A series dedicated to explaining Britain’s manufactured celebrities to an American audience.
As the British phone hacking scandal spawns new chapters, it may yet be too early to properly take stock of the vital questions, namely, how will the exposure of these unconscionable practices ultimately transform tabloid culture? And by which method can we scrub from our memories Hugh Grant’s excruciating use of the crisis as public psychotherapy? Nevertheless, with Murdoch’s minions awaiting criminal trial, we are duty-bound to weigh the consequences they hath wrought, such as possibly—and arguably most seismically—casting asunder the epochal union of Jude Law and Sadie Frost. “Did phone hacking destroy my marriage?” wondered the sometime actress and scented knickers inventor following her receipt of £50,000 in damages from News International. “If we hadn’t been so fiercely pursued by the press, how different would my life be? Would I still be married?”
Imagine that, if you even can: no Jude & Sienna, no Nannygate, no Jude & Sienna 2.0. Instead, in this alternate reality, the three Frost-Law offspring have additional siblings, Jude has kept a full head of hair, and Natural Nylon, the film production company founded in 1997 by actor friends including Sadie, Jude, Ewan McGregor and Johnny Lee Miller, remains extant. By mind-boggling extension, Johnny isn’t currently playing Sherlock opposite Lucy Liu’s Dr. Watson to very mixed reviews! It’s as if The Plot Against America were set in Primrose Hill and featured less anti-Semitism and more soul-sapping showbiz banality. But in our dimension’s timeline—whether it’s the darkest one is obviously not for this column to say—dear Sadie has struck out on her own, and maintained uninterrupted public notoriety with nothing but the sweat of her brow, a string of dalliances with foppish pretty boys, and regular vacations in the company of Kate Moss and the world’s paparazzi. That the raven-haired 47-year-old, whose only noteworthy acting role was in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula twenty years ago, has pulled this off is not so much remarkable as gloomily axiomatic of British society, where possessing any actual talent—outside of a gift for concisely obliterating the dreams of talent show entrants, which is God’s work—is nowadays an impediment to top-echelon fame.
But back to the more cheerful topic of Jude and Sadie’s abbreviated coupling: the erstwhile Mrs. Law is perhaps being a tad revisionist by placing all the blame on the voraciousness of the press. After all, they were already divorced when the News of the World exposed the general tenor of their relationship as having been, to put it delicately, rather sharply divergent from your typically humdrum haven of bourgeois domesticity. It was January 2005, a vulnerable nation had barely recovered from the shame of Prince Harry‘s Nazi costume, when our last vestiges of innocence crumbled amid revelations of Sadie and Jude’s “wife-swapping sessions” with Supergrass drummer Danny Goffey and his wife, Pearl Lowe, hijinks that allegedly caused awkwardness all round when Jude fell hard for Pearl. (Aspirant swingers, do take note: it’s all fun and games until the star of Alfie gets emotional.) Then later that same year, Kate Moss’ longtime PA sensationally—and by “sensationally” I mean “at that point, not particularly surprisingly”— divulged that the cocaine-addled supermodel’s “lesbian romps” with her BFF Sadie had made poor Jude jealous, a problem that Kate, nothing if not a caring, sharing type, was happy to solve by shtupping him too.
Doubtless on the basis of all this fascinating debauchery, in 2009 a publisher, John Blake, eagerly signed up Sadie to write her autobiography. But stick-in-the-mud Jude, inconveniently, was less than thrilled at the prospect of having their mutual sordid shenanigans dredged up all over again. Shortly before the book’s 2010 publication, he issued a 100-page legal writ demanding that many passages relating to their marriage, including the reasons for its demise, be taken out. At least Sadie’s first husband, Gary Kemp of sprauncy eighties supergroup Spandau Ballet, gave the project his full blessing; unfortunately, their relationship—which, like a Homeric subplot, sprang to life when she was a 16-year-old gold-painted love object on Spandau’s “Gold” video—was as inoffensive as his song lyrics, and Sadie’s only complaint is that he could be a bit controlling. Otherwise, the most compelling memoiristic tidbits are that as a schoolgirl, Sadie was a target for flashers—”It made me uncomfortable,” she waxes philosophically, “but at the same time it intrigued me”—and played kiss chase with future political luminary David Miliband. Alas, the bowdlerized opus, entitled Crazy Days, didn’t trouble the bestseller lists.
Orgiastic bacchanalia notwithstanding, neither Jude nor Sadie have since managed to establish a relationship as stable as the one they shared. 39-year-old Jude, whose rekindled romance with Sienna Miller ended last year, has recently been involved with actress Ruth Wilson and model Nathalie Sorrell, and in 2009 a DNA test confirmed that he’d sired a daughter during his one encounter with Floridian Hooters alum Samantha Burke. (Naturally keen to observe the complex etiquette of shepherding a celeb-civilian progeny through life, Burke facilitated her daughter’s showbiz debut at age five weeks with a “world exclusive” Hello cover.) As for Sadie, following her divorce she cautiously enjoyed a meeting of the minds with a portly but kind 50-year-old accountant she met on Match.com. JK, of course: she dated flamenco guitarist Jackson Scott (14 years her junior); Welsh footballer turned actor Andy Jones (15 years her junior); Kristian Marr, the bassist in briefly-famous glam-punk band Towers of London (19 years her junior); and her current paramour, James Gooding, a model with whom there’s an age gap of a mere ten years.
Gooding, one of those special souls whose romantic urges flow naturally and exclusively toward celebrities, is best known for his three-year relationship with Kylie Minogue, on whom he cheated with various women, including Sophie Dahl, before doing a NOTW kiss-and-tell for £250,000. Kylie, he opined on the record, is a “self-obsessed, virtually friendless, control freak… I fear she’s going to end up a lonely spinster with only a cat by her side for company.” This white knight of the sponsored bar circuit is persona non grata around Kate Moss, who deems his reputation beyond the pale and in August banned him from her yacht trip to Mallorca and St. Tropez. You might think that an injunction from Mossy, not a woman renowned for living according to strict moral imperatives, would cast a suitor’s eligibility in an even worse light than his bad-mouthing of a superstar ex in exchange for a Murdoch-signed check. But apparently, vegetarian yoga-devotee Sadie’s Zen approach to love overcomes all glaring red flags. True, she recently had reason, as yet tantalizingly undisclosed, to physically attack James at her home; police were involved and she was given a formal caution—an admission of guilt without a conviction—but the newspapers confirmed that her victim didn’t require hospital treatment, so no biggie. “The press about the fight got blown out of proportion,” Sadie told a reporter. “I wouldn’t rule out marriage again. It could be third time lucky.” Or the precise scenario for which cast-iron pre-nups were invented, but hey, tomato/tamahto.
This latest fracas has eerie echoes of an incident back in 2003, when police were called to Sadie’s house following an allegation that Jude had assaulted her; she declined to take the matter further, and Jude’s camp claimed that she orchestrated the incident to demonize him as they bitterly wrangled over the terms of the divorce. According to court papers, she blamed him for exacerbating her post-natal depression following the birth of their third child—a dark period during which their two-year-old daughter swallowed an Ecstasy pill she picked up off the floor at a children’s party, and Sadie was held against her will in a Los Angeles psych ward after Jude told her it was over. Attempts by her family to have her released were fruitless, but eventually Gavin Rossdale arrived to heroically transfer her to his house in Los Feliz. Mercifully, in its infinite wisdom the California statute empowers A-list celebrities—even those who’ve accrued their millions via a collection of just-this-side-of-actionable Nirvana tributes—to overrule any clinical or judicial constraints.
Sadie, who says she’s been in therapy since she was sixteen, has also dabbled in AA and these days mentions her teetotal status at every opportunity (contra suggestions that she’s still “glugging back the booze”), although it’ll be a while before she can begin to shake off her hard-partying image. A former managing director of FrostFrench, the fashion label founded by Sadie in 1999 with her friend Jemima French, described daily life at the company as characterized by drunken tantrums and comical ineptitude, “like an episode of ‘Absolutely Fabulous.'” Sadie, according to Sharon O’Connor, “had a very short attention span and we’d have some meetings at her house to make it easier for her. She would sometimes cancel, though, especially if the meeting was in the morning. She’d explain that she’d had a big night and ask if we could meet later.” While it is tempting to point out that being regularly photographed in a “refreshed state” is the central pillar of any celebrity’s business plan, O’Connor insisted that she wouldn’t have minded Sadie falling out of nightclubs “if she’d done it in a FrostFrench dress, but she never did.”
FrostFrench, which began by selling vanilla-scented underwear and later branched out into clothes, went bankrupt in 2008 with debts of millions. “The thing about the recession,” observed an uncharitable magazine editor, “is that it finds people out. FrostFrench always got publicity because of Sadie’s name and her celebrity friends, but it’s not enough.” Still, a consortium of foreign investors came to the rescue, and while all the FrostFrench stores were permanently shuttered, the brand survives with a department store lingerie line and a new nightwear range. Mother of four Sadie, a self-styled domestic goddess whose fondest moments are spent baking organic cashew nut bread, has also lent her esteemed imprimatur to the high-spec kitchens in a riverside apartment complex in East London. Tempted buyers should know, however, that as per usual when art meets commerce, Sadie’s unstinting vision was compromised. “We do all our own dehydrating and juicing,” she shared, “so that was something I talked about when I was designing the kitchens.” Yet the suits, infuriatingly, drew the line at including a dehydrator along with the built-in steamer and wine fridge. “I can’t change the world overnight,” conceded Sadie, lest anyone had confused her turn as a gangster’s moll in Love, Honour and Obey with Susan B. Anthony’s speech on women’s suffrage.
Not that Sadie’s thespian talents go entirely unappreciated these days: she has performed in two iterations of a one-woman show about an obsessive Madonna fan, “Touched For the Very First Time,” which had a six week run in 2009, and “Touched… Like A Virgin,” which ran for three weeks this past spring. The plays proved divisive among the theatrical community, with critical responses running the gamut from “endearing and charismatic” (The Telegraph) to “quite the most moronic thing I have seen in the theatre in years” (The Times). And she’s currently shooting a British movie, Molly Moon: The Incredible Hypnotist, adapted from a children’s novel by Georgia Byng, along with, thrillingly, Joan Collins. It would be lovely to hope that doughty old treasure Joan will sit Sadie down and offer some much needed pearls of wisdom: the feeding and discipline of sexually indeterminate toy-boys, spacing out one’s five weddings appropriately, holding back the years with wigs and Vaseline, and so forth.
Looking to the future, supporters of independent cinema will be invigorated by the news that Sadie has formed a new production company with two partners, Blonde to Black Pictures. Most excitingly, she has promised to use the venture as a launching pad for Kate Moss’ new acting career. No word yet on whether the right vehicle has been found for this historic collaboration, but I think we can rest assured that with Sadie at the helm, the result will do absolute justice to Kate’s criminally untapped potential as the leading lady de nos jours.
Previously: Prince Harry, Millennial Royal