Paula Elizabeth Yates
24 April 1959
|Died||17 September 2000 (aged 41)|
Notting Hill, London, England
|Cause of death||Heroin overdose|
|Occupation||Television presenter, writer|
|Known for||The Tube|
The Big Breakfast
(m. 1986; div. 1996)
|Partner||Michael Hutchence (1995–1997; his death)|
|Children||4, including Peaches and Pixie Geldof|
Paula Elizabeth Yates (24 April 1959 – 17 September 2000) was a British television presenter and writer. Yates is best known for her work on two television programmes, The Tube and The Big Breakfast. She was the girlfriend of musician Bob Geldof from 1976 to 1986 and was married to him from 1986 to 1996. She was also in a relationship with musician Michael Hutchence from the mid-1990s until Hutchence's death in 1997. Yates died of a heroin overdose in 2000.
Born on 24 April 1959 in Colwyn Bay, Wales, to English parents, Yates was brought up in a show business family. Her mother was Elaine Smith, a former showgirl actress and writer of erotic novels from Blackpool, who used the stage name Heller Toren. Up until 1997, Yates believed her biological father to be Jess Yates, who hosted the ITV religious programme Stars on Sunday. Jess Yates and Elaine Smith were married from 1958 to 1975. Jess Yates was 19 years older than his wife, and their marriage was unconventional.
Yates described her childhood as lonely and isolated; her mother, she claimed, was absent for much of her upbringing. She attended a village primary school, Penrhos College, and Ysgol Aberconwy. The Yates family ran the Deganwy Castle Hotel for a time, before moving to a house near Conwy. After the break-up of her parents' marriage in 1975, Yates lived mostly with her mother despite having a closer relationship with her father, and also had periods in Malta and Mallorca where she was a pupil at Bellver International College, before returning to Britain.
In 1979, Yates began her career as a music journalist with a column called "Natural Blonde" in the Record Mirror, shortly after posing for Penthouse magazine. She first came to prominence in the 1980s, as co-presenter (with Jools Holland) of the Channel 4 pop music programme The Tube. She also appeared alongside her friend Jennifer Saunders in 1987 for a spoof 'mockumentary' on Bananarama.
Yates continued with her rock journalism, in addition to being presenter of the cutting-edge music show The Tube. She became most notorious for her "on the bed" interviews on the show The Big Breakfast, produced by her husband, Bob Geldof.
Yates met Geldof in the early days of The Boomtown Rats. They began a romantic relationship in 1976 when she flew to Paris to surprise him while the band was playing there. Their first daughter, Fifi Trixibelle, was born on 31 March 1983, named Fifi after Geldof's aunt Fifi, and Trixibelle because Yates wanted a belle in the family. After ten years together, Yates and Geldof married on 31 August 1986 in Las Vegas, with Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran acting as best man. The couple then had two more daughters, Peaches on 13 March 1989, and Pixie on 17 September 1990.
In 1985, Yates met INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence while interviewing him for Channel 4's rock magazine programme The Tube. During this appearance on The Tube, Yates was reportedly asked to leave Hutchence alone by the road manager of INXS when she walked up to him and said, "I'm going to have that boy [Hutchence]." Yates was unmoved by the manager's request and began to show up at INXS gigs everywhere for the next few years, even taking her young daughter Fifi along. Yates maintained irregular contact with Hutchence during the intervening nine years and their affair had been under way for some months before their Big Breakfast interview in October 1994. In February 1995, Yates left Geldof, and later that year became pregnant with Hutchence's child.
Geldof and Yates divorced in May 1996. On 22 July 1996, Yates gave birth to a daughter, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence (known as Tiger).
On 22 November 1997, Michael Hutchence was found dead in a hotel room in Sydney. The official verdict into his death said that he committed suicide by hanging. Yates wrote in her police statement that Hutchence was "frightened and couldn't stand a minute more without his baby." During their phone conversations on the morning of his suicide, he had said, "I don't know how I'll live without Tiger." Yates also wrote that Geldof had threatened them repeatedly with, "Don't forget, I am above the law". Yates became distraught, refusing to accept the coroner's verdict of suicide and insisting that it was a case of auto-erotic asphyxiation. She eventually sought psychiatric treatment.
In December 1997, a few weeks after Hutchence's death and while Yates was fighting for custody of Tiger, Yates suffered another blow when a DNA test result confirmed tabloid media reports that Jess Yates, who had died in April 1993, was not Yates's biological father. A paternity test proved that the talent show host Hughie Green, who had died six months before Hutchence, was her biological father.
In June 1998, Geldof won full custody of the couple's three daughters after Yates attempted suicide. She met Kingsley O'Keke during her stay in treatment, but the pair broke up after a six-week romance. O'Keke later sold his story to a tabloid newspaper.
On 17 September 2000, on Pixie's 10th birthday, Yates died at her home in Notting Hill at the age of 41 of a heroin overdose. The coroner ruled that it was not a suicide, but a result of "foolish and incautious" behaviour. Yates was discovered in the presence of her then-four-year-old daughter, Tiger Lily. A friend disclosed during the inquest that Yates had not taken illegal drugs for nearly two years, and the coroner, Paul Knapman, concluded that though the amount Yates had taken would not have killed an addict, as "an unsophisticated taker of heroin" Yates had no tolerance to the drug.
Soon after Yates's death, Geldof assumed foster custody of Tiger Lily so that she could be brought up with her three older half-sisters, Fifi, Peaches and Pixie. Her aunt, Tina Hutchence, the sister of Michael Hutchence, was denied permission by the judge to apply for Tiger Lily to live with her in California. In 2007, Geldof adopted Tiger Lily and changed her surname to Geldof; as of 2019, Tiger's legal name was Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence Geldof.
On 7 April 2014, Yates's second-oldest daughter, Peaches, also died of a heroin overdose, aged 25. One day before her death, she uploaded a picture to her Instagram of herself as a young girl and her mother under the caption "Me and my Mum."
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)
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- "Peaches Geldof: Writer and TV presenter dies aged 25". BBC News. 7 April 2014. Archived from the original on 5 May 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
- Agar, Gerry (2014). Paula, Michael and Bob: Everything You Know Is Wrong. Michael O'Mara Books. ISBN 978-1-78243-315-6.
- Bozza, Anthony (2005). INXS Story To Story: The Official Autobiography. Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0-593-05517-5.
- Green, Christopher; Clerk, Carol (2003). Hughie and Paula: The Tangled Lives of Hughie Green and Paula Yates. London: Robson. ISBN 1-86105-609-5.
- Rojek, Chris (2001). Celebrity. London: Reaktion Books. ISBN 1-86189-104-0.