Belfast Telegraph

Frances Burscough: Why Alyce isn’t the Fawlty one in divorce row

John Cleese: he was quite funny in Monty Python and quite hilarious in Fawlty Towers.

He used to make us laugh when TV comedy was often pitiful and for that we were grateful.

And that, I’m guessing, is the way most people would view him. One of many celebrity comedians who was once funny but isn’t any more.

Do we owe him anything? No. He made millions as a result of his silly walk and his zany characters, had loads of fun in the process and has lived a cushy, self-indulgent, Rolls-Royce driven life ever since.

So why have some newspapers been defending him like he’s some sort of treasured institution?

The story, for anyone who may have missed it (Where were you? Outer Mongolia?) is as follows: he got divorced this month. And his missus, Alyce Eichelberger, as is customary these days, got half of everything.

Er, that’s it. End of story.

Except for some commentators, this is just the beginning. The remaining coverage — of which there has been reams — has turned into a vicious attack on his ex-wife.

In fact, it’s been so nasty and intrusive that you could imagine Basil Fawlty dictating — if not actually writing — every bitter word from the steps of the divorce courts during one of his insane rants.

‘John Cleese: Marriage licences should be renewed every five years ... just like dogs' was one of the first charming banner headlines.

‘Why would any man get married with gold-digging women like Alyce around?’ was another.

‘How DID Poison Alyce take John Cleese for £12.5m?’ plumbed new depths

What I want to know is how could anyone justify such a one-sided take on |the matter?

Was the woman really a gold-digger? Had she like, say, Anna Nicole Smith, married a frail octogenarian tycoon after dancing topless on his bony lap in a strip club?

Or had she, like Heather McCartney, married a widowed mega-star, divorced him after two years and acquired £25m for the inconvenience?

No. None of the above.

This is no lap-dancing floozy. ‘Poison’ Alyce was an independent and successful psychotherapist when the pair met. They were married for 16 years.

He was photographed with other |women during that time but she stood by him despite being publicly humiliated. Further, he was the one who finally demanded the divorce.

Yet the papers only seemed to lash out at the ex-wife.

‘Nice work if you can get it. When Alyce Faye Eichelberger first met John Cleese, she was eking out whatever living could be made as a shrink

Today, barely 16 years of marriage later, she has a divorce settlement worth nearly £12.5m’ went another article.

‘Barely’ 16 years? In anyone’s book this a long time.

But for an ego-driven celebrity with two failed marriages already behind him it’s virtually a lifetime.

‘Eking out a living’ — as a shrink? Are they serious? Isn’t that one of the highest paid professions there is?

As part of their ‘exposé’, the investigative team were sent halfway across the world to her hometown in America to dig up any old dirt they could find.

But guess what? There wasn’t any!

I don’t know the woman, but I do know what is and isn’t acceptable press coverage.

This isn’t. And it sounds to me like she deserves every penny for putting up with a husband capable of such unpleasantness for 16 years.

As for John Cleese and his lost millions: does anyone really give a flying, er, circus?

Belfast Telegraph


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