My famous 5IVE! brother spends pounds 100 on a haircut while I beg
Sunday Mirror, Dec 24, 2000 by MIKE HAMILTON
FOR a moment Sean Conlon was startled by the down-and-out who rushed to greet him as he stepped from his limo outside an exclusive nightclub.
He glanced at the grubby clothes and the pale, sunken face, and then realisation dawned...he was looking at the brother he hadn't seen for months.
They were an unlikely sight, embracing in the street - the millionaire star of the chart-topping band 5IVE! and the unkempt figure of his elder brother Dominic, who begs for a living.
At 19, Sean has already achieved success beyond his dreams, so he is desperately sad to see Dominic, 28, suffering a nightmare of heroin addiction and poverty.
"My ultimate hope is for him to be clean, smartly dressed, smiling, happy and involved in music, because that's what he truly loves," says Sean.
He has clearly thought a lot about Dominic since that meeting a month ago, and delivers a touching message to him through the Sunday Mirror.
He says: "I love you, and your family loves you. We miss you and all want to see you clean. Then the world would be your oyster."
Sean, who has a pounds 3million fortune, says he dare not shower his brother with money in case he spends it on drugs.
Dominic's addiction to crack cocaine and heroin is so strong that he has admitted he will probably even spend part of Christmas Day begging for money to fuel his habit.
Singer-songwriter Sean says: "If he was clean I would work miracles for him and do whatever I could to help him.
"I would get him a flat and take him into the studio with me and try to set him up as a DJ."
Sean, who lives in a Surrey mansion with bandmate Jason Brown known as J, is distraught to think that his brother will be sharing a meal with other drug addicts and the homeless on Christmas Day.
Although the brothers were close when they grew up on the rough King George Avenue council estate in Horsforth, near Leeds, their lives now are worlds apart.
Sean is known to millions around the world as a member of the chart-topping boy band who have scored a string of Top 10 hits, including Keep On Moving and Queen cover, We Will Rock You.
5IVE! are currently playing to full houses up and down the country during a sell-out tour...although J and band mate Ritchie Neville landed in trouble of their own last week when they appeared in a Dublin court following a bar brawl.
Sean travels in style, staying in plush hotels. In stark contrast, Dominic spends most evenings injecting himself with heroin in the dark alleys that surround the grim hostel in London's Covent Garden where he lives.
Dominic also uses crack cocaine, which he smokes to counter the depression of coming down from heroin.
He spends pounds 40 a day buying just under a gram of heroin and pounds 30 a day on crack cocaine rocks.
He takes the drugs with other residents of his hostel, or sometimes on his own in his lonely bedsit-style room.
But despite Dominic's addiction, Sean feels more optimistic about the future since their chance meeting outside London club The End.
Dominic was busy begging as usual when he spotted Sean walking on his way into the club with fellow 5IVE! member Jason. He immediately dashed
up to greet him. Sean says: "It was a very emotional meeting and we had a really close heart-to-heart.
"I went away feeling very positive because I believed what he was saying and could tell he really wants to get better.
"We were talking about how good he is at music. He is a great DJ and has a talent for studio work. If he was clean I could take him to London clubs and get him spots playing.
"He knows he has got to help himself first. Then he can turn to me and together we will make it right.
"I just pray we are going to see the old Dominic that used to be there." Sean is grateful to Dominic for encouraging him to take up music as a youngster. Ironically, he says it was his brother who also stopped him falling into the drugs trap.
"Dominic started me off on music," he says. "I would never have touched an instrument if it wasn't for him. He was always playing drums and DJ-ing in the house and some of it rubbed off on me.
"All I want to do is give it back to him. I really want him to be there with me and that's what we were speaking about when we met.
"If it was only a question of money, I would put myself in a council house for him and give him everything I've got. What he needs is psychological help. He needs his self-esteem building up because the problem is something that is in his mind.
"Also, he always told me how bad drugs were and the side-effects that they have and how smaller drugs can lead on to worse drugs.
"It is sad, but my brother being in that situation and the advice he gave me helped steer me away from drugs. I could see what they did.
"It was nice to have an older brother there when I was growing up and I need him there now. I am crying out for him to be there for me.
"His family need him as well and they all miss him.
"But we feel like we are running out of options and hitting our heads against a brick wall. I feel for any families that are in this situation." Dominic, who has appeared in court three times on begging charges, told his story to the Sunday Mirror in between asking tourists for cash in the West End.
HIS pale complexion and scabby face bear testament to his ill health. He says: "I'm all over the place and really down because everybody is starting to celebrate Christmas.
"I get very sentimental at this time of year. Christmas is a time for family, and I just wish I could turn the clock back."
This year Dominic will share a simple Christmas meal of turkey, potatoes, stuffing and brussels sprouts with other residents at the St Mungo's hostel. Only a handful of people at the all-male, charity- run home are expected to stay on Christmas Day.
At midday Dominic will come down from his concrete-walled room containing only a bed, storage unit and sink to join the others for the free meal.
Usually he spends pounds 2.60 a day on subsidised food at the hostel - cereal, toasted sandwiches, omelettes and simple evening meals of ravioli, pasta and pork chops.
Dominic says: "I can't believe my brother spends pounds 100 on designer hair cuts while I have to beg on the streets."
But he said he was moved by the meeting with Sean. Fighting back tears, he said: "I hugged Sean for five minutes - I didn't let go of him, he didn't let go of me and I couldn't stop hugging him.
"I had a chat with him and he seemed upset but he was holding his own because he's strong. I felt happy but sad as well. I was happy because I was missing him but sad because I couldn't reach any further than that night.
"I didn't ask him for a penny but he gave me about pounds 100.
"He wanted me to come into the club but I was in no state to go in at all. He was pleading with me to help myself get better.
"He took my address and told me that he would be in touch, but we can't be in touch with the way things are at the moment.
"It is not good publicity for him and the band to be seen with me. He's still my brother and he loves me and he made sure I knew that."
As 5IVE! last night came towards the end of their tour of Britain and Ireland, Dominic told of the harsh reality of life on the streets.
During his years as a down-and-out he has witnessed violence, including muggings and stabbings.
He has also seen friends suffer overdoses from drugs.
He says: "It's a horrible existence and I've seen everything bad you could expect to see. I've had enough of living in this way.
"I know the dangers of living like I do. It's not really an existence for anyone and that's what makes me so determined to sort myself out in the New Year."
THE brothers were raised in Horsforth by their now-divorced parents Dennis, 54, and Kate, 53. They have two sisters, Katrina, 32, and Charlotte, 14.
Despite being educated at the strict local Catholic school, they were still surrounded by violence, crime, racism - and drugs.
Dominic says: "I went through a lot of racism when I grew up, and drugs were perhaps my way of dealing with it and looking big. They called me black bastard, nigger and Paki.
"Sean was a lot more headstrong than me and put a stop to it. He could look after himself and people didn't do it to him as much, but I still had to stick up for him."
Dominic fell into a cycle of crime and drug use from the age of 11. He started using cannabis, speed and ecstasy before moving on to heroin.
He admits: "I've used everything - cocaine, acid and magic mushrooms too.
"I started using heroin 10 years ago after I had gone through a long bout of using ecstasy. There was a need to use something after five years of uppers. And with heroin, like Pink Floyd said, I felt comfortably numb.
"Ecstasy causes paranoia, and heroin gets rid of all those feelings, but little did I know that I would get addicted and fall into the trap. Where we grew up was horrible. I watched over Sean and made sure he didn't go down the same drug-beaten track that I went down."
Although Dominic is estranged from his once-close family, he hopes for a reconciliation if he can conquer his addictions.
Both his father and mother have offered him help, but Dominic has constantly abused their trust.
The worst example was two years ago when he and Sean went to spend Christmas at his father's house in Southport, Lancashire.
"Sean had bought me a Nike top and a jumper," he says. "My dad had bought me another jumper and a bathroom set and I got other presents as well. But I was withdrawing from heroin and sold them. I didn't see any other way out of it and I only got pounds 20 or pounds 30. It was nothing compared to the heartache and upheaval it caused. I felt so guilty and embarrassed about it all."
But Dominic hopes to rebuild his ties with all his relatives in the New Year if he can wean himself off drugs. He plans to stick to a methadone treatment course run at the hostel.
"I hope next Christmas will be better than this one," says Dominic. "My ideal Christmas would be to spend it with my family at home. I would like to see my father and then my mother and Sean.
"They will be thinking of me all the time but can't get in touch because they feel such despair. There's not much Sean can do for me until I pull my finger out and help myself.
"Hopefully this time next Christmas everything will be different and maybe one day I can perform with him and 5IVE!"