Review of the year: Gossip
Sex! Drugs! Nannies! Kiss-and-tells of yesteryear come back with a bang
Friday 30 December 2005
We've come to expect rather a lot of sex scandals. I blame The Spectator: before last year, footballers, soap stars and the occasional bonking politician was about as good as it got. Then along came Kimberley Fortier, Boris Johnson, David Blunkett, and a series of randy sidekicks you couldn't make up and, suddenly, everyday "kiss and tells" seem rather tame by comparison.
This is a shame because it made 2005 feel like a poor vintage for gossip. But the reverse is true. And the most notable fallen celebrities came in twos: Jude and Sienna; Kate and Pete; Wayne and Colleen. If you enjoy seeing beautiful couples knocked off their perches, they made it a year to remember.
Let us start, then, with Jude Law and Sienna Miller. He is one of Britain's most bankable stars; she's one of our most ambitious young actresses. They met on the set of Alfie, and by summer 2004 were officially an item. Last Christmas, they announced their impossibly glamorous engagement.
By the summer, Miller may perhaps have been given to reflect that things were going too swimmingly. Law might boast matinée idol looks and bucketloads of charm, but he's also got a roving eye. In 2003, there were rumours of an affair with Nicole Kidman on the set of Cold Mountain; both parties denied any improper relationship. In January, the News of the World accused Law of wife-swapping sessions with former spouse Sadie Frost. Again, he claimed otherwise.
Yet nothing can have really prepared Miller for the front page of the Sunday Mirror on 17 July. It contained the testimony of Daisy Wright, the former nanny of Law's children, who had been removed from her post by Frost earlier in the year for bonking the boss. One of Frost's children had discovered Daddy in flagrante with Nanny early one morning.
Sensibly, Wright had kept a diary of the fling, describing how Law seduced her following a concert in New Orleans in March. "We kissed and kissed for what seemed like ages," she recalled. "The next thing I know, we are dragging each other upstairs and ripping off each other's clothes." It was restrained stuff, as these things go, but still a bit much for Miller, who was appearing in a West End production of As You Like It. She dispensed with her engagement ring and made tearful appearances at the stage door. Law, for his part, issued a public apology saying he was "deeply ashamed and upset".
The plot thickened. First, Miller was said to have sought comfort in the arms of Daniel Craig (the new James Bond). Then it was reported that she was pregnant with Law's child. Again, a spokesman denied both.
All this, though, was nothing but a warm-up for the downfall of Kate Moss and Pete Doherty. On paper, they were always a volatile mix: one a superstar model with the world at her elegant feet; the other a Byronic rocker better known for taking drugs than making music. Both are walking advertisements for so-called heroin chic.
But Moss didn't just look like a habitual drug-taker. She was one, too. In 2004, the model had successfully sued the Sunday Mirror for allegations that she'd collapsed during a cocaine binge. In September 2005, its sister paper was offered a video of Moss snorting cocaine at a west London recording studio. As they say in the trade: Gotcha!
The side-effects were immediate. In a fit of piety, several companies - among them Chanel, H&M and Burberry - announced that they were dropping Moss from lucrative campaigns. The Met Policechief, Sir Ian Blair, announced an investigation into the affair. Cops raided the recording studio, but have yet to interview Moss, as she's barely been in the UK since their inquiry began.
The fallen supermodel, for her part, issued the obligatory apology. "I accept that there are...personal issues that I need to address, and have started taking the difficult...steps to resolve them," she said. That meant rehab. Moss decamped to the Meadows, a clinic in Arizona where Elle Macpherson and Whitney Houston have paid £2,000 a night to sort out their lives. She was cut off from the outside world for 30 nights.
Later, aides were photographed moving Moss's possessions from north London to the Cotswolds. The woman herself decamped to New York, and ordered Doherty to attend the Meadows, too. He discharged himself after just four days. "Cocaine Kate", as she is now affectionately known, accordingly discharged him from duties as her boyfriend.
And so to the final contender for controversialist of the year: Wayne Rooney. England's great football hope made headlines in 2004 for consorting with a Liverpudlian prostitute known as the "Auld Slapper". But 2005 held even more delights.
Off the pitch, young Rooney and his fiancée, Colleen McLoughlin, are remarkable. She boasts the lavish shopping habits of a Scouse Imelda Marcos; he's got the libido of a young George Best. Throw a nightclub into the mix and you've a recipe for disaster.
In March, Rooney was accused of assaulting a student in a Manchester bar. The allegation was later withdrawn. In April, he took legal action against The Sun over claims that he'd slapped Colleen at a Cheshire club, Brasingamens. Rooney's spokesman admitted a public row, but denied any fisticuffs.
In November, The Sun got its hands on CCTV footage from the Odyssey nightclub in Manchester showing Rooney consorting with a brunette, Emily Fountain. Rooney was pictured covering the camera lens for six minutes before leaving the room smiling.
Rooney initially claimed to have been giving the girl an autograph, but even he doesn't take six minutes to sign a piece of paper. Later, he admitted kissing, but denied further transgressions. Colleen was pictured in tears at her parents' home; a subsequent column for Closer magazine discussed avian flu, the war in Iraq and shopping. Details of her troubled love life were conspicuously absent.
Thankfully, all three of this year's major celebrity scandals ended happily. Law and Miller have sorted out their differences, and are aiming to get married late next year. Rooney has now been forgiven by McLoughlin, and their big date is pencilled in for after the World Cup. Moss, meanwhile, is off drugs and back in demand. She was recently named the new £1.2m "face" of Virgin Mobile.
It's a funny old world where heroes are knocked down only to be reinstated as icons a few weeks later. But that was 2005. Perhaps, then, this must go down as the year Britain rediscovered the short-lived pleasure of the celebrity stitch-up. We love them, knock them down, and build them up again.
And if one is to set this in a cultural context, then, for sheer ruthlessness of the tabloid "stings" it was like being back in the merciless 1980s. Celebs were betrayed by grainy photos or breathless interviews to red-top assassins. By way of icing on this cake of nostalgia, we even managed a Royal wedding. But that's another story.
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