My sexy Scott became a pathetic coke addict because of me, said Barbara Windsor
NATIONAL treasure Dame Barbara Windsor, who died a week ago today age 83, was married three times.
But third husband Scott Mitchell was the true love of her life – despite a 25-year age gap.
Scott, who married Babs in 2000, nursed the Carry On and EastEnders star through her long battle with dementia.
In the final extract from her life story – adapted by MIKE RIDLEY – Barbara reveals the torment of their early years together.
IF I had cried off a dinner, I would probably never have met the man I would love for the rest of my life.
I’d arrived at the Theatre Royal in Brighton for a performance of Cinderella and found a bouquet of flowers from an old school friend, Rita Mitchell.
She and her husband Ronnie invited me to dinner. Part of me felt it might not be a good idea.
I hadn’t seen them for 20 years and wondered if we’d have anything in common.
I wasn’t even sure I’d be good company. The previous Sunday, my second husband Stephen Hollings had brought down a coachload of customers from our pub to see the show.
They had waltzed off afterwards having hardly bothered to say hello.
I was just putting my coat on when the doorbell rang at actor Victor Spinetti’s house, where I was staying.
Stood in the porch was a slightly built young man with dark hair in an extremely smart full-length overcoat. I’d have said he was about 18.
In a cultured voice, he said: “I’m Scott. Ronnie and Rita’s son.”
'I WANTED TO SEE HIM'
Although I was ready, I invited him in on the pretext of showing him the house. He seemed nice and I wanted a closer look at him.
He said he was an actor and told me he was 29. He looked so much younger.
A naughty thought flashed through my mind: Mmm, I may be in with a chance here, though I was 55.
Over dinner the conversation flowed as fast as the wine. I was pleasantly tipsy and gave Scott a peck on the cheek as he saw me to Victor’s door.
I wanted to see Scott Mitchell again.
A few months later I was struggling to learn my lines for a play. Scott came to my rescue by helping me read the dialogue.
Suddenly all those words were leaping off the page and into my brain.
We got round to talking about relationships. He told me there was no one special in his life and Scott did not have to be Einstein to work out that my marriage to Stephen was not the closest.
I made a rather obvious sexual innuendo about brushing the cobwebs away now and again.
In case Scott was embarrassed, I added quickly: “Well, it’s no big deal, is it? It’s only sex, after all.”
I was happier than I’d been for ages. One evening I suddenly grabbed Scott’s hand and started running along Marylebone Lane and down Wimpole Street, giggling like a naughty schoolgirl, pulling Scott along.
The evening had been an aphrodisiac and we were both eager to get behind closed doors and release the passion.
Even at that early stage we both knew deep feelings were stirring in both of us and that our unlikely friendship was turning into love. A few days later, I rang Scott and told him how much I missed him. It was the first time I’d said anything like that.
Scott wrote in his diary: “Oh, dear, we could be getting into trouble here.”
I discovered that beneath Scott’s strong, confident exterior lay an extremely sensitive, self-doubting person.
As a kid, he’d been small, skinny and very nervous, a soft and easy target for the bullies who had knocked what little confidence he had out of him by the age of seven.
His self-belief was not helped by having a father who, in his younger days, had never walked away from a fight and carried battle scars from taking on the Kray twins.
At drama school he had huge expectations of himself but was filled with self-doubt. When I was with Scott I felt fabulous but I knew I was going to have to tell Stephen that our marriage was over.
Under the pressure of it all I started to drink heavily. Not during the day, and never, ever before a performance, but as soon as a show finished I would pour the vodkas down me.
Finally, I plucked up the courage to go to our pub, The Plough in Amersham, and tell Stephen our marriage was over.
Stephen went berserk. He screamed and then suddenly asked how old Scott was.
“He’s thirty,” I said. Stephen’s face tensed.
“Go,” he said. “Go now. I don’t want to look at you. I don’t want to talk to you. Go now!”
My big concern, apart from Scott, was money. I was still committed to paying back huge loans taken out for the Plough. So it wasn’t just that I loved to work, I had to.
OPENLY RIDICULING HIM
Thankfully EastEnders came along and I landed the part of Peggy Mitchell.
Scott had been driving me to the studios since that very first day in 1994 when I had been so nervous I’d asked him to stop so I could throw up.
As my work increased, jobs for Scott dried up, so I employed him as my driver. Scott also had to cope with the spotlight of being Barbara Windsor’s lover.
Our age difference gave the gossips a field day. Scott could have handled it if people in showbusiness — including some I’d counted as friends — had been kind and supportive.
But many were openly ridiculing him. Either he was homosexual and with me because I was a so-called gay icon, or he was a heterosexual front — a young man I paraded about on my arm.
Or he was simply using me to help him get a job in showbusiness. If they weren’t sniggering behind Scott’s back, they were dismissive, cutting him dead as if he didn’t exist.
Being with me was magnifying Scott’s insecurities a million-fold.
If we were going to an official function, he would have a glass of champagne or wine to give him some Dutch courage.
Soon, one glass of wine before we went out was not enough. It got to the stage where he was preoccupied with where his next drink was coming from.
I would go to bed, leaving him alone with a bottle, and come down in the morning to find him on the kitchen floor, or slumped across the dining table.
More often than not I’d have to be up at 5am to get to the studios and was relying on Scott to drive me there.
I think I could have stopped Scott’s spiral of self-destruction had it not been for another craving that transformed him from the wonderful guy I loved into a sad, pathetic creature I hardly recognised.
It was drugs: cocaine, to be precise. I didn’t know it at the time, but Scott was into coke in a big way.
I would look at him and think: “I’ve done nothing wrong and yet I’ve managed to ruin this man’s life.”
Scott would see the tears in my eyes and promise to go on the wagon.
But it never lasted for more than three or four days and then he would be off on another bender.
I had to face the fact that I was living with an alcoholic.
Elton John’s manager John Reid arranged for Scott to see counsellor Beechy Colclough who had helped Elton and Michael Jackson through their addiction. Thankfully Scott went on the wagon.
Stephen had never said why he found sex with me such a turn-off
Just before my 60th birthday I woke up to discover my ex-husband Stephen had sold his story in an embarrassing double-page spread that reduced me to tears.
Stephen had never said why he found sex with me such a turn-off.
Yet he told a reporter: “It didn’t take long for the novelty of bedding a woman the same age as my mum to wear off.”
Stephen predicted I’d dump Scott like I’d dumped him and end up a sad, lonely old lady.
On a wet Tuesday in October 1997, I arrived home shattered after a hectic day on EastEnders looking forward to hearing how Scott had got on with Beechy that afternoon.
Scott was sitting on the couch. Not watching TV or reading, just sitting there.
'WE NEED TO TALK'
A few seconds later he said: “Bar, we need to talk.”
He talked about how unhappy he was, and how miserable that was making me; about how he had been trying to come to terms with what our relationship was doing to him.
He looked at me, a deep sadness in his eyes, and said: “Bar, I’m going to have to leave.”
I stared at him, unable to take it in.
A little voice inside me was screaming: “No! No! No!” My eyes filling, I grabbed my jacket and ran out of the front door and into the rain, my head spinning with sadness, anger, fear and blind panic.
I kept running until I found myself back at the house an hour later, drenched and still crying.
'HE FELT LIFE WAS NOT WORTH LIVING'
Scott wasn’t there. He had been running round the streets, too, checking pubs, looking for me. I was upstairs in the bathroom drying myself when he came back, soaked to the skin.
I said: “You’re going because of me. It’s because I’m too old.”
It was the first time I’d ever said that and it upset Scott, because it wasn’t true.
He felt life was just not worth living and that he was worried about being a burden to me. He believed it would be better all-round if he were dead.
Call me naïve — stupid, even — but I always felt that our love for each other would conquer the fears and insecurities that were making Scott so miserable.
I begged him not to go but Scott set off for California to start a new life without the Barbara Windsor baggage dragging him down.
The following July, he returned from the US. Even when he had been 6,000 miles away, I knew he was the man I’d been searching for all my life.
After his return our relationship was platonic at first. But that October, Scott’s aunt Bessie, a warm-hearted, 84-year-old East Ender, had a heart attack.
As they chatted, Bessie said: “You still love her, don’t you? I understand why she loves you. You’re a good man. You make people feel safe.
“Just be happy. Don’t worry about what people think. It doesn’t matter. Do what you have to do with your life.”
Her advice made Scott realise he could win me back.
- All Of Me: My Extraordinary Life by Barbara Windsor, published by Head-line, £10.99, is out now.
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