Marc Almond on his crash...
In today's Daily Mirror is an exclusive interview with Mark Almond about his motocycle accident in October. Many thanks to Fiona Cummins for bring us this story. And thanks for David for the heads up too.
MARC ALMOND ON HIS HORROR CRASH
By Fiona Cummins, Showbiz Reporter (Jan 15 2005)
EXCLUSIVE: It turned me grey and made me stutter again but I'm lucky to be alive
Marc Almond's horrific motorbike crash that left him unconscious for 10 days has brought back his childhood stammer. He gives an exclusive interview to the Mirror.
The Soft Cell star suffered two massive blood clots that caused his head to "swell to the size of a football". He fractured his skull in two places, shattered his right shoulder, perforated his eardrum, suffered a collapsed lung, underwent emergency surgery twice and faced the prospect of brain damage. He couldn't walk or talk in the aftermath of the smash, which saw him tossed 20ft through the air.
One of the most difficult aspects of the accident is that the singer's stutter has returned with a vengeance. "When I was in my teens, I had a terrible stammer," he says. "It has come back worse than ever now and I suppose that's because I was shaken up like a jelly.
"I couldn't get a fix on sounds properly. I was in shock and couldn't form words. Sometimes I can't even speak on the phone. If I hear disembodied voices I can't focus or talk - I'm going to have to work on that." Describing his feelings after the crash, Marc says: "It was very difficult and emotional. But I'm a tough old boot. When I first came round and found out my situation, I was determined to be strong and get out of hospital. I wasn't going to be beaten by it."
The singer, who spent five weeks in hospital, believes it was a CD of daft songs which finally roused him. "I have a parrot at home and I sing these silly, childish songs to it and they played me a CD of those songs. "I also remember the tune Oh Superman, by Laurie Anderson, from when I was unconscious. Apparently somebody on the scene was playing it in their car and the lyrics are: 'You'd better get ready, ready to go'."
But the gay star, who has a long-term partner, didn't go. He woke up instead... and thought he'd been kidnapped. "I opened my eyes and thought I'd been taken prisoner and was being tortured. I couldn't understand why they had stuck all these things in my mouth. I tried to pull everything out because I didn't know what was happening and they had to bind my hands. Eventually, I started to accept my situation. It was just very frightening - the strangest thing that has ever happened to me."
As he began to regain consciousness, Marc's first memory was of voices. "I remember my mother saying: 'You must come round now, you've been asleep for nine days, you've been in a terrible accident.' Then I'd hear the voice of a friend, then my sister, then another voice, asking me to wake up. At first, I couldn't understand why they were there, all talking to me. I was trying to make some sense of the situation... then, eventually, I came round. I wondered if I was in a dream and hoped someone would wake me up."
Although a flamboyant performer with a reputation for excess, Marc's confidence has been badly shaken. The star, whose hair turned grey after the smash, is polite, nervous and apologetic, saying it's the first time he has discussed the accident outside his circle of friends and family. He fears he may become "emotional". But though he is still recovering in many ways, his sense of humour remains intact and he talks non-stop as if he finds it cathartic to share how he came so close to death.
Marc, 47, who has had a string of hits including the 1981 classic Tainted Love, Say Hello, Wave Goodbye and Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart, has no memory of the accident. But the five-inch scar which runs across the right side of his head is a stark reminder. He had been riding pillion on October 17 last year when the Suzuki crashed into a car near St Paul's Cathedral. As he hurtled over the handlebars, he inadvertently dragged off the helmet of the bike's driver - his manager and close friend Mark. And as he lay bleeding, Marc also pulled off his own helmet - extremely dangerous after suffering a serious head injury.
"Yes, I was lucky not to haemorrhage. The paramedics arrived then and sedated me. They saved my life because I had a huge blood clot and my head was the size of a football. They did emergency surgery and then it happened again so they had to operate again."
Marc's gaunt face pales as he tells what happened in the aftermath, when his mother was urged to travel down from Southport, near Liverpool, as it was feared her son may not survive the night. "They had to drive for six hours, not knowing what they were going to find." Marc was in such a terrible condition that they even hid mirrors from him. "Apparently, I didn't look very pleasant at all. My eye was almost hanging down my face and I was black with bruising. I had plugs sticking out of my head, I was having transfusions, I was on an oxygen machine and they had a bolt to monitor the pressure on my brain."
His family were also warned that the star might be severely brain damaged. "The doctors warned them to be prepared but, although I have the stammer and the anxiety, it's a natural thing I've got to overcome - it's not down to brain damage.
"I've gone very grey since the accident and I'd maybe like to use a little hair colour but I want to let the scars heal. I also want to show that I'm not afraid or embarrassed - they're just my war wounds," he laughs. He keeps giggling as he explains that he has no dignity left now, after so many friends have had to help him to the bathroom.
In all, Marc spent three weeks in the Royal Free before moving to the private London Clinic for a fortnight. Of the bike's driver Mark, the singer will only say: "He's had some terrible injuries and is dealing with it in his own way."
Before the accident, the star had been enjoying a revival. He received rave reviews for gigs at London's Almeida Theatre in July, which have been immortalised in his Sin Songs, Torch And Romance DVD, released on January 31. His body may now be a patchwork of scars and his shoulder may never work properly again but Marc says: "I look at it as if I've been given another chance. There was a young guy in hospital with me with a head injury who, sadly, didn't make it.
"Yes, I know my life is a bit different now and it's never going to be totally like it was but it'll be as near-as-dammit." Marc has also battled not to become a recluse, although the accident left him "terrified of going out" and he admits he'll need counselling to help him heal psychologically. At one stage during his hospitalisation, he faced the prospect of a tracheotomy - which could have ended his singing career - but he reports that his voice is fine. In fact, he hopes to be back on stage by the summer after an operation on his shoulder next month and wants to reschedule concerts with his Soft Cell co-star Dave Ball, which were due to take place before Christmas.
His ordeal has made him more philosophical about life. "Some people make their beds, go out for a lovely day and never come home," he says. "I came back after five weeks. "It makes you aware of how fragile you are, of your own mortality and that things can happen just like that - and so randomly. Life is an adventure. It's not about being successful. Success for me is going from one failure to the next without diminished enthusiasm. It's about having an interesting life and great friends. I don't have huge ambitions. I just want to have a good life and a chance to live it."
Then he leans forward, his childish face alight as he repeats euphorically: "I am so lucky. I'm alive, I'm alive."
Marc Almond has not been paid for this interview. A donation has been made on his behalf to London's Air Ambulance, the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service, based at the Royal London Hospital.
(c) Daily Mirror
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