If you’ve watched Jack Rooke’s comedy show, Big Boys, on UK’s Channel 4, you may have noticed that the second episode is dedicated to Gordon ‘Gordy’ Maxwell, which was also the name of the nightclub the characters visit.
Gordy was a friend of mine. To be fair, Gordy was a friend to many. You can read more about the reason for this dedication on Jack’s Instagram, but I’d also love to share a little about Gordy, so if you’ve watched that show, you know what an extraordinary person he was. It’s so wonderful that a show about queerness, grief and not quite fitting in (compete with depictions of dark rooms and poppers) has included a little bit of Gordy’s energy.
Gordon Maxwell was a very tall guy with a high-voltage smile that could light up an entire theme park at night. He also had enormous bright blue eyes that beamed at you too. He had one of those instantly engaging energies that meant he could befriend pretty much anyone, but he was also incredibly genuine. He wasn’t befriending you for simply the sake of it but rather because he wanted everyone to feel included. He was a lot of fun, but no matter how riotously silly he was, he could switch to being the empathetic, caring friend in the blink of an eye.
I met Gordy in early 2014, I think. He suddenly appeared in my Sink The Pink friendship circle one day and quickly became a core part of pretty much every night I had out. We were party friends, but in that queer way that those people feel like your family rather than simply someone you get drunk with but never really know.
He was a true extrovert, constantly gaining energy from being around others, so he loved to be part of any outing. He threw himself a birthday party every year that was so incredibly joyful. Hiring out a massive venue in Greenwich, he would host the party himself and wanted everyone he loved to be part of this celebration. It was less about him being the centre of attention (although he was incredibly comfortable with this) and more about taking advantage of this occasion to bring all the fantastic people in his life together.
Gordy was on a real journey during those last few years of his life, which probably had a lot to do with transitioning from his late 30s into his early 40s. His much-loved mother passed away in mid-2015, and he was the first friend to talk at length about his experiences of grief with me. It understandably prompted him to think about his life and what he wanted to do with it. He started talking about shifting his career away from TV production and more towards being in front of the camera, where he would have been a natural.
In late 2017, Gordy was subjected to a violent homophobic attack as he left Sink the Pink’s Christmas party in East London. He was punched by a stranger, leaving him with a fractured cheekbone and black eye. After this brutal assault, he was insistent that it would not deter him from going out wearing a dress, but he was left understandably shaken.
Gordy was incredibly cheeky and always found ways to make a situation more fun. One of my favourite memories was when he turned up at Amy Zing‘s wedding in mid-2016 with his father as his plus one. It had been a year since his mother had passed away, and Gordy was spending a lot of time with his father, supporting him through his grief. However, when he arrived at the party, Gordy introduced this ageing gent to everyone not as his father but as his new sugar daddy, accompanied by a saucy wink.
I love looking back at some of the messages that Gordy sent me. They were always full of so much energy but also care. I decided to write this blog post because I’d initially posted some of this on my Instagram Stories but could automatically imagine him messaging me saying, “IS THAT IT?? IS THAT ALL I GET???”
He would send me silly messages that would leave me giggling at how ridiculous he could be. Yet, he was also one of the first people to check in on me when I, too, was assaulted out the front of a queer club in Dalston in mid-2018, only a few months after his brutal attack.
It was an enormous shock to all of us when one night in December 2018, Gordy’s heart simply stopped while he was asleep. This dynamic force of bright, camp, joyful energy was suddenly gone.
Gordy’s funeral in early 2019 was a suitably memorable event. Incredibly sad but also uplifting and inspiring. I remember the enormous church was rammed. There wasn’t even standing room, with folks trailing out the door to celebrate his life. He was so loved.
His close friends told stories about the different eras of his life and the various ways they’d known him. We all sang Somewhere Over The Rainbow, lifting our voices to fill the church, most of us trying to get the words out between sobs.
My favourite story that someone recounted in his eulogy was about the time he visited his grandmother as a child. A life-long die-hard Madonna fan, little Gordy had brought a suitcase with him, only it was packed full of popstar’s memorabilia, plus a life-size cardboard cutout of Madge herself, but no clothes.
After the funeral, we all gathered for the evening at the venue in Greenwich where he always held his birthday party and spent hours celebrating his life. He was friends with so many performers, so the wake turned into a bit of a cabaret event, which he would have loved. However, one of my strongest memories of that night was when his yoga teacher and close friend, Angelika, led the entire room in an Om Shanti chant, an apparent favourite of Gordy’s.
As for so many, losing Gordy had an enormous impact on my life. It really shook me to realise that life could end suddenly, one night, in your early 40s. That that could be it. Only a few weeks after his funeral, I began to make enormous changes in my life. I ended my relationship, moved house and went to finally live the life I had been talking about but not actually living.
It took me a week to watch the episode of Big Boys after I learned about the dedication because I wanted to ensure I was in an ok place. As it turned out, that place was here in Barcelona, where I last saw Gordy four years ago. We’d all come here on a summer holiday, and I remember sitting on a bench, discussing a friend we were worried about. And then, only a few months later, he was gone.
Thank you for reading all of this. Thinking about Gordy always reminds me to be kind, joyful, silly and caring. To get out there and live life while we’re still lucky enough to enjoy it.