For nearly three decades, Reid's name was synonymous with Sir Elton. He
has, he says, "been fortunate enough to have handled the career of a
talent so remarkable it happens once in a generation, if you're lucky".
By his own calculations, 70 per cent of his brain was always tuned into
taking care of Elton.
"It was an all-encompassing job, 24 hours a day," he explains.
Together, they had weathered the pink hair, the green hair, the no hair
and the new hair; the records, tours, deals, domestic dramas, drink,
sex, drugs and rock and roll that featured along the way. It was an
artiste-manager relationship that, for longevity and mutual
codependence, was rivalled only by that of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis,
the Telegraph reported.
The photographer wanders about Reid's house in an attempt to find out
where the best light is. You can tell she's confused. Every room she
enters is grand and imposing. It's like being in an Italian stately
home. Her confusion isn't due to lack of co-operation from her subject.
"Are you sure you wouldn't like me to bunch these together, and maybe
lean between them?" he asks, standing between four immovable
19th-century Italian marble heads, each representing a different
continent. "I call them the Village People."
They are expected to fetch between pounds 25,000 and pounds 35,000 at
auction. They dominate the dining-room which has a mahogany table
designed by David Linley, large enough to seat 24 without their elbows
touching. No, the photographer's confusion has been brought on by the
fact that there was no rock and roll memorabilia. "I've only ever been
rock and roll in my habits, not my habitats," Reid says apologetically.
"I'm much more middle class than people assume. More traditional."
That may well be so, the Telegraph muses. But it's perhaps neither very
middle class nor traditional to sell three houses simultaneously, and
most of their contents.
This sale at Christie's is an upmarket version of a massive car-boot
sale. Last year Reid was darting between his home in London, his villa
in St Tropez and his penthouse in New York. On two occasions, he
achieved the hat trick of breakfasting in France, lunching in England
and catching Concorde to New York in time for dinner.
In the past six months, he has streamlined his life to eating all three
meals under the same roof. He's trimmed his work commitments down to
concentrating on his involvement with Lord Lloyd Webber's Really Useful
Group and producing a stage version of "The Graduate" film, and is
clearly having one hell of a physical and mental spring-clean, the
"It's a huge effort to run more than one house in more than one country.
I can't be bothered with the sheer logistics any more. I once bought
2,000 monogrammed napkins at a house sale. I needed them. Running the
house in St Tropez was like running a small hotel. Now that I've sold
it, I can stop being a host and go back to being a guest."
In 1999, Reid hits 50, a milestone he says he is indifferent to. "I
don't know what it's supposed to feel like," he muses. "At this stage I
just appreciate being alive. I'm just grateful to be healthy, alive and
relatively sane. I've lived through some fairly insane periods, some
created by myself and some hooked into other people's insanities. I want
to live a simpler life: less formal, less flash, less frenetic. Cosier."
The reporter asked him if he'll miss the financial rewards - politely
wondering if this is the reason he's selling up? "Are you asking me if I
need the money?" he laughs, his soft Glaswegian accent becoming more
pronounced. "Oh, I could do with it. No question. It takes a great deal
to run three houses. I had two options open to me. Either I could sit on
all three and work to keep them going, or I could change the way I live
completely. And that's the route I've chosen.
Reid went on: "This year (1998) has been savage. I've had two sudden
deaths to cope with, the first being my mother's. Absolutely nothing
prepares you for the death of a parent - you go into a strange state of
free fall. "The second was David Croker's, who was creative director at
John Reid Enterprises and exactly my age. I was talking to him in the
morning and that afternoon he was dead. That shook me to the core. And
then my relationship with Elton ended after 28 years."
The two began their partnership while both were in their early twenties,
and although Reid has added and subtracted to his stable of clients
(also managing, at one time or another, Kiki Dee, Queen, Billy Connolly,
Barry Humphries, David Linley and Michael Flatley), Elton was always his
main man. Suddenly to stop being his manager Reid likens to "slamming
the brakes on after running at 100 mph. A huge void."
Reid added: "I thought we knew where we were with one another," he says,
"but I was wrong. It was like a relationship where one side has died,
yet the other person doesn't know. Communication stops. Everything
slides away and it's terribly sad."
Reid stopped drinking eight years ago. "I now know that when most people
realise they have a problem, they struggle with it until such a time as
they just feel beaten. You finally admit to yourself you no longer want
to play Russian roulette. I got to that point. I had no fight left in
He happened to meet addiction therapist Beechy Colclough, who "simply
told me I could stop. The moment I walked into the centre Beechy ran, I
felt a huge sense of relief. It was quite similar to you know . . . " He
stops as though he feels what he is about to say is disloyal. "It was a
similar sense of relief to letting go of the whole thing with Elton. In
the sadness of that, there was also a great sense of relief."
Having conquered alcohol, he channelled the "manic energy" that was
previously spent drinking and having a good time into collecting,
travelling, buying, improving houses and learning. "Along with being
sober comes a different daily time-clock. It's called `being awake'. I
had time on my hands and took a much more defined interest in how and
where I lived. I lived out fantasies. I always imagined New York was
like a black-and-white movie from the Thirties." So he decorated the New
York apartment he owned on the 50th floor of the Millennium Tower in the
style of a black-and-white tableau from such a movie.
Although initially attracted to the romance of (auction) sales, Reid is
also addicted to the adrenaline rush they provide. He refers to it as
"the thrill of the chase". "What happens is I see an artist I like and
tend to bid for three paintings instead of one - that's addictive
behaviour for you," he explains.
He tries very hard to limit himself but recognises going to sales brings
out an innately competitive side. "It's like `No you're not - I'm going
to get this', and up goes your hand."
The reporter asks if having money has brought him happiness. He says it
has brought him lots of fun. "Money's a tool. You can either use it
selfishly or unselfishly. I'd like to think I've used mine unselfishly.
I hope I've used it to give other people fun and pleasure besides
myself. It can bring you comfort."
It can also get you out of trouble, the reporter suggests. "And into
trouble," Reid replies. Reid says that one thing he's learnt as he's got
older is that more is not better, and that's the criteria he's tried to
apply when deciding what to sell and what to keep.
"I used to collect Thirties Cartier clocks. For every one I've kept,
I've put three in the sale," he says. "When you have sold all these
things," the reporter asks him, "what are you left with?" Reid responds: