A wonderful if campy singer of traditional jazz; a memoirist who managed to make me laugh out loud on many occasions; an expert on surrealism; the author of Revolt into Style, one of the best books on why there should be no gap between popular and high culture, nor is there when properly considered.
I heard him sing once in a bar in West London - the consequences of that evening in the mid-70s were such that I never went to hear him live again for fear of another attack of selfish madness like the one that possessed me then. From time to time, I saw him across rooms and never had the guts to go over and tell him how much I admired him; the last time I saw him was on the steps of Tate Britain a year or two ago, by which time he was already known to be dying and somewhat frail. I could have spoken to him by then, because he probably even knew who I was as a result of the Buffy book - he was known to admire the show - but it seemed an intrusion.
And now he is dead, alas! so that decision is without appeal to subsequent oppurtunity.
Which makes me even gladder that I have managed to track down Helena Reckitt whom I used to know years and years ago when she was Talks Officer at the ICA and is now a curator in Toronto. Helena is one of those people who turn out to have affected the eventual direction of my life. Like Melly, she helped me feel that my fascination with popular culture was an intellectually valid pursuit, and I owe her a debt of gratitude, which, having tracked her down, I got to express yesterday.
When in doubt, cross that rooom and make that call.