THE BACK PAGES

She's the madwoman in the attic

Poor Paul. It’s all seeming so very Jane Eyre-ish. There's a reason for that.

ROSALIND MILES November 27 2006
THE BACK PAGES

She's the madwoman in the attic

Poor Paul. It’s all seeming so very Jane Eyre-ish. There's a reason for that.

ROSALIND MILES November 27 2006

THE BACK PAGES

She's the madwoman in the attic

Poor Paul. It’s all seeming so very Jane Eyre-ish. There's a reason for that.

ROSALIND MILES

media

It’s never fun to be dumped. When Paul McCartney kicked wife Heather Mills out, it says a lot that she didn’t attract any of the sympathy normally given

to a high-profile dumpee. All the goodwill went to her unceremonious dumper, creating yet another item on Heather’s grievance list.

So it wasn’t going to be pretty from the start. She claimed he locked her out of the London house and froze all the bank accounts, leaving her bringing up their toddler on a shoestring, and struggling for cash. His side let it be known that her spending habits were out of control, and the lockout was only his way of protecting the staff. And these were just the opening salvos.

Rubbing their hands, the assorted hacks, cynics and sensation-mongers of the British press deliriously anticipated the most poisonous celebrity divorce since 1963, when the Duke of Argyll dished his duchess in court by producing photographs of her enjoying an exotic wang-wang-doodle with a naked, headless man. Later, fully clothed, and with a head attached by a less coy or more capable photographer, the duchess’s lover bore a striking resemblance to Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., thus neatly combining film star appeal with aristocratic allure. But even that titillating tale paled in comparison with the divorce of the Greatest Living Beatle and the one-legged ex-porn model. As the press fanned the flames, the mother of all battles degenerated into pure soap opera, with rumours flying like candy floss at a fair, the frothier the better. “Kill the bitch!” a pregnant Stella McCartney is reported to have screamed after hearing stepmama Heather’s allegations that Paul hit his

first wife, Linda. “Heather is just vomit!” Could it get any sillier, any soapier or more sordid?

Indeed it could. Only days later, Heather was nailed with allegations of impersonation and fraud. Before marrying Paul, on the short list for a TV presenter’s job in the late nineties, she apparently allowed the producer to think that she was an investigative journalist, also called Heather Mills, claiming the established writer’s work as her own. When Mills got a column in Britain’s leading Sunday newspaper, she says Heather repeated the trick, declaring Mills’s reports on poverty, prisons and injustice to be her work.

Heather was soon rumbled: in the small London media world, the TV producer’s partner had worked with the real Mills only the week before. How on earth did she think she could get away with it? According to the “other” Heather Mills, Heather stuck to her guns for over a year, displaying a childlike, almost pitiful cognitive dissonance. There’s an underlying pathos in the disabled, struggling, uneducated wannabe seizing as her alter ego a respected crusader known for standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. But identity theft is a calculated act of piracy, not a pitiable offence. To Heather, sharing a name with a woman she admired was a chance of self-promotion too good to miss. Rapacious in appropriating the name and tenacious in maintaining it, Heather emerges as an amoral opportunist, an adventuress in the old English tradition of Moll Flanders or Becky Sharp.

And while the British public was digesting that, an unsigned document containing a torrent of complaints against Paul was leaked to the press. He was callous, thoughtless, selfish and domineering, it alleged. He got drunk regularly, hit her, knocked her over, choked and assaulted her, pouring wine over her head and jabbing the stem of his broken wineglass into her arm.

Nor was Heather the only victim of Paul’s temper. He stopped her from breastfeeding their baby, declaring, “I don’t want a mouthful of breast milk.” Meanwhile, her requests for a chamber pot under the bed, to save a nighttime trip to the bathroom on her hands

and knees when her prosthetic limb wasn’t on, were dismissed with scorn. Paul also refused to let her cook one evening meal for their daughter and himself, expecting her to prepare two dinners every night, one for him alone. Paul emerges from this as a domestic tyrant straight out of Victorian melodrama. It’s all turned horribly toxic, and the great British public is loving every second of it. But as the yellow eye of British journalism is clapped to the bedroom keyhole looking for more, the frenzy has obscured wider issues of public interest.

Did the British media break the law in their eagerness to publish those accusations? When some newspapers, TV stations and news outlets rushed to deliver the allegations piping hot, they did so in defiance of the Judicial Proceedings (Regulation of Reports) Act of 1926, which restricts all reporting of divorces to names, addresses, occupations, points of law and “a concise statement” of any complaints. How did they get away with it? According to media lawyer Duncan Lamont, divorcing couples are not entitled to the protection of the 1926 rule, if they can be held to have already invaded their own privacy, or put their lives in the public domain. Ironically, Lamont says this exemption was created when John Lennon tried and failed to stop his first wife, Cynthia, from publishing details of their marriage breakdown.

And who leaked the lurid details before the 13 pages reached the High Court? Who was the mystery woman who tripped into a London convenience store, and faxed the sheets from Heather’s divorce dossier to the national press? Heather’s solicitor previously represented Diana in the Wales’s divorce, while Paul’s acted for Prince Charles. Both firms boast that uniquely British combination of wealth, class, discretion and impeccable professionalism with a mastery of backstairs thuggery and skulduggery. Would one of them have leaked the petition to score an early advantage?

It’s possible. But who benefits? Not Paul. He’s already on the back foot, with so many mis judgments to his name. Whatever possessed him to think that a sexy and ambitious then-3 6-year-old was interested in him, not in his fame, status and cash? However did he overlook Heather’s previous career of self-promotion and self-reinvention, and believe she would focus on him, as Linda did?

When they got together, Heather was painted as the harpy who forced Paul to ride over the hostility of his family and friends, and jettison trusted professionals. If this is true, it makes Paul look disloyal, weak and henpecked. If it was his decision, and he imposed Heather on them all through the force of his will, then he was short-sighted, deluded and vain. Was this why he refused a pre-nuptial agreement, because he believed that every-

• thing was going to be alright, or if it wasn’t, that he could control it? Or was it a purely financial calculation, since pre-nups are not generally enforceable in English courts?

Looking bad already, Paul is not likely to have made it worse for himself. So was it Heather? She’s currently the most compulsively raked over and copiously abused woman in the whole of the U.K. Does she need any addition to the stress and strain?

It’s true that Heather is doing weird things now. Gossip swirls around the large black bag she carries everywhere and parks in a prominent place: is she taping everyone she meets? She is certainly videoing compulsively, capturing on camcorder all the reporters and photographers at her door every time she leaves the house.

But taking control is part of the pattern of her life. Reshaping raw or hostile reality and inconvenient truth in the process, as she does, is the classic response of a strong, needy character to adverse events. From birth, her determination to break out of her poor background set her at odds with a class-ridden society adept at keeping the have-nots down. Fighting these battles formed in her an al-

IT’S TRUE HEATHER’S DOING WEIRD THINGS. GOSSIP SWIRLS AROUND HER LARGE BLACK BAG.

divorce courts have traditionally favoured the male so much that the polystyrene cup magnate of the U.S., Robert Dart, moved to Britain to divorce his wife in 1996 and hang onto his cash. Few places in the Western world treated divorced women worse. Earl Spencer, Diana’s brother, managed to find one when he moved his entire family to South Africa. When he divorced his wife, Victoria, he parted with only £2 million of his £80-million-odd or so, to a spouse who was the mother of his four children, including his son and heir. But for most mega-rich men, Britain does just fine.

Change is in the air. In the 1996 divorce of Caroline and Terence Conran, Habitat founder and design guru, the international businessman offered his wife £2.5m, or just one-fortieth of his fortune, after three decades of marriage, during which she had borne his

most sociopathic ability to twist circum stances to her advantage, convincing peo ple she had been a top model when she was never more than a topless tabloid type. Later she showed a flair worthy of Richard Nixon in converting a disaster into something that would advance her in the world, using the devastating loss of a leg to raise her profile and propel her into A-list celebrity charity work, where she met Paul. And in the struggle with Paul, she needs to set the stakes very high. In the past, British

infidelities, raised his children and helped his businesses. Conran was eventually ordered to pay Caroline £10.5 million. And last May, just a week after Heather and Paul separated after only four years of marriage, Britain’s highest court sent a shudder down the spines of every wealthy man when it awarded Melissa Miller £5 million of her exhusband’s £175-million kitty, even though their marriage collapsed before its third anniversary. The law lords reasoned that Melissa had a “reasonable expectation” that her life of luxury would continue, even if her brief marriage didn’t. Also, significantly for Heather, they cited Melissa’s husband’s actions—he’s cheated on her—as a factor in determining the award.

Heather too is seeking a settlement that will be decided not on the basis of her needs, but that will loudly trumpet her value and her worth. But she’s got a struggle on her hands. English law, built on centuries of precedents, remains inherently biased in the favour of the male. And when the man has the name, the money and the place in the sun, she’s up against a powerful machine. To win her due, she needs to come out of the box with a bang.

Could she have leaked the anti-Paul material as a pre-emptive strike, to get her retal-

iation in first? Highly unlikely. At a stroke, she’s been forced to show her hand. She’s played all her cards while Paul’s are still in the pack. And it won’t help her even if she proves her allegations true.

Is that possible? Paul is idolized as a modern-day Mozart, a pillar of 20th-century British cultural heritage, and a Living National Treasure. But Paul has lived in PaulWorld for 40-odd years now, able to have and do anything he wants. And PaulWorld quickly turned into Very Rich Man’s World, where no one says you nay. Paul has never forgotten where he came from, and he’s never had to change. So inside, he may well be an unreconstructed Northern male, who only passed as femalefriendly because he loved his wife. If he

wanted Heather to be at his beck and call, to have his dinner on the table and to stop feeding the baby when he demanded her attention, he’d be just the same as any other sexagenarian working-class Liverpudlian who sees his wife as an adjunct to himself, and gets angry when she falls down on the job.

Some witnesses have already declared for Heather along these lines, describing Paul as selfish and over-controlling. London literary agent and vegan Peter Cox, who worked with Linda on her vegetarian recipe books, claims to have seen her frequently in tears after Paul’s bullying, and made tapes of her talking of leaving him. But the beating Heather alleges? The wounding? The charges that he whacked Linda too? These allegations are likely to be set against some of Heather’s other claims, such as the story in her autobiography, A Single Step, that as a child she and another girl had been kidnapped and molested by a pedophile. This prompted the lawyer for the real victim to come forward to say that the attack had happened solely to Heather’s childhood friend, not to her. Similarly, Heather had written that her mother had lost a leg in a car accident, when she’d been seen nipping round on two.

Is she mad, or what? “Barking!” one London woman columnist pronounced last week.

As Heather thrashes around, Paul has quietly gone on the charm offensive to regain his “good boy” image. This month saw the triumphant launch of his oratorio, Ecce Cor Meum [“Behold My Heart”], a piece inspired by Linda, followed by a relaxed and dignified radio interview. Last week, obliging as ever, he stopped his car in New Jersey to give an impromptu press conference in response to the excitement as he drove through a residential neighbourhood. “Oh my God, it’s Paul McCartney!” one woman cried.

It was, and it will be. Business is still business. With the divorce proceedings under way, Paul has applied to trademark his name, opening the door to a wide range of McCartney clothing and footwear. Telling! More

cash in the till. But not for B Heather. She will be out of •0*1 Paul’s financial life by the time the patent is approved. As settlement day approaches, Paul’s legal team will be hoping for more dingbat behaviour on Heather’s side. By an age-old British tradition going back to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, where the discarded wife becomes the madwoman in the attic, any wife in a bad marriage can be stigmatized to reduce the husband’s responsibility for the marriage breakdown, and by extension, for her. This tactic was used to great effect against Diana, with Charles’s

friend Sir Nicholas Soames leading the chorus that was calling Diana “hysterical” and “unhinged,” and warning that hell hath no fury like a dingbat scorned. It worked. By undermining Diana, Charles’s lawyers reportedly reduced her settlement from her original claim of £50 million to £17-5 million, chump change to a man as rich as Charles. Heather found the same central flaw in her marriage, too. As a desperately deprived and driven woman carving out a public profile with every ounce of manipulation she could muster, she was locked in a marriage to a man who was accustomed to being the centre of attention himself: two stars in one orbit, two interplanetary systems in collision, and finally two women falling down the same black hole as unwanted wives. In another reminder of Diana, Heather is reportedly planning to give a big TV interview, going for the sympathy vote. She won’t get it. Despite all her transgressions, Diana was the Teflon princess,

PAULWORLD QUICKLY BECAME VERY RICH MAN'S WORLD

indestructible and adored. Alas for Heather, Paul got his hands on all the Teflon long ago.

So whatever she does, Heather can’t win.

. No one believes what she says about Paul, and even if she proves it in court, the public’s verdict is likely to be that she must have driven him to it. Beyond that, there’s an even sadder reality for Heather, the eternal sadness of the love-starved heart. From the very beginning, she never held the place in Paul’s life she thought she’d won, and so deeply craved. Her married life was overshadowed by two departed spirits, two potent, lingering presences. For who will Paul think of on his deathbed? Not Heather, for sure. However bad

this divorce is for Paul, it can never be as painful as his divorce from John Lennon, when he lost his true alter ego, his mate and soulmate, his writing partner, his inspiration and his guru. Nothing he has written after the Beatles approaches the work with John. Then there was Linda, “CorMeum” in Paul’s oratorio tribute. So Heather spent her brief married life in a losing battle against two spectres, the tormented John and the ethereal Linda, hovering over the home she shared with Paul.

So for Heather, what next? First there’s the divorce, with all its rivers of ordure still to flow. For the future, there’s her life ahead with daughter Beatrice, though Paul’s money and power will always outstrip anything she can do. And then? When she was a child, Heather burned to be someone with a white hot flame, someone world famous, giddily rich, fascinating and drop-dead glamorous, all the things she is now. How was she to know they would come at such a price? M