Pills, thrills and temper tantrums: How I wrote Fat Tony’s drug-fuelled memoir
Author Michael Hennegan shares the highs and lows of penning the cult DJ’s extremely candid biography, ‘I Don’t Take Requests’
Thursday 26 May 2022 By Michael Hennegan
‘I want to do a book… Do you fancy doing it with me?’ Tony asked. ‘I mean, sure – we can give it a go… You do know I’ve never done a book before though, right?’
Such was the chat over lunch with Fat Tony (aka Tony Marnach) three years ago that culminated with his memoir, I Don’t Take Requests, out this week. We’d met several years earlier when I was an editor at The Sunday Times Style and had booked him to play a party. In truth I knew very little about the man, apart from that he was best mates with Kate Moss – which, frankly, was good enough for me.
I later interviewed him for the magazine and we hosted a talk together at Soho House before the idea of a book came along. I’d like to say it was all plain sailing, a Barbara Taylor Bradford-type situation; Tony laying on a chaise lounge, me dutifully typing his dictation. It wasn’t. There have been tears, tantrums (multiple), memory gaps to fill, I’ve been (almost) fired at least 76 times – it never happened, loyalty is one of Tony’s greatest qualities – hung up on more times than I can remember, and I’ll happily admit that there have been a few balls dropped on my behalf, too. But, without all that we might not have got the book we have. The end result is an honest, real, heart-warming memoir of one of life’s true survivors. A man who has stood the test of time, come back from the brink more than once, and understandably developed something of a gnarly temper along the way.
Most memoirs are commissioned by a publishing house, who first sign the talent and then commission a nameless ‘ghost’ – the person who actually puts pen to paper. Instead, we went about it in reverse: first writing the synopsis, then finding the agent, and finally the publisher. But this method created its own batch of problems, and added a solid year onto the writing process.
‘Tony’s candidness is inspirational... but no one ever needs to know about a Christmas Day five-way’
As it turned out, that was no bad thing – spending more time with Fat Tony meant I got to know the real Tony, the one behind the character you see in the DJ booth and on social media. I began to learn the nuances of his character (which believe me, there are a few), and we developed a deep connection and what I hope will be a lifelong friendship.
I also started to see his vulnerabilities; the sensitive, inner workings of a character that had built bravado, humour and a sharp tongue into an armoury of defence. A man who would prefer to reject than be rejected and a fragility which had, in the end, contributed to a downward spiral into addiction. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we still row and he can still be a c**t, but now I understand the reasons why and can diffuse the bomb in seconds.
In writing a book like Tony’s I also developed a strong duty of care. Knowing that someone is about to bare their soul to the world and air all of their dirty laundry in public, you need to learn to tell them when enough is enough. Tony’s candidness is inspirational, but there are certain things that Claire from Coventry doesn’t need to know when she picks up her copy from WHSmith. For instance, a Christmas Day five-way…
Re-reading our final edit I can see how much our relationship has progressed from Chapter 1. In the end mimicking Tony’s voice became second nature – a voice which, unfortunately, I might never be able to get out of my head – and writing as Tony became almost easier than writing as myself. There were several versions of the last chapter we worked on together that weren’t quite right. Eventually, I amalgamated them all, regurgitating his voice and adding a few Tony-esque life quotes for good measure. I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that every time he reads it he cries. (Nailed it.) So, I’d like to end this piece by saying thank you, Tony, for trusting me with your story and giving me this opportunity. I’ve loved coming on this journey with you and for that I’ll always be grateful.
I Don’t Take Requests is out now.
Don’t miss Fat Tony in conversation at 180 House on Friday 27 May to hear him talk about his book.