Celebrity children: The troubled world of Victoria Sellers

As the US prepares to deport the daughter of one of the world's most famous comic actors, Guy Adams looks back on the life of the little girl who inherited an unerring instinct for going off the rails

In the lottery of Hollywood life, Victoria Sellers has always been dealt the wild card. She had a sex siren for a mother, a comic genius for a father, and a turbulent childhood that led to drug abuse, petty crime and eventually prison. Today, the 41-year-old daughter of Britt Ekland and the late Peter Sellers will wake up behind bars for the fifth - or possibly sixth - time in her long and chequered career, having been arrested earlier this week by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency officers.

Witnesses say she was "very calm" and "gave no resistance" during a dawn raid on Monday at the modest Los Angeles apartment where she has been living illegally since a judge revoked her residency permit in 2002, due to a previous criminal conviction. As a British citizen, she will shortly be deported to London and her last days in the US, a country that has been home for almost her entire adult life, will be spent inside a cell at a detention centre in Orange County, California.

It marks a sad and typically chaotic end to the reign of one of Tinseltown's most notorious party animals. For two decades, Victoria Sellers has been a walking symbol of Hollywood excess, a hard-living socialite whose instinct for trouble surpasses those of both her famous parents combined. Recalling her wildest days recently, she described a 20-year blizzard of cocaine and amphetamine abuse. "I did drugs because I didn't really like myself, and I didn't like myself because I was doing drugs," she said. "It was crazy. I was just going round in circles."

Perhaps the high living was in the genes. Her father was famous for his roles in Dr Strangelove and as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films; he was as prodigiously talented as he was profoundly flawed. Ekland, one of the foremost pin-ups of her generation, later romanced Lou Adler and Rod Stewart.

As the only child of this starry couple, Victoria Sellers was born into the Hollywood "celebocracy" with a status akin to the Paris Hiltons and Nicole Richies of today. Like many of her modern equivalents, she has always had a knack for courting controversy.

Take, for example, the repeated brushes with the law, which began in 1985 when she was accused of stealing £50,000 from a New Jersey drug dealer. Three years later, she was put on probation for her role in a cocaine ring; in 1993, she was fined for possessing marijuana.

In May 1994, she was charged with receiving stolen jewellery, and sentenced to 13 days in jail with three years probation. Ten months later, she was back in court, after being arrested in West Hollywood under the influence of drugs. Several grams of amphetamines were discovered in her purse, and she received a further 120 days in jail.

"Victoria didn't inherit Britt Ekland's looks, and she certainly didn't inherit Peter Sellers' talent," says a family friend. "But her father was pretty bonkers, and prone to going off the rails in his private life; she has certainly ended up with a hefty dollop of that." Over the years, various US court judges have appeared to agree. One accused her of taking "a somewhat hedonistic approach to life - a great deal of taking and not much giving." Another ordered her to undergo psychiatric counselling, saying: "Get a life."

Yet behind the stern criticism and lurid headlines lies a story of a woman whom friends describe as a victim. Certainly, Victoria Sellers has always been touched by tragedy - from the messy divorce of her parents, to the untimely death of her father in 1980, when she was 15, and her half-brother Michael, earlier this year. "This latest news really is the most terrible thing for her," said her half-sister, Sarah, yesterday. "I can only imagine what she must be feeling. I saw her at Michael's funeral, and she seemed really to have got her life back on track. She had a boyfriend, who she was thinking of marrying, and a jewellery business that was doing well. For the first time in years she seemed optimistic about the future. Now she will have to start from scratch over here, where she hardly knows anybody. I will look after her, and so will Britt's friends, but America really is her home. It's where she was educated and grew up. For this to happen to her now really is terribly sad."

Hollywood's gossipmongers may also declare a period of mourning. The loss of Sellers brings an end to a notorious showbusiness career that was kickstarted in 1986, with the traditional photo-spread in Playboy.

A sometime actress, Sellers attempted, unsuccessfully, to sell a book she wrote called My Life in the Sunshine, which told of her friendship with Heidi Fleiss, the notorious Hollywood "madam", and affairs with various actors and musicians.

In 2001, she even made a film with Fleiss. Entitled Sex Tips with Heidi Fleiss and Victoria Sellers, the video featured the two women being driven around Hollywood in a limousine and not much else, dispensing sex advice interspersed with nuggets of celebrity gossip.

The Victoria Sellers story began shortly after Peter Sellers, then 38, met 20-year-old Ekland at the Dorchester Hotel in 1964. The couple married within 10 days, and produced their only child a year later. She first appeared in public when she was only two weeks old, cradled by her parents in a photo-shoot for a glossy magazine. However, it was a stormy marriage and Sellers and Ekland were very publicly, and messily, divorced by the time she was three.

"When Britt Ekland and Peter Sellers were divorcing, Victoria was always one of the major things they'd argue about," says Roger Lewis, author of the biography The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. "But ... their arguments were nothing to do with the child. She was merely their way of hurting each other.

"For instance, Sellers would make a big deal of having custody of her, to stay for a holiday or something, but then when Victoria turned up, he would just leave her in the care of nannies and disappear. I guess from the start that it was always an unhappy childhood, and her family was always in the papers for the wrong reasons."

Peter Sellers was certainly a difficult father. His late son Michael's memoir, PS I Love You recalls the comedian throwing wine over Victoria after she had jokily described him as "a bit podgy" at a family party. He would also throw a tantrum if she wore purple, since it was apparently his unlucky colour.

"Victoria's life since has really been more sad than anything," adds Lewis. "From that background, she's turned out to be somebody that never really got their life organised, and has been pretty permanently off the rails. The other great tragedy is that she never even inherited much of her father's estate, since he left it all, except for a few thousand pounds, to Lynne Frederick, his fourth wife. So unlike a lot of other Hollywood socialites, she's never been financially secure."

Other acquaintances recall a similarly unhappy childhood. The photographer Graham Stark has chronicled his friend- ship with Peter Sellers in a new autobiography, Stark Naked. "Despite all the awful things Peter said about Britt Ekland, I have always remained a big fan of hers, and when Victoria was growing up and trying to break into showbusiness, Britt asked me to do a portrait of her," he said yesterday. "She flew over to my studio, and I got the impression that she was very pleasant, but probably not the brain of Britain. She seemed a bit lost, or vacuous. But we did get some lovely shots in the end.

"I have kept in touch with all the things that have happened to her since, and it's rather sad. She's a bit of a lost sheep, really. I know LA, and it can be a tatty town. People can live a life of just going to party after party, and it's a vacuous existence. I feel rather sorry for her."

In recent years, Sellers has managed a more settled life, finally giving up her showbusiness career after an ill-fated attempt in the mid-1990s to emulate her father by becoming a stand-up comedian. Her eponymous jewellery company has prospered, and she told an interviewer in 2004 that she no longer touches class A drugs. "I used to go out every night, but now I hardly go out at all, and I feel better for it," she said. "And I have a jewellery business I'm really proud of. I'm off drugs now. Once in a blue moon, I smoke a joint."

Back in London, friends were waiting to see what fate will throw at her next. Her half-sister Sarah, who runs an antique teddy bear shop in London called All You Can Bear, described the move to deport her as sad and unfair. "From what the US authorities are saying, she's been on the run from police since 2002," she said. "That just isn't true. She's been living in Hollywood since then, and has even appeared in Hello! magazine. You don't appear in Hello! magazine if you are trying to hide."

"What will happen next? Who knows? Victoria has this wonderful way of looking on the bright side. Whatever happens, she'll hopefully manage to take things in her stride."


Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'


Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
arts + entsJK Rowling to publish new story set in wizard's world for Halloween
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

Queen Elizabeth II sends the first royal tweet under her own name to declare the opening of the new Information Age Galleries at the Science Museum, South Kensington, London
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin married in Venice yesterday
peopleAmal and George Clooney 'planning third celebration in England'
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley at the premiere of Laggie at Toronto Film Festival 2014
theatreActress 'to make Broadway debut'
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Business Development and Analytics - TV

competitive benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Outstanding analytic expertise is req...

Head of ad sales international - Broadcast

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Are you the king or Queen o...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

International Promotions Manager - Consumer Products

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: A global entertainment busi...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker