The Malcolm McLaren I knew, by Lauren Hutton

The model and actor recalls her four years with the punk impresario who died from cancer on 8 April, aged 64

I was 42 when we met and he was 39 but he thought he was 26. We went out for four years and I got to know him inside and out. He was extraordinarily intelligent, utterly self-taught, but, boy, was he complicated.

He told me stories about being raised by his grandmother, Rose. She was kind of crazy. She dressed him up as a girl, didn't allow him to go to school until he was 10. He had Shirley Temple sausage curls down to his shoulders held up by tortoiseshell combs. Can you imagine? Every night he had to sit in the corner of the sitting room on a chamber pot while her sisters read to him from the novels of the Brontës and Dickens. That's where he got his love for Fagin and the Artful Dodger. Those were his really formative influences.

I took him to the beach once in Santa Monica. That was the first time he'd been in the sea. Rose didn't allow him to swim in the sea because fish pee in the sea. She would take him to the beach for a day out but she'd cover his legs with blankets against the sun and put wet seaweed on his hair because she thought it was good for him. Crazy.

We met in 1983. A girlfriend and I went to see Prince in Hollywood. On the way back we stopped off at Morton's, which is where everyone who's anyone in Hollywood goes. Malcolm was going out the door as we were going in. I had just read an interview with this guy who had said all this stuff that Hollywood people would never say in a newspaper, the kind of stuff that gets you sued upside down and backwards. I remember thinking: "Boy, I've got to meet this guy." And there he was, with Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols.

When I asked him if he was Malcolm McLaren, he jumped up in the air, spun around, landed, and said: "Yes!" His hair went out like a giant red puffball, like an exploded bunch of red dandelions all over his head. That's how it started.

He had this beautiful pure white skin without a single freckle. He'd never been in the sun.

He was a scholar of art. To go to a museum with Malcolm was an education in itself. We'd be looking at a Goya or a Raphael and he'd be telling me the whole history of what was going on over in Europe when the painting was being made.

I rented a house for us up on Glencoe Way in old Hollywood. It had been built for Cecil B DeMille for his daughter but, right away, Malcolm wanted to tear the walls out. That was him, always wanting to tear down the walls. He didn't take dope, he didn't drink – people who act outrageous are very often exactly the opposite.

After four years we separated because I had to deal with too many of my own problems. He was extraordinary, though, Malcolm. Irreplaceable. I'll miss him for ever. He was a dragon's egg, a rare bird, and one of the great unsung heroes of England. He was the best storyteller I ever met, and I've met some in my time. He learned it in that room on the chamber pot.

Lauren Hutton

The GuardianTramp

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