The inimitable Paula, and her 5,000 tit job

Paula Yates: 1960 - 2000 (pop singers she copped off with, at a rough estimate)

Obviously, it’s the kids everyone really feels sorry for. But then again, everybody always had sympathy for the children of Paula Yates, seeing as the poor bastards were saddled with bully-encouraging monikers like Fifi Tinkerbell, Peaches Honey Blossom and other names more suited to show jumping horses and pre-op transsexuals from Bangkok.

But today, we come not to bury Paula Yates, who was found dead in her house at the age of 40 this Sunday morn - there are going to be plenty of people more than happy to do that. Minor celebrities are always disliked, but there was something about Paula that inspired utter loathing and revulsion. I can’t think of one person who ever had a good word for the poor cow. One can imagine The Queen Mother herself turning on the telly one night, seeing Paula holding up a dildo or draping herself over some 80’s pop star (her two areas of expertise were shagging and copping off with lead singers of mediocre bands), saying "Ugh! Not that fucking slag again!", and going to bed.

But that would be a massive injustice to the woman. For one, she was just as much of an 80’s icon than Boy George, Margaret Thatcher and Mr.T. Secondly, she was a pioneer of the art of being famous for doing very little at all. Actually, that’s not necessarily true -she had a CV that most people in the media would kill for, presenting a swathe of TV programmes and writing a pile of books. Alright, most of them were not worth wiping your arse upon and she was really famous for playing Yoko Ono to an Irish Jaggerlike and a dead Australian bloke who really, really wanted to be Jim Morrison, but since when did that matter?

Like it or not, the woman was a pioneer of the celebrity culture that has infested our life, and people like Liz Hurley, Posh Spice and any other two-bit game show hostess who can get away with conning Hello! or OK! into paying for their weddings in exchange for exclusive pics should get on their knees and thank Paula Yates for giving them a standard of living way beyond their value to society. This is her story, set to the words of her favourite band, Duran Duran…

hughie.gif (10753 bytes)

I. Please Please Tell Me Now – Is There Something I Should Know?

Paula Yates was always going to be famous. Without question. She spent most of her life under the misconception that her dad was Jess Yates, a rather bonkers presenter of a TV show called Stars On Sunday in the early 70s. Said programme was an attempt to fulfil ITV’s contractual obligation to ‘Big Up’ Christ without boring the arse off people, and featured Jess giving it loads on the organ whilst Cliff Richard or Ken Dodd butchered That Old Rugged Cross or somesuch. Unfortunately, Ol’ Jess turned out to be a right cad and ran off with an 18 year-old strump. In 1972, this a scandal akin to Monicagate. The papers went berserk, and the man elbowed less trifling matters like the Miner’s Strike, the Oil Crisis and everything else right off the front page. Obviously, Paula learned a trick or two off her old man.

Except that he wasn’t her Dad. After he died a couple of years ago, Paula found out that her actual father was Hughie Greene, another enormous TV star back in the day who was famous for hosting a talent show called Opportunity Knocks, and his catchphrase "…and I mean that Most Sincerely, folks" whilst looking as about as sincere as the clowns that used to entertain Jewish kids on the way to the gas chambers. Well, Opportunity certainly knocked for Hughie when he got Paula’s Mam up the stick…

Paula & Bob

 II. The Union Of The (trouser) Snake

Some of us are born great. Some of us achieve greatness. And others have a pop star’s cock thrust upon them.

The list of women who achieved fame by shagging a muso is long and storied. Priscilla Presley, who lived with the King from the age of 14. Yoko Ono, who is supposed to have destroyed the delicate balance of the Beatles by nicking one of Ringo’s chocolate biscuits at Abbey Road. Marianne Faithfull having a Mars Bar shoved up her (allegedly, and hopefully, because it’s such a good story) at Keith Richards’ house. Linda McCartney, who used to be the answer to the question "What do you call a dog with Wings?" but redeemed herself by being the first person to make decent veggieburgers (cheers, Linda, and can you do me a favour and haunt the relevant authorities into bringing back those fake chicken & mushroom pies? They were well lush. Nice one).

Unfortunately for Paula, she came of age in the late 70s, when the pickings were leaner. Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger had already taken on the look of middle-aged lesbian inmates in Prisoner: Cell Block H, and all of the new breed were into Punk and New Wave and dead against all that ‘celebrity girlfriend’ shit. It just wasn’t fair. She’d already posed nude for Penthouse, so was entitled to a pop star boyfriend by default.

(Not surprisingly, the minute she became famous the photos appeared in premier Brit shit-rag, The News Of The World.What was surprising was that she didn’t try to stop them from printing the pics, or complained about press intrusion, or even passed it off as youthful indiscretion. She didn’t give a shit, and even ended up writing a column for them. Respect to her)

That all changed when Bob Geldof came along. Nowadays, Bob is best remembered for being Mother Teresa with pointy sideburns. The man of whom your Nana would say "Aye, well, it’s nice he’s doing so much for them Ethiopian kiddies, but I wish he’d have a good shave". The only man to ever say "Look, just give me the fucking money" for a good cause on live TV.

Back then, however, Bob was the lead singer of The Boomtown Rats, a second-division New Wave band from Ireland who seemed to live on Top Of The Pops for a time. Two images stand out from that era: the time I knocked my portable telly over when Bob suddenly stuck his face in the camera and I ran out of the bedroom in terror (the telly survived, you’ll be pleased to hear. It was indestructible. I once dropped it down a flight of stairs, and it still worked. But anyway). The other great Bob moment came when the band played Rat Trap on Top Of The Pops and he ripped up a poster of John Travolta. To me and the kids at Junior School, this was an act of revolution. Overnight, the playground was divided between girls and soft lads recreating Summer Nights, and nihilistic youths like me and my mates, who were Smashing The System by, er, jumping about with our arms round each other singing "We’re Going Down The Pub" by Sham 69.

Anyway, Paula met Bob, they got jiggy, and her career truly began. Before long, she showed the world that a new and important talent had arrived, with a book that set the tone for her career. It was called ‘Rock Stars In Their Underpants’, and consisted of photos of, well, Rock Stars. In Their Underpants. Right at the end of the tome, there was a pic of a framed pair of Elvis’ kecks.

 Paula slaps it about with Sting

III. Girls On Film

Finally, in 1982, Paula did the thing that she will be remembered for until people eventually forget what she did and who she was.

The Tube might have been a shameless rip-off of Ready Steady Go!, which was the greatest music show ever shown on the telly. But then again, virtually every pop show on the TV today is a shameless rip-off of The Tube. Three hours long, live, starting at Friday tea-time, bridging the gap between coming home from school and, well, going out and hanging around school in the evening. And totally essential.

Anyone worth a damn in the early to mid-eighties appeared live on The Tube. It was the last TV show The Jam appeared on, and it broke acts like U2, Madonna, The Cure and Frankie Goes To Hollywood. In a time when videos were just as important (if not more so) than the actual songs, The Tube always had ‘em first. Sometimes, they even had special late-night shows in order to debut full-length and uncensored screenings of Two Tribes, Thriller and that Duran Duran video with the birds rubbing ice cubes on their nips.

Basically, The Tube was that damn good. And it made stars of their presenters – Jools Holland (the likeably arsey keyboard player in Squeeze) and Paula Yates. And she was brilliant. Her interviewing technique involved dragging some Pop Gonk on the sofa and flirting her arse off with them. She was like your slutty big sister who brought home some new pop hunk boyfriend every week and tried to cop off with him every time your Mam put the kettle on. One week, she’d be trying it on with Terence Trent D’Arby. The next, she’s reducing someone out of Heaven 17 to a puddle of shy bashfulness. TV interviewers usually become famous for nailing down people like Richard Nixon or Lady Di, whilst others bring out facets of important people’s characters we never knew existed, like Face To Face in the 60s. Paula Yates became famous for looking as if she was this close to rubbing Simon Le Bon’s balls with her foot and going down on the lead singer in Imagination.

Sadly, The Tube was too edgy to last. Paula announced that her and a co-presenter were going to have a "Big lezzie sex session" whilst introducing Twisted Sister or some such band, Jools Holland went even further by saying "Come on and watch The Tube, you groovy fuckers" during a kid’s TV show ad break, and the show was axed.

Paula and Jim Morri - er, Michael Hutchence

IV: The (gag) Re-Flex

But just because your gravy train hits the buffers, it doesn’t mean the end of the ride. By this time, Paula had reached the zenith of her career by being famous for being famous. And she made an art form out of it. Being married to Saint Bob didn’t harm her exposure in the slightest, but she was more than capable of going for self. Saddling babies with stupid names. Presenting an endless series of TV shows that were supposed to be sexually educational in the era of AIDS Awareness, but were really a good excuse to get some tits and arse on the telly. And going back to her roots by heavily flirting with pop stars in bed. As a matter of fact, some would say her greatest achievement was being the only woman to be filmed in the sack with George Michael.

Her last big TV gig was as a presenter on The Big Breakfast, Channel 4’s morning show. Obviously, the fact that her husband owned the production company helped, somewhat. By this time (the early 90s) it was evident that it was too late in the day to flirt with pop stars anymore. It wasn’t that she was too old – just that the acts were so damn young. Put Paula on a sofa with some whelp out of Take That or East 17, and she came over like some dirty auntie who says things like "Eeh, you’re a big lad now aren’t you Jason?" and plys you with Babycham and steak tartare in an attempt to snaffle your cherry. It just wasn’t working out, and Paula was aced out by Chris Evans, who was well on the way to becoming The Most Annoying Cunt In The World, Ever.

And then she dumped Bob for Michael Hutchence. It was always bound to happen. There had been rumours flying around the papers for years that Paula had been slapping it about with people like Terence Trent D’Arby, Ben Unpronounceable-Surname of Curiosity Killed The Cat, and, ooh, just get a copy of Smash Hits, flick it open at any page and stick a pin in. Yeah, him too. Viz even printed a board game where you pretended to be Paula and collected points by shagging as many pop stars as possible: "Watching Top Of The Pops, you realised you’ve shagged everyone in the Top Ten – Collect 50 points! You can win the game outright if you achieve the impossible and pop Cliff Richard’s cherry – simply throw six consecutive sixes and you’ve done it!"

What ensued gave the papers invaluable training for all the palaver with Charles, Diana, and Camilla that was soon to come. For a time in the early 90s, you couldn’t open a paper without seeing Paula’s gusset as she got out of a car, or Michael punching a photographer in the face outside a nightclub, whilst poor old Bob followed mournfully around with a bunch of flowers. Paula divorced Bob, shacked up with Michael, who gave her another kid to saddle with a dumb name, and then choked himself to death on a belt whilst having a wank in a hotel, or something. Suicide or sexual asphixiation? Paula always said that he was too much of a gentleman to drop her in the shit like that, but having said that, gentlemen don’t usually make a habit of choking their neck and their chicken with the assistance of prostitutes. Either way, it was the beginning of the end.

Paula at Michael's funeral

V. The Diving Man’s Coming Up For Air, Cos Everybody Loves Pulling Dolly By The Hair

Not surprisingly, she entered a period of depression that would last until the rest of her life. Even less surprisingly, no-one gave a toss. What’s the difference between Paula Yates and the England cricket team? Paula Yates managed to bring The Ashes back from Australia. And so on.

She bounced in and out of expensive clinics, but hey, doesn’t every micro-celeb? By this time, not even the fact that she’d shacked up with a recovering heroin addict failed to stir much interest in the papers. Not until he stitched her up and ‘exclusively revealed’ the details of their relationship in the News Of The Screws. I bet he’s feeling pretty chuffed with himself at the moment.

The final act came about a year ago when she was invited to interview Jerry Springer in front of a celebrity audience. She turned up completely off her face, started rambling about nothing in particular, and then had to walk off set when she developed a nosebleed, leaving Jerry to basically interview himself. No-one explained what was going on, but it was pretty damn obvious. Particularly when Jerry said to her "I don’t do cocaine – I just like the smell of it".

And that, basically, is it. The attempted suicide attempt. Losing the kids to Bob. Sleeping with Michael's ashes in her pillow. Obviously, with the benefit of hindsight, cracking up. It's all very unnecessarily tragic, isn't it?

For someone who spent 18 years in the limelight, her legacy is small – a few books that have probably increased in morbid curiosity value by about 10p in the local charity shop, the "Hey! Hey! Hey!" sample in The Prodigy's Firestarter (that she did originally for the Art Of Noise), and pics of her having anal sex with Michael somewhere on the Internet. But to pass her off as another Celebrity Skank is a bit uncharitable, not to mention plain wrong. Sure, all she ever did was shag pop stars and make a living out of it, but she was unlucky to do it in the 80s. Ten years earlier, she’d have been seen as a sexual avatar and proto-feminist. Ten years later, she’d have been utterly glorified as an Independent Woman Of The 90s who knew how to play the game and used what she had to get what she wanted. But being willing and able to slag it with celebs in an age where AIDS paranoia was rampant was a 'crime' for which she was never forgiven.

And of course, if she was a bloke, we'd all have been praising her to the skies for being such a love-em-and-leave 'em 'hellraiser'.

Ta-ra, Paula. Somewhere up there, you’re probably rolling about on a cloud with dead pop stars like Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, and Falco. Oh, and Michael as well.

   
© The Indomitable Nishlord, 2002