Stories of Distinction & Genius

123 'Good Books' Reg Starkey on Posthumously Producing Andrew Tyler's "My Life As An Animal" Written Just Before His Assisted Death At Dignitas

October 03, 2022 Chris Grimes - Facilitator. Coach. Motivational Comedian
Stories of Distinction & Genius
123 'Good Books' Reg Starkey on Posthumously Producing Andrew Tyler's "My Life As An Animal" Written Just Before His Assisted Death At Dignitas
Show Notes

Ladies n' Genminminminminmin (er, min...) please welcome for a SECOND pass through The Good Listening to 'Clearing' the gorgeous human being - Lord Starkey himself (!) - Reg Starkey!

To talk about an audio book that Reg has lovingly produced posthumously for and about his old friend Andrew Tyler, who took the courageous decision to end his own life at Dignitas in 2017 rather than be sucked deeper into the vortex of Parkinsons disease.

When Andrew Tyler was born in the late I940s, average life expectancy for a baby boy in the UK was 69 years. What an amazing story Andrew made of his 69 years! And what an extraordinary interview this is, focusing as it does, posthumously, on his memoirs. 

A brief background: ‘My Life as an Animal’ was first published as a paperback by his widow, Sara, as a source of funds for Animal Aid, the organisation to which Andrew devoted the last 20 years of his ‘great life’.  

With the help of  sound engineer, Tom Davidson and voice and music-man, Jim Smith, the paperback was then converted into an audio recording - and then converted into a master-tape for a broadcast-quality audiobook by Elliott Frisby at Monkeynut. 

Andrew Tyler was sent by his mother, as a ‘boarder’ to a Jewish orphanage, in the same way that richer parents might have sent him to a Prep School. The difference was that Andrew hardly saw anything of his mother for the next 8 years. He left with a few Hebrew prayers -  and no qualifications - in his early teens. He got a job as an office boy on a fashion trade magazine and worked his way across to being a junior reporter. 

Still in his teens, he moved to another magazine as Deputy Editor. Then, passport and guitar in hand, he left his mother and London behind, taking off for Toronto, Canada. It was 1967 and the centre of the known universe was San Francisco, California. Andrew was there, almost by accident. He decided to stay! 

The Hippie Trail appealed to him. He shared their (naive?) idealism. He writes lovingly about all of it. Some years and many adventures later, he returned to London via Canada. His mother was surprised to see him! He had an Anglo Canadian band, which he rated as competent rather than brilliant. He returned to journalism, with a great opportunity on New Musical Express. 

Now, when he returned to the USA, hotels and limousines were involved rather than hitch hiking and Greyhound buses. Andrew’s NME credentials gave him access to people like Leonard Cohen, John Lennon, David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen. His kindly approach made stars like Marianne Faithful share their secrets with him. He switched from music to social issues. 

He wrote a text book: ‘Street Drugs’. He met Sara. He embraced Animal Rights. He became a pioneer vegan and an Animal Rights campaigner. Together they moved from Hampstead to Tonbridge where Andrew became the Director of Animal Aid. 

For the next two decades, this occupied virtually every minute of his waking hours - until his back cracked under the strain and the doctors diagnosed a more serious/chronic condition: Parkinson’s Disease. Sara and Andrew kept this secret until it became impossible for Andrew to function effectively in his role as Director.

Secretly they applied to Dignitas to end his life legally, privately and with dignity. And this is what they did. Under Swiss law, Andrew had to drink the lethal dose from a glass in his own hand. He told Sara he was going to say: “This tastes awful! What are you trying to do - kill me?!” Sara advised against it but it made them both smile. 

Weeks later, his stepson Davy made the journey solo to Switzerland to bring Andrew’s ashes back to England. His book - and this interview - will ensure that Andrew Tyler’s ideals live on in perpetuity - as a permanent record of his own great life. Together they will ensure that he did not die in vain.