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 Stephen Patrick David Gately (17 March 1976 – 10 October 2009) was an Irish pop singer, songwriter and actor, who, with Ronan Keating, was one of two lead singers of the pop group Boyzone. All of Boyzone's studio albums hit number one in the United Kingdommarker, their third and last being their most successful internationally. With Boyzone Gately had a record-breaking sixteen consecutive singles enter the top five of the UK Singles Chart.  He performed for millions of fans globally. He released a successful solo album in 2000, after the group's initial breakup, which charted in the UK top ten and yielded three UK hit singles, including the top three hit "New Beginning". Gately went on to appear variously in successful stage productions and on television programmes as well as contributing further tracks to various projects. In 2008, he rejoined his colleagues as Boyzone reformed for a series of concerts and recordings.


Gately wed Andrew Cowles, first in a commitment ceremony in Las Vegas in 2003 and more formally in a civil partnership ceremony in Londonmarker in 2006. Gately made his sexuality known in 1999 and came out in a blaze of publicity. He was the first ever boyband member to do so. Upon Boyzone's reformation, Gately featured as part of the first gay couple in a boyband's music video in what was to be his last music video with the band, for the song "Better". He was discovered dead at an apartment he owned with Cowles in Majorca, Spain on 10 October 2009. Brian Boyd in The Irish Times said "Stephen Gately’s death represents the first time that the boyband genre has had to deal with such a tragic situation". Tim Teeman of The Times (UK) heralded Gately as a hero of gay rights for his response to being "smoked out of the closet".

Early life and family

Gately grew up in relative poverty in the poor, working-class Sheriff Street area of Dublin. He was the fourth of five children; his father Martin is a former decorator and his mother, Margaret (born 1949) a cleaner. His siblings are Michelle, Tony, Alan and Mark. They often shared in the same room together as children and Gately was particularly close to Michelle throughout his life. Gately's father had an accident as a result of which he had to be hospitalised for three months from September 2004, and has not returned to work. His mother then took over as full-time carer. The singer attended primary school at St Laurence O'Toole's and secondary school at North Strand Technical College. As a teenager he appeared in various musicals and theatre performances at school, such as Juno and the Paycock. He was estranged from his parents for years; he reconciled with them in 2008, and visited them with Andrew Cowles that year.

Career

Music

Boyzone

Gately joined Boyzone upon their formation in 1993. The group became known in Ireland after an infamous appearance on The Late Late Show that year, which presenter Gay Byrne dismissed—although he later concluded: "They certainly had the last laugh on us". Boyzone's first success outside Ireland was when the song "Love Me for a Reason" reached number two in the UK Singles Chart in 1995. The group split suddenly following a string of performances in Dublin's Point Theatremarker in 2000. By the time Boyzone originally rested the band, they had achieved six number ones on the UK Singles Chart. They were considered a major pop band of the 1990s and had a much publicised rivalry with UK boy band Take That, even selling more singles than them. Gately shared the majority of lead vocal work with Ronan Keating.

A February appearance at the 2008 Meteor Awards relaunched the reformed Boyzone, with touring taking place throughout 2008. After his death, manager Louis Walsh described Gately as "the glue in Boyzone, he kept them all together". Keating informed the congregation at Gately's funeral that he had nicknames for them all; "the campest straight band in the world"—Rosaleen, Michaela, Kitty, Shanice and Stephanie.

Solo career

After success with Boyzone, the band decided in 2000 to move on to solo projects. Gately was the first, with his debut solo single, "New Beginning", released on 29 May 2000. The single reached number three in the UK charts.

Two weeks later the album New Beginning was released and entered the charts. The album included twelve tracks including a version of the classic "Bright Eyes", which he recorded for the soundtrack to a new TV version of Watership Down. He also voiced one of the characters in the film, Blackavar, which was created to look like him.

The second single taken from the album was "I Believe". Released on 2 October 2000, this song also featured on the soundtrack to the film Billy Elliot. The single just missed the UK top ten, peaking at number eleven. He attended the premieres of the film both at the Edinburgh Film Festival and at the Empire Theatre in Leicester Squaremarker, along with the stars of the film, Julie Walters and Jamie Bell. In May 2001, Stephen's third single, "Stay", was released and reached number thirteen in the UK chart. That month, with his single still in the charts, his record company Polydor dropped him from their label.

In January 2007, Gately was heard in Horror of Glam Rock, a Doctor Who audio drama produced by Big Finish Productions for BBC7. For this audio play, Gately recorded an original song, "Children of Tomorrow", with music by Tim Sutton and lyrics by Barnaby Edwards; this was his first solo track since 2001.

Boyzone's reformation

In 2008 following his solo career and various bouts of acting and television appearances, Gately rejoined his old colleagues when Boyzone reformed, following the success of revived contemporaries Take That. Gately had been the most eager to reform and urged his bandmates to come together again. They sold out two more tours of the United Kingdom.

Boyzone released a brand new single, "Love You Anyway", followed by a new compilation album in October 2008. December 2008 saw the release of a second new single, "Better". The video for the song generated controversy, as scenes depicting romantic couples included a shot of two men embracing, in an inclusive nod to Gately's homosexuality. The group unanimously agreed that Gately should be allowed pair with a male actor. It was condemned by, among others, the minister of the Dromoremarker Reformed Presbyterian Church. Others, however, cite that milestone as among the reasons why Gately is a "gay rights hero". Wrote Tim Teeman of the Times Online, "Gately showed that an unflamboyant guy could be a pop star and gay...the real shame should be reserved for those managers and showbusiness power-brokers who practise that kind of discrimination, and also maintain the closet, to line their pockets."

At the time of Gately's death the group had selected thirty songs which they intended to record for a new album to be released in 2010. This was to have been followed by a tour.

Acting and television

In December 2002, Gately took the lead role in Bill Kenwright's new production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which previewed in Oxford in December 2002 before moving to Liverpool over Christmas 2002 and finally to London's West Endmarker and the New London Theatre in Drury Lanemarker in February 2003. From September 2004 until March 2005 Gately played the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladiummarker.

Gately made his pantomime debut at the Churchill Theatremarker in Bromleymarker in December 2005 starring as Dandini in Cinderella. In April 2006 he took on the role of The Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz at the Marlowe Theatre, Canterburymarker.

Gately also took part in Channel Five's All Star Talent Show in October 2006, performing the slice and dice magic trick which he only had a week to learn, coming second to Toby Anstis. He was also in the second series of ITV's Dancing on Ice with his dancing partner Kristina Lenko. They went out in eighth place on 10 February 2007.

In March 2007, Gately provided his vocal talents to the Big Finish Productions Doctor Who audio play, Horror of Glam Rock.

In September 2007, Gately began touring the UK in an 11-week run of Stephen Schwartz's rock musical Godspell, but withdrew from the production after just three weeks for contractual reasons.

In 2008, Gately appeared in the independent horror film, Credo which was released in the United States as Devil's Curse.

Philanthropy

Gately was a vice patron of the charity Missing People (formerly National Missing Persons Helpline), supporting their Runaway Helpline service for young people. He was an ambassador for the Caudwell Children Charity in Stokemarker and on one occasion gave a private Christmas performance, raising thousands of pounds. The Gately family requested that donations be given to the charity instead of flowers sent to them after his death in 2009. This in turn raised thousands more pounds. On one visit to a hospital he met a child who fell in love with his jacket—Gately allowed her to have it; she was dead within the hour.

Writing

During the three years prior to his death, Gately had been writing a children's fantasy novel called The Tree of Seasons. In an April 2009 interview with the Press Association he declared that he was nearly finished, had publisher interest, and hoped for a Christmas 2009 release. Boyzone bandmate Ronan Keating promised at Gately's funeral that "by hook or by crook" the book would be finished.

Personal life

Gately split from his first boyfriend, Stephen Howard, in 1993. Howard became a heroin addict and in 1995 committed suicide by hanging. That year, in Boyzone's Own Story Gately chose two female pop stars as his love interests "because they're both really sexy". In late 1997, Gately would appear on the front cover of Smash Hits magazine, an issue which featured an interview where he spoke of his supposed desire to kiss members of UK girl group Eternal.

On 16 June 1999, The Sun newspaper covered its front page with what it described as a "World Exclusive" and the headline, "Boyzone Stephen: I'm gay and I'm in love". At the age of 23, Gately sold his story to the newspaper because he feared a former member of Boyzone's security was about to sell the story. The Sun had two further pages on the story as well as an editorial. Gately also revealed that in 1998 he had started a relationship with the then 27 year-old Eloy de Jong, who had been in the Dutchmarker boy band Caught in the Act. They had first met in 1995. Female fans were heartbroken when they discovered the truth.

From 2000 to 2002, Gately suffered from depression and addiction to prescription drugs.

Gately and de Jong split up in January 2002; Gately subsequently moved back to Dublin. After remaining single for a while, Gately started dating Andrew Cowles, an internet businessman, who had been introduced to him by mutual friends Elton John and David Furnish. Gately and Cowles held a commitment ceremony in a wedding chapel whilst on holiday in Las Vegas in 2003. On 19 March 2006, Gately entered into a civil partnership with Cowles in a ceremony in London. The couple lived together in the North Londonmarker village of Highgatemarker and were active in the local community. Gately spoke of his love for the village, saying he "wouldn't move away for the world. It has a great vibe and the people here are brilliant". In July 2009, their home was broken into by thieves who took £80,000 of items, including a prized Rolex watch which Gately had purchased with his first pay check. Gately was based in London until his death.

His manager Louis Walsh was unaware of Gately's sexuality when he selected him for Boyzone and has said that, had he known, he would have thought twice before picking him, claiming less than a year before his death that "it wasn't cool then to have a gay guy in a band". Walsh described Gately as his "very, very best friend" after the singer's death, saying: "Of all the people I've worked with I don't think anybody thanked me as much as Stephen. He used to always say to me, 'If I wasn't in Boyzone I don't know where I'd be today, thank you'".

Death

Gately died of natural causes on October 10, 2009, due to pulmonary oedema.

On 6 October 2009, Gately had posted on Twitter, saying: "Still busy, lots going on. Focussing on finishing my book next so may be quiet here." He had attended the Pride of Britain Awards in Londonmarker before flying to his apartment in Majorca.

Gately's body was discovered on 10 October 2009 in the apartment which Gately owned with Cowles near Port d'Andratxmarker on the western tip of Majorca in Spain. After meeting up at the Black Cat club in Majorca's capital Palma on the Friday night, Gately, Cowles and a friend of theirs, Bulgarianmarker Georgi Dochev, had returned to the apartment. Dochev stayed in the spare bedroom;
 when exiting the next day, he claimed he found Gately, and went to Cowles and Gately's bedroom to awaken a sleeping Cowles. However, Gately's solicitor and family friend, Gerald Kean, insisted Cowles was the one who found Gately's body. Spanish police were alerted at 1:45 pm by Cowles, after he had tried to revive Gately. Gately was found squatting in an awkward way on a sofa, dressed in his pyjamas. Police said they had no reason to believe the death was related to abuse of substances such as drugs or alcohol and no suicide note or signs of violence were located on the corpse. The Gately family enlisted celebrity solicitor Gerald Kean as their official spokesperson; Kean ruled out foul play and suicide, describing it as "just a tragic accident".   It was Kean, Gately's solicitor throughout his career, who informed the four remaining band members that Gately had died. 


Gately's bandmates flew to Majorca on 11 October 2009; Walsh was expected to join them soon after. The surviving members of Boyzone, Keith Duffy, Mikey Graham, Ronan Keating and Shane Lynch, issued a joint statement:
We are completely devastated by the loss of our friend and brother, Stephen.
We have shared such wonderful times together over the years and were all looking forward to sharing many more.
Stephen was a beautiful person in both body and spirit.
He lit up our lives and those of the many friends he had all over the world.
Our love and sympathy go out to Andrew and Stephen's family.
We love you and will miss you forever, 'Steo'.
A post-mortem and toxicology tests took place on 13 October and this examination showed that Gately died of natural causes. He died as a result of a congenital heart defect. Toxicology also confirmed the statement by Gately's partner Cowles that he had been smoking cannabis that evening.

On 16 October, accompanied by the four surviving members of Boyzone, his body was brought from Majorca to Dublin where his funeral took place at the Church of St Laurence O'Toole the following day. The four surviving members of Boyzone maintained an overnight vigil in the church the night before. They were briefly joined by the singer Cheryl Cole who flew to Ireland in a private jet and took a taxi to the church before flying back to the UK. Thousands of fans, celebrities and politicians were in attendance at the funeral. Fans had travelled from as far as Nottinghammarker, South Africa and Taiwanmarker to attend the funeral. He was buried in the city that afternoon. Gately's coffin was carried into and out of the church by his bandmates, and during the service Ronan Keating gave an emotional eulogy, several times during which he broke down and apologised to the congregation. Keith Duffy reminisced on the early days: "He told Louis [Walsh] he was 5ft 7in. When he auditioned for The Hobbit later on, he said he was 5ft 3in. But he was a true giant of a man". Mikey Graham said Gately had only told him the previous week how much he loved Cowles, adding: "When he came out, he finally became himself". The funeral clashed with the wedding of a niece of Bertie Ahern and several of her guests defected to the funeral instead.

Reaction

Fans responded with messages of sympathy on the social networking website Facebook. Wellwishers from as far away as Walesmarker left flowers outside the singer's deathplace. Thousands of pounds have been donated by fans to a Stokemarker-based children's charity which Gately had endorsed. The Google search term "Stephen Gately" was said to have "risen exponentially" and remained at the top for several days after the singer's death and was later confirmed as being the most searched for topic on Google's UK site in 2009. The search term "Boyzone" also ranked highly, being separated from "Stephen Gately" only by second-placed searches for "Nobel Peace Prize" following an unexpected victory by U.S. President Barack Obama. Boyzone's record catalogue was propelled back into the music charts. The single "No Matter What", on which Gately is a prominent vocalist, received heavy play on radio.

Boyzone manager Louis Walsh is quoted as saying: "We're all absolutely devastated. I'm in complete shock. I was only with him on Monday at an awards ceremony. We don't know much about what's happened yet. I only heard after The X Factor [UK television talent show on which Walsh is a judge] and we will rally around each other this week. He was a great man." Walsh dropped out of the 11 October 2009 live televised results episode of The X Factor as a direct result of Gately's death. Simon Cowell addressed the issue at the start of the programme. He said: "This is really, really tragic news I want to send out my condolences to the family, our thoughts are with Louis". That edition of the show attracted an "absolutely huge" audience which was said to have been seeking updates on the singer's death. Walsh also missed episodes of The X Factor which coincided with Gately's funeral, —later commenting: "I never want to watch the show at home again. I've been shouting at the TV all night"— at which Walsh was too upset to speak. My First Time, a stage show which was set to star bandmember Keith Duffy, was cancelled entirely. Duffy, Graham, Keating and Lynch had memorial "76 09" tattoos (Gately's birth and death years) engraved on their bodies when they brought Gately's body home.

Irish boyband Westlife said: "We are, like everyone else, in shock today. We met Stephen Gately back in ‘98 when we first started out and since then have had the pleasure of meeting him many times. He and the Boyzone lads paved the way for us as a band. He was a friendly, positive spirit and a passionate performer. Our thoughts are with Andy and the rest of his family, his friends, his legions of fans and of course his bandmates Keith, Mikey, Shane and Ronan who will be devastated at the loss of a truly beautiful person.".Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said: "It's so sad. Boyzone and Stephen, they've all been part of Irish life and far wider than that, the last 15 years, and so successful, so it's a huge, huge tragedy. He was 33 years of age, 15 years at the top, a fine musician, it's just a huge tragedy to Irish entertainment, Irish music and further afield as well". Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism Martin Cullen paid tribute: "Stephen Gately was a gifted young man with a talent for singing which brought him tremendous success as a member of Boyzone and also as a West End star. There was a joy about his music making, and his death at such a young age is both a personal and professional loss". Andrew Lloyd Webber said it is "a great loss to the musical world". Elton John said he and his partner David Furnish were "stunned" when they heard the news. Katherine Jenkins twittered of "memories 2 cherish" from a night out in the weeks leading up to his death. Stephen Fry described Gately's demise as "a dreadful shock". "This was not supposed to happen. This was not in the script", said music historian Paul Gambaccini.

UK television personality Paul O'Grady said he was "haunted" by Gately's death and based his decision to move back to ITV from Channel 4 on a phone call with Louis Walsh during which they discussed Gately's death. Bono later paid tribute to Gately during U2's U2 360° Tour worldwide concerts.

Jan Moir controversy

An article by Jan Moir in the Daily Mail on 16 October 2009 which linked Gately's death to his homosexual lifestyle drew over 25,000 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) that day, causing its site to crash for several hours. Derren Brown and Stephen Fry used Twitter to front an online campaign against the Daily Mail and Jan Moir throughout the afternoon and a Facebook page was set up urging followers to complain to the brands whose advertisements featured alongside the article. Fry wrote, "I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathesome and inhumane". Brown wrote, "If Gateley's passing causes today's kind of gutter-journalism to be held to account, we can perhaps take that as a tribute". Father Ted writer Graham Linehan called for a complete boycott of the Daily Mail, tweeting "Which brands advertise in the Mail? Are they aware of Jan Moir's piece?...what are they going to do about it?". Details of companies with advertisements on the same web page as Moir's article were posted on a specially established Facebook page named "The Daily Mail should retract Jan Moir's hateful, homophobic article". The Guardian reported details about where Moir lived and a false rumour that the Daily Mail had reported Cowles as Gately's murderer were spreading across the Internet.

The matter became serious enough for retailer Marks & Spencer to request the newspaper to remove an advertisement for its services from anywhere near the vicinity of the article, with the company issuing a statement which read: "Marks & Spencer does not tolerate any form of discrimination". Nestlé also disassociated themselves with the article, saying Moir's words contradicted the company's values of "mutual respect and tolerance, regardless of culture, religion or nationality". The company's Nescafé brand was featured alongside the article. The Daily Mail then removed all advertising from the online version of the article. The publication also attempted to alter the original article but this succeeded only in provoking the Twitterers further.

Moir responded to the controversy by criticising what she claimed was "clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign" and said it was "mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones". The Guardian s Charlie Brooker, whilst "struggling to absorb the sheer scope of [Moir's] hateful idiocy", accused her of "dancing" on Gately's grave before he had even been buried. Caitlin Moran of The Times said the article was "vile". The editor of top UK gay magazine Attitude questioned why Moir linked Gately's passing with that of the recently deceased partner of comedian Matt Lucas, asking "If that's not homophobic, what is homophobia?" The Daily Telegraph s Damian Thompson said "Moir’s reputation is in tatters this evening". The PCC have contacted the Gately family and will investigate if they receive a formal complaint from them, but are not in a position to act directly on complaints from members of the public. A PCC spokesman said "We're trying to work out what the complaints are. Offensiveness is not within the remit of the PCC – we deal with accuracy and intrusion." However, the column featured only in the British version of the newspaper, being removed from the Irish Mail and replaced instead by positive tributes to the singer's life. According to Sky News, the Gatelys "are aware of the article, they have not read it, they will not read it, but they know what is contained in it and they know the sentiment" and "are just very, very disappointed".

In Ireland itself, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said, "Some of the [British] papers were waiting to write some sensational piece about him [...] I can never understand why people just don't leave things simple" and one radio station owner, who called on people to write to the Mail to express their disagreement, commented, "We are all very very insulted by that coverage. [...] I certainly hope the Irish people force that newspaper's editor to apologise for the great hurt caused by that article". Scotland Yardmarker received a complaint. Gately's record company also issued a complaint to the PCC.

Solo discography

Albums



Singles

Year Title UK chart position(s)
2000 "New Beginning"/"Bright Eyes" 3
2000 "I Believe" (theme from Billy Elliot)" 11
2001 "Stay" 13


Other songs

Year Title Notes
1999 "Chiquitita" From the ABBAmania compilation album
2007 "Children of Tomorrow" From Doctor Who - Horror of Glam Rock audio book soundtrack


References

  1. "Boyzone singer Stephen Gately dies: a life on stage" The Daily Telegraph.
  2. Stephen Gately was the nice guy of pop who overcame poverty and prejudice
  3. Police: Stephen Gately choked to death on vomit
  4. Boyzone's "deadly message" of gay equality upsets Presbyterian minister
  5. Stephen Gately tops Google searches for 2009, BBC News, accessed 30-11-2009
  6. "Boyzone star Stephen Gately found dead". The Times.
  7. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/8319350.stm


External links




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