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Erin E Kelly-Moen

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Dedicated to Alec Marr
Brother of Neil Marr

Where have you gone,
brother of mine?
Our world’s full of sorrow
and we miss your song.
Where have you gone?

Why did you leave,
brother of mine?
Our souls are bereaved
and we miss your voice.
Why did you leave?

What do you see,
brother of mine?
Your family believes
through heavens you fly.
What do you see?

How do we live,
brother of mine?
Gone is your laughter
from our earthly Time.
How do we live?

Erin Elizabeth Kelly-Moen
© Copyright 9/7/04


From Neil Marr (France) Sept 10 – UKPG

Alec Marr's life was spent among stars whose names he plastered over the pages of the biggest newspapers and magazines in the world. With his mischievous approach to stardom, he caught them with their ratings up … and their trousers down.

But he died in the company of the stars he loved the best … on a balmy Riviera evening gazing up at midnight's glittering canopy from the sea-view terrace where he had chosen to make his bed for the night.

Internationally renowned, Italy-based Alec, 38, was found by his older brother, Neil Marr – also a journalist – on Monday morning, lying peacefully, as though in sleep, as the stars faded and the sun crept up over the Mediterranean.

Spending a few working days at Neil's home near Monaco, Alec had chosen to sleep on the terrace. During the night, he slipped into a diabetic coma that triggered a lethal heart attack.

Neil found him dead on Monday (sept 6) when he took out a morning cuppa.

Alec, who lived in the tiny fishing village of Santa Stefano near San Remo, was cremated on Wednesday (sept 8) in Monte Carlo. He leaves Italian wife, Nadia, and children Iain, 14, Sylvia, 13, and Neil 8.

Alec was born Robert Alexander Gregor Marr in Wigan, Lancashire of a Scottish father and Welsh mother, but moved to Germany for his schooling when his late parents were relocated there. His dad (also Alec) died in his mid-fifties and Alec was brought back to an English secondary school at fourteen – hardly able to remember his native language.

Things looked bleak as his poor English lead to exam failure after failure and the future was uncertain when he left school with nothing to his name but a reputation for goal-keeping and songwriting. Then he went to visit brother Neil, now 56, at that stage just kicking off a European operation in Nice, France after a lifetime of UK and US-based national and international work as staff and freelance.

At the end of that fortnight, he was hooked on journalism – the two-week holiday lasted eighteen years.

He started his career by joining Neil as a cub reporter at his Riviera Media Service, later to be joined by Phil Taylor (previously on Today) and photographer Geoff Holmes (now Scottish News and Sport). Other well known names became associated with the agency including John Kerr (Italy), Dave Burke (Germany), Nana Heckman (Holland), Jerry Brown (Everywhere), Paul House (Rome), Jim Duxbury (ex-Daily Mail), Gavin Blythe (Mercury Press) and others. As things took off and times were no longer so tight, the little French/Italian frontier town of Menton where the team was based was visited by scores of UK and US journalists just popping in to let the good times roll for a few days. Alec, Neil and Phil even extended the office to provide a comfortable studio apartment for their visitors.

The hugely successful agency fragmented as those involved followed their own paths after some years. But Alec stayed put … since then he broke and worked on some of the biggest news stories in Europe. To list them would be a major cuttings job.

But the show biz and paparazzi operations that earned his bread and butter and kept his family in comfort also financed serious, expensive speculative investigative work on which he would stake a fortune in time and money. Like many of us forced into the lighter side of the game, he had become a journalist to make a positive difference and not primarily as an entertainer. His very first job was a dangerous on-site investigation into the bloody Mafia wars of Calabria (and he picked up cover and seven inside pages in the Mail on Sunday's colour sup on that one!)

Unknowingly, almost every newspaper and magazine buyer in Britain and America will have read his words every week – unknowingly because Alec seldom asked for a byline. "I am not part of the story," he used to insist. Also, he didn't like to advertise his whereabouts.

Becoming a master of snappy, must-read, English, he was also fluent in German, Italian and French. His language skills, popularity, reputation, down to earth lifestyle and humble approach, and simple honesty helped him to also become one of the biggest independent photographic syndicators in Europe with scores of Europe's top press photographers on his books.

He was particularly well known in show business and royalty circles and for an unrelenting campaign against the Mafia and drugs, which sometimes saw him under threat of death in Italy's darker corners.

But his last job with brother Neil, before his final sleep, was sharing an evening with UK singer Gordon Haskell (How Wonderful You Are/Harry's Bar) discussing over pizza and beer the singer's upcoming autobiography, which Neil is editing. They'd picked him up from Nice International Airport that very afternoon. As an accomplished musician himself, Alec's last night on the terrace where he died was a particularly happy one. He drove Gordon back to his hotel, returned to Neil's a few minutes later, shared a last nightcap of local rose wine, chose a recliner on the terrace … and slept the big sleep. He was wearing a T-shirt bearing the slogan … "so many books, so little time." He was also wearing a smile and his trademark dimple.

Only two days and four hours separated Neil's tragic discovery and Alec's cremation in Monaco. His ashes now rest in his beloved Santa Stefano.

Even at such short notice, the small Monte Carlo crematorium was packed with family, friends and colleagues who had dropped everything to fly or drive in from all over Europe. His talented son, Iain, filled the room with Alec's favourite bagpipe music whilst younger son, Neil, accompanied him on Celtic hand drum. Although Alec was born in England, he was proud of his Scottish heritage and would always, when asked, say that he was "A Scot of the Tribe of Marr."

News of the World Assistant Editor, Phil Taylor – Alec and Neil's partner on the Riviera for several years – made the funeral with minutes to spare, laden with bouquets from Canary Warf. Tough guy Screws editor Neil Wallis had arranged the office collection for the floral tribute. Flowers also blossomed at the last minute from the re-located Fleet Street and from America. Within hours, scores of other tributes had been emailed from newspapers, agencies, reporters, photographers and desk execs all over the world. Neil had to activate four extra cellphones to keep pace with incoming calls in half a dozen languages.

Phil Taylor said: "He was not only one of the greatest natural newsmen in the world, he was loved. He even helped his competition on jobs. He would sacrifice thousands in fees rather than do a story that might hurt someone. He always picked up the tab. I've never known such a generous man.

"It has been a privilege to work with him all these years and to have been able – as so many in the game feel – to have counted him a friend first and colleague second. He was the only reporter in the world who would telephone a news or features desk with an important story and, first, play a piece of mandolin music he had just composed down the line. Even the sad jobs were good with Alec."

John Bell (London Bureau Chief, National Enquirer and Globe) said: "I don't know where to start looking for a replacement … for such a journalist and such a friend."

James Grylls (Daily Mail) said: "The wee feller was a grand journalist. But a grander friend. I held him in my arms when he was a baby brother to Neil and saw a fine man develop over the ensuing 38 years."

David Rigsby (News of the World news editor) said: "He was one of very few freelancers whose calls I looked forward to."

One of Alec's best pals, former Plymouth Independent Editor and now Milton Keynes freelance Andrew Kelly arrived within hours of the tragic news with three other lifelong friends of Alec's – Rob, Tim and Ian – who had all met at school in their teens and kept in daily touch. He said: "What a friend … in the good times and the bad, he was always there. He'd just hop a plane and pop up unannounced on the doorstep to ask what he could do to help. The story always came first. But the great thing about my mate Alec was that people – his friends, his family, his colleagues, even the subjects of his stories – came firster!"

Peter Marsh (Mirror picture desk) said: "I spoke to him all the time – sometimes he was so far ahead of the game, I could hardly believe that this world-beating operator and beautiful writer was also my mate Neil's little brother. When Neil and I worked together in Wigan a lifetime ago, I used to babysit the little bugger. He was fun then, too."

Former RMS photographer Franck Boure also made the funeral in the nick of time. He recalled a huge story they'd covered that was going pear-shaped because the pictures were not working out well. The story – a should-be UK national splash and spread for the following day – was dead in the water. Franck said: "He should have been furious with me. Instead, he just said, 'f**k the pictures … f**k the story … f**k the paper … how's the wife, Franck?"

The phone and email tributes and flowers continue to come in. Other elder brother, Rod, and sister Carolyn are getting journalist calls from places they didn't even know there were places.

Brother Neil said: "He was admired not only for his unique skill, close and reliable contacts and his enormous writing talent, but for his irrepressible bubbly nature, humour and humanity. Very few people can have been as well loved by those he worked with and those he worked on. He'd turn over some big name and they'd end up sharing a beer or playing guitar together.

"Anthony Hopkins recently called him in his hotel room to apologise for speaking sharply earlier and they chatted the night away. Tom Jones told his own son off – a kind of bouncer – for not allowing Alec into his dressing room. He was invited in and they talked music and Wales. Shirley Bassey heard during an interview that she'd been our father's hero and gave him a huge smacker on the lips to pass on one day. He turned over Roger Moore. When they next met, Roger told him: "Don't feel bad – it's only show biz, Alec." Mickey Rourke at his second Cannes Film Festival visit pulled Alec out of a crowd of reporters to say … 'Hey, meet me in my room … need to smoke all your Bensons again.'

"I remember fairly early on when the whole Fleet Street circus was laying siege to Anthony Ridgeley's place in Monaco because he and George Michael were breaking up Wham! being nervous that Alec maybe couldn't get near because he was looking a real scruff. He was a handsome feller but scruff was often his style. A few hours later, with the whole pack camping outside, I got a call from Alec: 'Look, I'll drop you the copy in a few minutes, but Andy wants me to teach him a few more guitar licks first.' He'd have been very early twenties then and was sharing a beer and a couch in the guy's apartment with the 'experienced' world left out in the cold. Some operator was my wee brother.

"I was with Alec once when we rang David Couldhard's doorbell in Monte Carlo. Alec had a new camera he was tickled with and smudged a couple of pictures of some girl on the race driver's balcony just for practice. Over the intercom, Couldhard said: "Are you that c**t who was just taking pictures?" Alec was offended: "What did you say!?" Couldhard replied: "Are you that DEAF c**t who was just taking pictures?" Alec laughed so hard, we just had to be invited in. We had the chat. Alec's pictures didn't come out. He was a rotten photographer.

"He leaves a hole that can never be filled. We're just grateful that he died peacefully and after such a happy night and a full and giving 38 years.

"He had spent his working life mixing with stars of music and film. His last words to me were: 'See you in the morning, Bro. I wanna sleep with some real stars tonight.' Catch you later, Wee Eck,' I told him."

Ends. NM

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Reviewed by Safi Abdi 9/12/2004
Heartfelt tribute, sad story. Well penned.
Reviewed by Roger Simmons 9/12/2004
Extremely moving.I feel almost as if I knew Mr. Marr.

Reviewed by Dawn Richerson 9/7/2004
this is pure and beautiful. out of something so difficult to bear. all the best,
Reviewed by Sue Hess 9/7/2004
lovely tribute and a very sad situation. he was so is never easy but harder when so unexpected
Reviewed by E T Waldron 9/7/2004
Beautifully written Erin, echoing the way we feel when a
love one is lost. My thoughts and prayers to your friend and you.
Reviewed by ~Indigo~ Elga 9/7/2004
Dear Erin,

My condolences to you and the family.

You have penned a truly touching and loving write.

warm hugs
Reviewed by Ed Matlack 9/7/2004
38! Way TOO YOUNG to die, as it is way too young at any age...a beautiful tribute to a friend gone too soon...Find Peace, Ed & Rufuz
Reviewed by Lori Moore 9/7/2004
Sad write.
Reviewed by Kate Clifford 9/7/2004
Sudden death often leaves us with questions. Great write.
Reviewed by Peter Paton 9/7/2004
Erin..Life is short...and life is precious..we must savour and make good every moment..
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