Wednesday 13 December 2017

A very different daughter

Barry Egan

Barry Egan

DEIRDRE Murphy was three when she first realised her dad was different from other dads. It was inside the gates of Dublin Zoo, when a busload of eagle-eyed schoolgirls recognised her father as the man on the telly. Hysterical, the school trip ran towards Mike and Deirdre and began behaving like the monkeys in the zoo.

"I got really freaked out," she recalls. "Dad told me to hold on to his leg. I was crushed by these schoolgirls. I ended up crawling under their legs and out to safety. Dad saw me standing over the gate with this look in my eye that said, 'I don't like this.'"

Deirdre had that same look in her eye years later when her parents' marriage began to fall apart, in 1991, the year that her father's working relationship with a young colleague at RTE, Anne Walsh, became perhaps more than work.

The hurtful incomprehension at the end of her parents' relationship was possibly even more painful for Dee because, unlike her older sisters Elaine and Carol, she was living in the house with Mike and Eileen "when it was happening".

"When the whole affair thing happened, when I knew about it, I was 20, going on 21," Dee says quietly. In 1995 Mike and Eileen Murphy separated. The family home in Foxrock was sold in 1997. She was without a home, her mother without the husband she had devoted her life to . . .

Her father's betrayal of her mother affected her world view, she admits. "It made me very wary of men . . . and also made me not trust a lot," she says. "I find it very hard to trust. Definitely from what happened with my mum I find it hard to trust guys. I think I probably went through a stage in my life of treating men like shit. Not any more."

How long before the anger towards your father dissipated?

"I don't think it was even anger at my dad. I think it was probably more anger at the world," she says. "It was like I was angry in general at everything that was going on. I was angry that my mum was hurt. I was angry that there was no home to go to any more."

One of the reasons she went to America to work in the early Nineties was, she says, because she "wanted to get away from it. I had been living at home when the whole thing happened. I was there. I went through it as it happened. I just wanted to get the hell out of there, to be honest. I'd had enough of it. Shit happens," she says philosophically.

Dee knows that bitterness is its own punishment and has long since let go of any anger towards her father or the world. The past is in the past now and Dee has a solid relationship with Mike Murphy.

"I certainly have no anger against my father," she says. "No animosity whatsoever. We get on very well. He spends most of the year in America. I only see him on rare occasions when we go out for dinner."

The beautiful Ms Murphy and I are having lunch in Peploes on St Stephen's Green. The proprietor, Barry Canny, has just installed a grand piano and is adamant that Dee's mother, the incomparable Eileen Murphy, come in and tinkle the ivories as a regular engagement.

Three years ago at Merv Griffin's hotel in Palm Springs, Tony Bennett joined Eileen at the piano as she performed I Left My Heart in San Francisco. Her daughter Dee, meanwhile, left her heart in Los Angeles . . .

On April 14, 2003, Dee's Irish boyfriend, Trevor Murray, died tragically young, at 33, of sudden heart failure. Their relationship of two years had only recently ended, but they had remained really close friends.

"That really, really upset me a lot. I was devastated, and I still am, I suppose. We spent a lot of time together. We used to go hiking every day and go to yoga together."

The tattoo in Japanese writing on her left arm is for Trevor. Normally she tells people it translates as 'kung po chicken and fried rice'. Its actual translation is 'freedom forever'. "It's to remind me of Trevor."

(Eileen Murphy, of course, has her own body art. Indeed, there is something of a family history where tattooing is concerned. Eileen's father, Martin Dickson, had a tat on his arm that read 'My True Love Mary'. Eileen's mother's name was Sarah. For the record, before he met Sarah, his

Her father's betrayal of her mother affected her world view. 'Definitely from what happened I find it hard to trust guys. I think I went through a stage in my life of treating men like shit'

wife and many years his junior, Martin had been married for 28 years to a woman who died childless.)

Dee has another tattoo she got when she was 14 and "thinking she was in love with some eejit musician". She is not, she says, referring to Colin Devlin, her first boyfriend. Deirdre's older brother Mark is now playing guitar in Colin's band, the Devlins. "It's very scary!"

Not as scary, it transpired, as the night when a man the image of her father walked into Dee's place of employment. She "nearly died". The fact that Dee is the hostess in charge of the VIP section upstairs in Stringfellows in Parnell Street in Dublin might have something to do with Dee's reaction to her father's doppelganger.

The late US feminist Andrea Dworkin in her 2002 article Why Women Must Get Out of Men's Laps referred to clubs like Stringfellows as "living pornography. The primary issue is the status of women, who are inevitably demeaned by being treated as less than fully human," she wrote, "as objects who can be used and misused."

Dee's counter-argument is that lap-dancing is empowering, not exploitative, because, she says, "the dancers can earn up to ?5,000 a night" and thus often earn better money than the men for whom they take off their cheesy costumes. Dee is a bit of a philosophical liberal where this is concerned. She doesn't see Stringfellows as a place where the dancers are reduced to pieces of a woman - legs and bums and breasts - on show for male stimulation.

You don't think it's demeaning to women?

"I don't, actually. I think if you take it really seriously, then yes, it is demeaning, but I just think you have to go in there with a sense of humour and an open mind and just enjoy it. It's fun. I have to laugh at the holy joes outside with the placards, protesting. I don't see it as being demeaning to women at all," she smiles. "I admire them a lot. They really do take their job seriously."

If you had a daughter, would you object to her doing this?

"I probably would, actually. I would. Well, of course you would be protective of your daughter taking her clothes off in front of men. Of course I would be concerned about that. But most of the girls I have spoken to are very strong women. It is their job and they take it very seriously."

It doesn't bother Dee in the slightest to work in the adult-entertainment industry, because she worked for the Playboy organisation as a stylist a few years ago and she doesn't, she says, "even see the nakedness any more".

What I saw when I went to Stringfellows on Saturday night was a chic, trendy, hyper-sexualised environment that wasn't - ironically - particularly sexy.

"I absolutely agree with you," Dee says. "I don't find it sexy at all."

But you're not a lesbian, Dee.

"No, I'm not a lesbian, definitely not," she laughs, flirtatiously (a practice that comes too easily to the devilish Dee), "but I think Stringfellows is more of a fantasy world, for men and women to come in and be in these glamorous surroundings."

There was a ridiculous shock-horror article in another newspaper to the effect that "Mike Murphy's daughter works in strip club". Dee, for her part, says she is not sure what her famous father thinks of her working in Stringfellows because she hasn't spoken to him about it. She is, she says, an independent woman and a big girl.

"I'm sure he's happy I'm doing something I enjoy, as opposed to sitting in an office, which I couldn't deal with at all," she says. "That would be not my kind of thing. I'm sure he'd prefer if I was sitting in an office, but it's my life. And he knows that I'm a bit different to other people in my family."

That sense of being a bit different manifested itself at an early age. On her Confirmation Day, she overruled her mother and insisted on wearing a certain outfit in order to be very different to every other girl. She needn't have worried, in her unconventional outfit.

"I always did my own thing and had my own sense of style. The one thing my dad said to me as a kid was, 'Be an individual,'" she says, sipping her glass of champagne.

The faces of the nuns in Loreto College, Dublin, turned a sickly green when they saw that 13-year-old pupil Dee had shaved her head. The nuns kindly asked her to leave the college as a result. Dee wasn't particularly distraught. She was glad to get rid of the school uniform. "It was brown and I didn't really like wearing brown. I didn't really get expelled . . . " she laughs. She went to the Teresian School in Donnybrook, where there was no uniform, least of all a brown one. "There were only 20 people in each class, kids from all over the world. You called the teachers by their first name," she says. The school was right across the road from RTE. This meant that at lunchtime Dee and her friends would go over to the canteen in Montrose to get economically priced grub.

As a child growing up, she was, she says, very much a loner. At school, she wasn't sure whether her friends liked her because of herself or because of her father, who was on the television. "I certainly wasn't comfortable with the fact that my dad was famous," she says. "I didn't like that. I didn't want to be treated differently to other people. I felt uncomfortable going out in public with him. My sisters were OK with it. It made me more of an individual."

Another part of her individuality was inherited from her mother - certainly her love of bling comes from Eileen, and is much evident in the glitzy rigout she is wearing today - and another again from her grandmother, Sarah Dickson. "I got my sense of adventure from her. I was really upset when Granny died in 1988. She was the same age as the Queen Mother. In fact, she was the Queen Mother. She was a gas ticket. She was a very wise woman and she could kind of see into people, see what no one else could see . . . "

And what could she see in you?

"That I was a little different."

This was possibly something Matt Dillon noticed when he met young Dee on the set of Frankie Starlight in 1995 in Ireland (Dee had a small blink-and-you-miss-her part in the film as a prostitute). It was not until 2001 that they became a romantic item, albeit briefly.

"I went to New York to work in a bar in St Mark's Place and Matt used to come in there," she remembers. "I had a boyfriend and my boyfriend was always sitting at the bar, so nothing ever happened. And then when I went to Los Angeles we used to hang out.We went out for three months, and then 9/11 happened.

"Matt was actually with me when I saw it on TV. And that was the end of it, because he's from New York. He went back to New York. I saw him once since then. Osama Bin Laden ruined my relationship with Matt Dillon. There have been a lot of good-looking men in my life," Dee adds coquettishly. She adds that she falls in lust - rather than in love - easily. "I love good-looking men," she adds. She has her mother's striking good looks. So it is easy to see why good-looking men love her, too.

Did you lose your virginity to your first boyfriend, Colin Devlin?

"No. I lost my virginity to a French man, actually. I was 16. It was in Ireland. The earth didn't move. In fact, the only time the earth moved for me was in Los Angeles during the earthquake."

She talks of her time in the US with great verve. She returned from her semi-exile in America eight months ago, having realised that Los Angeles, which "can be a very lonely place", was not the kind of city she wanted to spend the rest of her life in. Dee was the youngest person in Ireland to get a green card, when she was 18. Her mother applied for her. She couldn't stand Boston, because she was too young to drink legally or go to bars or nightclubs.

The first night she spent in Boston, a burglar came in through the window and went out the front door, which probably played its part in making her homesick too. "I got the fear and just didn't want to be in America after that," she laughs. Back in Ireland, she ran and managed Sun Studios in Temple Bar.

Moving in music-biz circles, she met Guns N' Roses' notorious A&R man Tom Zutant in Lillies one night in 1991. There began a long, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to woo the young Irish girl: this included him sending limos to the Murphy family home in Foxrock, Co Dublin. "I used to say to Tom: 'I am not getting into that!'"

Part of his flawed seduction of Ms Murphy included the promise that he would give her a job at Geffen Records in Los Angeles if she could get another green card and make her way to the City of Angels. By the time she got to LA, however, Tom had been re-acquainted with his P45 by the record company. "It was the usual LA story!" she laughs. "I knew the guys in Blondie and I worked for a few record companies, like RCA, in New York and LA for a few years."

When she got sick of the music business - "nobody wanted to listen to what a stupid Irish girl thought" - she gradually got into styling, living with a friend in Bel Air. In 2000, a friend of hers lived opposite the Playboy offices in LA, so one day on a whim she walked over with her resume.

She immediately bumped into a stylist, pushing a rack of clothes, who was urgently seeking an assistant. Dee was in. Unfortunately for the girl who had given her the job, Dee was eventually given her job as costume designer; "the other woman was let go."

Have you seen the movie All About Eve? I joke.

"I didn't do anything!" she protests. "It wasn't my fault. They just really liked me. That was the beginning of me and Playboy." She met Hugh Hefner many times and talked to the Playmates he shares his bed with. "He is still able to do the deed. Fair play to him. He is a doddery little man. They asked me to pose for an Employees of Playboy special, but I turned it down. I was definitely a novelty in LA, because I had real boobs."

That novelty presumably wore off for the young man she drove around America with for four months, when she finally drove off on him: "I ended up kicking him out in Washington. He was a nightmare, an English wimp with a pain in his tummy!" Prior to that, Dee went out with an Irish musician called Garry Sullivan for almost five years. "I moved on," she smiles.

The black-haired beauty is not currently in a relationship. When she returned from America in October, Dee was dating a "much younger man from South Africa. He was a fantastic-looking toyboy. We had great fun for at least a month and then it was all very boring. I won't be doing the toyboy thing again. There is only so much staring into each other's eyes you can do."

You could have washed him and given him to your mother, I tease.

"Mum wouldn't have him!"

Dee, a delightful luncheon companion, denies that some of the more impetuous things she has done in her life were a deep-seated psychological reaction to her father. "I heard that before. I never wanted to hurt my father. Maybe shaving my head was a reaction to my father. But I certainly didn't sit around going: 'How am I going to piss Dad off?' In fact, it didn't piss my dad off. It pissed my mother off more than anything else."

It seems that Dee has finally found a happy medium.

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