She is not, however, unflappable. She often seems sullen, weighed down by ennui or possibly just hung over. She's outwardly polite, but not so consummate a pro that she ever fully disguises her impatience. She's not above putting on an exaggerated pout when she doesn't want to do something, and stomping off when that doesn't work. Her Baby is also an expert at the latter maneuver.
While in line at a security checkpoint at the CN Tower, Fielder-Civil declares to no one in particular that he's going back to the hotel and bolts. Winehouse runs after him in a panic. "What's just happened?" one of her backup singers asks, while the rest of Winehouse's entourage watches through the window to see the singer search the grounds of the tower like a lost child. But when her manager brings her back inside, black liner smeared beneath her tear-soaked eyes, nobody works up the nerve to actually ask about it. Though her thoughts run elsewhere and her nose, well, it just runs, Winehouse suggests we take a crack at "doing some words" together over lunch in the observation deck. After my first several questions provoke clipped responses, I try what has always been a foolproof icebreaker, whether in bars or on tour buses: Ask the tattooed about their ink.
How old were you when you got your first tattoo?
What is it?
I got Betty Boop on my back. I just like tattoos.
What did your parents think of that?
My parents pretty much realized that I would do whatever I wanted, and that was it, really.
How many tattoos do you have altogether?
Twelve or thirteen.
Have you always been interested in traditional-style pinup girls and that sort of thing?
Yeah, I guess so.
That's my grandma, God rest her soul.
Have you ever had one covered up, or are there any you don't like to look at?
I don't regret anything.
Then how do you deal with things that you wish hadn't happened?
I don't know. Ask me that after I've been home and seen Blake.
Backstage at Toronto's Mod Club, it's obvious that the couple have smoothed things over. Winehouse is sitting on Blake's lap, laughing and pawing at him while they chat with her dad, Mitch, who's in from the U.K. for the weekend. She scurries over to the catering table and returns a few minutes later to present Mitch with a turkey-and-cucumber sandwich she's meticulously crafted for him. The gesture, he remarks, reminds him of a concoction he used to eat made of matzo and bananas. Blake whispers something to Winehouse and she convulses into giggles. "He asked if that's some kind of kike thing," she offers, and then asks, "What's more offensive, Dad, 'kike' or 'yid'?" Reluctant to render his own verdict, Mitch shrugs and looks at me across the table. "Ask this lady," he says, gracefully putting an end to the subject.
Winehouse is an unapologetic daddy's girl, even brandishing a tattoo with that phrase on her left shoulder. Mitch, a cab driver, and Amy's mother, Janis, a pharmacist, split up when she was nine and her older brother, Alex, was thirteen; the siblings lived mostly with their room in Southgate — a North London suburb that's home to celebrity rehab hospital the Priory, where Pete Doherty and the Darkness' Justin Hawkins were treated but where Winehouse refused to go, go, go.
"She was always very self-willed," Mitch tells me. "Not badly behaved, but … different." Though the children grew up around music ("We were always singing," says Mitch), including the old Frank Sinatra and Dinah Washington tunes she still adores, Amy's talents as a vocalist weren't immediately apparent. When she was ten, Winehouse and her best friend, Juliette Ashby, formed a rap duo modeled after Salt-n-Pepa that they called Sweet 'n Sour. (You can guess which one Amy was.) She didn't aspire to be a musician, though; instead, she fantasized about being a roller-skating waitress like the ones she'd seen in American Graffiti. She enrolled in the Sylvia Young Theatre School when she was twelve and attended classes there before being expelled for having her nose pierced and for general slackeritude. "I went to see her in a recital and I thought she'd just be acting," says Mitch. "But then she came out on the stage and started singing, and I couldn't believe it. I never knew she could sing like that."
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