Back in the spotlight thanks to Celebrity Big Brother, Danniella Westbrook spent much of the 90s as a red-top staple thanks to her wild partying and turbulent relationship with East 17 singer Brian Harvey.
Life hasn’t been easy for the ex-EastEnders star. She battled cocaine addiction and bounced in and out of rehab. At the height of her fame, Westbrook sat down with Loaded for a frank discussion about everything from booze to footballers and beyond.
Two sparsely lit figures stomp back and forth across the worn carpet. Inside the dank London flat, they face each other, pushed to the edge of their emotional envelopes. They offer different screams at one another: A grating wail from him, the sobbing oaf, from her a damsel’s cry of longing and despair.
“Ricky, come back and live wiv us, you still love me Ricky, I know ya do. Oh Rickeeeeeee!”
“Err … er … I dunno Sam darlin’ , l dunno, I still luv Bianca, I love her, I really do.”
Her arms are pulled in tight to her chest, her brow furrowed, her head tilted, trying so hard to understand while tears. wind down her cheeks. You could pick her up and cradle her in your arms, tell her it’s alright, that things will work out. But then you remember this isn’t real, it’s EastEnders and that Daniella Westbrook is a right little bitch, the papers said so.
The line between fiction and reality is well blurred for Danniella – she can’t get much sympathy either way. Her character in EastEnders, (which she’s now left) is a cast iron Fresian. As Sam Butcher, she’s married to the hunchback of Albert Square – the thicker than sun-baked glutinous pig shit grease monkey, Ricky ‘The Mechanic’ Butcher. He wants a divorce and loves ginger bonce Bianca ‘mouth like a halibut with a fat lip’ Jackson, but Sam wants him back, plotting and conniving for his affections. She’s a character who rarely commands any sympathy, principally because nobody likes a whinger and that’s all she does.
Blonde, 22-years-old, with an eye for the boys and not without a few quid, the public and press treatment of Danniella has always been rough and vilifying. Her main problem is that people can’t see that all the TV stuff is just make believe. Like the 30s Dracula star Bela Lugosi, who used to get harangued at the pictures and chased down the road by pissed off old ladies, she’s had a hard time convincing people she’s not the blood sucking vamp she appears as on the telly.
“I had loads of Christmas shopping to do so I told them to fuck off and I knocked his camera out of his hand and down the stairs”
Danniella got famous fast. She first walked onto the EastEnders set at the tender age of 14 as an extra. Now 22, she’s been through the mill and back more times than the pattern on a cheesy Burton’s crew neck. She’s been accused of everything from spending £100,000 of other folk’s money on charlie, to going on the lam from panto and diddling footie players and models she’s never so much as shared a glass of port with. Saying that, she’s also done everything from busting photographer’s cameras to blokes’ noses and dangling out of rock stars’ penthouse windows in her silky bedroom attire. All this and she loves Loaded. Have we landed on our feet or what? Oh and by the way, welcome to Walthamstow Loaded; it might have less glamour than its Hollywood equivalent but you’d know who to put your money on if it comes to a ruck at closing time.
Eleven thirty in the morning in London’s plush Atlantic Bar. The swarthy bar staff are setting up for the lunchtime nose–in–the–trough expenses crowd, while Loaded reclines on one of the benches in the comer, expecting Danniella Westbrook any minute. A nice round hour later she rushes into the main bar with Frank Spencer’s hat pulled down to her eyebrows, black patent leather snakeskin patterned trouser/jeans and the mandatory skin-tight top affair. Bubbling around like a whirlpool in a mug of Fairy liquid, in the time it takes her to position her arse above a chair and park it, she planks her stuff down, orders a vodka, lime and lemonade, pecks me on the cheek, tells me that the traffic was shit and that she had a Chinese in Bethnal Green with a few mates last night.
She’s a little blonde storm, like one of those pull-string dolls set loose on rickety, rocket skateboard, clattering off down the road going faster and faster and probably only stopping off to be naughty.
So what’s all this about her bunking off panto back in 1994, only to tum up in a nightclub when she was meant to be on stage then?
“I was actually injured. The press and photographers were crowding around the back door of the theatre trying to get me to talk about an incident where this bloke had thrown a glass at me [it left her with a small chin scar]. This photographer kept putting his camera in my face as I was trying to leave. I had loads of Christmas shopping to do so I told them to fuck off and I knocked his camera out of his hand and down the stairs. As I went down the stairs, there was a scuffle and I damaged one of my vertebrae, so I couldn’t work. It just so happened that I went to Browns nightclub on the New Year’s Eve. But I was relaxing, I wasn’t going mental or anything.”
There’s been a lot of bull written about Danniella. But the really good stuff, the stuff that was waking Britain up every morning in the tabloids, concerned little teen sensation Brian Harvey. As well as narking Ricky in EastEnders, Danniella is also famous for once being the long term girlfriend/fiancée of the East 17 bloke, the dinky one who does the main vocals and jumps about at the front like MC Hammer being restrained by two dwarves hanging invisibly yet tenaciously from both his arms. What attracted her to him in the first place? It can’t have been his dancing, surely?
“He’s got beautiful eyes, a nice smile and not a bad little butt. He’s cute to look at, really, like a cute little Oompah-Loompah. You sort of wanted to keep him in your pocket. No, he’s got a lovely voice and he was generous and kind, a nice bloke, he just had a bad temper.”
The arguments the pair of them used to have were legendary and would start over the smallest things. In one instance, the tabloids caught him ‘engrossed’ in Pamela Anderson, and we all know what that’s about. There’s not a man in the country who hasn’t engrossed all over one of her pictures at one time or another.
“So you think by the word ‘engrossed’ that I caught him wanking over her?”
Well I er. .. dunno really …
“The worst thing about Brian Harvey was talking like a homeboy, which was really fucking annoying and embarrassing at the time”
“No. I walked in and saw him looking like this [she drops her jaw and crossed her eyes]. ‘Whatya doin’ ya mug!’ I shouted at him. He was drooling I had a go at him but I didn’t kick him out like I should have done.”
Any bad habits?
“I’d say the worst thing about him was talking like a homeboy, which was really fucking annoying and embarrassing at the time. I’d pick up words and be using them every now and then like, ‘Yeah man, yeah man’ and ‘sweet’ and all that rubbish.”
Like Jonathan and Jennifer Hart, together the pair of them were murder. A relationship full of excess, passion and extravagance, they were Walthamstow’s answer to Richard Burton and Liz Taylor. Like the legendary couple, their arguments were vast and sprawling, often covering most of southern Essex. According to Danniella, the best barney they ever had was over Spurs’ goalkeeper Ian Walker.
“That was the one where Brian kicked in the door of the Swallow Hotel in Waltham Abbey [Essex]. It was back in April last year and myself and a girlfriend had gone up to a pub in Woodford [leafy London suburb]. When I got home all my bags were packed and Brian was walking up the main road outside the flat Oompah-Loompah style, with his big Puffa jacket on and a fag on the go. I pulled up alongside him and he started shouting at me, ‘You’ve left me with no fags and no money!’ He got me out of the car and we started having a fight. One of our mates turned up in a cab, saw what was going on, started arguing with Brian and we all started fighting. Then the police came and took Brian away. I went over to the Swallow Hotel to book a room to get some quiet and met Ian Walker in reception, who then booked me a room making sure my name wasn’t on the register and I went off to bed. Later I got a call from the night porter saying, ‘Excuse me madam, but there’s a Brian Harvey down here in reception demanding to see the register.’ Brian had kicked the door in and was going mental. I didn’t start seeing Ian until after that. Basically Brian went off and I got to go home to another fight which was broken up by Terry from East 17.”
“Oh, give me Jamie Redknapp on a plate, one of the best looking blokes to ever walk the earth.”
Another classic scene involved her and Brian getting into a storming row in which she got so pissed off that she climbed out of their penthouse skylight to avoid him. By the time she’d got out there, he was getting in a cab to leave. He heard the commotion and looked up at the roof to see her dangling there in her silk pyjamas shouting, “Brian, help me!” A neighbour heard Brian utter an exasperated, “What the fuck is she doing now “ before rushing back upstairs to help her back inside.
Obviously she’s a little volatile. She broke her boyfriend Robert’s nose for looking at another woman when the poor fella was just driving his motor along. “That was for looking at passing traffic when he should have been happy with what he’s got,” she said. But she must have a roving eye herself sometimes.
“Oh, give me Jamie Redknapp on a plate, one of the best looking blokes to ever walk the earth.”
Does she like footballers then?
“Jamie Moralee helped me out a lot because I was a bit wayward. I like a bit of rough, builders, roofers, footballers, blokes who are always getting banged up”
What’s the best sex she’s ever had?
“Jamie Moralee was really good in bed. Everything he done was good. Brian wasn’t that bad, but Jamie was the guvnor.”
Daniella suddenly turns around to her mate, Floria, and wistfully says, “He was Flo, he really was… he was good at everything.”
“He was a giver not a receiver, most blokes are receivers not givers.”
Hmm. Could have probably got by without the last bit of info there. Still, where would be the strangest place she ever had sex?
“In a plane, in a hammock, in the sea, in a jacuzzi, in a swimming pool, in a steam room. All of those were with Brian. We had to do it in more than one place because he never lasted very long. Ha ha ha! In the plane we started off having sex in the seat, I was on his lap facing him. We had three seats so I put the arms up and we laid a blanket over us. Then we laid down and it was even more obvious. We got up and went to the toilet and we must have made a right racket because when we left the toilet everyone was staring. Brian was like ‘Oh mate, they know what we’ve been doing.’ But when it came down to it, so what?”
The relationship with Brian, as well as providing her with an initiation into the mile high club, brought some bad times, many of those made worse by a cocaine addiction that went a bit barmy. When the addiction and a suicide attempt became public the publicity cracked her reputation across the shins with a sharp stick. A spell at the Charter Nightingale clinic (for recovering soap stars and footballers) sorted her right out. Still, when was the last time she had a toot?
“The last time I took any was about three weeks ago because everyone else was on it, and I thought why not?”
It’s not a problem anymore then?
“I’m not doing 300 quids’ worth a day like I used to when I was with Brian, that was just for myself to keep going through the arguments. The most I ever spent in an evening was £600. I’ve been doing it since the age of about 15.”
The papers said she spent about £100,000 of his money on chas. That’s not nice is it?
“I never spent Brian’s money, it was my own, he was only earning about £500 a week at the time. It was my money and not even the £100,000 that was reported, it was closer to £50,000 and half of that went on clothes and a car.”
She’s a liberated woman is Danniella. She’s off down the City later to get juiced up with her girlfriends, and when I ask her if she’s pinched anyone on the arse recently she says yes, last Wednesday. He was called Lee and he was good looking. She’s never slept with a woman. If she was an animal she wouldn’t be a beaver or a pussy, she’d be a white tiger, “because they’re very rare and they can claw your eyes out”. On a more sophisticated note, and I did ask, she’d only let you wee on her if she was cold or on fire, and if it came to it she’d sleep with Bruce Forsyth over Bernard Manning. In other words she knows what she wants.
Her banana daiquiri goes back to the bar because it’s all daiquiri and no banana. Since we started she’s had a couple more along the way and it would have been rude if Loaded hadn’t joined her. It’s about 1.00pm and we’re at that stage where there’s usually no point stopping, not when you’ve got a taste for it. Some interviewers have said that she looks as though looks butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, but they’ve got her all wrong. She looks nothing of the sort. She’s a mad blonde with the most mischievous eyes you’ve seen this side of a shoplifters’ convention and a cheeky smirk that looks like it’s stolen a few fruit pies off the kitchen window sill.
She’s resting up at the moment, but you can’t help but think we’ll hear from her again in the future. She’s a class act, probably the best night out on earth and a top Loaded girl.
Danniella Westbrook, actress, drinker, famous chick, soap starlet, baby doll model type, good time girl, moll to gangsters, rock stars, strikers, goalies and roofers. Loaded salutes you, first lady of Walthamstow!