Gene Denham was from Huddersfield, hometown of pipe-puffin’ two-time PM, Harold Wilson. There is no doubt though, that in the age of aspiration, he was most definitely more Grocer’s Daughter than Chemist’s Son. Over the course of the three years I knew him, he slowly morphed into the bastard lovechild of Bono and Michael Jackson, circa Bad. It was the high-maintenance gelled mullet that sealed the deal, complemented by tight jeans, studded belt and fur-trimmed cowboy boots. He also liked to roll up the sleeves of his jackets, Miami Vice style and he wore chunky bracelets and a single twinkly stud in his ear. Indeed he had a thing about jackets, because his calling-card carried an image of a powder blue blouson. Classy. He had a slow almost methodical manner to him, as if great things were going on beneath his over-pampered barnet, but then he opened his mouth and his flat Yorkshire vowels suggested otherwise. It was a slow effortless barely audible drawl which stated ‘Hey, I’m good enough to eat so I really don’t have to try too hard’. High Peak meets High Plains Drifter. But he got away with it because you felt he knew it was all a bit of a joke and a friendly twinkle and a bit of a wink showed the real Gene, beneath the gel and the shoulderpads. I was pretty friendly with him to begin with and we even went to Wembley together for the 1983 Cup Final replay, but as the mullet got longer and the lofty pretensions more pronounced, we drifted apart. He was that rare species, a student with a car, possibly something flash and whilst I don’t recall ever seeing it, he was forever jangling his keys. And I don’t remember him living in Manchester so maybe he was crossing the Pennines every night to get home. There was most certainly an air of mystery and intrigue to him, a whiff of mid-eighties illusion and pretence compounded by liberal usage of hair-gel and aftershave. We didn’t see a lot of him in the third year. Rumour had it that he had a loft apartment and a girlfriend in Brookside who was angling to get him the part of Jimmy Corkhill’s dealer. There was talk of a recording contract and that Pete Waterman wanted him to front a Yorkshire version of Bon Jovi. He had gone to London to try and make it as a model. He was Michelle Fowler’s northern love interest in the newly-launched Eastenders. He was going to be Brian Tilsley’s younger brother in Coronation Street. He’d been flown to Kitzbuhl to be an extra in Wham’s Last Christmas video. One thing for sure, Gene wasn’t going to be rubbing Letraset or cracking open pots of cow gum for a living. No chance.