Rupert first detailed his six-year affair with Paula during an extract for the Daily Mail called My Life With the Divas, part 2.
Paula Yates and Bob Geldof came to see me in 1982, when I was appearing in the stage version of Another Country, my first West End hit.
• Rupert Everett and Sharon Stone
Bob had just performed in Alan Parker’s adaptation of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. According to Alan, Bob had a c*** so big that he needed a wheelbarrow to carry it around in.
Everything about Bob announced the fact: the incredibly thin body, the large pushy nose, the jungle smell of the man and, of course, the delight he evidently felt at the sound of his own voice.
He never listened. But this is not a put-down. Actually, it is the recipe for success. Bob was definitely sexy in a good old-fashioned Rimbaud (the poet) kind of a way, and all set to become a legend one way or another.
Rupert described first meeting Paula and Bob for dinner in 1982
Paula was his perfect foil. Or at least that’s how it looked. On the one hand she was a typical English rock chick, with her shock of peroxide hair, a white candyfloss quiff, and a wardrobe of beautiful clothes made by the fashion designer Antony Price.
She had a thin, flat voice and she clung to her man like a sweet little cartoon octopus. Literally. But she was no bimbo, although she loved it if you thought she was. She was intelligent.
Paula wasn’t classically beautiful, and yet she was startlingly attractive. She had a fragility that was erotic to men. She could break if you squeezed her too hard. She had a tiny waist that you could put your hands around and your fingers would nearly touch.
This was her most extraordinary feature, because it gave the man she let hold her a sense of protective power; even if you were gay you could not help but feel turned on.
Her face had the illusion of beauty, but in fact it was wonky all over. She had a pretty nose, little girl’s eyes, but her lips gave everything away. I think lips are more telling than eyes, and Paula’s were as expressive as a cardiogram.
They were small and pointed at the top, and however sultry she was, I felt the lips could never quite control the mirth inside her, while there was still mirth. They also hid her sweet uneven teeth.
Half Mata Hari and half Marti Caine (an old-school Northern music-hall comic), she moved between the two states as guilelessly as a child, and it was easy to fall in love with her.
After she and Bob came to see me on stage, we went out for dinner. It was a way of breaking the ice before Paula interviewed me for Cosmopolitan magazine the following day.
When we did the interview, she had a curious technique. She began by undressing me like a doll. In those days I was so thin I wore five of everything — socks, tracksuits, T-shirts — and in the name of research, they all came off, one by one.
Rupert said Paula had a ‘curious’ interview technique of undressing him
“What have you got here?” she squeaked. “Another pair of socks?” Pretty soon I was down to my underwear and she was sitting on top of me.
Her skirts and petticoats were like an overflowing bubble bath, snapping with electricity, and at some point the interview ended and a strange love affair of utter misfits began.
She was married. I was gay. These constraints operated like a kind of safety net and there were no obstacles between us.
During those early days, she would come to my dressing room, her arrival down the stairs announced by the rustle of petticoats, the click of Manolo heels and the odd little gasp.
She loved a dramatic entrance and had invented her own brand. She would stand in the doorway like Tinkerbell, then bite her lip and in a breathy voice borrowed from Marilyn Monroe she would say: “Hi, big boy…” It was pure genius.
When I finished Another Country, I went straight into a play with Gordon Jackson, the actor who played Hudson, the butler, in Upstairs Downstairs.
He was a lovely man, and so was his wife Rona. Neither of them had any idea who Paula was or that she was with Bob, whoever he was, or that I was gay for that matter. But they saw us together a lot and so assumed we were an item.
They would ask us out for dinner. Rona would tell Paula about the pitfalls of being married to an actor, and Gordon would advise me about the right time to take out a mortgage (never).
One night, when Paula and I had both been feeling fairly suicidal about our mixed-up lives, Rona asked us when we were going to tie the knot.
Our immediate reactions were to think that she was talking about making a noose. Gordon threw back his head and roared with laughter. “Will ye hark on these young?” he said to Rona. “Soon,” screeched Paula, desperately back-pedalling.
During our various encounters — when we were sometimes joined by a desperately shy Kenneth Williams, Gordon’s best friend, the potential for living according to the norm was certainly not lost on me.
It was effortless being one of the guys. “She’s quite sensitive, isn’t she?” broached Rona one day, while Paula was in the loo. She was right.
Paula was desperately fragile and with any kind of confrontation she was channelled back before your very eyes into a nine-year-old child.
But she was unbreakable at the same time. In the tradition of the great fragile rocks — Monroe, Princess Diana — this combination was likely to drive a man mad.
Men see it, they want it, they think they can ride it, but when they find it is unbreakable, that’s when the murder starts.
She had picked herself up and stuck the bits together on her own. But some bits were in the wrong place.
She met Michael Hutchence, the singer from the band INXS, on the set of her TV show The Big Breakfast one morning in 1993.
People who were there that day said you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife; there wasn’t just sexual tension in the air, but also a feeling of collision. Two runaway trains were crashing into each other.
Michael was with the model Helena Christensen, and Paula had three children with Bob, and yet they could barely contain themselves.
It was a black hole that sucked them both in. They were the Cathy and Heathcliff of the Ecstasy generation.
When Paula and I met shortly afterwards, she was tinged with hysteria; her little pale lashes framed eyes that glowed like a vampire from a Hammer horror film.
But she was in great spirits, ecstatically happy, and playfully dug her stiletto into my groin under the table.
We were sitting in Valotti’s teashop on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue, one of the last establishments of its kind where actors could eat beans on toast in the rush between the matinee and the evening performance.
Against its red and yellow squeezy bottles of ketchup and mustard, its stainless-steel sugar bowls and cracked white teacups, she’d never looked so good.
She had filled out, turning into a busty barmaid, yet still with that strange fragility, the latest in a line of English blondes, from Dusty Springfield to Diana Dors and Bet Lynch.
She was sexy and fatal.
I met Michael only once. Shortly before he died in 1997, Michael and Paula came to a play I was doing at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith.
When they came backstage afterwards, they were sweet but detached. It was a strange place to meet, because neither Paula nor I had been there since the days of Gordon and Rona Jackson all those years ago.
We were adults now; strangers to ourselves then. But standing in the same place now, we couldn’t get back. Paula was giggly. Michael smiled. I was jumpy.
At the dinner afterwards, there definitely seemed to be an aura of tragedy about them. Their faces looked as though they were seeing something else happening in the room.
Maybe, deep inside, they knew they were reaching the end of their journey. Each moment was just the one before the one before the last.
What was a first-night party for the rest of us was just one in a series of sad farewells for them. Events had outdone them.
They had the nanny who spoke to a delighted Press of Polaroids and opium under the bed. Bob and Paula fought. That delighted the Press even more.
Then it emerged that Paula’s real father was not the television evangelist Jess Yates, but the presenter Hughie Greene, a macabre TV monster with the cheery bedside manner of a killer gynaecologist.
Discovering that you were his child would have made you wonder who you were at the best of times, and it came as a death stroke when Paula’s world was already caving in.
She held it together as long as she had Michael. And then he hanged himself from the bathroom door of a hotel room. Was it sex or suicide? Either way, Paula didn’t recover.
Her last act was from Hamlet; her Ophelia would drown in a river of flashbulbs. Her every stumble was catalogued; there was nowhere to hide. Somehow death was inevitable.
One October morning in 1997, I was in bed in New York and the telephone rang. It was Bob. We had not spoken in nearly 20 years.
“Paula’s dead and you’ve got to come and read a poem at the funeral,” he said. “She wouldn’t forgive you if you don’t.”
The service was at Faversham, Kent, in the converted medieval abbey that Bob had bought for Paula in those heady days when everything seemed as if it could never go wrong, and if it did there was all the time in the world to fix it.
Then they had been the Arthur and Guinevere of the New Labour movement; common with a grand touch, and Faversham a kind of Camelot.
Bob’s Round Table was the cream of international celebrity, though actually Paula had been the inspiration of the Live Aid movement.
She was the one who stuck a collection box onto the fridge after watching a television documentary about Ethiopia.
She had escaped from Camelot with Michael, but now she was back. The Round Table were all there to welcome her home: Paul Young, Nick Cave, Bono, Jools Holland; older, a touch tubbier, more cautious, standing in awkward groups in the October sunshine.
There was nothing cheery about the event, which is unusual for funerals. Annie Lennox walked up and down at the end of the garden all alone, looking like The Scream by Edvard Munch.
Paula’s white coffin, covered in tiger lilies, was carried into the chapel and the service began. It was beautiful.
Bob had thought of everything and it was moving to watch him. Whatever anyone might say, Paula had been the love of his life. Now he had her back, feet first.
At the end of the service they put on a track of Paula singing These Boots Are Made for Walking.
I remembered seeing her the day after she had recorded it. We had been shopping in Chelsea, and she bought me a leather jacket.
Her disembodied voice filled the old church: breathless, thin. She was no singer, but there she was again over the hiss of static, suddenly alive.
Our hearts leapt for a moment at the trick of sound and it was hard to listen to that silly song through chorus after chorus, but finally she said: “Come on, boots, walk.”
The pall-bearers, big-fingered mafioso types, lumbered from their seats and picked up the coffin as Paula broke into a final chorus and her physical remains left the church to be burnt at the crematorium.