Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Notes on a scandal - from Tiger Woods to Iris Robinson

This year produced an extensive list of famous people caught having sordid affairs. John Walsh reflects on some notable falls from grace

If we are to use the word 'scandal' in its accepted sense - meaning shocking news about misbehaviour by famous people we don't like very much - then this has been a bumper year.

Loose women were everywhere. Shiftily unfaithful men were centre-stage. Celebrity marriages collapsed like the Republic's property companies.

Top scandalmonger was the world's richest sportsman, Tiger Woods. The story of his multiple affairs originally broke in November 2009, but it kept on giving.

Forget the 13 more-or-less identical blonde cocktail waitresses and party 'hostesses' - by April he'd confessed to his wife about 120 affairs, including a one-night stand with his neighbours' 21-year-old daughter. He and his wife Elin divorced in August.

British sportsmen strove to keep up. Ashley Cole, husband of the nation's trembling-lipped new favourite sweetheart Cheryl, revealed that he'd sent pictures of himself, sans culottes, by mobile phone to three women and he'd had affairs with them all.

A fourth woman, Ann Corbitt, told the papers she'd had sex with Cole on numerous occasions. The last straw was one Alexandra Taylor, who claimed to have been with Cole on the night his romance with Cheryl was released to the Press.

Earlier, there were claims that England football captain John Terry had been dancing the blanket hornpipe with Vanessa Perroncel, the former partner of his England and Chelsea team-mate, Wayne Bridge - something she denies.

It was alleged that he'd had affairs with other women and had tried to buy their silence. Also, that he'd applied for a super-injunction, forbidding newspapers from making allegations that there was a scandal out there. He was stripped of the captaincy, but stayed with his wife.

We had to wait until September for Wayne Rooney, a connoisseur of purchasable human flesh, to join in. Like Terry, he tried to secure a court gagging order.

This one was to stop a Sunday newspaper from revealing that he'd been conducting a very public affair in the summer with a 21-year-old, £1,200-a-session prostitute called Jennifer Thompson, while his wife Coleen was pregnant.

One feature of the extracurricular affairs of Woods, Cole, Terry and Rooney was their reliance on mobile phones to reel in lady friends.

Two television presenters who tried their luck with electronic flirting beat a speedy retreat. Family Fortunes presenter Vernon Kay admitted he'd sent saucy texts to five girls behind the back of his glamorous wife, Tess Daly.

The telephone was also the downfall of actor Mel Gibson, generally held to be the year's Most Tarnished Celebrity. He was locked for months in a bitter battle with Oksana Grigorieva, his ex-girlfriend and mother of their daughter, Lucia.

Days after appearing in front of a judge to discuss custody, Ms Grigorieva tape-recorded one of their phonecalls, in which Mr Gibson said to her, inter alia, "You look like a f****** pig in heat." The Russian model also claimed Gibson knocked her teeth out and that she had to get a restraining order against him.

In celebrity marriage-land, Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes - apparently the perfect couple - split up; their marriage apparently strained by making Revolutionary Road, a film about a couple whose marriage is under strain. Elsewhere, British dreamboat Rachel Weisz split from her husband the US director Darren Aronofsky and was reported to have become infatuated by James Bond actor Daniel Craig.

Political scandals, as always, concerned sex and money. DUP MP Iris Robinson was found to have advanced business loans of £50,000 to 21-year-old Kirk McCambley, with whom she'd been having an affair for 18 months.

Mrs Robinson was a long-standing scourge of other people's sex lives - she said in 2008 that homosexual behaviour was "an abomination" and "viler than child abuse".

Her husband, First Minister Peter Robinson, announced his decision to step aside for six weeks to let the scandal blow over.

In a distant echo of the MPs expenses scandal of 2009, David Laws, the coalition's chief secretary to the Treasury, had to resign from his ministry in May after it was discovered that he'd claimed expenses of £40,000 for a house secretly owned by his boyfriend for five years.

In France, Nicolas Sarkozy spent much of the year mired in scandal. He stood accused of receiving illegal cash donations in 2007 from the richest woman in France, the L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt - something he denies. The affair first came to light because of tape recordings made by Mme Bettencourt's butler of his mistress discussing wealth management with Eric Woerth, the French budget minister, from whom she received a €30m tax rebate.

But the grosso formaggio of scandalous politicians remained Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who continued, at 74, his career as satyr, ladies man, disher-out of expensive trinkets, and casual racist (he has twice referred to "the suntanned" Barack Obama). Amid the flood of stories about his amours with young women, one stood out.

She was a 17-year-old Moroccan nightclub belly dancer known as Ruby Rubacuori ('Ruby Heartstealer') who told the press in October she'd visited the Berlusconi home three times, that on Valentine's Day he had given her €7,000 and some jewellery (but hadn't tried to have sex with her) and that one of the evenings had ended in a game of multiple-guest bunk-ups called "bunga bunga".

A police investigation began into whether associates of the prime minister were involved in procuring Ms Heartstealer (real name Karima El-Mahroug) and thus aiding and abetting prostitution. Berlusconi explained he was no angel - and had no intention of changing his lifestyle.

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