HE IS famous for his temper tantrums, but Sir Elton John may soon be out-bawled. He and partner David Furnish have become parents for the first time to a baby boy born to a surrogate mother on Christmas Day.
• Sir Elton with 14-month-old Ukrainian orphan Lev, whom he was not allowed to adopt Picture: AP
Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, who weighed 7lb 15oz, was born in California. The identity of the mother is being kept secret.
Sir Elton said he was "overwhelmed with happiness and joy" after his wish to become a father came true.
Several celebrity figures congratulated the singer, with actress Elizabeth Hurley among the first to offer her best wishes. She wrote on Twitter: "Massive congratulations to David and Elton on having their beautiful son. Can't wait for my first cuddle."
The news they had become parents was first reported by USMagazine.com and confirmed by Sir Elton's Los Angeles-based publicist. In a joint statement, the couple told the magazine "Zachary is healthy and doing well" and declared themselves "overwhelmed with happiness and joy at this very special moment".
Zachary's middle name is a possible nod to Sir Elton's 1971 song Levon, whose lyrics were written by the rocker's long-time collaborator Bernie Taupin and inspired by Levon Helm, the drummer and singer for The Band.
The child will not want for cuddly toys: Sir Elton has, in the past, dressed as Donald Duck while singing hits such as Your Song, Sorry Seems to Be The Hardest Word and Tiny Dancer.
• The law: Surrogate baby can come at a hefty cost
Sir Elton had spoken previously of his desire to become a father, announcing last autumn that he wanted to adopt a 14-month-old boy from an orphanage in Ukraine. He was prohibited from adopting Lev, who is HIV positive, but Furnish said they were working to ensure the child and his brother "have the best health care, education and family options available to them".
Sir Elton revealed the couple had always talked about adoption but that it was Furnish who had wanted to do it and he who had objected as he is in his 60s.
It was the death of his long-term keyboard player, Guy Babylon, that helped change his mind in the end. Babylon, who died of a heart attack last year aged 52, had two children, whom the singer described as "wonderful". He said at the time: "What better opportunity to replace someone I lost than to replace him with someone I can give a future to?"
But his plans to adopt were reportedly thwarted by Ukrainian laws that did not recognise the couple's civil partnership and viewed the singer as too old.
Sir Elton and Furnish are following in the footsteps of millionaires Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow, who became Britain's first gay surrogate parents in 1999. The Essex couple have five surrogate children and made history when both were named on the infants' birth certificates.Like Sir Elton's son Zachary, the Drewitt-Barlows' first babies - twins Aspen and Saffron - were born to a surrogate mother in California.
While surrogacy has increasingly become an option for gay couples in the UK over the past decade or so, it is tightly regulated under British law and couples often consider travelling abroad, where the rules are less strict.
California is recognised as being generally accepting of surrogacy agreements, including those that involve gay and lesbian parents.
Sir Elton is already the godfather to several children, including John Lennon's son Sean, Elizabeth Hurley's child and Victoria and David Beckham's first two boys.