Patsy's no absolute beginner in life
Actress Patsy Kensit is a survivor. Liam Gallagher's ex-wife opens up to Hannah Stephenson about living in the shadow of cancer and dealing with heartbreak
IT'S been just two months since actress Patsy Kensit had a hysterectomy to remove two large cysts and it's clear she is feeling vulnerable.
The 45-year-old actress looks good in a fetching red dress but, from the start of our interview, she's fidgety, nervous, talks quickly and often loses the thread of her sentences, which are at best disjointed.
She had already had a large ovarian cyst removed in a previous operation and says she felt more scared when two more cysts were discovered this year, because her mother, Margaret, died from breast cancer at 45. Kensit has been having mammograms and ultrasounds annually for more than 20 years. "I'd had pneumonia, then there were these tumours and there was this sense of urgency," she recalls, her words tumbling out almost incoherently.
We're here to discuss her autobiography, Absolute Beginner, which charts her life growing up on a London council estate as the daughter of a fraudster who had associations with the criminal underworld and the notorious Kray twins. To compound matters, her mother was afflicted by health problems throughout Patsy's early life.
But she seems so fragile today that, after a few minutes of listening to her, I wonder if it's a bit too soon for the former rock chick to have bared her soul about her life and loves.
When the first cyst was discovered, there was a point when she thought she was going to die, she reveals. "I'd been sent for an MRI and everyone had gone. All you're left with is a camomile tea, a ginger biscuit and your thoughts. "The mind is a very powerful thing and I've seen it with my mum. My mum was told, 'You are going to die in six months', and six years later she was still there. "I'd waited my whole life for the inevitable to happen. Every happy time was compromised with the reality that she was sick.
I never saw her cry, she never got depressed. She was incredible."
She continues randomly: "I'm not scared of dying. I'm terrified of being sick. I've been very unwell. "I like to be strong and well and this whole thing happened two months ago and I haven't bounced back like I normally do. It's a shock when your body gets a kicking. I'm 45 now and it takes time. It's been very scary."
She's seeing a hormone specialist and is in full-blown menopause due to the operation, she explains. "I've been very emotional. No-one talks about hysterectomies. The word is Dickensian. I'm 45 and I go to the supermarket and forget why I'm in there. I come out with a cabbage and a pair of tights! I'm in the menopause."
Kensit's career began at the age of four and she soon became a child star, appearing in major films alongside the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Mia Farrow. Then, in Hollywood, she starred with Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 2 and later, after returning to Britain, clinched roles in Emmerdale and Holby City.
Yet much of her life seems to have been defined by her men, most notably Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr and Oasis singer Liam Gallagher, two of her four exhusbands. Her jailbird father James was in and out of prison for much of his adult life, so it was left to her mother to bring up Patsy and her brother Jamie (whose godfather was Reggie Kray). "Despite what he did for a living, he was my father and I loved him," she says. "Some weeks we'd eat out at a restaurant every night, other weeks it was bubble and squeak for
the week. "From what I now know about the East End, you either boxed or you were in a band or you were a villain."
She believes her father's time in and out of prison may have affected her subsequent relationships with men, explaining: "I seem to function, or maybe not function so well, in a relationship when the man goes away a lot."
She says she doesn't really count her first marriage to Dan Donovan of 1980s pop band Big Audio Dynamite or her last, to DJ Jeremy Healy. "My relationships with my two boys' fathers (she has a son, James, with Kerr and another, Lennon, with Gallagher) are the two (marriages) that I choose to acknowledge. And I'm mindful of the boys' dads. I don't want to keep dragging up the past because it's a long time ago."
She might not want to talk about her past personal life today, but is happy to spill the beans in her autobiography. Of her ill-fated marriage to Kerr, she writes:
"I believe in marriage with all my heart and I've never made light of it. I just seem to be terribly bad at it. "I think there's a perception that I get married for all the wrong reasons, but I was so in love with Jim when we got together. "It was the real thing and, possibly, if I'd known then what I know now about relationships and life in general, I might have worked harder at my marriage and things might have turned out differently for us. "I changed a lot after my mum died - her death broke me and I was on a quest to find someone to love me the way she had."
Today, she remains close to Kerr, saying: "He's a wonderful father and a great friend."
She's slightly less forthcoming about Gallagher. "With Liam, it was the relationship you dream of when you're a teenager and you just sit up talking all night. It didn't start off in some horrible sleazy way. It was really sweet and again, I think, hats off to them both because they really tried."
She seems to blame herself for her marriage to Gallagher (below, left) going wrong, even though he was away so much and rumours were flying about his infidelities. "I just don't want to think about it," she says warily. "He's a great dad."
But how could she ignore his womanising? "Well, I'm not still with him and that's all I'm prepared to say," she says frostily, before deciding to end the interview prematurely, leaving me with so many more questions to ask.
Her book is more revealing. She had herself been a singer with the group Eighth Wonder and says that being seen as a wannabe pop star wiped out years of worthy acting roles. Her marriage to Gallagher had a similar effect. "I was suddenly seen as this tabloid creature and it diluted who I was," she writes. "I'd heard all the rumours about his womanising and I knew exactly what was going on behind my back, but I want to focus on the good times because there were plenty of them."
* Absolute Beginner by Patsy Kensit is published by Sidgwick & Jackson, priced £20.