Today, on the 25th anniversary of the Queen singer’s death, let us celebrate the true loves of his life: Tiffany, Romeo, Delilah and the rest of the litter!
The 1991 video for Queen’s These are the Days of our Lives is absolutely tinged with tragedy. A terribly frail Freddie Mercury, face caked in all kinds of make-up, stands in the spotlight, singing about a past life and halcyon days in the last song he ever recorded.
Within six months of filming the video, the 45-year-old had died from bronchial pneumonia which resulted from AIDS, a condition he only publicly revealed hours before his death.
However, the video also hints at something Mercury loved most at in his life: cats. The jaunty waistcoat he was wearing is covered in them, and not just any felines, but the very cats that he chose as his pets. It was created by his friend Donald McKenzie, who painted them onto the waistcoat after tracking down photographs of Mercury’s menagerie.
Mercury was a complete and devoted cat person. At one point he lived with as many as 10 cats in Garden Lodge, Mercury’s walled mansion in Kensington. While he traveled with his band, the cats remained in London, making it his favorite home of the many houses he had around the world.
The Days of our Lives video wasn’t the first time Mercury’s cats were reflected in his work. His 1985 debut solo album, Mr. Bad Guy, was dedicated to Jerry, half of his first pair, Tom and Jerry, that moved in when Mercury and his then-girlfriend, whose name is Mary Austin, bought them during Queen’s fledgling years in the early Seventies. The rest of the dedication was then extended to “all the cat lovers across the universe”.
Although Austin and Mercury split way back in the late Seventies, he continued to see Tom and Jerry and his feline fascination continued – as did his friendship with Austin, who gave him Tiffany, who was a longhaired bluepoint, a few years later.
Then there was also Oscar, a ginger tomcat who belonged to one of Mercury’s boyfriends and was taken in by the frontman, although the cat often took to the other houses in the neighborhood, eschewing his ever-multiplying female companions within Garden Lodge.
Mercury did rescue at least two of his cats from the Blue Cross shelter. Among the fray were Miko, a tabby that was named after Mercury came back from Japan; Romeo, who was picked up by Mercury’s boyfriend Jim Hutton (the pair also shared a grey cat called Dorothy); Lily, the white cat the singer had always longed for and Goliath, who was a tiny black cat that had a habit of hiding.
Goliath entered the household back in 1987, on the same day as Mercury’s favorite: Delilah. The inspiration for the song of the very same name, the tabby was adopted and swiftly took to ruling the entire roost, demanding food and Mercury’s attention in equal measure.
There was truth in the lyrics “when you throw a moody you’re all claws and you bite!” and also “when you pee all over my Chippendale Suite”.
Mercury wasn’t the only cat fanatic in the group: Brian May shared his fondness for cats, as well as supplying meow-like guitar solos upon Delilah.
The cats continued to have free reign over his entire house, which is just one of the reasons why the Chippendale got sprayed, after Mercury died.
Even as late as 2003, there were still reports of Delilah being seen on the wall of Garden Lodge.
We miss you, Freddie.