By AMANDA PLATELL
A friend of Amy Winehouse conceded after she drank herself to death on Saturday that, yes she had her problems, but ‘she never did anyone any harm’.
If only that were true. The packets of cigarettes and bottles of vodka, beer and rum left outside her home in Camden, North London, by adoring fans bear testimony to how much she affected vulnerable young people.
Along with flowers and farewell notes, this was their way of saying goodbye to a woman they worshipped and emulated — not just because she was a musical genius, but also, I suspect, because of her car-crash lifestyle.
How tragic that her fans think a bottle of Smirnoff is a fitting farewell to a woman they loved — for it was vodka that killed her.
Or that a packet of cigarettes was an appropriate offering to leave at this shrine, given she suffered from emphysema, a smoking-related lung disease.
Amy’s love of vodka was legendary. Even in her hard-drinking, rock ’n’ roll set, no one had ever seen anyone drink so much of it so fast. In her final few weeks, she had been found comatose several times by her bodyguards after binges.
How can her lifestyle be seen as glamorous after she died in such terrible and lonely circumstances?
I’m not sure what’s saddest: that this recovering drug addict was annihilating herself with spirits, having been ‘clean of drugs’ — so her father says — for 18 months; or that it was not a friend, lover, mother or any other family member who found her body, but a security guard, someone paid to watch over her.
We’ve come a long way from the days after Princess Diana’s death when people left carpets of flowers outside Kensington Palace. Today, it’s bottles of the vodka that killed their heroine.
Amy’s music was so resonant not just because of her talent, but because she sang of her isolation and pain.
This was a young woman who came from a broken home and whose relationships always seemed to result in despair.
Her very public solution to easing this pain was to take drugs and to drink. Her life was a lesson in self-destruction. The tragedy is that it wasn’t just for her, but for countless other young women who hero-worshipped her.
The result was that, for the vulnerable and impressionable, I fear Amy Winehouse made crack cocaine cool. She made alcoholism attractive. She made abusive, violent relationships exciting.
Even when her ballet pumps were covered in blood after she’d injected heroin between her toes or when she was photographed battered and bruised after yet another encounter with her husband Blake Fielder-Civil, young women empathised with her.One obituary said: ‘Rock stars act out our wildest desires and darkest dramas on our behalf so we do not have to.’
Would that it always were the case. After all, if Amy Winehouse could get hammered and out of her head yet still tour the world and make millions, what was the problem with her lifestyle?
For an answer, you have only to visit any High Street on a Saturday night to find countless wasted young women so drunk they don’t care what man they go off with, so out of their heads on drugs they’re anyone’s.
And why should they think this is anything other than normal behaviour when their idol Amy Winehouse downed six shots of tequila for breakfast?
For all her talent, she was a role model of the worst kind. And her eight years in the music business mirror a shocking increase in alcohol among women.
Figures published in 2009 showed 250 girls were arrested every day for violence, mostly fuelled by alcohol. One in four were aged between ten and 17.
In the years Amy was a star, a generation of ladettes was born, out of their heads and out of control, but thinking they were oh-so-cool.