Paula Yates (24 April 1960 – 17 September 2000) was a British television presenter, best known for her work on cult TV music show, The Tube.
Born in Colwyn Bay, North Wales, she was brought up in a show business family. Her mother was Elaine Smith, a former showgirl, actress and writer of erotic novels, who used the stage names Hellen Thornton and Heller Toren. Until late in her life, Yates believed her father to be Jess Yates, who was known as “the Bishop” and presented the ITV religious programme Stars On Sunday. Ytes and Smith were married from 1958 to 1975, though Yates was 16 years older than his wife and their marriage was unconventional. Jess Yates was sacked from his job in 1974 because of scandalous newspaper stories about his private life.
In an unsettled childhood, Paula attended school at Penrhos College, Ysgol Aberconwy. The Yateses ran the Deganwy Castle Hotel for a time, before moving to a large house in Rowen, Conwy. After the break-up of her parents’ marriage in 1975, Paula lived mostly with her mother, including periods in Malta and Mallorca, before returning to Britain.
Paula became an obsessed fan of Boomtown Rats and their lead singer, Bob Geldof. Paula posed naked for Penthouse in 1978, just before she became a music journalist, writing a column called “Natural Blonde” in the Record Mirror. She first came to prominence in the 1980s, as co-presenter (with Jools Holland) of the Channel 4 pop music programme The Tube. She has also appeared alongside friend Jennifer Saunders in French And Saunders in 1987 for a spoof ‘mockumentary’ on Bananarama.
Marriage to Geldof
Yates met Bob Geldof in the early days of the Boomtown Rats. They got together as a couple in 1976 when she travelled by aeroplane to Paris, to surprise him while the band was playing there. Their first daughter, Fifi Trixibelle, was born on 31 March 1983. After 10 years together, they married on 31 August 1986 in Las Vegas, with Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran acting as Geldof’s best man. The couple then had two more daughters, Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof on 16 March 1989, and Little Pixie Geldof on 17 September 1990. Pixie is said to be named after a celebrity daughter character from the cartoon Celeb in the satirical magazine Private Eye, itself a lampoon of the unusual names the Geldofs gave to their first children.
After the birth of her daughters, Yates wrote two books on motherhood. In 1982 Paula released a cover version of the Nancy Sinatra hit single “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”.
Yates continued with her rock journalism, in addition to being presenter of cutting-edge music show The Tube. She became most notorious for her “on the bed” interviews on the show The Big Breakfast, produced by Geldof. On 27 October 1995 Yates appeared on the quiz programme Have I Got News For You and repeatedly clashed with Ian Hislop. Yates referred to Hislop as being “the sperm of the devil”.
Big Breakfast boudoir, and fell in love with him. In 1995, Yates left Geldof for Hutchence. Geldof and Yates divorced in May 1996. Two months later Yates’ daughter with Hutchence, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence (known as Tiger) was born on 22 July 1996.
In November 1997, Hutchence was found hanged in a hotel room in Sydney. Yates became distraught, refusing to accept the coroner’s verdict of suicide. She eventually sought psychiatric treatment. Yates never entirely recovered from losing him, and even attempted suicide. Meanwhile, she battled Hutchence’s mother Patricia Glassop and her daughter Tina for custody of Tiger Lily.
Yates’ dispute with Hutchence’s family over Michael’s estate saw her struggling to bring up her daughter. While battling grief and problems with addiction, she was also in an extremely difficult financial situation. Yates resorted to selling her jewellery in order to pay bills, including the three amethyst rings Geldof gave her after the birth of each of their daughters. She downsized to living in a small mews house in the years prior to her death.
While fighting for custody of Tiger, it was reported in the media that Jess Yates had not been Paula’s natural father. A paternity test proved that the late quiz show host Hughie Green had in fact been her natural father. Shortly after this announcement, Yates was found dead, at the age of 40, of an accidental heroin overdose, leaving her youngest child an orphan. The coroner ruled that it was not a suicide, but a result of “foolish and incautious” behavior.
Aftermath of her death
Soon after her death, Tiger Lily, in agreement with Hutchence’s parents, was adopted by Yates’ ex-husband Bob Geldof, so that she could be raised with her three older half sisters Fifi, Peaches, and Pixie.
Several people have written books claiming to know the truth about Paula Yates, including her estranged mother Heller Toren, half-brother Christopher Green and one-time manager and friend Gerry Agar.
In his memoir Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins (2006), actor Rupert Everett included the revelation that he conducted a six-year affair with Yates.
- Paula Yates was the author of several books, including:
- Rock Stars in Their Underpants (1980)
- A Tail of Two Kitties (1983)
- Blondes (1983)
- Sex With Paula Yates (1986)
- The Fun Starts Here (1990)
- The Fun Don’t Stop: Loads of Rip-roaring Activities for You and Your Toddler (1991)
- And the Fun Goes On: A Practical Guide to Playing and Learning with Your Pre-school Child (1991)
- Village People (1993)