Patsy Kensit - rock chick to Irish mummy
You might assume she was a little middle-class girl, but Patsy Kensit grew up in two rooms and an outside loo. Here the colourful actress opens up to Barry Egan about her mother's death, her father's brushes with the law and marriage to Dan, Jim, Liam and Jeremy
Published 24/11/2013 | 21:30
I think we shared a moment on Wednesday in London, Patsy Kensit and I. First, I see her vaguely bare bum vanish cinematically into the toilet in her dressing room at ITV studios on the Southbank. (Earlier, I passed a Spice Girl and then Alan Carr in the corridor.) She does a bad job of covering her famous derriere with a towel. Her arse is brown, the towel is white; the same colour as my face.
"Once you've seen one bum, you've seen them all, right?" Patsy asks rhetorically with a spell-binding Lady Macbeth cackle that could be heard right the way down the River Thames outside the 10th storey window.
Then, five minutes later, she re-emerges still not fully clothed. She is wearing Spanx knickers and a black silk top. She puts the towel on her lap and sits down. The towel keeps falling to the side. I tell her I feel like a cross between her gynaecologist and her psychologist. Patsy is the most fantastically funny woman, nay superstar, I've ever interviewed. It would be hard not to love her. Or her arse.
She has been on the cover of every magazine, from Vanity Fair to Vogue – American and English editions – yet she turns self-deprecation into a new art form. "I look like a fat old man now," she insists. "I'm nearly 50!"
When I insist that, on the contrary, she doesn't look like a fat old man at all, the 45-year-old beauty merely roars with laughter. I'm sure the Spice Girl in the other dressing room must have heard it.
She is refreshingly adorable, if complex, and implacably down-to-earth; she gives me her phone number and says to stay in touch (she leaves a long and lively message on my phone the following day). She says she had a lovely time living in Killiney in Dublin with her then-husband Jim Kerr of Simple Minds in the mid-nineties. She says to give her love to Gavin Friday, Ali, Bono, Guggi and all the gang.
GQ Magazine had to give Patsy a firm retraction in the aftermath of a bizarre feature on her in 1999: "There is no truth in the allegation at page 97 that she shared a bed with Bono and his wife Ali in a blissed-out state or otherwise..."
She practically drops her towel again when I mention it.
"They are really dear friends," Patsy says. "I totally idolise Ali. She is so smart and interesting. Often you come across someone who is perhaps married to this juggernaut rock 'n' roll star – she is just a wonderful person and I respect her an awful lot."
Part of Patsy's deep-seated admiration for Mrs Hewson was because Ali spiritually helped her get pregnant when it was proving difficult. It is a long story and Patsy has her own unique way of telling it.
"The plan was to have our son James in Dublin. I swear we conceived when we went to stay with Bono. I hadn't met Bono. But obviously Simple Minds and U2 were all together at times and Jim and Bono knew each other very well."
"I couldn't believe it," she says referring to meeting Bono. "I am a massive U2 fan. He just pulled up in this Bristol car and picked us up and we had presents for the girls and we went out to ... it's magical that place. We had such a great evening."
"I remember saying to Ali: 'We have been trying for a baby.' It's hard to get pregnant. We spend all these years. Not that I am a ... I mean, I'm a virgin! I'm pure!"
She laughs for about an hour before we finally return to the narrative. "Anyway, I said to Ali we wanted to have a baby and then a week later we got married. And then we went straight off to Bali on our honeymoon, and I was so ill. We were in a really remote part of Bali and we didn't have a chemist where we could get a pregnancy test, so the local vet took my urine sample. And we found out we were having a cow!" she giggles. "I was definitely pregnant and it was such a blessing. And it continues to be a blessing."
"It was all Ali actually." she says, smiling.
At dawn the next morning, after finding out they were pregnant, Jim and Patsy drove up a mountain and as the sun was coming up, Patsy asked Jim to stop the car, took all her clothes off "and put her belly on a rock and asked Mother Nature to give the baby all her power to help him in life".
Born March 4, 1968, in Hounslow, London, Patricia Jude Francis Kensit has needed Mother Nature's power to help her at times. She is one of life's true survivors, as well as being the quintessential rock chick with attitude. She has wed four times, including marriages to Kerr (in 1992) and Liam Gallagher of Oasis (in 1997); she has children by both Kerr and Gallagher, the aforementioned James (born in 1993) and Lennon (born 1999 with Patsy's VBF Elizabeth Hurley as godmother.)
Her father James, known as Jimmy The Dip, was "on the fringes" of the Kray twins, and was in and out of prison. (She tells her kids that their late grandfather, who died in 1987, was a kind of gangster rapper.) She used to tell the nuns in school that her father was away in South Africa when he was really behind bars.
Her mother Margaret, whose parents hailed from county Leitrim, fought cancer from as long as Patsy can remember. She can vividly recall being four years of age and standing in a hospital corridor with her dad and thinking her mother was about to die. "I remember my father taking me to the West Middlesex Hospital in Isleworth to say goodbye to my mother, who was about to have an operation for breast cancer," she says.
"I was told she would probably die. Mum was being wheeled along a corridor and she had a sort of shower cap covering her hair – she had lovely hair and was a very beautiful woman. I remember it vividly, her holding out her hand as she was pushed along on the trolley and me clutching it and saying goodbye."
Her mother finally died, aged 54, when Patsy was 23. She says she believes that had her mother lived that her marriage to Kerr would have lasted.
Kensit's entire youth was filled with a dread of imminent and heartbreaking loss: thinking either her father was going to be taken away to prison (he was released when Patsy was 14) or her mother was going to be taken away from her permanently by cancer. She grew up without much in the way of stability. You can see why she was drawn to rock stars like Kerr and Gallagher; because they were men who, like her father, led an unconventional existence.
"Yes, and it was because it was familiar to me," she says of the psychological attraction to Liam and Jim. "But what I will say is, divorce is awful. I still believe in love and I am a hopeless romantic. I am not going to apologise for that. But when you have children, you have got to make it OK for them.
"Nicole Appleton has been the most incredible stepmother to Lennon," she says referring to Liam's wife, former All Saints singer Nicole, from whom he has recently separated after she discovered he had fathered a child with Liza Ghorbani during an affair in New York in 2010.
"Nicole's really wonderful. Gene comes and stays with us all the time," she says referring to Liam and Nicole's son.
"And Liam gave James a job at Pretty Green," she says referring to Liam's fashion label.
So, you stayed friends with Liam?
"Of course. What's there to row about?"
Him shagging other women when he was married to you ...
We both laugh.
"I wasn't allowed to say this in the book. If you watch the Martin Scorsese documentary on George Harrison, Olivia Harrison at the end says: 'People have asked me over and over what is the success of your relationship with this rock star', and she said why it was successful was because you don't get divorced."
I asked her did she think she could change Liam when she married him.
"Every woman thinks they can change a man. But, you see, these two guys had everything going for them. I wanted someone to love me the way my mother had. It felt selfish, but I was mourning. I had to go through all that. I am in a real peaceful place now ... sitting here in my knickers. I don't give a toss what anyone else thinks, once my kids are happy. We keep the equilibrium."
Not long after Patsy and Liam moved in together in London in 1997 (it was covered in Vanity Fair), Patsy was tipped off that Liam was in a hotel room with "a well-known model". She describes driving over to the hotel and kicking in Liam's hotel room door "like it was an IRA raid".
"I really hope he had a good night!" she laughs now
But you still married him after that. Why did you?
"Because I am a hopeless romantic. The die was cast. I could have spent this book correcting so many lies. Yeah, Liam and I were fireworks but there was a very deep connection there, as there was with Jim."
You seem to have more regrets about breaking up with Liam than Jim in the book ...
"You think? As you mature," Patsy says and stops. "You know what? I was a handful and these guys, hats off to them. I wanted to have a family. I made so many mistakes, I did so many things wrong," she says unnecessarily (I am thinking that she was with a man who cheated on her at every turn, the final straw being when she discovered singer Lisa Moorish had given birth to Liam's child in 1998). "I own my part in it. Everyone has their lives."
Patsy says she was also attracted to "Celts" like Jim and Liam because they reminded her of the Irish boys she used to see at mass on Sundays as a kid and throw rocks at her hat. "I became a fast runner and a good fighter," she recalls. "Everyone always assumes I was this middle-class girl. I grew up in two rooms and an outside loo."
What was much more painful on a deeper level than the chilly toilet arrangements on London council estates for Patsy was her father going into prison when she was a young child.
"That broke my heart for him," she says. "I don't struggle with that bit, what my dad did, because he did what he had to do. I don't condone crime or villainry as they called it in those days. He used to take me to the dogs for my favourite meal of pie and mash. He was a real character."
"There's no such thing as depression," she can remember her mother saying to her once when she was younger, possibly to help her deal with the sadness of watching her mum die.
I ask Patsy has she suffered from depression.
"I have been very sad at times. Depression is a dirty word. I have been down but you have got to get on with it. There have been so many times I wanted to hide under the duvet and never come out, but what kind of parent would that be? Life is not perfect. So if you fall down, it is not how you fall but how you pick yourself up. And," she says, "I couldn't be prouder of my boys. I am a real Irish mummy because they can do no wrong."
Patsy gave an emotional performance during an interview last month on ITV, with the star seeming often lost in her thoughts. She subsequently said it was her body's reaction after her hysterectomy.
"I've done a million chat shows before – Letterman, Jay Leno, Parkinson. But it's hard for me at the moment because I'm not myself," she told a newspaper.
"This terrible menopause means that I get a dry mouth and the sweats. My emotions are all over the place, so if I burst into tears it's not because I'm unhappy or I've had a terrible life, it's just that my emotions are all on the surface."
Her acting began at the age of four when she appeared in an advert for Birdseye frozen peas; when she was five she was playing opposite Robert Redford and Mia Farrow (Patsy played Pamela Buchanan, daughter of rich socialite Daisy played by Farrow) in The Great Gatsby.
"I went on to do some horrendously shit things," she says, possibly meaning Holby or Emmerdale.
"Pick a number! I would love to stay at home and bake and do the school run but I need to make a living." She was really rather good with Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 2 in 1989 and of course, three years earlier as Crepe Suzette opposite David Bowie in Absolute Beginners. Patsy used the latter as the title of her extraordinary honest new autobiography, Patsy Kensit: Absolute Beginner. In it, she writes: "When you're a child and confronted with mortality, that's the day you grow up. From that moment on, the whole purpose of my life was to be my mum's saviour." Inevitably, given her childhood, Patsy's adult life was a search for her own romantic saviour.
"I always wanted someone to love me the way my mother had," she says.
"There is no whining in the book," she says of Absolute Beginner. "I don't want sympathy. Look, I got huge and fat!" she says inaccurately. "You know – people taking pictures of me: 'Fatsy Patsy!'"
"I am a strong person," she adds, "and there is a vulnerability there."
Her mind processes questions in every possible permutation before Patsy actually answers the question. It is like listening to Cameron Diaz's character in The Counselor when she says "the truth has no temperature". When I ask is she now in a good place, Patsy smiles, reflects for a bit before answering: "People always want to know where are you at now and is this it? They want you to say: 'I'm fixed.' I don't know. It is like doing a painting. I might just decide to paint a red wall black tomorrow. I don't know. I am growing and learning."
Kensit has lived an eventful life – equal parts Dynasty and Top Of The Pops – but one certainly as colourful as she could. She never committed the moral celebrity sin of being dull. In February 2010, she separated from her fourth husband, international DJ Jeremy Healy, after a year of marriage. Patsy married her first husband Dan Donovan of band Big Audio Dynamite in 1988.
"With all respect to Dan and Jeremy, I was married twice," she says with remarkable frankness. "Was Liam the love of my life? In one way, yes. But Jim in another was as well."
It is now 1pm and I've been with Patsy since 11am and our time is nearly up. Before I go, I mention the little matter of both her and Liam being single again.
I ask her would she get back with him.
"There is no answer to that!" she roars.
There is. It is called yes or no.
"That is ridiculous. I adore and love Nicole and Gene."
Would you get married again to Liam?
"I'd marry Nicole, actually."
'Patsy Kensit: Absolute Beginner', is out now, published by Macmillan, priced €17.99.