looking back over my shoulder

I can see that look in your eye

I never dreamed it could be over

I never wanted to say goodbye  


Side View’s weekend theme this week is ‘Looking Back’. I had a completely different post planned for today, but I’ve just had news that a friend has died. Like me, he was often awake before dawn and we spent so many hours in happy bantering chat and respectful, harmless flirtation. A little piece of my heart has turned to ash today, on what would have been his 36th birthday.

Rest in peace, my sweet friend. I will never forget you.


In the mid to late 90s Matthew Stewardson looked set to become a rising star on the South African entertainment circuit. As one of the older presenters on K-TV, Matthew was popular and his star was rising fast. 

But after K-TV Matthew seemed to disappear from the radar as he took on small parts in movies – like the part of “valet” in The Redemption, a movie about a boxer who seeks revenge in South Africa. 

Matthew later revealed that he was “always a depressed teenager” and “felt like an outsider”. In his early twenties, with the pressure of wanting a successful career and growing up with an alcoholic father, Matthew started using cocaine. “And then I had car accident, and everything got out of hand. I went manic”, he revealed.

But there seemed to be light at the end of it all when Matthew was offered a chance to redeem himself and his floundering career. In 2002 M-Net bought the rights to host a little-known show called Idols, a reality singing competition that originated in the UK. 

M-Net appointed two hosts for the show, Candy Litchfield and Matthew.

Everything seemed to be going well for the young actor. He was gaining popularity and he appeared to be in control of his life again. 

“I knew I was in trouble and I think one of the basics of staying clean is honesty with yourself. And I wasn’t honest with myself – I went ‘I’m fine’, and that was half the problem I had in Idols. I had this great job and everything was going well, and how could I find someone and say ‘I’m crumbling, I’m going to use’?’

Half way through the first season Matthew was axed and replaced with Sami Sabiti. Soon afterwards the 27-year-old checked himself into a rehab center, shocking South Africans, whose celebrities were always clean and ironed (at least publically), Like Colin Moss. 

“This disease doesn’t care what you do. This disease doesn’t care if you’re a street sweeper or a president – it will take you down if you’ve got it… I’ve been to hell and back.” Matthew revealed to M-Net’s Carte Blanche a few months after losing the Idols gig.

It was a long and lonely struggle for Matthew after Idols, but he managed to stay clean for about five months. Then he got the chance of a lifetime – the lead role in Frankly Speaking, where he’d be singing Sinatra songs that he’d known from the age of six.

But just days before the first preview performances, Matthew had a relapse, after being drug-free for six months, and promptly lost his lead role as Frank Sinatra.

Matthew kept a low profile after this and slowly healed himself.  He had a brief stint on 5Fm as a DJ, and hosted some small daytime shows on SABC. 

Not giving up on his Rat Pack dreams, 34-year-old Matthew created a show called “Sing when you’re Swinging” which was staged at The Barnyard Theater in Broadacres last year. The production included Jonathan Roxmouth, Emmanuel Castis and Bianca La Grange (Idols).

And while he may have missed out on a glamorous television career, and maybe acting in Leon Schuster films, Matthew has managed to find himself in theatre. In keeping with his love of swing music Matthew signed on to play Dean Martin in a Las Vegas-style musical tribute show “The Rat Pack Live on Long Street” in Cape Town later this year. The show features swing music made famous by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Junior. Matthew will star alongside American Sinatra impersonator Patrick Tobin.



30 Comments Add yours

  1. Very sad, how often we just don’t really know what’s going on inside the people around us.

  2. Extraordinary characters are extraordinary characters, whether or not they make it big, and whatever they struggle with. Thanks for this, Cindy, and so sorry.

  3. granny1947 says:

    I am so sorry Cindy…36…he was still a baby!

  4. May the sunshine of comfort dispel the clouds of despair and may the memories you have, keep your soul full and the love that surrounds you help your heart heal. xo

  5. Diana Ferreira says:

    Damn. Sorry to read (and hear on the radio) about your friend passing.

  6. souldipper says:

    Hell’s over, Matthew. I hope your life will be celebrated.

  7. nzwaa says:

    So sorry Cin

  8. Hopestar says:

    So sorry Cindy.
    *tight hugs*

  9. Madmom says:

    May Matthew rest in peace.

  10. Ah, I’m so sorry to hear that, Cindy. I remember Matthew on Idols, and I remember reading about his struggles with drugs. I feel so sad, so sad. Sorry for your loss and the loss of such a precious life.
    Sunshine xx

  11. I’m sorry about the loss of your friend, Cindy.

  12. colonialist says:

    One is aware of mortality leering from the sidelines, but it takes such an event to stop us for a while from looking the other way.
    Really sad that so many of the chances available to him were lost, and that now it will no longer be possible to achieve the heights he should have reached.

  13. aardvarkian says:

    I’, sorry for your loss, Cindy. But this post is a fitting tribute to a fine young man.

  14. baglady says:

    Hugs, OC

  15. Oh Cindy, I’m so sorry for your loss. *Hugs*

  16. slpmartin says:

    So sorry to hear of your friend’s death…peace be with you.

  17. gospelwriter says:

    so sad when someone dies so young, especially when they’d struggled and it looked like they were going to do well – may he rest in peace, may peace be yours

  18. My thoughts are with you.

  19. Michelle says:

    Cindy {{{{{{{hugs}}}}}} I am sure he was grateful for the friendship with you.I am very saddened on the loss of my cousin Matthew.

    1. theonlycin says:

      My condolences, Michelle. He was a very special man.

      1. Michelle says:

        Yes he was 🙂 I wish I weren’t far away..

  20. buttercup600 says:

    So sorry Cin…hugs oxo

  21. SidevieW says:

    A year already. I’m always saddened by the way so many of the people with so much to offer somehow get caught in despair.

  22. I can’t believe how time has flown Cin.

  23. Colleen says:

    Time has certainly flown since this young talent was lost. Love you girl…sending you big loving hugs xxx

  24. leigh says:

    Until you meet again…XO

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