – this time, with satisfaction, relief and complete bewilderment. ‘I can’t believe it!’ I thought.
Murmurs and footfall from the shop floor increased before I realised I had been leaning again in too long a sustained daze – trapped between the odyssey of what the future might hold, and the ordeals of my past which I had yet to face.
Elation and despair, it was true, where the pendulum swings of my days and nights and I thanked the lord for the Y.M.C.A and the freedoms it now gave me to follow my heart to the Emerald Isle. It was sealed. I was going – and as I looked around the vast warehouse, half-makeshift photography studio and half charity shop – I was almost afraid of leaving what I had created here.
The very concept of second hand shoes for instance, would surely make my Empress heave – of which there were racks, and racks, here. As would the endless rails of high street castoffs, sorted by quality of fabric and steam cleaned on premises to purify these sad wares whilst assessing sale worth – any dress I could stick £10 on was gold.
I remembered our beloved volunteer, Millie, as I swiveled repeatedly on my donated office recliner at a set of two management desks, all donated – wherever eyes landed, all had come bequest, given or traded, unwanted by others. Millie had clumped into my office in filthy brogues, brown, wrapped in a hellish cardigan and waving a magazine in her hand in which Daphne featured – shaking it disbelievingly, as though I might not be aware.
‘Dave… Dave? Your Daphne friend is friends with Lady Gaga and she’s got a pair of gloves that cost…’
‘STOP,’ I yelled, ‘its not a pair, its one glove, its high art and that’s none of my business, and it’s none of yours either,’ I said sharply… Millie blinked from behind her wiry mane and thick-lenses and it seemed nobody was home, before she reached a conclusion I would not wait out to hear, immediately pulling up a metaphorical drawbridge.
‘Millie…’ I said to deflect, looking her up and down with affected distaste, ‘are you wearing mohair?’ She looked playfully sheepish, ‘… you know how I feel about THAT!’ I scolded, uncharacteristically stern faced, serious and affronted.
Perhaps it was how I set boundaries when fiercely protective, or afraid of what to say – because it now seemed true that every facet of my reality contained an awkward oxymoron that was difficult to manage, with bizarre juxtapositions that one could only take as god’s great sense of humor. How could the socially and economically disadvantaged like Millie (head to foot in thrift) not be agog when I, their manager, was connected to such an otherworldly icon of wealth, whilst I orchestrated so many volunteers, man hours, deliveries, incentives, and charity drives for utter pittances?
Our two world’s aside, one thing was certain – Daphne believed in me where others had not, and somehow we had everything in common and her presence in my life was filling me with an unquantifiable sense of reclamation, magical realism and spiritual fluency that had been absent since grandpas death.
I thought again, about the source of my misery – just how could my mind and body be this productive and present when the seat of my soul ached so harrowed, damaged and ill at ease? My mother, always contrary – seemed to guard the keys to the recesses of my past with a mask worn only for me, in a conspiracy of silence pushed for her only son that sent me down creek and through her mill, leaving me dazed and mourning in a grief I could not yet name. Should it not be true, if it came from mother’s lips, that I was a selfish, ruined, little bastard who only thought of himself?
How could I, now at my seemingly most adventurous and promising – feel so pillaged, attacked, pathetic and broken, so lacking, yearning and lost?
Omnipresent in my mind too, was the extraordinarily aggressive, merciless and cruel attack on my psyche through recently published books – at the hands of someone who had stolen my teenage diary and used it to scour my psychology, wringing me out publicly like a cloth for their own audacious and malicious revenge against me, the boy from willow road.
How could this unbelievable act waged against my reality, now appear to be the making of me, rather than its intended violation breaking my soul into a million irreparable fragments?
I longed to know, why, how, to put a name the spectre of what was happening to me. ‘I wouldn’t let it bother me’ my mother would irritably say, which hurt and baffled most of all – when the internal telephone sounded and jolted me out of another such difficult daze…
‘Hello Susan’ I said flatly, managerially in fact.
‘Did you book your flight?’ she asked full of vim.
‘Yes, I’m flying out this afternoon. I’ll be gone a full week…’
‘It’s OK, that’s fine….’ she said reassuringly, ‘come downstairs, and you’ll see…’
Enthusiastically dropping receiver onto hook and striding the service stairs like a child, cutting out steps with giant leaps and bounding onto the shop floor – I fund Susan had, as if school Ma’am, lined up each of my volunteers for an impromptu inspection.
Unsure of what was unfolding – I joined Susan by her side with interest…
‘I’ve called everyone in and they all wanted to come and tell you something’ she said with slight apprehension as I suspiciously clocked each of the familiar faces before me, until my eyes fell upon a man I had not met, around whose neck hung a digital camera.
‘Ah, he’s with me…’ assured a manager from the rehabilitation centre that sent so many of our volunteers. Stepping toward Susan and myself, he gestured to the line-up of those under our care, as he elaborated with genuine and enthused ease.
‘Mr Barron, we are here to take a photograph of you with your team. Susan called and told us, we better catch you now if we want to run an article in the local paper…’
‘Really,’ I asked, shocked and numb, ‘is this really what you think will be of interest?’
‘Yes…’ he said assuredly, ‘what you have achieved at this Y.M.C.A, not just for them but the community, is a real success story that has helped many onto the work ladder.’
All were in enthusiastic agreement whilst I made an impression of someone very calm, smiling through the embarrassing deluge of appraise that gave testament to having found confidence because of me, or acquired new skills through my lead – praise that was all quite a blur. One soul, a thirty-something sent to me through his unfounded but easily managed insecurities just six months previous, had nerves so fraught he stuttered through the construction of basic sentences, pleading with me to be kept back of house – yet here he stepped forward, confidently stating his commitment, in a speech in which he give unto himself a promotion.
‘I’ll come every day, stay all day making sure Susan is O.K. I’ll be a supervisor until you come back, so you won’t need to worry about going to see this posh Lady in Ireland.’
What growth, I thought, stunned – and something inside of me thawed when he motioned with strict impatience to the team. As though his subordinates had missed their cue – until Mille remembered her lines and stumbled forward, ‘I’ll steam clean, fold garments, and be on guard for mohair and angora’ she said, raising giggles from those who knew me best.
Where were the snide asides for abandoning my post that I had imagined, the prior commitments of their busy lives, or the call from head office demanding I give them more notice? I did not quite know how to handle other people acting on my behalf in such an unsolicited and kindly way as to purport to some form of eminence within me, and yet here they stood, each of them with purpose in their stance and vitality in their eyes to which they credited me with inspiring.
‘Shall we get some of you together?’ The photographer encouraged.
‘Cheese…’ we called out in accordance, and with a burst of his flash, done.
This sudden grouping tightened my throat, and the external assurance from the local press meant the more positive the words spoken about me, the more tranquilized I felt by them. The more into my continuous daze I fell, bewildered… for I did not believe myself truly worthy. Managing this unit came so easily to me as to be ridiculous. The attention to detail, the mere zhuzh of aesthetics, the sanitation of everything into a gleam, and the coordination of people – all second nature to a confounded shop-soiled boy born of a people pleasing public house where mother had taught me so well, that catering to the needs of others came first, no matter my mind.
‘Your article would carry a different tone, if you knew what really went on in here.’ I said aloud – concealing that I thought myself nothing beyond some absurd usherette of commonplace management, too busy knowing when and where things ought to be so that I did not have to look at myself, whilst camping up the role with humor, pizzazz, and the odd rule bend. Such as the jolly time I closed early to set out a picnic on long wooden dining tables, decorated with streamers, cream cakes, sandwiches and fizzy wine I had bought as a thank you to my team, which ended in a well-deserved but tipsy conga line to, yes you’ve guessed it, the Village People’s, Y.M.C.A.
They offered their hard work and presence – long after the benefits system required them to do so, and with little official remuneration whilst I collected a salary. Though the salary was a frugal, almost impossible £15,000 per annum, I still felt duty bound to reward them, where I could.
‘I’m jealous, Mr Barron…’ said the photographer unable to hold my gaze as he glanced down into his LCD screen with a droll smirk. ‘We heard about your antics of parties, photo-shoots, and ripped men and pop stars! Tough life, huh?’ he teased.
‘Well, we have to top up our earnings somehow.’ I said coolly, looking to a beaming Susan for support, when it struck me – no one here was judging me negatively.
Everyone began to mingle, sharing their stories of how my Y.M.C.A had saved, changed or altered their lives and with ever more staff than customers piling in, I saw my absence might pass inconsequentially.
‘Susan, I don’t know what to say…’ once again joining together, tactile as ever.
‘Young man…’ she said with a mischievous glint, ‘you can make real your dreams.’
‘Oh, don’t set them off!’ I joked, knowing another conga line quite possible.
‘Look at them…’ she said, and I did, ‘you have set them up for life!’
I gave out a long grateful sigh… ‘Susan, thank you’ I said softly.
‘Honestly, you go to that Emerald Isle and have a great, great time…’ she said, gently patting my arm, ‘all we need here, is for you to come back and tell us all about the wonderful adventure it was… OK?’
Her words were faithful and true, and they echoed through the half-life of my fragmented consciousness, my self-sabotage and through an ego that now soared so high upon this answer to a prayer, this search for an idol and a magical undoing – but what neither of us could have known, beyond the sincerest of farewells, was just how fateful her next words were.
‘It’s time for all of your dreams to come true now, Mr David Barron…’ she said.
These days I had had forced upon me, a sense that I could no longer hide from myself, and I would not return as the same man who now left the Y.M.C.A behind – for in the mirage of my life’s fragmented and gas-lit emotions, there was now no doubt that my most difficult days were only just arising – as onward I stepped into the uncharted territory of my empress, muse and starlight – my ultimate idol and friend, because the time had arrived to embark upon a road into the dazed gloaming of my consciousness, to raise skeletons of the dead.
HOW I MANAGED, WITH ALL MY ISSUES, TO PRODUCE THIS I HAVE NO CLUE
“That’s why I love music, its because you can connect with people on a very real level. Rather than it being about either money, class, race, religion or anything else… It is the last leveler of society”
– Daphne Guinness
A Film By David V Barron
Filmed in and around Daphne’s stunning Irish residence, I am immensely proud to present an unreserved and candid insight into the creative and musical processes of my friend, Daphne Guinness.
Daphne freely explains the organic nature of her creativity, with music written and performed by Daph herself – to her collaborations with legendary T-Rex and David Bowie producer, Tony Visconti, Patrick Donne, Nick Knight, and surrealist photographer David LaChapelle.
From classical castrati to Daphne’s musical influences and opinion on modern-day celebrity, our relaxed chat is juxtaposed with raw and quick paced film segments that move the viewer forward with glimpses of how Daphne creates her music – from practicing the melodic lines of a track that still require lyrics, to the surreal, esoteric and dreamlike sequences that form aspects of who I know Daphne to be as a human being.
Forget the fashion icon, brewing heiress, muse and any other one-dimensional label and preconception, because above all – my film is unpolished, natural and tangibly real.