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SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE: Stella McCartney’s steamy 999 Christmas call-out 

London’s legendary West End theatres are closed and shrouded in darkness, as are cinemas across the capital.

But there was drama aplenty amid the gloom in exclusive Notting Hill this week, when the London Fire Brigade responded to a 999 call — coming from the £10 million townhouse of acclaimed fashion designer Stella McCartney.

‘Two fire engines came out,’ a Notting Hill local tells me. ‘There must have been at least seven firefighters who went into the house.’

Neighbours gathered, watching anxiously, but there was no sign of 49-year-old Stella, nor of her husband, Alasdhair Willis, nor their four children, Miller, Beckett, Bailey and Reiley.

Stella McCartney attends the launch of her Global flagship store on Old Bond Street on June 12, 2018. There was drama aplenty amid the gloom in exclusive Notting Hill this week, when the London Fire Brigade responded to a 999 call — coming from the £10 million townhouse of the acclaimed fashion designer

Earlier this year, three fire engines responded after a blaze flared up in a shared rubbish chute serving three adjoining houses, including Stella’s

Earlier this year, three fire engines responded after a blaze flared up in a shared rubbish chute serving three adjoining houses, including Stella’s

The London Fire Brigade confirms the latest incident. ‘It was a fire alarm sounding. Two fire engines and around ten firefighters attended,’ a spokesman tells me

The London Fire Brigade confirms the latest incident. ‘It was a fire alarm sounding. Two fire engines and around ten firefighters attended,’ a spokesman tells me

The crew emerged from the house after ten minutes. ‘One of them said that they’d found a burst hot-water pipe which had created a build-up of steam — which the caller thought was smoke,’ explains the local. ‘Probably why the housekeeper, or house-sitter, was looking a bit sheepish as she walked out of the house with them.’

Earlier this year, three fire engines responded after a blaze flared up in a shared rubbish chute serving three adjoining houses, including Stella’s.

On that occasion, the culprit had unthinkingly tossed a still-smouldering cigarette end into the chute, causing the detritus to go up in flames.

The London Fire Brigade confirms the latest incident. ‘It was a fire alarm sounding. Two fire engines and around ten firefighters attended,’ a spokesman tells me.

Perhaps Stella should consider enlisting another Notting Hill neighbour as house-sitter — Jason Donovan.

Last year he rushed across the road to put out a blaze with his own fire extinguisher — indifferent to the fact that he was wearing nothing more than his underpants.

Love match as Sharapova set to marry Princes’ pa

It’s game, set and match for Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova, who has got engaged to Princes William and Harry’s close friend Alex Gilkes.

The Old Etonian — who founded online auction house Paddle8 — confirmed the news with a picture of him being kissed by his new fiancee in LA, where they live.

‘Thank you for making me a very, very happy boy,’ the 41-year-old told her. ‘I look forward to a lifetime of loving you, and learning from you.’

Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova has got engaged to Princes William and Harry’s close friend Alex Gilkes

Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova has got engaged to Princes William and Harry’s close friend Alex Gilkes

Maria, 33, started dating Alex in 2018. Pictured, Sharapova at a premiere in Los Angeles in September 2017

Maria, 33, started dating Alex in 2018. Pictured, Sharapova at a premiere in Los Angeles in September 2017

Russian-born Maria, 33, started dating Alex in 2018 — a year after his divorce from Meghan Markle’s best friend, fashion designer Misha Nonoo.

‘I said yes from the first day we met,’ she admits. ‘This was our little secret.’

She overcame a twisted spine and club foot to become one of the brightest stars of the 1980s. Now Toyah Willcox believes a big-screen biopic of her life would be a punk version of A Star Is Born. ‘I think my life story would make a really good cult film,’ the flame-haired singer, 62, tells me. ‘I really have fought passionately for everything I’ve ever done. It would be a great story for young girls to see.’ Toyah adds: ‘Mine is almost a female version of that coming-of-age story. It would be really interesting on screen.’

Deck the owls… Salma’s very festive friend

Making sure Christmas is a hoot is a top priority for Hollywood star Salma Hayek, who reveals she’s livening up festivities at home in LA with the aid of her feathered friend.

Wearing a glittering green jumper, the Frida star, 54, shares a picture posing next to her tree with her pet owl, Kering, on her head.

Hollywood star Salma Hayek reveals she’s livening up festivities at home in LA with the aid of her feathered friend

Hollywood star Salma Hayek reveals she’s livening up festivities at home in LA with the aid of her feathered friend

He is named after the luxury fashion group run by Hayek’s husband, Francois-Henri Pinault. ‘Kering likes the tree, but he likes my head better,’ jokes the mother of one.

As Boris Johnson urges us all to have a little Christmas, broadcaster Dame Joan Bakewell reveals she will join the snowballing number of people postponing Yuletide until next year. ‘We’ve moved it to Easter,’ confirms the Labour peer, meaning celebrations will now coincide with her 88th birthday. 

Joan, who lives by herself in London, has two children from her marriage to TV producer Michael Bakewell, as well as six grandchildren.

‘The Airbnb booking is made for April. We’ll all gather there and celebrate — takes off the pressure.’

With work grinding to a halt this year, ITV’s Victoria star Nell Hudson, who played the Queen’s dresser, Nancy Skerrett, in the historical drama, has re-trained as a yoga teacher.

‘This wouldn’t have happened without lockdown. Yoga has been my therapy, becoming a habit rather than a chore,’ says Nell, daughter of novelist Cressida Connolly, who was the first wife of the late writer A. A, Gill.

‘I learned so much in my training — Buddhist teaching, letting go of judgment, how the physical poses of yoga are just one part of living a yogic life.’

Strictly Tess and Vernon’s Xmas bonus

I’m a Celebrity star Vernon Kay and his wife, Strictly’s Tess Daly, rewarded themselves with a whopping pay rise after a bumper year.

Newly released accounts for the couple’s business, 21 TV Ltd, show they paid themselves dividends of £234,000 — compared with £180,000 last year.

I'm a Celebrity star Vernon Kay and his wife, Strictly’s Tess Daly, rewarded themselves with a whopping pay rise after a bumper year. Pictured, in March

I’m a Celebrity star Vernon Kay and his wife, Strictly’s Tess Daly, rewarded themselves with a whopping pay rise after a bumper year. Pictured, in March

The increase came after the fortune left in the company in the 12 months to the end of March rose to £855,000 from £801,000 last year.

The paperwork was signed just a week after Vernon finished his stint in this year’s I’m A Celebrity.

Her younger sister Cara has starred in several lucrative beauty campaigns, including for Dior and Rimmel, but actress Poppy Delevingne claims make-up is losing its allure. ‘My views of beauty have changed as I’ve grown older,’ admits the 34-year-old Riviera star. ‘I now feel that less is more. In my 20s, I was piling it on. Every picture taken of me in my 20s, I’m wearing a lot of frosted eyeshadow . . . I wish I hadn’t worn so much of it.’


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