Paula Yates - an interview from 1995

Paula Yates
Paula Yates

One October day in 1995

Paula Yates's eyes are huge, round, maybe a little puffy but there something a little artificial about their allure, something a little contrived about their perkiness. You feel embarrassed staring at them, but struggle to drag your gaze away.

Most of the time they are averted, looking down as she paints her nails with what looks like Tate & Lyle black treacle, or gazing into the recesses of her memory. Then they flip around and fix you with what seems to be sincerity, but the trademark bored voice fails to provide the necessary back-up.

Paula Yates divides opinions along gender lines. If you are a woman you may resent her continued ability to attract bit-of-rough rock stars, to trill on about the joys of motherhood while swanning effortlessly into glamorous and undemanding TV jobs, If you are male . . . well she must have had something special to snare Michael Hutchence, a man whose previous paramours included A-list starlets like Kylie Minogue and Helena Christensen.

Today, on a crisp October day in 1995, Paula is looking ropey. It's been a tough year, marked by the break-up of her 18 year relationship with Saint Bob Geldof, salacious tabloid stories about her affair with Hutchence, and her sacking from her regular day job as boudoir interviewer on The Big Breakfast. She has got flu, the lipstick is uneven, the lines around her mouth a little deeper than they are allowed to be on screen. She is a bit battered by it all.

"What I'm concerned about at the moment is just getting through this part of my life in one piece," she says, longing for everybody to go away and leave her, Hutchence and her three daughters - Fifi, Peaches and Pixie - in peace. It might have been an idea to resist writing the autobiography then.

Said book was originally going to be called, in a nudgingly cute piece of self-deprecation, My Life Under The Stars, but wasn't in the end. The first line is "my father had a very large organ" and the verbal dexterity rarely improves. It is a woeful read, written in three weeks and steadfastly avoiding any detail that could be remotely contentious or provocative, the stuff with which, in truth, Paula's life has been packed.

"Yeah, I did leave a lot out," she admits. I left huge amounts out, partly because if I had left everything in, it would have been like War And Peace. I left anything out that would hurt anyone, regardless of whether I thought they'd been hideous. I wouldn't have been able to do it. Other stuff I left out because they wouldn't have been able to publish it. I barely talk about my feelings to anyone. Maybe a handful of close friends. And I tend to be very secretive about what I let people know. So writing a book like this is a nightmare, because you have to give a certain amount away, or it's not worth doing."

She makes do with sly hints, so the reader can surmise that life with Bob was 18 years of mental and domestic submission, that Michael is the sort of lover who borrows Jodie Foster's Oscar statuette so that he and Paula can employ it in a fashion probably not envisaged by the Academy. Amid the leaden prose, the vagueness and the jarring chronological leaps, there is a sense of shallow sadness about Paula's life.



Paula Yates with Michael Hutchence
Paula Yates with Michael Hutchence

In the book she comes across as a spoiled brat who never quite gets spoiled enough, bullied by a frankly mad father, taken for granted by a glamorous actress mother, cosseted in pink seclusion by a slobbish husband. Even the fame accrued by her playfully sluttish interviews did nbot make her happy.

"I've never enjoyed it. Fame was never a big deal to me because my parents were always famous. All their friends were always famous, so it wasn't like I'd come from [she searches desperately for some depraved example of humble origins beyond her experience] an estate where suddenly becoming famous is absolutely glamorous and tantalising. It held no glamour for me."

"The thing about fame is that it compels Sun journalists to try to get hold of your medical records, and print any scurrilous innuendo on offer about your extra-marital inclinations. I don't accept it as being part of some Faustian deal in that you pay for being famous by being f****d with," she insists.

"You pay for your fame through the amount of work you have to do. I don't think it is everybody's right to know everything, even who you're sleeping with. Everyone has a right to privacy, it's a basic human necessity."

Her solution to tabloid frenzy is not to think about them, not to read them. Oh, and to sell serialisation rights to her book to the Sun .

"Yes, That was a financial necessity. The book is a financial necessity because I have to buy a house. Serialisation in the Sun came into the same category. I was fired from The Big Breakfast and I have three children to support and everything to keep going."

The break-up with Bob came out of a realisation that she wasn't happy with her life, a rare introspective insight triggered by the death of her father Jess Yates, he of the very large organ which he played to the nation on Stars On Sunday , and malicious exposes in the News Of The World .

"His death really upset me, and I'm sure this is a real cliché of beeavement, but I was very aware how final death was. I went into his house and saw boxes of his old press cuttings and photos I remembered from when I was a child and I just thought that's it. At the time I was deeply unhappy and knew I had to deal with it. And I dealt with it with a vengeance. I really thought abouit what I wanted to do with my life. It took two years, which is how long I think it takes most women to make that kind of decision."

The swapping of Bob for Michael coincided with an image makeover and the much publicised breat enlargement. "I've always wanted to have huge, huge, vast breasts, and so I waited until I was no longer with my husband because he never liked the idea."

Her hints suggest that Michael Hutchence is somewhat more easy-going than frightening old Jess, boorish Bob, or bullying old Channel 4. Paula's dreams of cosy domestic bliss remain untainted by her mid-life crisis, her ideal a world in which she can escape the necessity to do trashy TV programmes and churn out trashier books to keep a suitably chic Chelsea roof over her head.

"I still believe in all those things. It's the saddest thing that I wasn't able to make it work in the end. After 18 years I had to move away from something that I'd invested my entire adult life in. But I still want that security."

She sees no obstacle in Hutchence's reputation as a man with a bedpost so notched it looks like a peculiarly intricate totem pole. "I don't want to interfere with anything he wants to do. I think that's the best approach really. He always seems to do what I want . . . he's not obedient, he just agrees with me. We're very, very alike, which maybe is one of the things that has got us in trouble. But also it works very well. I do understand him. It's easier . . . than Bob."

There's a sigh, then a sniff.

"I'm really happy now," she says with an infinite weariness.


A Footnote

In November 1997 Michael Hutchence died in a hotel room in Sydney. The coroner's verdict was suicide, while depressed and under the influence of drugs and alcohol. At the time Hutchence and Paula Yates were involved in a bitter custody struggle with Geldof.

In 1998 paternity tests revealed that Paula Yates's biological father was not the TV presenter Jess Yates, but the TV quiz-show host Hughie Green. Green had died in May 1997.

In September 2000, Paula Yates was found dead in her London home after an accidental heroin overdose. She was 41.

Her daughter, Peaches Geldof, is a presenter on British TV.

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