“The novelty wore off”
The passion between Michael Hutchence and Paula Yates was white-hot but ultimately fatal, as a new biography of the late INXS star reveals
Their tumultuous relationship hit global headlines. Now, a new biography lifts the lid on what happened between Michael Hutchence and Paula Yates.
At the end of this story, three people are dead, five children have lost their mother, one is a complete orphan and two men are left to pick up the pieces. The story of Michael Hutchence, Paula Yates and Bob Geldof is one of intense love and passion. It’s also a story about how the tabloid press crushes people.
Geldof’s mother died when he was eight. His father, a commercial traveller, then left young Geldof to his own devices. “Life was just… grim,” Geldof told The Guardian. “We had no money. We didn’t have a telly – or even a fridge – but if you didn’t have a telly you read books and listened to the radio and suddenly, like all of my generation… I heard The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Bob Dylan.”
In the mid-’70s he was seized by the excitement of punk rock. Geldof had a band called The Boomtown Rats and was soon a prince of the London scene. Devastating wit and a rapier-sharp mind meant he verbally decimated anybody who crossed him. Then he met Yates.
“I remember her now,” Geldof later recalled, “standing at the stage door, lit by the lights of the car park. Snow was falling and she was wearing a bareshouldered ball gown. She was just so beautiful… I mean, what’s a boy to do?”
She too was a wild child on the run from her past. They made the most lovable couple – him with unwashed hair and crocodile smile, her with the tattoo and dizzy blonde routine. They would be together for 19 years.
But relationships are hard, and by 1993 Geldof was always busy at work or saving the world. Yates bristled at her confinement. In 1995, she made the break. Two decades later, Geldof confessed he was “ruined” when Yates left him. When it happened, he was like this massive, wounded, bleeding animal. Geldof had never taken anything in his
life lying down, and he was going to fight for his family with everything.
The Geldofs had lived under a microscope: they were always on the telly saying something outrageous or giving their kids fanciful names.
Yates’s father hosted the religious variety show Stars On Sunday. Her former showgirl mother wrote erotic fiction. The marriage was a mess. “I used to go to bed not knowing if she’d still be there in the morning,” Yates told The Independent of her mother.
According to her memoir, Yates lost her virginity and started snorting heroin aged 12. At 14 she was clubbing. At 16, she found Geldof at a restaurant. He provided the discipline she needed to turn her life around. She wrote for the music papers, completed a book ( Rock Stars In Their Underpants) and posed for Penthouse.
Geldof and Yates married in 1986, 10 years after they started their relationship. But a year earlier, Yates had become infatuated with Michael Hutchence during a TV interview on The Tube. She made no secret of her lust for the INXS frontman. She had his pictures on the fridge, which Geldof defaced. Since that first interview she had remained in contact, going to the band’s shows in New York and the UK. It’s unlikely these encounters were entirely chaste. She told INXS tour manager Bruce Patron, “I’m going to have that boy.” As Hutchence spent more time away from girlfriend Helena Christensen, he saw more of Yates.
HUTCHENCE KNEW WHAT he was doing when he slid between Yates’s sheets. Former girlfriend nd Michele Bennett says Yates “went right ght into dark places with Michael. He loved ved her provocativeness. s. It was fun for him. She was as intelligent. He liked how witty she was, and that she had this earth mother side as well. But I think she became insecure about him… and he didn’t like that.”
A month after Yates and her daughters Fifi, Peaches and Pixie moved out of the marital home, she and Hutchence checked into a hotel in Kent. Yates had tipped off the press; little did Hutchence know that when he went to dinner, every other table was occupied by a tabloid reporter. The ambush turned to farce, culminating in Hutchence taking a swing at a photographer. Everybody had now seen everybody’s cards – Geldof and Christensen were out of the picture, and the press was brought into the Yates–hutchence household like the guest who will never leave. She just didn’t anticipate the flood of negative press.
Even The Guardian weighed in with an attack: “Yates’s biggest public relations problem is that she is, to use the taxi driver vernacular, ‘a bit of a stupid cow’. What, after all, can one say in defence of a woman who started out as a groupie and went downhill from there? In many ways, she is a born loser.”
Hutchence was not used to this. He saw his role as having to protect Yates and her reputation. Bennett believes he would have felt guilty about breaking up a home. But they were very much in love, certainly in the early years. Actor/ musician Terry Serio recalls, “It was lovely. There was a lot of affection between them, and I found Paula funny and fascinating. It felt like his girlfriend but also a force in her own right.”
But this was different. Hutchence had always hopped on a plane to escape difficult situations. He couldn’t do that now. And then a daughter named Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence was born on July 22, 1996. “The first months when the practicalitie practicalities of life ca came alon along,
wh when the novelty wears off, Michael couldn’t handle that,” says close friend Richard Lowenstein. “Michael was never – not even in Paula’s wildest dreams – going to be that domestic person. When they were living close to Nick Cave he would say, ‘I’m going to see Nick…’ and do nothing but bitch about the missus and the family. Anyone who thought Michael was going to be this tame, domestic hubby with the kids was just kidding themselves.”
But whether he liked it or not, by 1996 Hutchence’s career took a back seat to his new role as a family man. The novelty delighted him; he came to think of Yates’s daughters as his own. That September, the pair were in Australia with Tiger when hard drugs were found under the couple’s bed in their London home; the nanny discovered a tube of lollies that contained opium and heroin.
There has never been a full and reasonable investigation into how the drugs got into the tube or under the bed. But the next month Geldof was given custody of his three daughters. This setback accelerated Hutchence’s downward spiral. According to his brother Rhett Hutchence, “He was on Prozac and being treated for depression on account of all the money he was spending and the problems with Paula and Bob. Paula had been feeding Michael bullsh*t; when he started finding out how much it was costing him to be with her, I think he wanted to separate.”
The paranoia grew more intense and the quality of his companionship diminished. His usual crew was gradually replaced by drug people. “In the last year before he died,” remembers Serio, “I felt when I would catch up with Michael in my place in Sydney or driving around in my car, that I was watching the bird in the cage – a giant bird in a very small but gilded cage.” This is an edited extract of Shine Like It Does: The Life Of Michael Hutchence by Toby Creswell (Echo, $32.99), out now.
“Not even in Paula’s wildest dreams was Michael going to be domestic”
NEW N SENSATION (from far left) Paula Yates’s infamous 1994 19 interview with Michael Hutchence for her TV show The Th Big Breakfast; the INXS frontman rehearsing for the 1990 19 MTV VMAS; Hutchence thought of Yates’s daughters as his own; Yates and Hutchence’s daughter Heavenly Hiraani H Tiger Lily has been raised by Bob Geldof.