Sebastian Horsley, an eccentric British dandy who once was crucified in the name of art and whose life of unabashed debauchery and drug addiction caused him to be barred from the United States, died June 17 of a heroin overdose at his home in London. He was 47.
His death came days after a play about his life, “Dandy in the Underworld,” based on his autobiography, opened on the London stage.
Mr. Horsley led a life of scandal, notoriety and high style, strolling the streets of London’s Soho in elaborate velvet suits, fingernail polish and a stovepipe hat. He was born into wealth and invested shrewdly in the stock market, but he spent much of his fortune on prostitutes and drugs and, as he put it, squandered the rest.
“I’m an artist — depravity is part of the job description,” he told The Washington Post in 2008.
Mr. Horsley was a painter who had occasional exhibitions, but with his epigrammatic wit and writing style — modeled after Oscar Wilde, Evelyn Waugh and Quentin Crisp — he found a niche as a sex columnist and chronicler of the London underworld. He expressed some concern that his newfound writing career might ruin his reputation.
“Don’t tell my mother I work as a journalist,” he told one reporter. “She thinks I’m a prostitute.”
In fact, Mr. Horsley did briefly work in the sex trade, but he was better known as an enthusiastic customer. He claimed to have enjoyed the company of more than 1,000 prostitutes, saying, “I can count all the lovers I’ve had on one hand — if I’m holding a calculator.”
[full obituary at Post-Gazette.com, via Hector]