Rocketman, out May 31, is a whirlwind tour through the singer Elton John's wild early years of fame.
The movie briefly zeroes in on an unlikely chapter in John's history. In 1984, 36-year-old Elton John married 30-year-old German sound engineer Renate Blauel in a lavish ceremony in Australia while his friends and family looked on perplexed.
In 1976, John came out as bisexual in an interview with Rolling Stone. However, his friends and family knew him to be gay. In fact, his ex-lover and then-manager, John Reid, was John's best man at the wedding. Rod Stewart's congratulatory telegram to John for the wedding just about sums up the mood: "You may still be standing, but we’re all on the f***ing floor."
As Rocketman shows, John (played by Taron Egerton) met Blauel (Celine Schoenmaker in the film) while recording "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" — also known as the ultimate karaoke duet — with Kiki Dee. Blauel, the daughter of a wealthy German publisher, left home at 22 to make it on her own. She became a flight attendant for Lufthansa and then a successful sound engineer. From "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" on, John and Blauel's professional and personal relationship grew. Blauel worked on his 1983 album, Too Low for Zero, and joined him on tour in Australia in 1984.
The path to the altar was speedy. On February 10, 1984, John proposed to Blauel over Indian food. They were married three days later. John's then-boyfriend Clarke watched the festivities from the hotel window.
“It’s like he...decided to conform and have a ‘normal’ life,” journalist Lesley-Ann Jones told Page Six. "It didn't happen."
Blauel and John were married for four years. During that time, Blauel struggled with the limelight; John struggled with the barrage of articles questioning his sexuality. They divorced in 1988. That same year, John publicly came out as gay. He met his husband, David Furnish, in 1993.
Years later, when Australia was fighting to legalize same-sex marriage, John revisited this chapter in his life. "Many years ago, I chose Australia for my wedding to a wonderful woman for whom I have so much love and admiration. I wanted more than anything to be a good husband, but I denied who I really was, which caused my wife sadness, and caused me huge guilt and regret," John wrote.
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I'm so excited to be back in Australia for a series of shows. Many years ago, I chose Australia for my wedding to a wonderful woman for whom I have so much love and admiration. I wanted more than anything to be a good husband, but I denied who I really was, which caused my wife sadness, and caused me huge guilt and regret. To be worthy of someone's love, you have to be brave enough and clear eyed enough to be honest with yourself and your partner. Almost 24 years ago, I met the person with whom I could be fully myself. When we married in 2014, it felt like that fact was accepted by the world. For David and I, being able to openly love and commit to one another, and for that to be recognised and celebrated is what makes life truly worth living. That acceptance and support makes us want to be as kind, responsible and productive members of society, as well as the best parents, that we can be. I love Australia. I love its spirit, its lack of pretence, its passion. I hope it can embrace the honesty and courage that seeks gay marriage as an expression not of desire but of love. #loveislove #marriageequality @davidfurnish
The marriage to Blauel wasn't the first time John was romantically committed to a woman. Though it's not shown in the movie, John had once been engaged to a woman named Linda Woodrow, whom he'd met at a cabaret club in Sheffield. The 1969 song "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," written by John and Bernie Taupin, is a snapshot of that era in John's life — and of an unhappiness he narrowly avoided by calling off the wedding.
"I was going to get married once when I was younger, and I went out and got drunk with Long John Baldry, and Bernie and John said I shouldn't get married. I knew he was right but I didn't know how to get out of it so, I just got drunk and went home and said I'm not getting married," John said in the 1991 project Two Rooms: A Tribute to Elton John & Bernie Taupin.
Instead of showing his engagement to Linda, Rocketman depicts John having a relationship with his landlord, who throws John out of the apartment after he comes out.
In an interview with Good Morning Britain, Woodrow expressed dismay at being written out of Rocketman. “I mean, it was a long time ago and he’s such a superstar now, I was way, way back in his past. I hope he hasn’t forgotten about me, but I’m disappointed I’m not in the movie,” she said.
Blauel, however, hasn't spoken about Rocketman publicly. Her whereabouts are unknown. After they divorced, she moved into a house in Surrey that John bought for her and out of the public eye.