I was hell-bent on becoming the Last of the Great Philanderers: Rod Stewart recalls how cheating on his wife with countless lovers left him sickened with shame
11:00 GMT, 6 October 2012
14:42 GMT, 6 October 2012
In the rock autobiography of the decade, with stunning candour and his hallmark roguish wit, ROD STEWART reveals how he struggled to stop his insatiable appetite for attractive women
When it came to beautiful women, I was a tireless seeker after new experiences. ‘Miss Inbetweens’ was the phrase I had for them. Miss Inbetweens would arise because the opportunity to be unfaithful came very easily to me, and because the opportunity looked like fun, and because in those days I simply didn’t know how to resist.
And also because I thought I could get away with it.
How did I rationalise this behaviour to myself at the time I think I felt that, as a rock star, I had an awful lot of drinking, s****ing and general carrying-on to get done.
Besotted: When Rod Stewart met Kelly Emberg he knew he was hooked on the young model
And, incidentally, I never thought in this period that the ‘being a rock star’ aspect of being a rock star was something I needed to apologise for. On the contrary, it seemed to me: a) where an awful lot of the fun was, and; b) exactly what one had signed up for in the first place.
Anyway, by 1983, I was living in Los Angeles and had been married for four years to my first wife, Alana Hamilton, by whom I had two children. That summer, I went to a preview screening of Portfolio, a docudrama set in the fashion world, featuring models from the Elite agency.
As moments in movie history go, it wasn’t exactly Citizen Kane, but a face on the screen took my breath away. I decided I had to meet her.
To get a date, my people told the model’s people that I’d written a song for her, which was a downright lie. But it eventually got me into a restaurant with Kelly Emberg
The date was due to take place in New
York immediately after I returned from a week of partying and football
at Elton John’s house in Windsor.
I enjoyed staying at Elton’s. You had to be prepared to move an awful
lot of priceless Victorian dolls off your bed before you could get into
it, but the scene at his place was extremely lively while also — it
possibly goes without saying — a touch gay.
Unfaithful: Rod Stewart cheated on his first wife Alana Hamilton with Kelly Emberg
I’d arranged for Kara Meyers, a charming American model — and a former
squeeze of Prince Albert of Monaco — to fly in and keep me company.
However, the story of our return flight to New York is pretty typical of
the farcical situations I unerringly got myself into in those days.
Arnold, my manager, patiently pointed out, I couldn’t exactly stomp
through Heathrow Airport with a tall blonde model in tow without being
likely to excite the interest of the press and, shortly thereafter, of
my wife. So it was arranged that Kara would sit three rows behind me on
All went well. Kara and I got through
the airport without appearing to be an item, despite the fact that, in a
plane-load of suited businessmen, she was wearing a black leather
jacket, a tiny red leather skirt and red patent-leather high heels.
as we waited for the plane to pull off the stand, I noticed that Arnold
had turned a shade of grey normally seen only on people who’ve been
dead for some time. ‘Don’t look round now,’ he said, ‘but have you seen
who Kara’s seated next to’
I looked round. Kara was sitting next
to Rupert Murdoch. Brilliant. My secret date was chatting cheerfully to
the man who owned practically every tabloid newspaper in the Western
The ideal ploy, we
decided, was to get a plausible ‘Rod Stewart girlfriend’ figure to be on
standby to meet me at JFK, who I could later honestly deny was any such
thing. This would throw the press completely off the scent and enable
Kara to exit unnoticed.
But it was the middle of the night in New York, so the best Arnold had been able to come up with was Sandy Harmon, who happens to be a beautiful woman — but who also happens to be short, dark-haired and middle-aged.
‘Throw yourself into it,’ said Arnold. ‘Act it. It’ll be fine.’
At JFK, Arnold’s decoy duly performed her meet and greet, but the photographers had spotted Kara and they poured after her out of the airport. Eventually, Kara made it to our hotel. She was pretty sure she hadn’t been followed. A short while later, I looked down from the window of my room. Parked opposite was a flatbed truck loaded with paparazzi.
And, of course, I had an important date. So I shamelessly informed Kara I had to leave for a business meeting, escaped through some service doors and arrived, embarrassingly late, to pick up Kelly Emberg for our first date.
She’d almost given up on me. As she stepped out of the lift from her flat, I performed a running jump and arrived at her feet on my knees. ‘Who do you think you are — Rod Stewart’ she said.
And in that moment, I realised I was already pretty hooked on Kelly Emberg.
We went to a steak house with blood-red leather booths and pictures of Lana Turner on the walls.
Kelly was a 24-year-old supermodel, the face of 100 magazine covers from Vogue to Cosmopolitan. I was a 38-year-old singer, and she had only a vague prior impression of what I looked like from one of her sister’s albums — sticky-up hair and a big nose.
Kelly turned out to be natural and sweet and just about the least affected person I’d met in my life. After dinner, we drove back to her flat, but she wouldn’t let me come up. I pleaded with her to let me see her tomorrow, but she was leaving town. So I said: ‘Please don’t go. Cancel it. I’ll call you.’
She laughed. And then I drove back to a hotel suite containing a slumbering Kara Meyers. Dear Lord. Who did I think I was Rod Stewart /10/06/article-0-00017A1C00000258-643_306x464.jpg” width=”306″ height=”464″ alt=”The other Kelly: Rod cheated on Kelly Emberg with actress Kelly LeBrock” class=”blkBorder” />
The other Kelly: Rod cheated on Kelly Emberg with actress Kelly LeBrock
Nevertheless, I called Kelly soon after. Hearing she was moving on to Dallas to do a catalogue shoot, I flew straight there, checked into a hotel and asked her over.
‘I’m not staying in your room,’ she said. So I booked her a room in which I left a bouquet of flowers the size of a hedge, and a note: ‘For the fabulous one.’ And when I knew she’d arrived, I knocked on the door.
As she opened it, I was down on my knees on the threshold, offering in my outstretched hands a toilet roll and saying: ‘For you.’
We ended up having dinner and fun and
nothing else. I had to court her. She had a boyfriend and took a lot of
persuading to leave him.
the next few weeks, I called her constantly. I found out where she was
working and would turn up to surprise her. I blagged my way into various
photographers’ studios. I even gate-crashed the shoot for a Maybelline
make-up commercial and sat at the back, trying to distract her. I was
head over heels. Kelly was so together. She took flights on her own. I
never did this — there was always an assistant with me. And sometimes
she even went to the cinema by herself!
had this fabulous way of talking on a laugh, and she was always up; she
was clearly someone who didn’t have a bad bone in her body. At dinner
one evening, even before we’d consummated the relationship, I told her:
‘I think I’m going to marry you.’
She said: ‘Are you crazy That’s completely nuts.’
Eventually, we were an item, though for two years our relationship was long-distance, split between New York and LA. Kelly had her career and her flat, and she was too smart to set it all casually aside.
Even in that period, the longest we went without seeing each other was ten days. We’d go to the theatre and hang out with her model friends, Kim Alexis and Christie Brinkley. Which was no particular hardship, I have to say.
She never had any problem being around my
friends, either, nor with the raucousness and stupidity that would
frequently break out.
The boys in my band had a bit of a thing for dining in restaurants trouserless — and occasionally, underwearless — their nudity concealed by the tablecloth. And Kelly seemed perfectly comfortable with that. Nothing fazed her.
Meanwhile, my break-up with Alana was slow and torturous and dotted with doomed attempts at reconciliation.
The last straw was in early 1984, when she discovered that Kelly was part of the party I was taking to Hawaii to work on some music: Alana filed for divorce that very day. She also accused me of failing to grow up, and she had a point.
/10/06/article-0-004EAF2A00000258-441_634x682.jpg” width=”634″ height=”682″ alt=”Together: Rod and Kelly were a couple for seven years and had one daughter, Ruby, born in 1987″ class=”blkBorder” />
Together: Rod and Kelly were a couple for seven years and had one daughter, Ruby, born in 1987
It was nothing serious, just a fling. She invited me to a film premiere and I, by way of return, invited her to join me on a boating trip to Catalina Island, off the coast of California — whereupon a certain amount of alcohol was imbibed and relations of an intimate nature ensued.
We decided afterwards that the outing had been such a success that we really ought to repeat it.
And she was a lovely woman, a rose raised in England, and very fastidious about intimate cleanliness, as I recall. As soon as anything got going in that direction, one would be packed straight off to the showers quicker than in a boarding school after games.
But it was all conducted lightly, in the spirit of seizing the day and other things — altogether typical of the dalliances I used to have.
I’m not trying to cover myself in excuses here, but this was Kelly LeBrock. She was the star of the movie The Woman In Red. And what was The Woman In Red about if not the complete irresistibility of Kelly LeBrock
It turned out that I couldn’t get away with it, though. Kelly found out about Kelly.
Kelly Emberg and I were eating at the Ivy in LA. Kelly LeBrock, whom I hadn’t seen for some time, was at another table.
Kelly LeBrock, daringly, perhaps even provocatively, sent the waiter over with a message. On the scrap of paper, she’d written: ‘I miss you.’
And Kelly Emberg read it.
Short of being found actually in
flagrante (which, astonishingly, never happened to me), I could hardly
have been caught more red-handed. And, I tell you, after a hand-written
note revealing your affair has been dropped onto a table in front of
your girlfriend, it’s very difficult to find something appropriate to
say. You can’t really sit there and say: ‘Trust me, in a few years’ time
we’ll look back and laugh about this.’ Nor can you very well fold the
piece of paper back up again, drop it on your empty plate and say:
‘Well. Anyway. Coffee’
Couple: Rod Stewart and Kelly Emberg at Heathrow Airport during happier times in their relationship
I simply started up the usual train of utterly see-through denials and protestations of innocence, which continued as we left.
realised I’d been an idiot to risk losing her and began pleading with
her to come back. She stopped taking my calls, which drove me even more
insane. At least twice, I was on the phone to her assistant in tears.
I got to speak to Kelly, and told her that I’d been a fool and that I
was serious about her and that nothing like that would happen again and
that we should go to Spain that weekend and make everything better.
we patched things up. And while we were in Spain, we decided to have a
baby which would pull us together. In fact, the conception may even have
happened there and then. At any rate, towards the end of 1986, Kelly
was pregnant. We went to tell her parents. We even talked of marriage,
which seemed to settle a few nerves. And I meant it. Sadly, my
commitment soon dissolved. While Kelly was pregnant, I began seeing
another model. This, clearly, was the behaviour of an a******e.
affair was purely about sex and heading nowhere at all. But I couldn’t
stop slipping away to see her. Horrible, horrible behaviour.
rang the house one day and Kelly, who was then eight months pregnant,
answered it. I heard her say: ‘Couldn’t you at least wait until I’ve had
Apparently, the model said to her: ‘I’m obviously giving him something you’re not.’
was all really unpleasant, a mortifying testament to how c**k-happy I
was in those days. The shame of what I did to Kelly still haunts me, to
the point where I was reluctant to mention it here.
Still, the birth of our daughter,
Ruby, in 1987 brought us together again — and we did, in fact, have many
happy times in the first years of her life. My family loved Kelly,
Kelly loved England, we had a beautiful daughter and we were blessed
materially with everything we could possibly have wanted.
Yet, for all that, a little demon was at work in my head saying: ‘Don’t settle, don’t get tied.’
the shadow of my previous failed marriage, the knowledge deep down that
this wasn’t right for me and that I wouldn’t make it last . . . to
Kelly’s increasing exasperation and uncertainty, these things made me
shy away from marriage.
I seemed to be hell-bent on going down in history as the Last of the Great Philanderers.
affair was purely about sex and heading nowhere at all. But I couldn’t
stop slipping away to see her. Horrible, horrible behaviour'
Kelly found a note in my bag, left there on tour by a one-night stand,
saying: ‘I will never forget the night we had.’ In such circumstances,
the patience of even the saintliest of women will diminish.
Kelly’s emotions were always close to
the surface, but the bright, unquenchably cheerful girl from the
beginning of our relationship was now frequently unhappy, confused and
tearful. Tearful in lifts, tearful in hotel lobbies, tearful in cars and
on planes. I’d never seen anyone shed so many tears.
/10/06/article-0-15589B4B000005DC-134_634x380.jpg” width=”634″ height=”380″ alt=”Confessions: Rod Stewart tells his story in the rock biography of the decade recalling his triumphs and mistakes” class=”blkBorder” />
Confessions: Rod Stewart tells his story in the rock biography of the decade recalling his triumphs and mistakes – especially with the women in his life
accordingly, it seemed remiss not to use these lavishly appointed
facilities in pursuit of the bachelor purposes for which they were so
clearly intended. There duly followed the ten-day period of excess which
has gone down in history as ‘the long hot summer’. (Well, that’s how my
friend Ricky and I took to referring to it.)
calls were made, flights were reserved, cars were booked, and in they
came: old flames, new flames, old flings, new flings, women amenable to
the prospect of a night in Cannes with a first-class return thrown in. I
went through the little black book, as it were, and took my pick.
arrangements had the precision and rigour of a military operation: my
assistant, Don Archell, would drive the outgoing girl to Nice Airport,
drop her at Departures, then head round to Arrivals to collect the
I reckon the logistics for the 2012 Olympic Games were only marginally more complex.
We did venture from the suite
occasionally — I had the video to film, of course — but mostly the ‘long
hot summer’ was Jack the Lad writ large, a slice of rich hedonism. So
rich, in fact, that I ended up sickening myself. What’s that Woody Allen
quote ‘Sex without love is an empty experience — but as empty
experiences go, it’s one of the best.’ That’s undeniably true, let me
tell you, from a position of some expertise.
Second wife: Rod Stewart married Kiwi model Rachel Hunter after meeting her in 1990
a quiet moment, between the comings and goings, I found myself
thinking: ‘You’re a 45-year-old man and you’re flying in s***s. Is this
what you amount to Is that all you’ve got’ I returned to LA feeling
subdued. I felt even more subdued when I heard that Kelly had been seen
out and about with someone.
‘S**t, what have I let go’ I thought.
I decided to propose to her. That was the obvious solution, only I’d
been too foolish to see it. But, if it was going to work, I’d need a big
romantic gesture — something she’d find charming and irresistible.
Then somebody told me that, on the
following Sunday, Kelly was planning to take a boat trip with her new
beau to Catalina, off the California coastline. A plan hatched in my
I knew that little
prop planes often buzzed above the Catalina beaches, trailing
advertisements. What if Kelly were to look up from her boat and see my
marriage proposal written in the sky Could it get any more sweetly
romantic than that
I organised a plane and a banner for
early Sunday afternoon, which I figured was the best time to be sure of
catching Kelly’s attention. And I told the company I wanted the banner
to say: ‘Kelly — will you marry me RS.’ That would do it, wouldn’t it
Feeling far happier, I went out to dinner that Saturday with Sylvester Stallone. Afterwards, we went on to an LA nightclub called the Roxbury. And across the floor of the Roxbury, I caught sight of a woman whose face I knew really well. I couldn’t believe she was there: I’d been staring at that face and wondering about her ever since I’d first seen her in a TV commercial.
I had to introduce myself to her. And then I had to convene a small party back at my place so that I could invite her along with her friend and get to talk to her properly.
Rachel Hunter did come and we did talk; and by the time she went home, it seemed blazingly apparent to me that this was the person I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to.
I awoke the next morning glowing with excitement. In the midst of my euphoria, it was at least ten minutes before I remembered, with a cold feeling abruptly passing across my kidneys, that I’d arranged an airborne marriage proposal for that lunchtime.
No problem. I’ll cancel it. I’ll call the advertising company, I thought. The phone rang and rang. I hung up and tried again. It was Sunday: everybody had packed up and gone. This was awkward. I’d hired a plane to carry a banner saying ‘Marry me’. I couldn’t very well hire a second plane saying: ‘Sorry — scratch that. RS.’
What was I going to do Pray for a hurricane Get out there on a boat with a large gun and shoot the f****r down No. What I was going to do was spend Sunday wincing in anticipation, with my fingers crossed.
And what do you know My grand, absurd and doomed marriage proposal went up, fluttered across the sky and came down again, entirely unseen by its intended recipient. Truly, there is a God.
And it was just as well for Kelly. As must surely be clear by now, she deserved someone far better than me.
Sugar makes my barnet bouffant
Back-combed: Rod used sugar and water to ensure his hair remained standing up
The Queen and I have one thing in common: both of us have had more or less the same hairstyle for the past 45 years. Well, if you find something that works for you . . .
For Her Majesty: the carefully organised shampoo and set. For me: the tousled mop of spikes — equally carefully organised, I should add.
Before graduating to my blond and spiky look, there was the early Sixties bouffant. Or, as we called it, ‘the bouff’ — as in ‘Mind the bouff, mate’ or ‘Oi! Get off me bouff!’ (One was very protective of one’s bouff.)
It was all in the back-combing and the blow-drying. The back-combing wasn’t a problem, but the blow-drying was complicated by the fact that my parents’ house entirely lacked a hairdryer.
If you wanted to dry your hair, you sometimes poked it (and this isn’t particularly recommended in the manuals) inside the open oven, and sort of baked it dry. But you can’t bake a bouff. Or not a good one, anyway.
Fortunately, my sister did have a hairdryer. Even more fortunately, she was living just up the road. So I’d hop out of the bath, dress and leg it round to Mary’s while my hair was still wet.
And because I had a lot of hair to work with, the bouffant that I was able to create was, quite simply, enormous. It was beehive-scale: it made Dusty Springfield look like a rank amateur.
Of course, the problem was getting the hair to remain standing up. The DIY solution was to mix a spoonful of sugar with water and apply that to the hair.
The heat from the hairdryer would then cause the sugar to set and (if you were lucky) your bouff would solidify. Unfortunately, when you woke up in the morning, it was as though someone had attacked you in the night with a stick of candyfloss.
And, even fortified with sugar, you were still prey to the elements. Picture me, if you will, carefully dressed and styled for the night, accompanied by my mates, down in Archway Station as the train thunders in — and all of us cowering into the wall, with our arms up over our heads, trying to protect our bouffs from getting toppled by the wind.
The bouffant evolved into the spiked top during the late Sixties. [Guitarist] Ronnie Wood and I used to do each other’s barnets. The idea with the top bit was to look as though you’d just rolled out of bed after a night of enviable debauchery — though, of course, the look wasn’t casually achieved.
In particular, there was a lot of hanging upside down at the drying stage — or, at least, hanging forward from the hips and letting gravity play its part.
Then came the next era of big hair, when the circumference of your hairdo expanded by at least four inches in 1982 and stayed that way for three or four years, whether you wanted it to or not. It was something to do with the economy, probably.
Anyway, it seemed wrong to be living in the Eighties and not trying to maximise the bigness of your hair.
Over the years, Ronnie Wood and I have come to see our hair as an early warning system: if it doesn’t want to stand up, after all the tricks, then we know we’re sick and it’s time for us to take to our beds.
Do I still spend a lot of time thinking about and working on my hair Yes. Am I aware of having good hair days and bad hair days Definitely. Am I more than averagely relieved to have been unaffected by typical male pattern baldness You bet. (Had it set in, I’d have gone for a weave, like Elton.)
Does any of this interest in my own hair border on narcissism Well, say so if you must.
Rod: The autobiography by Rod Stewart will be published by Century on October 11 at 20. To order a copy for 15.99 (p&p free) call 0843 382 0000.