Tony Marnach, AKA Fat Tony, soared from humble beginnings on a Battersea council estate to being flown monthly to New York on Concorde, aged just 18, to DJ in the city’s most iconic nightclubs. A life in the fast lane ensued, but then these hedonistic times morphed into a decades-long battle with addiction that cost him just about everything, including his life.
One of the best known faces on the global social scene, it’s fair to say Tony has already lived at least nine lives. But he’s certainly making this one count.
Having found sobriety in 2006, he has risen like a phoenix and become, once again, one of the world’s most in-demand DJs, spinning the decks for the cream of the fashion business, the celebrity A-list, and royalty all over the planet.
In possession of an enviable address book, his friends make up a who’s who of the cultural movers and shakers of our times. He’s hung with them all, including Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Madonna, Elton John and many more, and his inner circle includes Kate Moss, Boy George and Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of British Vogue.
Plus, for the 257,000 fortunate followers of his Instagram profile, Tony has also proved himself a master of humor, posting daily a mixture of caustically funny memes and messages of hope for those struggling with mental illness, addiction, or simply just in need of a laugh. We’ve showcased ten of his best here. Part of Tony’s gift is that he articulates our darkest humor, and dares to express with razor like accuracy, the things many of us think but don’t have the courage to say. His uncensored wit is brilliantly refreshing in a PC world, and has proved the tonic which has helped keep many of us going during the pandemic. He’s a cocky, cussing, contemporary talisman of hope and service, and a man who’s own passion is ignited and fueled when recognizing such in others.
As his star continues to shine, he has created ‘Arrogant Hypocrite’, a streetwear clothing line made in the UK and limited to a 100 pieces per design. He also launched his YouTube show and podcast ‘The Recovery’ in support of those struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues. And with his autobiography ‘I Don’t Take Requests’ due to be published in May 2022, his ever-expanding fanbase is in for a real treat. Nothing he touches is dull.
We spoke to Tony in his central London home about his extraordinary life, his beloved dog Tailor, his passion for respecting cultural history and much more, as he becomes the latest subject of our ‘Who the F*** Are You?’ profile, answering the 20 questions that get to the heart of what makes us tick.
Who the f*** are you?
I’m DJ Fat Tony.
How are you feeling right now?
Really tired. I haven’t stopped working. I’ve been really busy since the first lockdown, but the last two months, it has just been nonstop. I just don’t get enough sleep. I always wake up at 6.15am because I have a 16-year old dog that decides that I get up at 6.15am every morning. It’s not a burden, it’s a blessing because she’s 16, and I cherish her so much, and I don’t mind getting up with her. But when I got in at 4.30am this morning, I knew I was going to be up at 6.15am, so I didn’t sleep properly. So it was a bit of a nightmare.
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in Battersea, on the edge of South London, over the bridge from Chelsea. I was there from the age of about seven, and then I left there about 14, and grew up on the King’s Road in Chelsea. Battersea was pretty. I went by there the other day actually, to the estate I grew up on to do some little doc, and it seemed really small. But at the time, it seemed really big. And then growing up on the King’s Road was the most amazing thing in the world because it was that era where we didn’t have social media, and the King’s Road was everybody’s Facebook. People came to King’s Road to be seen, and be photographed. I worked at the Great Gear Market. The amount of creativity that was on that one street was just immense.
What excites you?
Sugar! And passion excites me. Anyone that has a passion for something, whether it be for food, music, art, or just life in general. It ignites me. I see it, and I just think, “Wow.” Because we live in tarnished times where we don’t really have that passion. We take everything for granted. And I really thought the lockdown and the pandemic was going to change or that, but it has made it worse for a lot of people. I just think that people need to stop and realize what their passions are in life, and actually go for it. So I love it when I meet someone and they have that drive. A lot of people mistake it as ego, or they mistake it for a lot of other things, but it’s just pure passion.
What scares you?
Polystyrene. Polystyrene packaging. Oh my God. Can’t look at it. Can’t go near it. Can’t touch it. And you know it’s going to be here forever, right? It’s not going to deteriorate. That scares me in itself. I’ve always had nightmares about it. I just can’t even talk about it, really.
What else scares me? People’s lack of interest in history. Especially within the gay community, knowing what went before you, what made it okay for you to be wearing drag today, and allows you to hold hands walking down the road in certain areas. We’re still not at that point where you could do that everywhere. But it really, really hurts me when I talk to people and they just don’t know what we went through in the 80s to make that okay today.
I think that people really just need to take the time to look back on things a bit. Because everyone loves to think that they’re the first to do everything. But so much stuff, so many people, so much pain, so many tears, so much heartache went into making it okay for certain people to actually be in the here and now. I just think that we, as a society, don’t give that enough recognition. And that scares me.
I mean, I rob everyone’s f***ing Instagram every day of the week, and I never credit anyone. But Instagram is not the Louvre. And if you ask me to credit something, then I would. But when it comes to fashion, or it comes to music, or it comes to passion, it’s really sad that people just don’t really care about the origins of it.
What is your proudest achievement?
Being alive today. It really is. Just being okay with who I am is my biggest achievement. I could go on about traveling the world, doing this and doing that, working for this person, working for that person, blah, blah, blah. It’s all superficial. At the end of the day, the fact that I’m sitting here, drink and drug free, talking to you without having to think about where I’m getting my next line from is a miracle. And it’s the best achievement, being in recovery. Finding recovery, and finding me.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done?
Getting clean. I used drink and drugs every day for 28 years. Every day. Even when I was asleep, I was on something. I was so far gone with it. I had no teeth, I weighed seven stone, and literally was insane. Homeless on the streets. My life was shit, but it was my shit, and there was a real comfort in that shit.
How could someone like me ever get clean? It’s impossible. And then suddenly the ignition light got lit, and the pilot light came on… People always say to me, “You’re doing really well at the moment. The last few years your career has gone through the roof. What happened?” It’s quite simple. I stopped drinking, and I stopped taking drugs. And it has taken nearly 15 years for me to get back to where I wanted to be. All of everything I have, and everything I do, comes from that one thing.
Who is your greatest mentor, and what did they teach you?
Boy George, on so many levels. I’ve known George since I was 14, when I was the vilest, bitchiest little queen you’ve ever met. And George just taught me that it was okay to be who I am, my sexuality, not to be ashamed of who I am, not to be ashamed of my size. He taught me so many things. And he also taught me how to be a nice person.
When I got clean, I then helped George get clean. I moved in with him, and spent four years with him in his house, living with him. And that’s what helped him to get on the straight and narrow. We get clean for a reason. We lead by example. I really think that George has this amazing energy about him, and that there’s younger kids today who would learn a lot if they just opened their eyes.
Who are your fictional and real-life heroes?
Fictional would probably be the Artful Dodger. I’ve blagged my way through life. I have a very sharp tongue. I have a sense of humor. And I’ve always used it. I’ve used it to get where I want to be in life.
Real-life heroes are people that have come from nothing and worked their way up. [Vogue editor] Edward Enninful. I love Edward. He’s a hero. I knew him when he started at i-D, and now look where he is. But it has not been given to Edward on a plate. He’s worked f***ing hard to get that stuff. There are people in the fashion industries that get given that stuff on the plate. And you can tell the difference. One’s like a ready meal, and one’s a gourmet meal. One’s been cooked by microwave when it comes to fashion, and the other one’s got four Michelin stars. And those Michelin stars have been earned. So Edward is one of the people that is a living legend for me.
Also, Mary J Blige. Pain, drama. I love people that have lived and are not afraid to tell people that they’ve lived.
What’s your favorite item of clothing in your wardrobe?
My c*nt necklace. I’ve got three of these now. People used to call me a c*nt, so I got it to wear around my neck. I have it in diamonds, sapphires, and in gold.
And I just got a new Dior bomber jacket and camouflage trousers. F***ing love it. I live in it. I’m an addict. I become obsessed about people, places, and things really easily. And right now, it’s Dior.
What music did you love aged 13, and do you still love it now?
Janet Kay, ‘Silly Games’. I grew up on that stuff. I grew up on ‘Lovers Rock’. I grew up — and I woke up — on old soul music. My older brother used to play early disco and dance music in the house. So for me, the first track I ever bought on 12-inch was The Crusaders’ ‘Street Life’ with Randy Crawford singing. And I’m still obsessed by that track today. Even talking about it makes my hair stand on end.
Also, prior to that, I think that the first track that I ever ever fell in love with, believe it or not, was Elton John, ‘Crocodile Rock’. As a kid, I was obsessed by it. My mum used to put it in the cupboard, so I couldn’t play it. And I used to beg her to get in the single out so I could play on my record player.
But I grew up with music, and music is in me. I never chose to be a DJ. It kind of chose me.
What is the most inspiring book you have ever read?
I could sit here and be all like, “Oh, ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle.” But I’m not going to say that. I don’t read many books, I have ADHD so I’ll read something, and then three days later, I’ll go and pick the book up again and I’ll barely remember any of it. So for me, growing up it was a difficult task because I’m highly dyslexic as well. But I remember reading ‘Born Free’ as a kid about that f**king lion. And it was probably the only book I ever actually read. I was obsessed by it.
Since then, there’s a book by Matthew Todd called ‘Straight Jacket’, which breaks down what we are like as gay men, and the world that we live in. It’s an amazing book and a very ‘now’ read.
What is the movie that left a lasting impression on you?
‘Grease’. ‘Grease‘ was the one, I think, more than anything. It had the right level of campness, the right level of men to fancy, and everything a little gay teenager would want in life. I wanted to be one of the pink ladies, and I wanted to sleep with all of the T-Birds. So for me, it ticked every box.
What is your favorite word or saying?
C*nt. Literally. It’s a word that just covers every situation: ‘Oh, he’s such a c*nt’. ‘He’s a funny c*nt.’ ‘He’s a sh*t c*nt.’ ‘He’s a silly c*nt.’ There are so many different aspects to it: ‘Don’t be a f**king c*nt.’ ‘Oh my God, you’re such a c*nt.’ There’s so many different levels to it. And it’s still a word that people really, really don’t like. And it baffles me why they get so offended by a word.
What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?
Now, that’s a good one because prior to getting clean, all I ever thought about every day was dying. For that last year, I was planning my funeral, who was going to come to my funeral, who was going to do speeches at my funeral, what records were going to be played at my funeral. I was going to be burned to ‘No More Drama’ Mary J Blige. That was all I had to look forward to, was my own funeral. And so I planned it.
But you know what? I don’t want to think about funerals today. I never want to die. I love life so much. But I think when I do die, I want people to think, “He was such a c*nt. A f*cking lovely c*nt.”
And finally, a quickfire five favorites…
Don’t have one. Don’t care.
Anything in shorts.
Chinese at A. Wong, which is this Michelin star restaurant in Pimlico.
I have a whole house for the skin products. So many. Everything from Augustinus Bader right away through to Barbara Sturm. I have it all, and I use it all. I’m obsessed by skin products. My favorite hair products would be Sachajuan hair wax. It’s amazing. Can’t live without it.
Dior. Kim Jones for Dior Men, basically. I love Kim. Kim is a genius. He takes history, he owns it, he acknowledges it. And he makes sure everybody else acknowledges where those ideas come from. But that’s why people need to remember what went before them.