The tragic death of Mark Blanco at the beginning of December brutally cut the life of a brilliant man and dear friend. Mark was a vital part of many peoples’ lives, who now want to have it made transparent exactly what took him so tragically away. His profound intelligence coupled with humility, creativity and above all humour, touched many. Always appearing with something to give or show or share, from a steak in his pocket to a rare book, magic trick or just to dip in and out of his vast knowledge of so many things, Mark was a unique spirit, whose untimely death has left many deepely saddened.
He will be missed.
PETE DOHERTY, THE BIG K,
And what really happened at the Hotel in the Sky
By JAMES TAPPER and EMILY MADDICK
Daily Mail 13:07pm on 10th December 2006
For four years, the man with the intriguing name of Johnny Headlock has been at the side of Pete Doherty, helping to steer him through the scrapes and escapades that have brought him notoriety.
But last week Doherty found himself in his most serious mess yet, when actor Mark Blanco plunged to his death after a drug-fuelled argument with him in a top-floor flat in East London known as the “Hotel in the Sky”. Inevitably, 27-year-old Headlock, the unofficial minder, manager, fixer, roadie, valet, and confidant to the Babyshambles star, was there to see it all. And yesterday, in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, Headlock gave the first eye-witness account of the events leading up to Blanco’s death.
In doing so he supplied important new information about the case – and also a startling insight into life at the hedonistic court of Pete Doherty and The Big K, as Kate Moss is known by their entourage.
Judging by Headlock’s revelations, the tragedy of Tuesday night was an inevitable consequence of the sort of life Doherty insists on leading.
The singer and hangers-on were at one of the regular cocaine and crack parties hosted by the owner of the one-bedroom flat, Doherty’s self-styled “literary agent” Paul Roundhill, who charges his guests for space on his sofa to take drugs and commune with the other druggies there.
Visitors either bring their own drugs or ask him to order some over the phone and give him a little “thank you” in return, usually in the form of drugs.
A row erupted between Doherty and an excitable Blanco, who apparently committed the ultimate drug-den faux pas of attempting to ingratiate himself with the singer because of his celebrity. Roundhill tried to defuse the situation by setting fire to Blanco’s hat.
Headlock said: “Mark had a big bottle of wine. He was just swigging it out of the bottle. I’ve known him two or three months and it was the first time I’ve seen him as bad as that.
“He kept going on about a play, on and on and on. He kept grabbing Peter and I could see it in his eyes, Pete was going to me, ‘Johnny, tell him, man.’
“I was trying to control him. He’s 6ft 5in, he’s not small. We kept telling him to shut up and sit down and he wouldn’t have it. Paul was trying to distract him. He took off Mark’s hat – it was a flat cap – and set it on fire with some lighter fluid.
“Mark didn’t even turn round. He just kept going on about how he’s got an idea for something. Paul was saying, ‘Sit down so we can talk’.
“So I tried to get him to leave the flat. He pushed me and then Peter sat down and Paul was grabbing him. Paul got him out of the door and said, ‘Johnny, give us a hand’.
“We got him through the door leading to the outside balcony and then we’ve gone back in. It must have been about five minutes between Mark arriving and Mark leaving.”
Moments later the Cambridge-educated actor was lying on the cobbled street four storeys below, dead.
Doherty and Headlock were still in the flat, with two girls called Kate – neither of them Moss – and a pole dancer named Naomi. Headlock says he cannot remember how 30-year-old Blanco’s body was discovered. “I remember someone saying, ‘Mark’s had an accident’,” he said.
“We came down and there he was on the floor and the girls were checking him. I assumed he walked down and he just fell over because there was no blood anywhere. I thought he was drunk and he just slipped and fell on the floor.
“Then Paul gave my number to the ambulance people. He couldn’t remember his own number. You’ve got to remember Paul’s been smoking crack so he’s all paranoid, so as soon as a little bit of tension in his house happened, he’s like, oh, the whole world’s going wrong.
“Mark could have fallen over the balcony, ‘cos the balcony’s not that high. But he didn’t look that bad. No one actually knew he’d fallen over the balcony. No one saw it. How do we know?”
He heard more from Roundhill a few hours later. “Paul sent me a text saying he was dead, then the police phoned me up, and I was saying, ‘Oh, is he like dead’, and they were saying, ‘He’s not dead’, and I was like, ‘Well what’s going on?’
“They said, ‘We need you to come and do an interview,’ and I went, ‘Well, I can’t at the moment.’ Think about it, I’d been doing cocaine so I can’t just go down the police station wired out of me head. They didn’t phone me back.
“Paul sent me a text saying, ‘You done the right thing to leave but the police do need to speak to you’. I will speak to them. I think it’s respectful. Mark’s my friend. But if they’ve heard from every angle why do they need to speak to me again?”
Detectives say they are keeping an open mind but believe that no “third party” was involved in the actor’s death. However, Blanco’s family remain suspicious and believe it was not suicide and was more than a “simple accident”.
Headlock says he can’t explain Blanco’s death. He does, however, confirm that hard drugs were available at the flat. He says Roundhill had been taking crack and admits taking cocaine himself.
Thin, wiry and volatile, Headlock – real name Jonathan Jeannevol – veers from edgy paranoia to naive charm in the course of the interview. The East Ender has a reputation among Doherty’s entourage for menace, something he claims he doesn’t deserve and believes he is being pushed out. In the eyes of Headlock, such a fall from favour would be most unfair. For by his account he has been the one who has ensured Doherty turns up at concerts, his numerous court appearances, photoshoots and business meetings. He has even helped to keep the singer’s relationship with Kate Moss on the road.
Headlock says his straight talking makes him one of the few people who can guide Doherty. Even hard-boiled businessmen appear bowled over by the Babyshambles man’s hell-raising legend – seen by Doherty himself, if not by others, as Byronic adventurousness.
“I’ve seen many a man working with us, on merchandise or whatever, and they’ve been around Pete and they’ve been starry-eyed, and it’s been their downfall, they’ve never concentrated on what they should be doing,” says Headlock.
According to Headlock, Doherty has a fetish for the sensation of needle on skin. He paints pictures with the blood he withdraws by syringe.
The two men met through a mutual friend, Babyshambles’s first guitarist, Patrick Walden. Headlock helped out at a gig in Coventry, when the stage collapsed, and the band’s then manager James Milord asked him to carry on helping. He acquired his nickname at a gig at the Blackpool Empress, a night that has become legendary among fans for Doherty’s drug excess.
“Someone had left these really powerful sleeping tablets. Peter must have seen them and took them, so by the time he’s come on stage these things are starting to kick in and he’s falling asleep.
“James just told everyone to walk off. I just stayed watching him on my own. He just picked up his guitar and carried on playing. I was thinking, this guy’s a bit crazy, man. There’s no embarrassment, there’s no shame.
“But he won the kids over. And that was the moment I thought, I’ve got to give this man 100 per cent respect. The kids just started cheering him, singing along. He must have been playing Libertines songs.
“They were cheering really loudly and he came over and he whispered in my ear: ‘Jon, in a minute I’m going to make out to collapse. Just get me off stage’. So as soon as he turned round I just got him in a headlock and I dragged him off. So we put him in a shower, gave him loads of coffee and an hour later they went back on.”
The story – in which Doherty pretended to be more “out of it” than in fact he was – is further evidence of his gift for self-mythologising. But Headlock insists that what makes the singer special is the sincerity of his feeling for the fans. He instructs Headlock to get young ticketless fans in to watch sold-out concerts and did solo performances for fans for three hours last New Year’s Eve.
“He told me to get them to queue up. He called it Peter’s Grotto, I called it Peter’s Grotty Grotto. They were coming in one by one and he’d say, what song do you want and he’d play any song in the world. He’d sign a T-shirt, take a few photos and then move on to the next one.
“For Peter it’s not about what’s in your pocket, it’s about being happy. Those kids aren’t going to let him down. Only the record company is going to do that.
“Pete gave his guitar to a young lad, the son of the night porter at the Liverpool Academy, on the promise that he would come back in a year’s time and play him a song.”
Doherty’s relationship with “The Big K” is also intriguing. The supermodel chases him, calls his friends to find out where he is and worries about his welfare. And it seems Kate Moss, despite being one of the world’s most beautiful women, is not immune from jealousy.
According to Headlock, she has virtually vetoed Doherty from releasing a duet he performed with his ex-girlfriend, Scottish singer Dot Allison.
The song, a pastiche of The Beatles’ I Wanna Hold Your Hand, is a favourite among Doherty’s friends, yet he refuses to release it – because of “The Big K’, Headlock says.
Yet she is good for Doherty, he believes. “When I last spoke on the phone to Kate she was worried he isn’t getting his stuff managed and how his finances are being done,’ he said.
“Of course she worries, if you love someone you worry about them. She’s pushing him in the right direction, gently nudging him. He needs it.
“They met at her 31st birthday party. He gave her a present, the lyrics to his song, What Katie Did. He’d written it on the back of an envelope and he put it in a frame and gave it to her.
“Whenever they’re together you can just tell, they’re really happy. They’re in love with each other. He says he can’t see anyone else. He adores her.
“The one thing is she has no concept of cash. When he’d been in Portugal, in rehab for heroin, he asked me to phone his mum and Kate, the only two people. So I phoned his mum and I phoned Kate and she was going on and on. And I said, ‘Kate I can’t do this, it’s going to be on my hotel bill.’ I said, ‘just phone me back, you can afford it.’
“He hangs out with superstars and multi- millionaires. We were with Mario Testino [the acclaimed photographer] the other day, doing a photoshoot for Vogue, but the next day Pete’ll be in the pub down the road with some old geezers and he prefers it that way. He prefers wallowing in the mud.”
Doherty’s appetite for seediness is underlined by his actions after Blanco fell to his death.The singer left with Headlock and the two girls and went to his room at the trendy Malmaison hotel in Clerkenwell, where a group of around 20 of his entourage had gathered.
“It was the usual losers,” Headlock said. “Mick Whitnall was there, the new guitarist. I had a big argument in there and all. One of the band members and me don’t see eye to eyeball. He just tried to get funny with me. He had this broken champagne glass and he held it against my face.
“I looked at Peter and he had this look in his eye where we know what we’re talking about in our heads but we don’t say it. It’s sort of like telepathic. I was saying to him, ‘Now you can see’.
“I was swallowing my tongue. That’s when Pete said, ‘Do what you believe’. All I had was a fork and I stabbed Mick about five times. And after that Mick went round somewhere else.”
The fight got out of control. By 2.25am, the hotel manager had called the police, after Doherty and his friends had ripped out every wall light fitting, torn down the curtains, smashed every mirror, broken all the lamps, upturned all the furniture and wrecked the telephone and internet connection sockets.
It was a sad and destructive end to a tragic night. And it encapsulated everything about Doherty’s life – the drugs, the violence, the extreme behaviour and the adulation that Doherty receives.
Headlock struggles to explain it: “There’s an aura. It’s something when you talk to him, you just have to be interested. He’s very intelligent. I’ve lent him books and six months later I can turn to any page and he’ll recite it, word for word. How mad is that?
“But he doesn’t like confrontation. He just wants peace and quiet. He doesn’t want to get involved.”
Other friends of Doherty’s have confirmed that Roundhill’s one-bedroom flat is one of Doherty’s regular haunts.
One said: “Pete goes to Paul’s to relax and not to have anyone hassle him. There’s always guitars there and Pete would play there, he’d play songs and everyone would sing along.
“People there say, ‘everyone’s getting high in the Hotel in the Sky’ because it’s on the top floor. But Pete doesn’t need to go to Paul to get crack – he goes to sit around talking about stuff.”
Blanco had begun moving in Roundhill’s circles a few months ago, sometimes visiting the flat, according to Headlock. The actor had gone to the flat after hearing that Doherty might be there. He had been cast in the lead role of Dario Fo’s Death Of An Anarchist and had wanted to persuade Doherty to back the play, in the hope of getting publicity for it.
Headlock insisted, despite the fears of Blanco’s family, that nothing sinister had taken place. And he paid tribute to the 30-year-old actor.
“Mark was a friend of mine, a decent guy,” he said. “He’s got family and they’re grieving. I’m gutted he’s dead.
“He had this set of finger puppets he’d got from Japan of famous philosophers and he gave me one of Nietzsche. It’s one of the most precious possessions I own.”