A Family Affair: `They decided on an open marriage'

When jazz entertainer and writer George Melly married Diana Moynihan in 1963, he also acquired a step-daughter, Candy. Now 38, Candy is office manager for an enviromental company and lives in south London with her partner Mark Upton, 33, a website designer. Her 13-year-old daughter Kezzie lives with George and Diana during the week. George, 73, and Diana, 62, live in west London.
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My parents split up when I was eight or nine months old. My mother had met George, and we moved into his house with my half-brother, Patrick, who was about seven.

After about two years, Diana and George had a son, Tom.

George and Diana were very happy, but at some moment they decided to have an open marriage. I was about 10 or 11.

I don't know how it was explained to us. I don't remember questioning it at all, and I never felt uncomfortable in any sense.

The family still worked as a unit. We played together and ate together - with the girlfriends. If I brought George a cup of tea in the morning he might be in bed with the girlfriend, but I was never exposed to anything wrong.

The girlfriends were all very nice. As children we felt very included with them, and when George went to lunch with one of them, my brothers and I would go too. There was no secrecy in the family.

There were always loads of famous people in the house, such as The Beatles, Allen Ginsberg, Jonathan Miller and Mick Jagger. I remember when he was a defendant in the 1971 Oz trial I got teased a bit in the playground. Little boys and girls were saying: "Your dad is a pervert." I didn't understand that.

George was a very good step-father: we used to play a lot of games together, and he was always reading stories to us. He was very kind. He wasn't pushy in terms of "you've got to get loads of exams, and do well at school".

He didn't push me towards music. I'm not mad about jazz. I really didn't have very much direction, that's always been a problem with me in terms of a career. I think possibly I wish he had pushed me a bit more as a teenager to work harder, or maybe been around a bit more.

I remember being really embarrassed by George's loud suits, and the way he'd clap and sing.

I couldn't bear it. I wanted him to be inconspicuous. I wanted a different kind of step-father, I suppose, a JP perhaps. I remember as a teenager I spent weeks planning how not to be in the room at boarding school when he was going to be on Top of the Pops.

I think in my teenage years I was quite confused, and wasn't really able to have a solid relationship. I think it wasn't just the open marriage, there were lots of other factors - possibly parental divorce at a very early age. (I still saw my father once a week.) I don't think George and Diana's relationship affected the relationship I have now.

We broke down as a family when my brother Paddy died in 1980 of a heroin overdose. It was a very upsetting experience, but we never really talked about it. It wasn't a time when we came together, and we should have done. I think it affected us all deeply in different ways. George was really upset, but I don't really remember him being very much around for me when it happened. I was at art school.

It was quite a lonely time for all of us. When a child dies from a heroin overdose it leaves the family feeling very guilty.

My relationship with George is very good. I think it's better now than it has ever been, probably because we're both happy.

I still get a bit embarrassed if he wears a loud suit and a hat at my daughter's school concerts. If I go into a pub with him people look up, and I can't bear it. I don't like drawing attention to myself.

But I'm really proud of him, and I'm glad of who he is. I think he's influenced me in being quite open-minded about things; I'm very accepting about all people and not at all snobbish. I have great respect and this huge love for him - I realise that more and more.

I don't really tell people George Melly is my step-father. I don't want people to think I'm showing off.


I met Diana in the very, very early Sixties. She was married to someone I knew. I was so in love with her, I didn't mind about the children. And I don't think I would have minded much anyway, as I'm an acceptor.

was a very small and grotesque-looking baby. I used to call her the Japanese Warlord. She had very heavy cheeks. But she was a very sweet child. She was always smiling. I called her Miss Jolly Grin-Grin because she was always grinning, and I would write a poem about her every year.

I played with her a bit. However, I think not enough probably. I used to take her to the zoo and to theatres. I wasn't a "new man" by any means.

Towards the end of the Sixties, Diana and I decided to have an open marriage. I think the passion gradually dissolved. I probably didn't think of the effect that it'd have on the children. It was a very selfish decade. I think it probably did have an adverse effect on them, but so does everything - parents shrieking at each other in silence. The children naturally met our lovers from time to time. They didn't seem especially fazed by them.

Later poor Paddy died of an overdose. He was a doomed boy, really, like a lot of children of that time, at that age. It was terrible. It affected me quite strongly. I was fond of him. I knew he was hopeless. I did my best, as far as I could. And then it happened. So, no Paddy.

As was growing up I wasn't very actively involved with her, but I enjoyed going to theatres with her. I took her out occasionally from school. I think one has to be true to one's feelings, and if I had done a great deal more in her direction I think I would have been faking it, really. I was friendly with her. I was very fond of her, I liked her very much. But if I started to act "paterfamilias" I'd have been faking it.

I just hoped she would be happy and succeed in whatever she wanted to do. She's always worked very hard, but hasn't yet found her niche.

Our relationship is quite warm. We sometimes go to art exhibitions together. Occasionally I take her out to dinner. We get on very well. I enjoy her company. When I see her I think: "Oh good, there's ." We don't criticise each other. I don't interfere with her private life, of course. If I had to describe her it would be "sphinx-like", because she keeps her secrets.

I love her very much. I think she's very, very lovable, and I have grown fonder of her over the years. She's now something of a beauty, I think. I wasn't aware that she was embarrassed by me. But I'm sure she was, and quite right too.