Fat Tony Can’t Stop The Music – Meet the DJ Who’s Been To Every Party Worth Going To
“I f**king love it here,” says Fat Tony as we tuck into a corner of the Groucho club. “It’s full of fucking wrong’uns, but I think that’s why I like it.” Indeed, Tony’s first encounter with the club was in the late 1980s, when he lived in Soho: “I used to live on Old Compton Street and there used to be a bridge that went across to Ronnie Scott’s and then another across to the smoking terrace at the Groucho. So I used to run across, buy drugs and then would go back my flat.”
You might not think that the club, which reportedly used to sell cocaine over the bar, would be the first choice for someone who is 12 years’ sober and who, in the process, has become one of the leading voices of the sobriety scene. However, Tony has somehow managed to firmly remain in the party, pulling many a raver from the wreckage along the way.
If you’re not familiar, Fat Tony is the DJ who first found fame in 1980s London as a DJ and mate of Boy George, George Michael, Leigh Bowery and pretty much any other name from the time you might want to drop. But at 53, the former hell-raiser Fat Tony – real name Tony Marnach – is enjoying something of a renaissance and a new lease of life. He’s still one of fashion’s favourite acts as Vogue’s resident DJ, one half of Fat Moss (his duo with long-time best mate Kate Moss), an LGBTQ activist, a prominent advocator of the 12-step recovery programme, and an unlikely social-media influencer, thanks to his hysterical Instagram feed. From his high-flying, hedonistic perch in the DJ box, he’s seen it all. He’s been there, bought the crack and the T-shirt and, over the years, managed to establish himself as the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the party scene.
It’s perhaps thanks to Instagram – where his @dj_fattony_ account has a respectable 44,000 followers – that Tony has found relevance among a new group of fans. It’s a feed full of memes and life quotes that manage to both soothe the needy and poke fun at the self-help scene. “I got into Instagram quite late, about ve years ago,” he says. “Ironically, I didn’t think I had the time and now, 12,000 posts later, I spend seven hours a day on it.” There are a fair few drug references in there, too. “I can post all the stuff about crack and coke because I’ve literally done everything and come out the other side,” says Tony, whose slide into addiction ended with a crumbling jawline and just one tooth after a nasty affair with crystal meth led to him pulling his own teeth out with pliers or whatever else was around, including his fingers.
“The thing was, I thought I was gorgeous,” he says. “People used to stare in the street and I used to shout back, ‘Yeah, have a look. You wish you had these cheekbones, you cunts.’” He chuckles through his now nicely veneered gnashers. What was his first drug? “Poppers.” First hard drug? “Cocaine.” Who gave him his first line? “Freddie Mercury.” Reeeeally? “Yes, I swear on my life. He gave me the gram in Heaven and told me to go to the toilet and do it.” How did he know how to do it if he’d never done it before? “I just did it off my thumb knuckle,” he says. Well, trip the light fucking fantastic. No wonder he thought a life of drugs was glamorous – it’s not, btw, kids – but cocaine went on to be his drug of choice. “For me, it was coke, cock and alcohol. That was the triangle and there couldn’t be one without the others,” he says.
The moniker Fat Tony, in case you were wondering, came between the ages of 14 to 18, when he got fat. Like proper fat. Like 18st fat. “I think it was Boy George who came up with it,” he says, “but I was sexually abused between the ages of 12 to 16. So when I first got fat at 14 it was a protective barrier so those people wouldn’t find me attractive.”
Born in Pimlico and raised in Battersea, Tony is every bad boy you could ever meet. Don’t let the sobriety fool you – he’s still more Del Boy than Mary Poppins, and he’s still got a mouth as foul as a fishwife’s, but he does have a heart of gold and would do anything for his friends. That’s something to which his 20- and 30-year friendships with some of fashion’s biggest names, including Moss and Naomi Campbell, testifies.
“I first met Naomi when she was 13 and she used to sit on Boy George’s doorstep, as she was a massive George fan, and I remember I used to tell her he hated her. George actually really liked her,” he says. “I met Kate just after she’d walked in the John Galliano show, and she came to a club called Fred’s, and I fell in love with her that day, as she was just so, SO Croydon. She walked in and was like, ‘Aright!’ I used to get her so pissed that I put her to sleep under the desk in the office and gave her a kick every now and again to check she was all right.” Thirty years on, they’re still the best of mates, regularly spending time together at her home in the Cotswolds.
At times you nd yourself imagining what it might have been like to meet Tony in the messy days – let’s not make the mistake of calling them the glory days – the days when he was the epicentre of the party and commanded every dealer in town. I mean, it might have been fun, not that hanging out with him now isn’t, but a real off-the-rails-we-might-get-arrested-or-lose-a-tooth type of night out that millennials just can’t relate to is one for every bucket list. And the stories are endless.
“In the late 1990s, my drug-taking partner of choice was an American model friend,” he says. “After four days out freebasing, we were at my at, pranged beyond belief, when the buzzer went. We thought it was the police, but the buzzer kept going. I hid behind the fridge and she hid under the table in the kitchen, frozen. If you’ve done that type of drug before, you know what I’m talking about. Then the door comes flying off and this big black guy walks in, followed by [one of the world’s biggest film stars], who said to her, ‘Get your fucking coat!’ I’d never asked what her surname was, let alone who her dad was. This is not exaggerating – I was frozen against that fridge for four and a half hours.” Stop.
But there are more stories where that came from, such as the time he set shoe designer Patrick Cox on fire with a bottle of poppers, and when he ram-raided an illegal club with Leigh Bowery and Sue Tilley to get booze on Christmas Day. For now, we’re just thankful he’s still with us.
“I sometimes listen to music at home,” he says, “thinking about the people I knew who didn’t make it. Music does that, it’s like your own personal time machine. It can take you back to moments you’ve forgotten. But I’m still here, and for that, I’ll always be grateful.”
Photographs by Elliott Morgan. Taken from Issue 49 of Ten Men. NEW ROYALS, RESET, DEMOCRACY is out NOW.