INXS' Hutchence 'Witty And Charming' At Last Rehearsal

Band's publicist says singer was in 'brilliant spirits' day before he was found dead in hotel.

On Friday afternoon, one day before INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence was found dead in a Sydney hotel room, he was in "brilliant spirits" as he rehearsed with the band, according to Shawn Deacon, the band's Australian publicist.

There were no outward signs that anything was troubling Hutchence that Friday afternoon.

"They were rehearsing for the [since canceled 20th anniversary] tour which was to have begun Tuesday [Nov. 25]. A crew from a respected news magazine here called A Current Affair was filming them for a story," said Deacon, who works for Big Media Party Ltd., the band's PR firm.

In fact Deacon said the 37-year-old singer, who was found hanging naked from a leather belt in his Ritz-Carlton hotel room in the Double Bay neighborhood of Sydney, Australia, Saturday morning, "was very up, very witty and charming" during the rehearsal session.

Police have yet to determine what circumstances led to Hutchence's death. Although police are still investigating the death as well as awaiting toxicology reports, which should take several weeks, Scott Willis, Senior Constable with the New South Wales Police said Monday that he "seriously doubted" Hutchence was the victim of what some speculate may have been a sex ritual gone wrong.

"We don't believe there is anything to indicate autoerotic asphyxiation," said Willis, of the dangerous practice that involves the cutting-off of oxygen to the brain in an attempt to heighten sexual pleasure. "Even though he was found naked, there's nothing to indicate that was the cause."

Willis said the police will still not officially rule the death a suicide until the toxicology reports are back. He did say, however, that foul play is not believed to have been a factor.

It has been widely reported that the prescription anti-depressant Prozac was found in Hutchence's room, which he had occupied since arriving in Sydney last Tuesday, along with four other, still unidentified prescription pills. Willis, who would not comment on what the contents were of the other containers found in the room, would only say that "you can't do tests on empty bottles."

Australia's Sydney Morning Herald reported on Tuesday (Nov. 25) (Australia is 18 hours ahead of the United States) that Hutchence had argued with Live Aid benefit organizer/ ex-Boomtown Rats leader Bob Geldof, the former husband of Hutchence's lover Paula Yates, the evening before his body was found.

The Herald story is based on an account of a British journalist who was on Yates' flight to Australia. According to Martin Frizell, Yates said she blamed Geldof for Hutchence's death. "She said she wanted to bring all her children [Yates had three children with Geldof and a daughter with Hutchence] to Australia for Christmas, but Bob Geldof had changed his mind and said the children couldn't go," Frizell told the reporter. "The last words she heard Michael say were, 'I love you. I'm going to phone Bob right now and beg him, beg him to allow them to come.' "

Geldof has thus far refused to respond to the claims. "I am not being

difficult but it's better for me if I do not just say anything at all," he

told the British Press Association outside his London home.

In a SonicNet on-line chat in February of this year, Hutchence, while in the United States promoting the band's most recent album, Elegantly Wasted, expressed his joy about being a new dad . "The best thing I ever made," said Hutchence about his now 16-month-old daughter Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily.

Ironically, in that same interview, guitarist Tim Farriss, when asked how long the band would last, typed, "We already have lasted forever."

Willis would not confirm if the police had any indication that Hutchence had called Geldof from his room, or if phone records indicated that he'd called anybody else from the room. As reported earlier by the Herald, police revealed that Hutchence was still alive at 9 a.m. on Saturday, when he telephoned former girlfriend Michelle Bennett and left a message on her answering machine.

Bennett is then reported to have arrived at Room 534 where Hutchence was staying, and after he failed to answer her knock, left a note under the door. Willis would not reveal the contents of that note, nor would he confirm or deny if any other note was found in the room. The Herald also reported on Monday that Hutchence had sent Yates a dozen red roses in London on Friday, with a note that read: "To all my beautiful girls, all my love, Michael."

In addition to INXS' 13-date anniversary tour, which was to kick-off on Tuesday and play both 10,000-seat arenas and more intimate venues, Deacon confirmed that Hutchence had been working on-and-off, on a solo album. "It was only about half-finished," said Deacon of the singer's putative debut solo album, on which he had worked with Bomb the Bass' Tim Simenon and former Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill.

Hutchence had begun work on the solo album in 1995, Deacon said, and finished only half of the tracks when he took a break in mid-1996 to work on INXS' Elegantly Wasted. "He was an artist, he created music," Deacon said, explaining why the singer decided to strike out on his own. "That's what he was doing, creating. A painter doesn't always paint."

As of Monday, the band's label, Mercury, did not have Hutchence's solo effort on its release schedule. Hutchence's funeral is to be held at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday at St. Andrews Church in Sydney, Australia. Deacon said the public is invited to attend, but that only family and some fan club members will be allowed inside the 800-capacity church. Deacon said the funeral will be broadcast on Australian television and that monitors will be set-up outside the church for mourners who cannot view the service first hand.

The singer's family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to UNICEF aid organization or the Starlight Foundation.

[Mon., Nov. 24, 1997, 6:30 p.m. PDT]