Prostitute delivers a blow to Hugh Grant's image

EDWARD HELMORE

Los Angeles

Hugh Grant, the dashing romantic lead of Four Weddings and a Funeral, was arrested with a prostitute in Hollywood yesterday and may be charged with "lewd conduct in a public place".

The star, boyfriend of the actress and model Elizabeth Hurley, was arrested in a car in a quiet residential street at 1.30am with a woman, described by the police as a "known prostitute".

A Hollywood vice squad, officer, Cory Palka, told how two undercover police sneaked up on Hugh Grant to see a "beautiful black prostitute" performing oral sex on him. The officer said the actor was performing "safe sex", and was "extremely embarrassed" but a "real gentleman" when he was arrested.

Yesterday Mr Grant, 34, issued a statement of regret: "Last night I did something completely insane," he said. "I have hurt people I love and embarrasssed people I work with. For both things I am more sorry than I can ever possibly say."

Mr Grant has been arraigned to answer the potential misdemeanour charge of lewd conduct on 18 July, though he will not necessarily be required to appear in court. If charged and found guilty, he could face up to one year in jail, but community service is a more common punishment. The alleged prostitute, Denise "Divine" Brown, was also arraigned. Both were released without bail having to be posted.

A Los Angeles Police Department spokeswoman said vice officers initially observed a prostitute go up to Mr Grant's window of his vehicle, and saw them having a conversation. "Then the known prostitute got into Mr Grant's vehicle and they drove to a residential area nearby," she said.

The star, whose shy, stammering, accident-prone English public-schoolboy persona the Americans have taken to their hearts, was staying at the Four Seasons Hotel. Elizabeth Hurley who was recently awarded the modelling contract for Estee Lauder, and lives in Los Angeles, was not immediately available for comment.

Fantasy and reality appear to have converged for Mr Grant. In his latest film, titled Nine Months, out in the US next week, he is inadvertently arrested for a misdemeanour. The trailers show him having his police mugshot taken.

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