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Rod and Elton? Just call them Phyllis and Sharon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rock star Rod Stewart may be famous for his bevy of ex-wives and girlfriends, but it is fellow pop star Elton John who comes in for the lion’s share of Stewart’s affection in excerpts from his new memoir.

Singer Rod Stewart accepts the Founders Award at the 28th annual ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) Pop Music Awards in Hollywood, California April 27, 2011. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

In an excerpt to be published in Rolling Stone magazine on Friday, Stewart recalled bygone days the two British singers spent partying and on holiday, the Christmas presents they exchanged, and even their nicknames for each other - Phyllis and Sharon.

“It was in the early 1970s that Elton and I drew especially close, the best of mates for a while,” Stewart, now 67, writes in “Rod: The Autobiography.” Reuters was given an advance copy of the magazine article on Wednesday.

John lived with his then-boyfriend just down the road from Stewart in the countryside west of London, not far from one of the royal palaces at Windsor, Stewart recalled.

“Our mutual friend Long John Baldry had christened me ‘Phyllis,’ he had christened Elton ‘Sharon,’ and that’s what we were to each other: Phyllis and Sharon. Or just ‘dear’.”

Stewart, who had scored by then with both the No.1 single, “Maggie May” and No.1 album on both sides of the Atlantic, also wrote admiringly of John’s stamina for hard partying:

“I also had to be in awe of the fact that, whether it was drink or cocaine, he could see me right under the table every time.”

John’s extravagance also impressed. Stewart writes of one Christmas when he scoured shops and found a novelty portable refrigerator for John that opened up automatically as a cloud of vapor emanated and a bottle was hoisted up - “Brilliant.”

“Elton’s present to me that year: a Rembrandt.”

“He later tartly referred to my present as ‘an ice bucket,’” Stewart wrote.

In 1985 on safari in Africa, the pair would dress up in bow ties and dark jackets for dinner round the fire.

The book also gave Stewart an opportunity to lay to rest a gay sex rumor that has dogged him since the 1970s. It involved a claim that he needed to get his stomach pumped after an encounter with sailors at a gay bar in San Diego, as he describes it.

The singer, who has eight children from three marriages and other girlfriends, attributed its origins to his flamboyant assistant and publicist, the late Tony Toon, who he said fed the story to the press in revenge for Stewart’s firing him.

“This story has stayed with me ever since,” Stewart wrote. “And God rest his soul -- but he was good at his job.”

“Rod: The Autobiography” will be published on October 23 by Crown Archetype.

Reporting by Chris Michaud, editing by Jill Serjeant and Marguerita Choy