Hugh's a naughty boy then. But as other stars can testify, Hollywood loves to forgive. John Carlin offers nine steps to redemption

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Once the excruciating embarrassment of his brief encounter and subsequent arrest starts to wane, Hugh Grant will turn his attention to his career, wondering perhaps whether his days of Hollywood glory are over; whether America's movie-going maidens will banish him from their broken hearts.

Never fear, Hugh. The examples of Michael Jackson, Woody Allen, Mike Tyson, Marion Barry, Elizabeth Taylor, Bill Clinton - the list is endless - teach us that redemption is within reach of any American celebrity, however foul the sin. Americans love a comeback kid. There are just a few steps you have to take towards your rehabilitation before the world of showbiz embraces you and the big bucks start rolling in again.

1. Engage in some damage control. Hire a private detective and a lawyer. It may be too late, but try to get to Divine Brown before the News of the World and offer her a "settlement". To persuade her to shut her mouth you may have to cough up a little more than you did on Monday night to open it. Just hope it's rather less than the $20m Michael Jackson had to pay his little friend to shut his.

2. Offer a full and frank apology, preferably on the Oprah Winfrey show. Oprah-watchers are pretty inured to oral sex and that sort of stuff. On the TV freak-show scale you'll be small beer. Day in, day out, vast audiences see bank managers coming on and confessing that they slept with their wives' mothers and fathers, usually with the wife, the mother and the father sitting next to them on stage. Oprah and her imitators like to play the instant therapists, work things through. Just cheese up the winningly embarrassed fey Englishman routine and the ladies in the audience will be baying for a sequel to Four Weddings.

3. Follow up with an interview in Vanity Fair where you reveal that you woke up in the middle of the night and had a flashback to your childhood. An uncle you thought you loved molested you when you were eight. All these years you had repressed the memory, but the denial of your pain, you now realised, provided the spur to your histrionic ambitions, bred the need to act, to cover up your own tortured persona by pretending to be someone else. "All my life I've been wearing a mask," might be a quotable quote. "It took that moment of madness in LA for me to get to know who Hugh Grant really was."

4. Check into one of those Rancho Mirage rehab clinics in Nevada for a couple of weeks. Eat celery, engage in group therapy sessions, confess your loneliness, open up about your sexual fantasies, rediscover the inner child. Forge an enduring friendship with the Albanian-American psychiatrist who runs the clinic. Read Dr Ken Druck's Secrets Men Keep, learn how men for whom success comes young often neglect vital emotional needs, seek the transient and illusory solace of an emotionally uncluttered encounter with a prostitute. Tell People magazine all about it.

5. Take a leaf out of Betty Ford's book. Fund a prostitute rehabilitation centre, or lay the first brick for an unwed teenage mothers' centre in a poor Los Angeles barrio. Make sure your agent tips off the TV networks. Hold an in situ press conference. Do a down-home King Lear "I have taken too little care of this" number. "Here we are living the good life in Beverly Hills and just around the corner this, this . . . horrid squalor. God, life's so unfair!" Something along those lines.

6. Join a church. Go for the full immersion baptism. Appear before 15,000 Southern Baptists at an amphitheatre in Baton Rouge. Bow your head, ask for God's forgiveness and hear the chorus of "alleluias". Become a televangelist preacher yourself. Do a Jimmy Swaggart, who continued to preach the message of redemption after being caught doing unspeakable things with a call girl in a Texas motel. Travel to El Salvador or Zaire. Restore hearing to the deaf, voice to the dumb. Don't be shy about it. Every week on cable TV we see American missionaries in suits performing miracles in Third World football stadiums.

7. Write a book. Admit that you're sexually dysfunctional. Reveal a drinking problem. Bang on about your childhood again, your repressed English parents. Recall more instances of abuse. Chronicle an unsavoury incident at the showers in your public school. If it worked for the Menendez brothers, it'll work for you: remember how they persuaded a jury to return a not guilty plea, even though they confessed to killing their parents. They had endured the most awful humiliations during their upbringing and killing mom and dad was, in the circumstances, the natural thing to do. Bear in mind always that Americans, especially those of the California variety, are big on "tout comprendre c'est tout pardonner".

8. Marry Liz Hurley, if she'll have you. Or see if Elvis Presley left behind another daughter. Do a Bill and Hillary/ Lisa Marie and Michael we-have-emerged-stronger-from-the-experience number, maybe on Larry King Live. Hold the wedding at Elizabeth Taylor's place. Make a joint contribution to Clinton's campaign fund, and accept an invitation to the White House. Do a serious interview with the New York Times and talk about your role championing the plight of the inner-city poor. Perhaps take a trip to Bosnia and bring the New York Times photographer along with you.

9. If all else fails, and you lack the stomach to do any of the above, take comfort in the example of PeeWee Herman, a legendary performer on American children's television, who four years ago was caught by three policemen masturbating at a showing of Nancy Nurse in an X-rated movie theatre. Unable to take the public shame, he simply disappeared from view for a while. But he weathered his exile, changed his name and is back on screen now playing small parts in Batman Forever and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.