Nearly 50 years later, Queen guitarist Brian May has decided it's okay to kiss and tell. He claims that he dated 19-year-old fashion store clerk Mary Austin before she became Freddie Mercury's longtime girlfriend and closest friend.
"Strangely enough, Mary was the girl that I picked out as somebody fabulous, and I was kind of going out with her," May tells an interviewer. "And Freddie came up to me one day and said, 'Are you serious with Mary? Can I ask her out?' And he did, and they were lovers for a long time."
The revelation comes as production continues on "Bohemian Rhapsody," the highly anticipated Queen biopic that stars Rami Malek ("Mr. Robot") as Mercury, who was 24 when he met Austin. The couple's relationship is at the core of the story about a complicated man and his extravagant music.
"That's why we took so long to approve a script, because it has to tell the truth," says May, 70. "And it's a unique story because Freddie was close to Mary. He was close to his men friends. He was also very close to us."
Mercury and Austin lived together in London, where Mercury proposed marriage on Christmas Day 1974. The relationship ended two years later after Mercury told Austin he was gay. But the couple remained close for the rest of Mercury's short life.
When he died of AIDS at 45 in 1991, Austin inherited Mercury's mansion, the bulk of his fortune and a solemn task: to scatter her ex-lover's ashes at an undisclosed location. "He didn't want anyone trying to dig him up as has happened to some famous people," she explained in a 2013 interview. "He wanted it to remain a secret and it will remain so."
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