She was one of those magical people who burn more brightly than the rest of us…
The Observer, Sunday 11 December 2011
Best friends: Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse perform at The Brit awards in 2008. Photograph: Mark Allan/WireImage
It sounds creepy, but I used to love going to visit Amy at the London Clinic. Every now and then she'd get tired of the drink and she'd check herself into this private hospital about five minutes' taxi from Camden. It was her way of cleaning up, on her own terms, without having to go to rehab.
She'd go in. I'd call her. "Where are you?" "I'm in the clinic, getting dry." "Oh, um, sorry to hear it." "What are you sorry about? I'm the idiot who got myself into this state." And that was her attitude towards it. She had little time for emotions like pity anyway; she only liked the big ones: Love, Heartbreak, Death, etc. Once in, she'd make these miraculously speedy recoveries. It didn't matter how messed up she'd been for the past however long, how slurred her words had been when I had run into her just three days earlier. Day 2 in that place and it was the old Amy again, the Amy that I had met five years ago. She had her brilliant mind back, her razor-sharp wit, and a warmth, a beautiful lovingness that was sometimes obscured in the depths of abuse. I would hang out in her room there for hours and not ever want to leave, like a sleepover at your best friend's house when you're 13 years old.
I introduced her to the TV show Arrested Development and we'd watch seven episodes in a row and she'd impersonate the bumbling character Gob, while whirring around her hospital room on an imaginary Segway (you know, that weird space-scooter that all grown-ups look ridiculous on). I'd mention in passing that I had a problem with my foot and she would ring a bell and demand a visit from the clinic's head of podiatry, and, embarrassed, I would remove my sock and show him my three-year-old verruca.
I would urge her not to smoke but she'd somehow manage to convince me to stand lookout while she snuck a cigarette behind some locked fire door, next to some huge generator with a giant flaming hazard sign on it, that looked liked it could have gone up like Hiroshima if she had flicked ash on it.
She could charm you into doing ridiculous things. There are people on this earth (they certainly don't have to be famous) and they're just a bit more magical than the rest of us. And you want to be around them because the magic rubs off a bit, and you feel a bit more special when they're around. My best friend, Max, died about five years ago. And he had that same effect on people. Maybe the magical ones burn a bit brighter than the rest of us, so they don't get to be here as long. Either way, it sucks when they go.
Looking back on it now, it's obvious to me that the main reason I enjoyed spending time with Amy in that clinic was because it was so full of hope. In my mind, thinking, "Great, she's sober and this time it's for good. This is how it's always going to be, just like when we met." It was an incredibly naive and somewhat selfish dream which removed anything she was going through emotionally and physically from the scenario. Nevertheless, it was a dream I would happily buy into each time she checked herself in there.
I get annoyed now thinking of all the extra time I could have spent in there with her but didn't, maybe because I was hanging out with some girl or spending too much time in the studio, because being in that hospital room with Amy were some of the most magical times we ever had.