Friday 22 September 2017

Very happy and just a little charmed... the life and loves of Lisa

She lost her father at 14, almost died in an aeroplane crash, married - and divorced - a multi-millionaire, and is now dating Jeremy Clarkson. Our reporter tells the extraordinary story of Dublin actress Lisa Hogan

Lisa Hogan. Photo: Alan Davidson
Lisa Hogan. Photo: Alan Davidson
Lisa with her former husband, Baron Steven Bentinck
Lisa Hogan's current beau Jeremy Clarkson
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Sigmund Freud said: "I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection." Lisa Hogan was 14 when she lost that protection.

The emotion she recalled most from that dreadful time was a loss of trust because, she told me, she couldn't understand why the wonderful man who made her laugh so much had gone away forever - without warning or saying goodbye.

"It was a very confused time. I suppose I was very confused for a long time after.

"You know - not to open myself up, especially to boyfriends," she confided to me in 1997, "because I didn't want to go through what my mother had gone through with Dad, and also if I didn't really love them, I wouldn't really mind if they died."

Lisa with her former husband, Baron Steven Bentinck
Lisa with her former husband, Baron Steven Bentinck

Lisa talked about her late father Maurice Hogan, an architect, as being one of the most important men in her life. She described him as "a wonderful, loving man" with a big sense of humour, which she clearly inherited.

When they were kids, Lisa and her older sister Sarah - five and six years old respectively - used to take their dad outside and tell him what they considered to be dirty jokes. "Jokes with pee in them," Lisa recalled, all those years later.

When Lisa and Sarah were in trouble with their mother - a former well-known model, Arlene Underwood, from whom Lisa clearly got her movie star looks - and she told Maurice to go up to their bedroom to tell them off, the girls would be delighted; because they knew, Lisa recalled, that their beloved dad wouldn't give out to them.

"He was always around a lot when we were growing up. He was always very good humoured. Mum and he were very close. I was very lucky to grow up in such a happy family. I was devastated when he died. Very hurt," Lisa told me of that difficult moment in her life, when he dropped dead of a heart attack. (Arlene later married again, to Raymond Keaveney, director of the National Gallery, and brother of the men behind the hairdressing empire of that name, Peter and Mark.) For years, Lisa was all at sea, emotionally, like a boat without a rudder.

Cut to June, 1997. Former Alexandra College girl Lisa Hogan (all 6ft 2in of her) is lying on the deck on her multi-millionaire boyfriend Baron Steven Bentinck's 147ft boat, the Zaca A Te Mona - Peace Of The Sea, for those not fluent in Polynesian - off the west coast of Africa.

Out on the ocean waves, the only traffic is the shoals of fish along the coral reef. Lolling about in the sun, the Irish actress leans over the side of the vessel and gazing out across the big blue ocean sees, she says, "tens of partying dolphins wearing slinky diamante dresses - a night-time effect caused by phosphoresce," Lisa remembers, adding that at other times a whale might jump seemingly from the bottom of the sea and break the deafening, dead calm of the waters, or the peace of the sea itself.

Lisa Hogan's current beau Jeremy Clarkson
Lisa Hogan's current beau Jeremy Clarkson

Lisa has been sailing with Steven for a month on the boat of that name around the 10 islands of the Cape Verde archipelago.

Conceived in a moment of sea-romanticism, she says, the original idea was to spend a week sailing the 800 miles or so from the west coast of Africa to the Canary Islands and then catch a plane home to London (she and Steven lived in Lord Ivar Mountbatten's stately pile on 444 acres in Essex.)

But like a lot of things in the young Irish girl's life, it didn't quite go to plan. Soon her baron beau was up in the radar room plotting a course across the Atlantic to Brazil.

The trip on many levels wasn't plain sailing for Lisa - again, like a lot of things in the Dubliner's not always charmed life (even though she is now, in 2017, on the arm of one of the television world's most mouthy yet engaging charmers, Mr Jeremy Clarkson.)

"The first couple of days at sea I was just settling in. I knew it wasn't going to be a week, that it was going to be a lot longer.

"You realise suddenly that you are in the middle of the Atlantic. I just got het up. One day Steven came in and said: 'What's up?' I suppose I was looking for attention as well, because I told him that I wanted to break it off."

"Well, I suppose, you'll be needing your flippers, then," was his reply.

"Not even a hug or a 'It will be okay'", Lisa laughs of her aristo other-half whom she met through a mutual friend in May, 1996, at a blue-blood soiree (plus ca change) in London. "So he doesn't suffer my wind-ups in that way."

Lisa Hogan's own bullshit detector, it transpired, was no less vigilant, as the editor of Hello! magazine found out when the magazine flew out a stylist for a shoot on the baron's boat.

The items the stylist brought from London for Lisa to wear included a designer ball gown and a tiara. To which Lisa told the stylist that she doesn't wear chi-chi frocks nor tiaras on boats.

The shoot was eventually completed on Lisa's terms - as with everything else in her life. (An indication of Lisa's new-found status is that she and the baron appeared in the August, 1997 edition of Hello magazine beside a story about another couple: 'Divorce Now Final - Charles Wins, Diana Loses'. (There will be more of Prince Charles and his divorce lawyer later.)

Lisa related all of the above tales to me down the phone from the baron's private villa in Spain. Not one of those phoney, over-privileged pretty girls, Lisa was terrifically entertaining, heinously un-PC and direct.

I asked her when the media referred to her as John Cleese's muse on the set of 1996 movie Fierce Creatures, did they really mean 'girlfriend'? and she laughed and said this: "We certainly didn't have an affair. We were seen quite a lot but we used to work together. We got on well."

So did Lisa and I for a time in the mid-to-late 1990s. I used to leave messages for her at her and Steven's hotel of choice, Claridges, and we would have the chats. She was a staple of my columns in the Sunday Independent.

She could so easily have been the biggest pain in the arse in London - this Irish girl who was the toast of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, who was mates with AA Gill and Bryan Ferry and whose favourite sweets, she took delight in telling me, were humbugs. In reality, there wasn't much of the humbug about Lisa Hogan.

When I asked her about her near-death experience in August 1997, when the baron's Learjet she was travelling in overshot the runway at RAF Northolt in London and crashed-landed on to the A40 dual-carriageway, she said she was "embarrassed" by all the fuss and the publicity.

"When the plane crashed, I phoned the production office [of the film she was flying in to rehearse for] and told them I was stuck in a traffic jam. They were like, 'Everybody's late because a bloody plane landed on the motorway'. I was embarrassed."

Lisa said that she was "almost a goner. We took off from Palma and I thought everything was fine for a while. The captain had tried to make me sit in a certain part of the plane. I insisted on sitting where I was, which was just as well because that was the area where the van came through when we crashed and I would have been killed instantly.

"As we were coming in to land, we were circling for ages as we were going towards City airport.

"They kept coming in and out of the clouds. Around Heathrow I began to worry that we had no flight path and a jumbo jet was going to come out of the clouds..."

Was Lisa afraid of dying?

"No," she answered, "I wasn't afraid of dying. I didn't want to die. I just thought I'd go and spend more time with Dad than I would be spending with Mum, really. It wasn't as if I'd be gone from the world; I was going somewhere else; to another place," she said philosophically.

I asked Lisa if this was the first time she fell in love.

"Oh. Falling in love is such a strong phrase. This is the first I've ever allowed [myself]... to be so happy and charmed."

I remember pointing out to Lisa that she used the word 'allowed' and then stopped herself in the sentence.

Did meeting Steven unlock something in her - in her heart/psyche/soul - that went all the way back to her shutting up her emotions as a 14-year-old when her father died?

"He has, actually," replied Lisa, who had dated amateur jockey and stockbroker Roger Weatherby before that (and many years before that again she was rumoured to have dated Tony O'Reilly's son Gavin when he was single. ).

"There's an esoteric side that's very important and I don't know what it is yet in me but he tries to discover it and I feel very safe with that."

Did the plane crash prompt Lisa to open up more to Steven?

"It did make me realise that I wasn't necessarily the one that was going to be left behind if I loved somebody. And that I would be not being true to myself if I loved him and didn't open up."

Open up she did, because Lisa married the eccentric baron (a nephew of the late steel guru Baron Heini Thyssen, who once boasted he had hundreds of millions of annual disposable income) in the late-1990s and had three children by him: Wolfe, Alice and Lizzy.

The baroness divided her time between London, New York, a mansion in the exclusive Swiss ski resort of Klosters, Norris Castle on the Isle of Wight, Moyns Park, their Elizabethan home in Essex, and the yacht, the aforementioned Zaca A Te Mona, which is permanently on standby in Majorca with a full-time crew awaiting the baron and the baroness's every whim.

Lisa had, it seemed on the surface, quite the existence.

This was to change dramatically when Lisa and Steven split apparently far from amicably in 2005 with Lisa allegedly employing Prince Charles's divorce lawyer, Fiona Shackleton, to act for her.

There were some schadenfreude-y pieces in the tabloids about the sudden reduced circumstances of the baroness, who was allegedly living with her children in a one-time bed & breakfast in Lymington, Hampshire, while the baron kept up his extravagant lifestyle.

The baroness and the baron's divorce was finalised in 2011. And whatever Lisa went through when her marriage broke up so publicly I can only imagine that she inherited some of her mother's strength of will, resolve and moral fibre.

As Lisa once said of Arlene, "Mum is incredibly brave. She was a widow at 41 with four young daughters. And she went to college, went to Trinity for four years, and then set up Friends of the National Gallery, which didn't really exist.

"So I saw her pushing through and going into a lot of zones that she'd never been in before. I'd come home with my sisters after school and mum would just be writing these essays. She'd say, 'I haven't used my brain for so long, and I can't ever remember writing anything like this', and she'd just be sobbing.

"And then I saw her get her doctorate. I'm so proud of her. So I guess I have the grit that she has."

Whatever about egghead amateur psychology theories about Lisa seeking a father figure to replace her actual father's absence in her life since she was a teenager, you - and Lisa - might forgive me for suggesting there is something Freudian in her new romance with Jeremy Clarkson, who is 10 years older than her.

The controversial former Top Gear presenter, now hosting The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime, has been married twice (to Alexandra James from 1989 to 1990 and to Frances Cain from 1993 until 2014) and has three children, Katya, Emily and Finlo.

I wonder does their pillow-talk include Lisa asking him about the notorious March 4, 2015, incident that saw Mr Clarkson subsequently fired by the BBC for an unprovoked racial attack after he called his producer on Top Gear Oisin Tymon, a "lazy Irish c***" before punching him in the face.

"Everyone I meet these days seems to be Irish," Clarkson told me just before Christmas in an intriguing (in hindsight) interview.

"My daughter's boyfriend is Irish. He's brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I like him. There's a couple of Irish people in the office, I was knocking around with a whole bunch of Irish people the other night, 'til far too late.

"My life seems to be completely hijacked by the Irish at the moment. It's not good for my liver," said Clarkson, adding that he met a famous Irishman a few years ago when he was anchored on a boat off Eze in the South of France and he decided to go ashore; and walked into a mansion looking to borrow a car.

"I just needed some wheels and by a peculiar set of circumstance I ended up in Bono's Vauxhall Zafira Tourer," he told me.

The King of The Petrolheads recently took the baroness to Barbados.

An onlooker apparently told the Mirror: "Jeremy looked very relaxed around Lisa and they seemed very taken with each other. They were laughing and joking around like a new couple."

They were picked up at the Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados by Andrew Lloyd Webber's chauffeur who took the new couple to the impresario's Caribbean mansion on the Sandy Lane estate.

Perhaps after her experience with the baron - and in particular her memories on-board the paradoxically named Peace Of The Sea - Lisa prefers dry land with Jeremy.

Sunday Independent

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