CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night's TV: Paula was one of a kind

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Part Marilyn Monroe, part Mary Poppins, Paula was one of a kind

Paula ****

Jonathan Ross’ Myths and Legends ** 

Paula Yates flirted with everybody. No man was immune — though often, all she wanted to do was see them blush.

Robbie Williams recalled how in 1993 all five of Take That crammed on to the double bed where she recorded her infamous interviews for Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast. He was furiously jealous, he said, that she plainly fancied bandmate Jason Orange and not him.

She goaded Sting to take his shirt off on The Tube, the live music show that made her a household name, and told Terry Wogan on his teatime chat show that she fantasised about being Doris Day to his Rock Hudson.

Her friend Belinda Brewin called her, in the first of a two-part portrait, Paula (Ch4), a cross between Marilyn Monroe and Mary Poppins.

But there was another, sadder side to the mother-of-four, who spiralled into alcoholism and drug abuse after the death of her lover Michael Hutchence. She died of an accidental heroin overdose in 2000.

Paula Yates, pictured in 1999, flirted with everybody. No man was immune — though often, all she wanted to do was see them blush

The basis of this documentary is a series of taped interviews she gave to magazine editor Martin Townsend. Having an actress in a peroxide wig lip-synch to the words on cassette was a mistake: the audio was powerful enough on its own.

Acknowledging that she had not coped well since Hutchence hanged himself in a hotel room, in 1997, Paula said, ‘It’s kind of a weird feeling that everybody’s waiting for you to die.’

One journalist even sent her a copy of her obituary. The headline was Suicide Blonde — the title of a song by Hutchence’s band INXS.

Why Ch4 has decided to air the interviews now wasn’t clear. By coincidence, the shows follow a one-off documentary, broadcast by rival Channel 5 at the weekend, on presenter Hughie Green . . . who was Paula’s biological father. Green kept that secret all his life, and Paula herself was unaware until the scandal broke at his funeral.

What is shockingly obvious, two decades later, is how cruelly she was treated during the laddish 1990s. She had always played up her reputation as a groupie — before she married Bob Geldof, she published a book of photographs called Rock Stars In Their Underpants — but some men in powerful positions on television failed to see the joke.

Her treatment on Have I Got News For You in 1995 was particularly repugnant. Private Eye editor Ian Hislop denounced Paula as an attention-seeking hussy with breast implants, until she begged him to stop being ‘unkind’.

The full excerpt wasn’t shown. In fact, Hislop went on to taunt Paula about her autobiography: ‘I gather it took you six days to write this book. Did you get writer’s block or something?’ Co-star Paul Merton intervened, telling Hislop that if he carried on, ‘I’d take great pleasure thumping my fist into that great face of yours.’

Jonathan Ross, whose career as an interviewer on Ch4 started at around the same time as Paula’s, was branching out to try a travelogue, exploring Britain’s folklore on Myths And Legends (More4). In a pink checked jacket with matching shoes, he took a steam train across the Pennines. Is he after Michael Portillo’s job?

Jonathan Ross explores Britain’s folklore on his new More4 programme Myths And Legends

The fairytales were enlivened with quirky animations of sprites and hobgoblins that seemed to spy on him. Wossy was distracted, more concerned about his health than his fact-finding.

In Whitby, on the hottest day of the year, he fretted that he’d forgotten to wear his Fitbit. And tucking into a Yorkshire Pudding at the Mother Shipton Inn in Knaresborough, he reassured us that this wasn’t one of his ‘no-carbs days’.

Wiser to stay in the studio, perhaps. He’s getting on a bit now.

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