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Six degrees

Rachael Barker

 

Evergreen do-gooder Sting (above) will be gracing Hong Kong with his presence next month. Born Gordon Sumner, the British eco-activist got his moniker from a black and yellow striped shirt he wore on stage early in his career (he looked like a wasp; geddit?). The philanthropic former frontman of The Police owns several luxury properties, including an Elizabethan manor house on 60 acres of southern England, a 600-acre estate in Tuscany, Italy, and a Malibu beach house bought from one Larry Hagman …

 

Hagman bears little resemblance to the evil Texan oil billionaire J.R. Ewing, whom he plays in the recently revived 1980s soap opera Dallas and is, in fact, a fan of substance abuse. The former heavy drinker and LSD enthusiast has requested his ashes be scattered "over a field and have marijuana and wheat planted and harvest it in a couple of years and then have a big marijuana cake … People eat a little of Larry [sic]." In 1996, he offered to front the rehab costs for his drug-addled friend Robert Downey Jr …

 

Downey's 10 years of sobriety are every bit as remarkable as his talent as an actor, when you consider he was introduced to drugs at the age of six by his father, an independent filmmaker and addict. "It was like him trying to express his love for me in the only way he knew how," Downey Jr says. The pinnacle of his career before his 1990s spiral came when he received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of British silent film genius Charlie Chaplin …

 

Chaplin's is the epitome of a rags to riches story: sent to a London workhouse aged seven when his syphilitic mother descended into madness, his superstar reach came to extend far beyond Hollywood. Though Adolf Hitler was not a fan (he was misinformed that Chaplin was Jewish) he was aware of the actor's popularity and, hoping to make himself more loveable, fashioned a Chaplin "toothbrush" moustache. Seen as inimitable on and off camera, the few who have attempted portrayals of him, in addition to Downey, include cross-dressing funnyman Eddie Izzard …

 

Izzard describes himself as an "executive transvestite" who talks "complete bulls***" on stage, which should stand him in good stead if he ever realises his stated goal of becoming a member of parliament. A man of many talents, not only can he walk in nine-inch heels he is also pretty fit: in 2009, he ran 43 marathons in 51 days after just five weeks of training. On the Briton's debut stage performance in the United States, one man in the audience knew the ridicule and violence Izzard endured to dress as he pleased - the late Quentin Crisp …

 

The British writer and raconteur worked as a London rent boy before landing a job as a life model, which he kept for three decades. Despite spending zero time in the closet, Crisp despised the gay rights movement and once called Aids "a fad" and homosexuality "a terrible disease" (he himself was rejected for the army due to "sexual perversion"). He was, nevertheless, a larger than life figure and is immortalised in the song An Englishman in New York, by one-time Geordie bus conductor Sting.

 

 

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