Pattie Boyd: Life after George Harrison and Eric Clapton
18th August 2007
By LIZ JONES, The Daily Mailhttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/liv...n_page_id=1889
'I clung on to my marriages thinking they would get better'
Pattie Boyd was the much-envied swinging 60s model who married George Harrison and Eric Clapton.
But living the rock wife highlife was fraught with heartbreak and insecurity, as her new autobiography reveals. Here she tells Liz Jones why she's so much happier today.
There are so many wonderful stories in Pattie Boyd's life. Going to the cinema with Elvis.
Hanging out with Sinatra.
Watching Princess Margaret being handed a joint.
Being model scouted while working on an Elizabeth Arden beauty counter and then photographed by David Bailey.
Falling in love with a Beatle. Falling in love with another famous rock star, Eric Clapton, and being serenaded with 'Wonderful Tonight', the song he wrote while watching her get ready for a party.
Pattie's ever-present diary was full of entries like, 'Took George home to meet family in E-type Jag…' 'Went to Ireland with John and Cynthia.'
But there is much that is excruciating in her life story – which she has expanded from the diaries into a book, Wonderful Today – that you wonder whether the painful outweighed the magical.
That she might have been happier had she not met George Harrison on the set of A Hard Day's Night; had she not got caught up in all the drugs and the mansions and men who behaved like little boys.
When I say this she does her big laugh. 'They were like little boys!' she shouts. 'They should have been wearing short grey trousers!'
We are due to meet in a hotel in Notting Hill, and when a tiny woman with a nest of blond hair, big breasts and skinny legs in jeans and high-heeled boots brushes past me on the stairs, I know instantly it's Pattie.
She still has that startling face made famous in a Smith's Crisps TV ad: the very blue, round, innocent eyes, the slightly prominent teeth.
When I tell her she looks exactly the same she laughs, and puts it down to the fact she has never had plastic surgery.
She had come up to London the night before from her cottage in Sussex to stay with a girlfriend; she is worried the rabbits will be eating her sunflowers and can't wait to get home.
She has lots of female friends now, she says, and no man in her life.
A better state of affairs than having a cheating man to worry about, and no female friends because she's afraid they'll steal him?
'I learned to distinguish predatory women from ordinary ones. I did occasionally get the predatory ones out of the way but I had to be on the lookout all the time. It was exhausting!'
I ask why she has chosen to publish her autobiography now, at the age of 63.
'I've always thought I was a very private person, and then my sister-in-law said, 'Pattie, have you Googled your name?' 'I was amazed that there was all this information about me; obviously not all of it correct.
'But I'd always felt that until I'd made a success of something of my own, I shouldn't do a book.
'Now that I've had two photographic exhibitions [including portraits of famous friends and landscapes from her travels] in San Francisco that were very well received, I feel the timing is right.
'People say it's cathartic to write a book, but it turned out to be quite painful!'
Although her first husband, George Harrison, died of cancer in 2001, her second, Eric Clapton, formerly of the Yardbirds and Cream, is still very much alive, and
I wonder what he thinks of his portrayal in her book, which is far from flattering.
'I'm not worried about him reading it – should I be?' she asks, looking worried.
'I asked if I could publish his letters and he said yes.
'But what's odd is that he didn't want to know which letters I wanted to use…but he writes beautifully, he's obviously confident about what he's written.'
Goodness. The letters.
Never was a woman so relentlessly pursued and then so cruelly cast aside...
Pattie Boyd was born on 17 March 1944, and spent her early childhood in West Lothian.
Pattie's mother, Diana, was born in India; her father, Jock, was badly burned in the RAF, which prematurely ended his career, and the family moved to Kenya when Pattie was four to join her maternal grandparents.
She loved Kenya, but always felt very distant from her mother. When she was sent to boarding school in Nakuru aged eight, she knew 'something bad was happening at home'.
It turned out her mother was having an affair, and she soon returned to England, leaving Pattie, two of her siblings and her father in Africa.
Pattie describes her father as 'always behind a newspaper. He was awkward, distant' (and unfaithful) – precisely the type of man she was to end up marrying, twice.
A year later, in 1953, her mother sent for her children; Pattie wouldn't see her father again for three decades.
Again, she was packed off to boarding school. She says that as a child she felt 'rejected and abandoned'.
Her deepest fear is of being abandoned again.
She likes to cling on, though: 'I am a very positive person, and I clung on in my marriages thinking, “I'm sure it will get better!"
Her parents are still alive.
What does her mother think of the book?
'She was sad that I'd had an unhappy childhood, but I told her, 'Mummy, I'm hardly suffering now. Look at me – I'm fine.'
I'm blessed with the fact that I'm a fighter. I've always known life was meant to be joyful.'
Despite gracing the cover of Vogue numerous times, and having three of arguably the greatest love songs ever written for her (before 'Wonderful Tonight', Clapton had penned 'Layla', a paen to his unrequited love for her, and she inspired George to write the Beatles' 'Something'), Pattie has never felt remotely lovable.
'I was terribly self-critical,' she says.
'I think modelling is a very difficult thing. It's glamorous and fun, but underneath it all, you know your flaws and those are what you focus on.'
Like so many women, she blames herself for both of her husbands' infidelities.
Perhaps because her father and stepfather had affairs she didn't expect anything better?
Repeatedly, in her book and during our conversation, she berates herself for not being more patient.
I suggest that the men she married were so infantile they shoved her into a sort of mummy role.
'I don't know whether the mummy role was inherent because I was the eldest of six or because I never had children,' she says.
Although both George and Eric were hugely talented, I wonder whether either was worth the bother.
George spent most of his time smoking marijuana, meditating or playing his guitar.
Eric cheated on Pattie almost before the ink dried on their wedding certificate.
The sex can't have been that great, either, I say: Eric was a drug addict, then an alcoholic.
But she will only say tactfully, 'It could be so annoying!'
Pattie and George were married on 21 January 1966. She was 21, he was 22. She wore a Mary Quant dress and fur coat.
Her father didn't come to the wedding. They moved into a modest 60s house in Esher, Surrey, and spent their time smoking joints rolled by Bob Dylan and sitting on furniture from a trendy new store called Habitat.
Everything was fine.
It was when they moved to Friar Park, a mansion near Henley-on-Thames, that the problems started.
The house, soon stuffed with antiques, became a constant reminder to George of how far he had strayed from his roots; he felt he didn't deserve it.
And the house was so big Pattie could never keep tabs on him. She says that George 'hated the touring, the fame; he was frightened of the fans, he never got any peace; he became withdrawn, depressed'.
She says he always felt excluded artistically from the Beatles, and his moods weren't helped when their manager Brian Epstein died; she says he felt like an orphan.
It was through Pattie, who loved to travel, that, in 1968, George met the Maharishi, furthering an interest in the East that had begun a couple of years earlier when George met sitar master Ravi Shankar.
George became a vegetarian, and meditated for hours every day. I venture that he was a hypocrite: he'd seek enlightenment, but he also took cocaine. 'Drugs hardened his heart,' she admits.
Pattie would arrive home to find him with other women; they seemed to teem around the house like woodlice.
'Because of my fragile ego, I saw it as betrayal,' she says.
'I would look at all these girls and think, “Oh my God, they're all so beautiful.'''
I tell her, but it was betrayal!
Why did you put up with it?
And she just shrugs. Like most insecure men, George was jealous of her fame, and to appease him she pretty much gave up modelling.
'Without a job and without actually doing anything except look after somebody, it lessens your value.
'George didn't want me to be famous; he just wanted me to be quiet at home. And so that's when I started taking pictures.
I wanted to do something.'
While she and George were growing further apart, Eric Clapton was sending 'the most passionate letters anyone had ever written to me'.
Wanting to save her marriage, she rejected him, and in turn he threatened to take the heroin he had in his hand.
'He said, “That's it, I'm off.”'
She hardly saw him for three years. And he was true to his word: he became addicted to heroin, almost taking his then girlfriend, Paula, Pattie's younger sister ('he wanted the closest thing to me') down with him.
Did she blame herself?
'No, it was his choice. It was appalling!'
Neither does she blame herself for the path chosen by Paula, whom she has helped many times over the years and who is waiting to go into rehab.
'I wasn't deliberately taking her into a rock'n'roll world. She knew all the Beatles, they [her siblings] all did.'
But as George continued the chanting and the affairs, Pattie finally gave in to Eric, and in 1973 left George to join him on tour.
Does she think things might have been different if she had had a child with George?
'Well, there would have been a point of reference for both of you that would be lifelong,' she says sadly.
Her new life with Eric, in yet another mansion, took on an eerily familiar pattern.
She subjugated her life to his: to keep up with him she took marijuana, uppers, downers, cocaine, even heroin, and became an alcoholic as she tried to keep up with his drinking.
Her family had loved George but they hated Eric, who had no social graces: 'He'd get up in the middle of dinner and just walk off,' she recalls. He could also be cruel.
Once, she found him at home with someone called Jenny, and he said, 'I'm in love with this girl. Just f*** off.'
On another occasion, she took delivery of a brand new Ferrari and as a surprise went to pick him up at the airport.
He was so disgusted she had driven it before him that he immediately sold it. He was awful, I tell Pattie, and she laughs.
But she is still so forgiving when she says, 'For a musician to come home and be as wonderful a person as they are on stage is impossible.
'It's ludicrous to expect them to be as fabulous a human being in day-to-day life.' Both men were extravagant (George once littered his drive with rubies instead of gravel), but Pattie was so ashamed at not being able to have children that, upon divorcing them, she walked away with almost nothing.
From George, she took £120,000 and a Mercedes.
She wrote to Eric, asking him to buy her a house in the country; he refused.
Only much later did he sign over a cottage in her name. I ask whether she would have found a nice, normal man who adored her far too boring.
'I would! I realise I like difficult men! I like something to battle with.
If somebody is too easy and adores me, I might crush them, which would be cruel.'
In 1985, soon after Eric Clapton had played at the first Live Aid concert, he met Lori del Santo, an actress.
He told Pattie he had fallen in love. Is that what made it different? She put up with his groupies?
'Yes.' But not when he said he was in love with someone else?
'No, that's different. I think boys play, they are silly boys, but if they fall…if there's an emotional attachment – that's very different.'
Yet she still clung on to their marriage, even after Lori gave birth to a son, Conor, the following year.
Eric would come home to Pattie after visiting him, bursting with fatherly pride. At the time, Pattie was going through IVF. 'In a funny way, he expected me to be pleased,' she says. Does she regret not having children? 'Yes, but the thing is, I tried, so it can't be a regret, can it?'
They divorced in 1989. Two years later, Conor died when he fell from a 53rd-floor window in Manhattan.
To make matters worse, the papers dug up the story that Eric had already fathered another child, a daughter, and had been paying maintenance for the past six years.
But Pattie was there for him.
'I wrote to Eric when Conor died, and he rang me. He was very fragile. I went to the funeral with him. He asked me to.' I really admire Pattie Boyd.
She was taught by her parents that she didn't deserve to be loved; she was told by her husbands that she wasn't worth very much, but here she is: not dead, not on drugs, not an alcoholic, but a survivor.
George was the love of her life. 'We grew up spiritually together – we learned everything together – and if you do that, there's a much tighter bond.
Hopefully, you'll be friends until you die. I remember the day we met.
I thought he was so beautiful and funny,' she says. 'I do regret [not being more forgiving]; that plagued me for years.