Clad in his trademark top hat, Sebastian Horsley, from a giant black and white photograph, reclined on the mantelpiece and glowered at the hundreds who had gathered for his funeral.
Soho's great and good had assembled in their exotic finery to bid farewell yesterday to the man they described as the king, the ultimate dandy. Most famous for once staging his own mock crucifixion for his art, the 47-year-old who flamboyantly promoted his own decadence, passion for prostitutes and love of drugs, was found dead of a heroin overdose at his London flat two weeks ago.
Yesterday, in a fitting send-off for a triumphant exhibitionist, his coffin, wrapped like a glittering red present, was borne through the streets of Soho by a horse-drawn hearse before being carried into the Corinthian-columned splendour of St James's church to the sound of T Rex's "Cosmic Dancer".
Around 400 mourners – decked out in outrageous outfits representing every fashion of the five decades of his life – packed the church to the rafters, fanning themselves with the order of service in sweltering summer heat.
Clad in a tangerine Nehru jacket and lime shirt with painted nails, his friend Neville Stephens explained: "Normally you are worried about being offensive if you go to a funeral, worried your tie is too loud. But today it would be offensive to come in anything dull."
Horsley, who collected skulls, could often be seen strutting around Soho in red high heels and suede designer suits. Stephen Fry spoke movingly of the less-public side of his sweet, loyal friend and how he so modestly signed his letters "my useless love".
Singer Marc Almond – in bowler hat and sporting a giant diamond brooch – said: "He was unique, his own creation. Sebastian was fearless and a hero where as I am just a shape shifter.
"He was the last king of Soho. With Sebastian's passing something else precious has gone from the heart of London. He was a colourful character and we really need individuals like that in this world of mass commercialism."
For all the theatricality, it was still a funeral. Few could resist a tear as his elderly mother Valerie Walmsley-Hunter, frail with cancer, read Gerard Manley Hopkins' Heaven-Haven in a voice loaded with emotion. Fashion designer Pam Hogg said: "I was doing quite well but when his mother spoke, I broke."Reuse content