Pattie rocks the boat

In the amphitheatrical splendour of Verona's Roman arena, Eric Clapton was not a happy man. On stage in front of 15,000 adoring fans at the lavish open-air venue this week, he was plagued by the draining summer heat and a particularly persistent mosquito.

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Published: Mon 17 Jul 2006, 12:36 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 4:40 PM

'As he's become older he gets miserable when it's too hot,' says a member of the 61-year-old rock star's entourage. 'He was bothered by the flies and his glasses kept steaming up.'

Clapton's misery as he performed his classics Layla and Wonderful Tonight might also have been due, in part at least, to the woman about whom he wrote his two most famous love songs.

Holed up in her 17th-century cottage in the West Sussex countryside, Pattie Boyd, Clapton's ex-wife and the woman he stole from Beatle George Harrison, is working feverishly on her autobiography.

The book, which will see Boyd finally break her 40-year self-imposed silence over her marriages to two of the biggest music stars of the 20th century, was described by a publishing source this week as 'full and frank'.

In other words, in exchange for her rumoured £950,000 advance, ex-model Pattie will be expected to dish the dirt about the sex, drugs and infidelities in her relationships with both the legends.

Pattie's account of her life with Clapton is sure to tarnish his image as one of rock's gentlemen. Particularly as she intends to lay bare the bizarre details of how the singer agreed to swop his own girlfriend for Pattie as a trade-off with George Harrison.

She is also said to be planning to tell the full story about dark rumours that during their nine-year marriage, Clapton, battling an addiction to drink and drugs, was an abusive and violent husband who cheated on her with a string of women because she couldn't bear him children.

None of which is likely to make comfortable reading for the star who has become a father to three young daughters late in life thanks to his happy, five-year marriage to American-born former waitress Melia McEnery, 32 years his junior.

To compound his problems, Pattie's memoirs come at the same time that another lover, Italian Lori Del Santo, whose four-year-old son with Clapton, Conor, died when he fell from a New York skyscraper, is penning her own version of events, which will allege that Clapton dispatched an aide to persuade her to have an abortion when he discovered she was pregnant.

Hardly surprising, then, that the veteran rocker, who is already worth £130million, is said by associates to be rueing his decision to accept the payday offered by publishers Random House for his musings on his life and hugely successful career.

Indeed, friends of Pattie reveal she decided to sign her own publishing deal only because she was angry that Clapton had broken his vow not to speak about their marriage.

Meanwhile Clapton's publishers are said to be furious over the news that Pattie's book will go directly up against his own when they both hit the shelves in the autumn of next year.

As one who has been researching their lives for several years for my own book on Clapton, it can be said without hesitation that Pattie's is one of rock's great untold stories. Not only was she the muse for Clapton's finest work, she inspired first husband George Harrison to pen the beautiful Something for her.

The public school- educated daughter of an RAF pilot, Pattie was a 20-year-old model when she was chosen to make a fleeting appearance in the 1964 Beatles film A Hard Day's Night. The well-bred trophy girl caught the eye of bus driver's son Harrison and the couple married in 1966.

It was the blonde and toothy Pattie who spawned Harrison's interest in eastern culture and introduced The Beatles to the Indian mystic the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1968.

But it is her description of her relationship with another Beatle, John Lennon, that will be most fascinating. Rumours abound among those who surrounded the group that Lennon and Pattie enjoyed a brief fling during her marriage to George.

But it was Pattie's relationship with Clapton that was to wreck her marriage to George. She and Harrison met the guitarist, then with Sixties supergroup Cream, at a party in Chelsea in November 1968.

The two men became immediate best friends, but Clapton, who was living with his teenage girlfriend fell passionately for the lovely Pattie.

When she rejected his entreaties for her to leave Harrison for him, he wrote the tortured love song Layla for her. Eventually, as George became more and more obsessed with the teachings of his new spiritual guru, Pattie fell into Eric's arms.

They continued their affair behind George's back, even disappearing for trysts in an upstairs cupboard during candlelit games of hide and seek with an unsuspecting George at his huge Gothic mansion, Friar Park in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.

It was not Pattie's first affair either. In the early Seventies, Harrison and guitarist Ronnie Wood, who would go on to join the Rolling Stones, negotiated a wife swop, with Pattie escorting Wood on holiday to the Bahamas while George took Ronnie's then wife Krissy to his rented villa in Portugal.

Harrison finally twigged that Clapton had 'done it' with his wife when he arrived at a party at the home of his then manager Robert Stigwood to see his best friend and Pattie acting like husband and wife.

Clapton confessed his affair with Pattie to George and told him bluntly that he wanted her for himself. Harrison's reaction was unexpected. He told Clapton: 'Whatever you like, man.' Then added: 'You can have her and I'll have your girlfriend.'

Pattie fled in tears, but finally in 1974 she left George and moved into Clapton's Italian-style villa Hurtwood Edge in the Surrey stockbroker belt. Astonishingly, the two men remained great friends.

But Clapton's drinking and drug taking — not to mention his constant philandering — was soon taking its toll on his relationship with Pattie.

By the time of their 1979 wedding in Tucson, Arizona, the guitarist was in the midst of a monumental addiction to cocaine. Just days before he asked her to marry him, he had begun a fling under Pattie's nose with one of her best friends.

She constantly forgave his affairs and his drinking sessions, which would start at 8am and last all day. But in 1982 she persuaded the star to check into the Hazelden Foundation drying-out clinic in Minnesota.

Part of his therapy was to read out a questionnaire filled out by Pattie which chronicled the abuse she suffered at his hands while he was in the grip of his addictions.

Clapton was forced to admit to his fellow patients that he had beaten her up and forced her to have sex with him.

His behaviour led Pattie into her own battle with the bottle. Hardly surprising, then, that to this day she prefers to forget another song he wrote about her called The Shape You're In, which chronicles her own alcoholism.

But it was Pattie's inability to have children that proved the death knell for their marriage.

Like Harrison before him, Clapton was keen to start a family, but despite fertility treatment she suffered a series of miscarriages.

Meanwhile, Clapton began an affair with studio sound assistant Yvonne Kelly while recording in Montserrat in 1985, and she gave birth to his daughter Ruth. Pattie was kept in the dark about the baby.

But when beautiful television presenter Lori Del Santo, with whom he had begun a tempestuous affair, presented Clapton with a son, Conor, a year later, Pattie moved out.

Clapton gave up drink for good, but the couple eventually divorced in 1988.

Pattie has consistently refused big money offers to tell her story about her relationships with the two rock stars, and remained on good terms with George until his death from cancer in 2001.

Likewise, she stayed in touch with Clapton after their divorce and even attended the funeral of Conor in 1991.

But friends say she has never fully recovered from his treachery and went into psychotherapy in a bid to come to terms with the collapse of their marriage.

Nor, they say, was she 'made for life' by their divorce settlement and is wont to tell friends, who ask her how it feels to have been the inspiration for some of the most touching love songs of all time, that she would have preferred the royalties.

It is said only partly in jest and she maintains that she had to find a job after her split from Clapton.

Today, she makes a living from photography and currently has an exhibition in London of her shots of her showbusiness friends.

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