When Bohemian Rhapsody hit US Theaters and other cinemas around the world, it reintroduced the world to one of its most iconic singers, Freddie Mercury, who was played by the formidable Rami Malek, and in doing so, it also reminded the world of Paul Prenter, the former manager of the legendary singer and his band Queen, which remains one of the most iconic music bands of all time.
For Hollywood purposes, Paul Prenter was largely turned into the villain of the film version of Freddie Mercury’s story, but things were far more complicated and less straightforward in the real-life version of his story. Whatever truth the world decides to hold on to about Paul Prenter, there is no denying the fact that he was one of the influential figures in one of the most iconic brands in the history of music.
How Paul Prenter Helped Queen Become One of The Most Iconic Bands Ever
All that Paul Prenter has been known for, at least in the public space, is his association with the British rock band Queen, and how he helped them achieve international success.
Born in 1946, Prenter’s work as a radio disc jockey in Belfast, Northern Ireland, led him to cross paths with Freddie Mercury. The duo reportedly met for the first time in a bar in 1975 and soon became close friends. As their friendship waxed stronger, Paul Prenter came to be a part of Mercury’s professional life. Fast forward to 1977, Prenter left his disc jockey job to become Mercury’s manager and assistant to Queen’s manager, John Reid, who is also famous for managing and dating singer Elton John. By 1978, Prenter overtook Reid as Queen’s manager.
With Paul Prenter at the helm of affairs, Queen that had already released some successful albums continued to record immense success with the release of successful albums such as News of the World, Jazz, The Game, Flash Gordon, and The Works.
As part of his role as manager of the iconic band, Queen further cemented its place as an international band; he led the band on several tours around the globe and popularized their status as a stadium rock band.
Although he became a villain in the Queen story towards the end of his time as manager, Paul Prenter will always be remembered for his work as one of the men who contributed to one of the greatest bands in music history. His life and time as manager of the band have appeared in media works like Jim Hutton’s book Mercury and Me. In Bohemian Rhapsody, his character was portrayed by Allen Leech.
The Fallout with Queen
Paul Prenter’s contributions to Queen might have helped prolong the band’s glory days, but all was not as rosy as it seemed. Atypical of bands, Queen had its fair share of internal friction, mostly with Prenter at the epicenter.
While Queen was blossoming, it turned out that members of Queen except for Freddie Mercury were not always in agreement with all of Prenter’s decisions, at least beginning from around 1980. A series of events that followed would culminate in Prenter’s firing in 1986.
Their inside disagreements became obvious to the public with the release of Hot Space in 1982. The success of the album waned in comparison to previous works. The album took a different turn from the 70s sound that the band was known for. It incorporated tunes of rock, pop-rock, dance, funk, R&B, and ultimately didn’t sit too well with fans and critics.
Queen members, Roger Taylor and Brian May said Prenter was to be blamed for it. According to the band members, Prenter denied the band a chance to promote their work on the radio – especially in the US, and that the new unfamiliar sound of the band was due to his influence on Mercury. May also accused Prenter of refusing them access to Freddie Mercury.
Though May stated that the band had its friction going on the independence of Prenter, due to alcohol problems as they had become heavily invested in nightlife in Munich (where the band spent much of their time in 1979 and 1980), observations from associates of the band insist that Paul Prenter was manipulative and most of his actions were geared towards personal gain.
Despite criticisms from band members, Freddie Mercury held on to Prenter for three more years before firing him in 1986. However, in the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, Prenter was fired in 1985 for the reason that he refused to inform the band of an opportunity to perform at the Live Aid concert. In real life, Prenter’s firing came after the Live Aid concert.
Betraying and Outing Freddie Mercury
Angered by his firing, Paul Prenter betrayed Mercury by going to the media with details of his personal life. Although the film portrays Prenter giving a live interview, in real life, Prenter sold the story to British tabloid The Sun for a reported £32,000 – an equivalent of £90,000 in today’s money.
Paul Prenter’s story touched on several subjects, including Freddie’s childhood, health, and homosexuality. He gave the newspaper pictures of Freddie with several of his lovers, including Jim Hutton who was at the time yet to come out to his family.
Exaggerating facts and portraying Prenter as the ultimate villain in the biopic did not sit too well with Prenter’s family, especially his three brothers Stephen, Gerard, and Ray, who all gave statements in support of their late brother.
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Was Paul Prenter A Gay Man?
Yes, he was. In the biopic, Prenter is portrayed as a gay man that lures Mercury to a world of gay sex and drugs, but in real life, Mercury was already gay before meeting Prenter.
Contrary to the film’s portrayal of Prenter as a closeted gay man afraid of coming out to his Irish Catholic parents, in real life, he was publicly gay from the age of 16, according to statements by his brothers to Belfast Telegraph. The Prenter brothers in their statements also revealed that Prenter’s parents were supportive of his sexuality, and would let him bring home his boyfriends.
Bohemian Rhapsody also portrays Prenter and Freddie Mercury as lovers, but Prenter’s youngest brother Stephen completely debunks this, stating in confidence that he is sure that the two were not sexually attracted to each other and were just friends who chased after other men together.
Stephen points out that Prenter and Mercury were not each other’s types; they both preferred masculine men and would often look out for them at gay nightclubs. Though Prenter was openly gay, it isn’t public knowledge, the men he was involved with.
Paul Prenter’s Final Years
Paul Prenter passed away in August 1991, and coincidentally, a few months later, in November 1991, Freddie Mercury also passed away. Their deaths were similar as they both died of complications from AIDS.
Paul’s family supported him while he struggled with AIDS, as revealed by his eldest brother Ray. One of Paul’s brothers defended his reason for going to the tabloids to be that he needed the money to help with treating the disease he suffered.
Paul Prenter was survived by his parents Bill and Eileen, and his three brothers. He was unmarried and had no kids. He was 45 at the time of his demise.