in this extract from his memoir, Mitch Winehouse reveals the private agony of trying to save his late rock-star daughter Amy from her many demons
I took her to Reubens kosher restaurant where I ate a lot, as usual, and so did she, which pleased me.
We talked briefly about her divorce, which was due to become absolute on August 28, 2009, but when I saw she was getting upset, I changed the subject.
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She was distracted, though, and I could see she wasn’t really listening to me.
"Dad," she interrupted. "Blake rang today and wanted me to meet him in a hotel room. I didn’t go," she added hurriedly, as she saw my expression darken, "because I didn’t like something about the phone call. it didn’t sound right to me, a set-up or something, and I told him I weren’t going."
I had to ask her: "what made you smell a rat?"
"I don’t know, Dad," she said.
I reckoned she did, but she wasn’t going to tell me. While I was pleased that she had not only declined to meet Blake but told me about it, I was certain she still harboured strong feelings for him.
I was right. when Blake had been released from prison, it had been under a licence that was conditional on him not leaving Sheffield. but he had been coming to London often to see his new girlfriend. Amy was unaware of this until eventually Blake told her what he’d been doing. I suspect this was only because the newspapers had got hold of the story and he wanted to tell her before she read about it.
Around this time my friend Dr Phil Rich, a clinical psychologist and behavioural therapist who also deals with alcohol-dependent patients, was over from America on holiday.
On September 8, I was with him when I got a call from Andrew (Amy’s bodyguard). he told me Blake was at the house in Hadley Wood. Phil and I jumped into my taxi and drove straight over. we arrived around 10.30am. Amy was in the kitchen wearing just a T-shirt and knickers. the security guys were used to her walking around like this and took no notice, but Amy was shocked to see me and started shouting, "oh, no, oh, no".
"Where is he? Where’s Blake?" I asked.
"No, Dad, no, Dad," she kept shouting.
"He’s upstairs in bed," Andrew told me.
As I was climbing the stairs, Amy grabbed one of my legs and I ended up dragging her with me as she kept shouting, "No, Dad, no, Dad. Don’t hit him, Dad."
I managed to get upstairs, with Amy in tow, and sure enough, there he was, lying in Amy’s bed. I got hold of him and said, "get out of bed and f … off!"
Behind me, I heard Amy still shouting, "No, Dad, no, Dad, no, Dad."
Blake got up. "Amy doesn’t want me to go," he said.
"I don’t care what Amy wants. get out!" I yelled.
Amy was still shouting and I told her it had nothing to do with her. I actually wanted Blake to hit me so that I could legitimately lay into him. I tried to provoke him: "you and your family are scum," I said, thinking that surely he’d hit me if I said that.
But he didn’t. I have to hand it to him: he was as cool as a cucumber. I don’t know if drugs had made him that way, but in any event, he fronted me out. instead he said, "can I have a shower?"
"No," I said. "just get out now, because if you don’t, there’s going to be trouble."
I stood there while he got dressed, with Amy still shouting at me. he went downstairs, followed by Amy and me, and as he opened the front door, where there was a step leading down to the porch, he turned. "how am I going to get to the station?"
"F … ing walk," I said.
"but it’s a mile away."
Then he had the cheek to turn to Andrew and ask him, "can you give me a lift to the station, mate?"
With that, I gave him a lift all right: I kicked him right up the backside, as hard as I could, and he fell over the step. Amy wanted to go to him but I stopped her and slammed the door.
It was a hell of a scene, but it didn’t take Amy long to calm down. after about 10 minutes it was like nothing had happened. Amy relaxed and we had a good talk. Finally when we’d got the events out of our system, she said, "Dad, let’s go to the East End".
I was still burning over what had happened and now she wanted to go to the East end!
"Amy, you’re really putting me through the mincer today," I said. "I can’t handle it."
She came over and gave me a big hug. how could I refuse her after that? "Come on," she said. "We’ll go and see where Nan and Pop Alec grew up and all that." She went upstairs to get dressed and, after a while, I followed to see if she was all right. I heard her on the phone to one of her friends saying, "Yeah, my dad threw Blake out and kicked him up the a… My dad done his nut, it was fantastic." She was boasting about what I had done and seemed pleased that I’d done it. I crept downstairs, and when Amy finally appeared, she, Phil and I headed off to the East end.
About halfway there, Amy started sweating, panting and shaking. Phil knew straight away what it was: "She’s going into alcohol withdrawal. you need to get her a drink, which will stave off the craving."
"are you kidding?" I asked. "She needs a small amount of alcohol and that will do the trick."
Amy was in a bad way and I was in no position to argue, so I stopped the cab and bought her a miniature bottle of vodka. She drank it and, sure enough, it worked.
We went to Albert Gardens, had a walk round the park in the middle of the square, then went to the Ocean Estate, just around the corner, which was where Phil’s grandparents had lived. we went back to Albert Gardens, and by now the news had spread that Amy was there and quite a lot of people were around. Amy signed autographs and posed for pictures. I leaned back on the cab and watched her, happy with her fans.
"I love people seeing Amy like this," I said to Phil. "They normally only get to see her in the papers and she’s not like that. This is great."
Amy looked at me then and smiled; she was pointing out to the people around her where our family, her grandparents, had lived in Albert Gardens. "They were at number 31, my uncle Percy at number 13." Then she blew me an extravagant kiss.
She was in top form and there were no signs of withdrawal. what had started out as a traumatic day was turning out well after all. it was becoming a day to remember for the right reasons.
As Amy’s 26th birthday approached, the situation with alcohol seemed to be turning. She’d had more sober than drunk days over recent weeks, enough that we started to have a lot more confidence in what she was capable of. Especially after she told (manager) Raye (Cosbert) she wanted to be able to return to the US, to work with her producers, and then "Who knows? Maybe do a few gigs over there." Raye took her to an appointment at the US Embassy, which included a blood test, more in hope than expectation. the appointment went well and he said we’d get a decision within a fortnight. Generally Amy was keeping relatively quiet, playing guitar in her room and, for the most part, staying away from drink.
On September 9, 2009, John Reid told me that their offices had received a letter from Blake’s solicitors with some incredible news. at the end of August, we’d served Georgette (Blake’s mother) with our notice of court proceedings regarding her alleged copyright infringement of Amy’s letters. Blake was now offering to drop all claims against Amy – but only if we agreed to drop our case for copyright infringement against Georgette. when I spoke to Amy about the settlement, she was all for it.
The deal with Blake was finalised towards the end of September.
He agreed not to make any claim on Amy and we agreed not to pursue our case against Georgette. Pity for him he didn’t know that, prior to his offer, we’d been going to offer him £250,000 in a full and final divorce settlement. in the end, he got nothing. My diary sums him up: "He’s a mug."
On October 5, I told Amy that our solicitors had confirmed her divorce from Blake was now final. She told me two-thirds of her was happy about it, the other third wasn’t.
I never managed to get her to explain exactly what she meant, but I assumed it was because he’d recently rented a flat in Sheffield with the money he’d made selling stories to the press.
Though we all hoped Blake was now behind us, I had no illusions that things were going to be totally better.
Around her birthday, Amy had a stretch of drinking days. Finally she checked herself into the London Clinic to dry out. She was going to be there for three days, but the next day a Sun journalist told me they’d heard Amy was in the London Clinic because she had overdosed on drugs. I soon put him straight.
While Amy was in the London Clinic, she had gynaecological tests carried out, and the results showed pre-cancerous cells in her cervix. it sounded worse than it was and we were told that it was relatively simple for it to be kept in check. She had been reassured that it wouldn’t stop her having children.
When I saw Amy in hospital later on, she told me she was thinking about having her breasts enlarged and had discussed it with a doctor that afternoon. (Friend) Tyler (James) was there, too, and told me that while they’d been on St Lucia, Amy had gone on about this a few times, constantly comparing herself to some of the other girls on the beach.
While I don’t approve of plastic surgery per se, I didn’t mind Amy having this done: after I’d heard Tyler’s stories,
I felt it might boost her self-esteem and put an end to her doubts, something I always believed stemmed from her drug use and break-up with Blake.
Amy had her breast implant procedure at the London Clinic on October 8. Afterwards she looked great and her confidence increased as I’d expected.
I went to see Amy the following day and she looked very well. She was a great kid and I’d have done anything for her but sometimes she made me do things for her that I found hard.
"Dad, I need some underwear," she said.
"okay. I’ll go to Marks & Spencer and get you some," I said.
"No, Dad, not Marks. Go to Agent Provocateur."
The fancy lingerie shop? I gulped. "are you kidding? I can’t go in there."
Suffice to say, Amy had her way and I went to Agent Provocateur in Soho, which I found a bit awkward … I would have been embarrassed saying, "I want to buy some knickers for my daughter," so I said they were for my wife.
Amy was delighted with my purchases, but it was a mistake to tell her how embarrassed I had been. She loved the idea of making me squirm and really knew how to wind me up; she’d done it many times over the years and this time my usual response – "Don’t ask me to do this, Amy, ask your girlfriends"- had got me nowhere. the next day she sent me back to buy her a baby-doll nightie.
Amy was great with the nurses and patients at the London Clinic. She had make it her business to get to know people. I’d go in and she’d say, "That’s Dave over there. He’s had an operation on his back. Susan’s been in here for six weeks but she’s going home tomorrow," and things like that. Amy knew all the nurses’ life stories. She had a brilliant memory when sober, and remembered the names of their kids and their favourite music.
In fact, once Amy had learned a name or a date, she never forgot it.
She had a fantastic way with people and the nurses and patients loved her.
While Amy was in the London Clinic, she decided to have a tattoo of the Ace of Spades removed from her finger. She’d had it done when she was with Alex Clare and Blake had never liked it.
The News Of the World decided that she was having it removed because she and Blake had got back together; they ran a story that Amy and Blake had got engaged and were due to marry early in 2010. I didn’t respond to it, but when I next saw Amy I confronted her about it.
Amy and Blake weren’t engaged, but I thought the paper was probably right that Blake was behind her decision to have the tattoo removed. She wouldn’t confirm or deny it, which convinced me that I was right.
Then she told me she wanted to have a nose job – she said she wanted it made smaller, that she hated its shape and that she couldn’t bear to look at herself in the mirror. I went mad. I understood why she had wanted the breast enlargement, but this was ridiculous. when I left, I just felt miserable and depressed.
Amy left the London Clinic on November 25, and the next day I went to see her at the Hadley Wood house. She told me she was lonely, depressed, wanted to be with Blake, and didn’t want to live in Hadley Wood any more.
I told her in no uncertain terms how her family felt about Blake, but I said I could do something about the house. if she wanted to move back to Camden, I’d look into it.
Hearing Blake’s name again demoralised me: I’d thought Amy was starting to move on, but had to admit that she still loved him.
I called Dr Romete later that afternoon and we talked for a long time about Amy’s alcoholism. Once I’d understood a few things, I went online and searched out what I could find about Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other approaches to helping recovering alcoholics.
The following day Andrew drove Amy to see Blake in Sheffield. the next day Amy told Raye everything was over between her and Blake.
Like Amy’s mood, her relationship with Blake seemed to change daily and it was hard for me to keep up. One day she’d decide it was all over between them, the next she was talking to him on the phone for hours.
When I heard that they were supposedly back together, I could take no more. I drove straight over to Hadley Wood where Amy and I had a terrible row about it. it was one of the worst arguments we had ever had.
I said horrible things and regretted them the minute they were out of my mouth. I can hardly bear to write down the words I hurled at her.
"It’s your choice," I yelled. "if you go with him, you risk losing your family."
Of course, the truth was we would have stuck by her whatever she decided, but at that point I saw this as a disastrous setback.
In Amy’s eyes, Blake could do no wrong, despite the numerous stories he was selling to the press around that time. She was determined to get back with him and there was very little any of us could do about it.
Amy and I could never stay mad at each other for long, though, and we’d soon put the argument behind us. Sadly, we couldn’t move beyond Blake so easily.
Edited extract from Amy, My Daughter by Mitch Winehouse, published today by HarperCollins Publishers. Buy the book for the special the Sunday Telegraph reader price of only $19.99 + $5 p/h. Ph: 1300 306 107 or post a cheque to Book Offers: PO Box 14730 Melbourne Vic 8001. all of Mitch Winehouse’s proceeds from the book will be donated to the Amy Winehouse Foundation.
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