I was asked to write something about my friend Brendan for Cook’d and Bomb’d, a prominent comedy forum on which he was a poster, and the stamping ground where we met, over two years ago. It was a kind of textual variation of, “Our eyes met across the room…” From his introductory post there, I knew he was amazing and that we would be friends. Now I walk past cafés and smile, remembering us in the window. It’s only been three weeks. Only one week since his funeral. It feels like a thousand years ago. Like it happened in a different world, to a different person.
I had to tell the forum of his death. It shocked people- he was incredibly well-liked, for his wit, his eloquence, his humanity and his intelligence.
I have never seen such a reaction on a forum. The internet is cursed and blessed for its facelessness and anonymity. We can walk as tall as supermodels if we desire; can be men or women, can be geniuses or fools. From anywhere, to anywhere. It is hard to miss people online; threads of communication can be abruptly stopped, for so many reasons, an identity, wiped, to be started again. And Brendan was utterly himself and he will be genuinely missed there.
Brendan was an extraordinary writer. He never wasted a word, he was gloriously gifted. His book, “I Am A Modern Monster”, about the life of Alex Tower, is a fantastic piece of work. You can read the first chapter here and you can download the whole book here. Please, if you know any literary types who may be interested in publishing it, pass it on. It truly is a work of splendour and it deserves to be read. Download it and you’ll see.
So, I wrote something about Brendan. It was difficult. His death has brought back a lot of memories about my dad’s death. Two people with similar problems that I loved and I couldn’t save, in the end. I close my eyes and see my dad’s deathbed and my dad, and I try to think of something else. At least London’s streets did not have our footsteps upon them; but they have mine and Brendan’s. Our routes, our cold arses shivering on plastic seats in an empty train station, I remember them all.
Above all else, I want him to be remembered. The pain of remembering is not like the pain of being forgotten. He will be remembered. Not just by me, and those that loved him, those that he loved, like his family, even those who only knew him by his words on a forum. I want him to be remembered by you, and everybody who reads this. Like I do with my dad, who I write about all the time, to keep him here, to let people know, he was here, this incredibly important person to me and to others, cannot be lost. Will not be lost.
I am posting it here you can understand who he was, to me at least. A tribute to my friend. I don’t think anything I say, do or write can do justice to the wonderful person that he was, and how much he is loved by me and so many others. But I tried.
Neil has asked me to write a bit about Brendan. I’ve sat here for a good hour trying to put into words what kind of person he was. I can’t tell you who he was to the others that loved him; to you, to his family, to his other friends, to his lovers and companions over the years, because I can’t speak for anybody else. I can only tell you who he was to me.
If he’d been writing this himself, it would have been done and dusted fifty five minutes ago. Although there would probably be as many cigarette butts withering in the ashtray. The last time I saw him, we were wheeling a massive table up the Blackstock Road. It was about five minutes from my house but we took turns smoking the whole way there. We wheezed and puffed our way up three flights of stairs. Our hands- mine, short and stubby, his, long, slim and stained yellow at the fingertips- were shaking in the winter windchill as it blew our laughter into the afternoon traffic. Physical labour wasn’t something he was fond of- he could be incredibly lazy- but I needed his help, and he would never refuse someone in need. It’s weird to be sitting at the desk now, looking to my door, the last time I saw him, the last time I put my arms around him. He seemed out of sorts that day and hugging him goodbye after he drank the coffee I made him (I don’t drink coffee, but I always kept a jar in my flat for him when he came round, since he was absolutely hooked on it), I thought, I’ll see him again soon. I didn’t, I never saw him again, although we spoke many times. I was supposed to see him shortly before his death, and I missed him because I was asleep. He had always been there for me; and I regret deeply that in that last week, I wasn’t there for him.
If Brendan was writing this, every sentence would be filled with something self-deprecating. He could be a harsh critic of himself. In snatches of clarity, he could sometimes see himself how we saw him; how violently funny he was, how intelligent, how full of potential and talent. Every single post he made here sparkles with his customary wit. He was an extraordinary writer, but his confidence failed him often. He had already written two books, the latter, “I Am A Modern Monster”, constantly edited, sent to various people, seeking approval and reassurance that he was worth it, that he was a great writer. We could tell him til we were blue in the face; and one thing this forum offered him, amongst so many others, was the confirmation of his talent. He was instantly likeable. His friends I’ve met, and his family, all uniformly love and adore him, and believed in him, his talent, and his gifts. He glittered.
My friendship with Brendan actually started here. He was this funny bloke called john self. I was, then, Banana Woofwoof (“you can’t greet me with “Woof!” anymore- you have to say, “Hello! Here is my raincoat!” now…”) I thought he was fantastic, from the first introduction post that he made. It was clear from the offset that this was someone incredibly special. He sent me various PMs thanking him for being so friendly to him. I then convinced him to come to a meet I organised- which was, by most accounts, a failure. But I met him. I have never so immediately clicked with somebody. He was obviously incredibly nervous so I thought I’d say, “Shut up, newbie”, to him which for some reason made him laugh and we warmed to each other totally. We dispensed with the usual polite pleasantries and spent most of our time huddled together giggling. He made me laugh so much. There was a man at the bar- “the chinless wonder”, as we called him, we had created a whole life for. We renamed the area, “Smug Rapist’s Alley”- don’t ask.
From there, the complicated, wonderful Brendan Hollywood became a part of my life.
We saw each other often- he would rob the Silverlink of their paltry fares from his home to mine. We sat in many cafés, chainsmoking, then eventually going outside to smoke. We visited each others’ flats. He was the only friend I ever had who travelled across London at 5am just because I needed him. We met in familiar areas- Finchley Road, Finsbury Park, Crouch End, to sit in empty afternoon pubs, cokes in hand, talking about our days, our lives. He’d roll endless cigarettes, talk quickly, listen, laugh that uninhibited, wonderful laugh that he had, always dressed smartly, with ever-changing haircuts and ties. When we weren’t together in person, we spoke on all ends of the internet, on here, on MSN, on other websites we both frequented, on the phone, by text, smoke signals, Morse Code. I have chat logs, texts, e-mails, messages that at the moment I still can’t really bring myself to read through. We rarely ran out of things to talk about. Brendan, no matter what mood he was in, was always interesting.
Brendan had been through it. He had an alcohol problem that had landed him in rehab and hospital and had dogged him throughout his life. He also suffered from depression that he struggled with until his death. He could be, as well as hilarious and open, sad and withdrawn. Our friendship, when he was drinking, was fraught. I lost my father to alcoholism and I couldn’t bear to lose Brendan, too. In the end, it got to the point where I told him that I wouldn’t see him when he was drinking. I would talk to him, of course, and be there for him to talk to, but I could not see him when he was drunk. It was a bit of a rubbish incentive that worked up until a point. He would send long messages saying how he wanted my love of him to be “present tense”- “if it had been in the present tense, would have been a beautiful, wonderful, utterly-reciprocated delight. Sounds pathetic, doesn’t it? Anyway, I want that back; I want that present tense back”.
It was always present tense, though- I loved Brendan almost as soon as the first time we shyly met up, and did throughout our friendship, and will, forever.
I had been through it, too, suffering from manic depression, as I do, and landing myself in hospital. We actually bonded over that experience. He was a fantastic friend to me, and we were close. Brendan was one person who was understanding, someone who was patient, someone who listened to me, helped me, cared for me, loved me and most importantly, someone who made me laugh when the world seemed unfriendly and grey. No-one could get me out of a bad mood like Brendan. There was a time he came to visit and I was flipping out over something unimportant. The first thing he said as he walked through the door made me crack up laughing, and my anger was forgotten. With everything he had been through, he had time for other people, and he was someone to swap, “Fun in the mental hospital” stories with, although other people sometimes looked at us weirdly when we would laugh our heads off at tales of our outrageous behaviour, stories that are painful until shared with someone who had been there, too. I could tell Brendan anything. He was there for me through what were two of the most difficult years of my life. We confided in each other, sharing secrets, stories and cigarettes. We had fun, singing along to our favourites (Bowie, Morrissey, both whom he idolised), pulling ever more ridiculous faces while singing to make each other laugh. Sometimes, as you know, recording the awful results.
Brendan discussed his problems with alcohol and depression both in real life and here with a disarming candour that no doubt many people had found incredibly helpful. He was aware of his problems and he was strong, much stronger than he gave himself credit for. When he slipped, he would pick himself up again and again. His outlook on life, although sometimes tempered by depression, was almost unwaveringly hopeful. He talked about the things he loved passionately. The passion was contagious. His love was strong: for his family, for his friends, for writing, for comedy and music, for art, for untempered silliness and laughter.
So, I think I’ve gone on enough. To my extraordinary, complex, wonderful, hilarious, intelligent, witty, loving, fun, fantastic, courageous, giving, passionate, immensely talented chancer of a friend, I will give you the advice you gave me for the day I made my ascent: whatever you do, don’t kick god.
You are so loved. And you will be missed more than I can put into words.