Wednesday, 11 July 2007
I absolutely love this obituary. I can't believe it took him 44 years to achieve all this, especially when most Sydney meth-queens experience it every weekend.
Anyway, I see a movie being made, Count Gottfried von Bismarck would be played by Peewee Herman - LOL!
Count Gottfried von Bismarck, who was found dead on Monday aged 44, was a louche German aristocrat with a multi-faceted history as a pleasure-seeking heroin addict, hell-raising alcoholic, flamboyant waster and a reckless and extravagant host of homosexual orgies.
The great-great-grandson of Prince Otto, Germany's Iron Chancellor and architect of the modern German state, the young von Bismarck showed early promise as a brilliant scholar, but led an exotic life of gilded aimlessness that attracted the attention of the gossip columns from the moment he arrived in Oxford in 1983 and hosted a dinner at which the severed heads of two pigs were placed at either end of the table.
When not clad in the lederhosen of his homeland, he cultivated an air of sophisticated complexity by appearing in women's clothes, set off by lipstick and fishnet stockings. This aura of dangerous "glamour" charmed a large circle of friends and acquaintances drawn from the jeunesse dorée of the age; many of them knew him at Oxford, where he made friends such as Darius Guppy and Viscount Althorp and became an enthusiastic, rubber-clad member of the Piers Gaveston Society and the drink-fuelled Bullingdon and Loders clubs.
Perhaps unsurprisingly he managed only a Third in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.
Von Bismarck's university career ended in catastrophe in June 1986, when his friend Olivia Channon was found dead on his bed, the victim of a drink and drugs overdose. Von Bismarck admitted that his role in the affair had brought disgrace on the family name; five years later he told friends that there were still people who would not speak to his parents on account of it, and who told his mother that she had "a rotten son".
In the reunified Germany, von Bismarck managed several telecoms businesses and, armed with a doctoral thesis on the East German telephone system, oversaw the sale of companies formerly owned by Communist East Germany to the private sector.
By the late 1990s von Bismarck was working for Telemonde, Kevin Maxwell's troubled telecoms firm based in America, with responsibility for developing the business in Germany; the company collapsed in 2002 with debts of £105 million. Von Bismarck eventually returned to London, where he became chairman of the investment company AIM Partners, dabbled in film production and promoted holidays to Uzbekistan.
Never concealing his homosexuality, von Bismarck continued to appear in public in various eccentric items of attire, including tall hats atop his bald Mekon-like head. At parties he would appear in exotic designer frock coats with matching trousers and emblazoned with enormous logos. Flitting from table to table at fashionable London nightclubs, he was said to be as comfortable among wealthy Eurotrash as he was on formal occasions calling for black tie.
Although described personally as quiet and impeccably mannered, von Bismarck continued to live high on the hog, hosting riotous all-night parties for his (chiefly gay) friends at his £5 million flat off Sloane Square. It was at one such event, in August last year, that von Bismarck encountered tragedy for a second time when one of his male guests fell 60 ft to his death from the roof garden. While von Bismarck was not arrested, he was questioned as a witness and there were those who wondered - not, perhaps, without cause - whether he might be the victim of a family curse.
Gottfried Alexander Leopold Graf von Bismarck-Schonhausen was born on September 19 1962 in Brussels, the second son of Ferdinand, the 4th Prince Bismarck, whose own father had served in the German embassy in pre-war London until a feud with the ambassador, von Ribbentrop, ended his career.
As a talented young scholar, Gottfried had studied at what he described as "an aristocratic Borstal" in Switzerland and worked at the New York stock exchange before going up to Christ Church, Oxford.
Von Bismarck never fully recovered from the death in June 1986 of Olivia Channon, the striking 22-year-old daughter of Paul Channon (later Lord Kelvedon), then one of Margaret Thatcher's cabinet ministers.
To celebrate the end of their finals, von Bismarck and Olivia Channon had taken part in a drinking bout involving excessive amounts of champagne, Black Velvet and sherry before she overdosed on heroin. At the inquest her cousin, Sebastian Guinness, described how he and other revellers had repaired to von Bismarck's bottle-strewn rooms, where Olivia was found dead the following morning.
Von Bismarck himself was charged with possessing cocaine and amphetamine sulphate and was later treated at a £770-a-week addiction clinic in Surrey. Following Olivia Channon's funeral, at which he was said to have "wept like a child", von Bismarck was ordered home to the family castle near Hamburg by his father.
His removal from Oxford was so abrupt that he was not given time to settle his bills; Prince Ferdinand sent a servant who did the rounds of von Bismarck's favoured watering-holes, restaurants and his tailor bearing a chequebook.
The tabloids quoted words of repentance from von Bismarck himself - "My days of living it up are all over. This past week has just been too much" - but although he was reported to be leaving to finish his studies at a German university and eventually to enter German politics, in the event he was treated again for alcoholism at a German clinic.
He returned briefly to Oxford, where local magistrates fined him £80 for drug possession; he wiped away tears as his lawyer offered mitigation, pointing out that since the Channon affair von Bismarck had received a bad press in Germany.
Doubting whether he would be able to find work in his own country, von Bismarck was said to be planning to study at a university in Los Angeles while continuing to receive treatment for his drink problem. Olivia Channon's death, his barrister said, would prove to be a shadow over von Bismarck's head "probably for the rest of his life". So it proved.
He never married.