Tubular Bells Legend Mike Oldfield's Battle With Booze
Alun Palmer

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I tried to kick in the bathroom door in a drunken row with Fanny. I knew then I needed help to cure my problems with alcohol

Exclusive By Alun Palmer

Deputy Showbiz Editor

AS ONE of the most successful recording artists in history, his genius as a musician is beyond question.
But Mike Oldfield's remarkable talents have always co-existed with an extraordinary and fragile personality.
  While professional success came quickly and easily - his debut album Tubular Bells made him a multi millionaire at the age of 18 and put Richard Branson's Virgin label on the map - Mike's personal life has been turbulent on a catastrophic scale.
  His one attempt at marriage ended after just one day when the troubled star realized he'd made a terrible mistake.
  And his almost frantic quest for romantic happiness - which once saw him resorting to placing lonely hearts ads - has brought him nothing but heartbreak.
  But his fabulous wealth allowed Oldfield - who has sold more than 40 million records - to march to the beat of his own drum. To a certain extent Mike's money has shielded him from confronting his own demons.
  Now all that has changed.
  Oldfield has embarked on a course of treatment after finally admitting the root cause of his problems is a destructive dependency on drink.
  In a frank interview with The Mirror, he confesses: "I wouldn't say I'm an alcoholic - but I would say I was alcohol dependent.
  "I can't sleep without a certain amount of booze. It's not spirits or a bottle of whisky - it's beers or a bottle of wine.
  "The danger is when I get stressed - I want more and more and I get out of my mind. That's been happening increasingly over the last six months."
  Last week Oldfield became possessed by a booze-fuelled fury so intense that his French girlfriend Fanny Vandekerckhove called the police for her own protection.

IT is not an incident Oldfield is proud of. But he believes it has changed him for the better.
As he rolls another cigarette, his honesty is startling as he admits: "When I have too much to drink I can become very sensitive and the slightest little thing will upset me.
  "I am a possessive person and I get very possessive about Fanny. She is a beautiful girl and men look at her all the time and it drives me out of my mind."
  Oldfield's jealousy came spilling out after too many drinks over what was supposed to be a romantic restaurant dinner. Soon a mild tiff escalated into a violent row. The 48-year-old star recalls the evening in shame - but also relishes the unburdening.
  As he talks, 24-year-old Fanny holds his hand. He says: "I imagined she looked back at someone in the restaurant and it sparked something off in me. We both got drunk which didn't help."
  The scene of the alcoholic meltdown began at a restaurant near Mike's new home in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.
  As the row escalated, Fanny stormed out to get a taxi home followed shortly afterwards by her famous lover - desperate to make amends. But as soon as he stepped inside their mansion the argument reignited.
  Allowing himself an ironic laugh, Oldfield says: "The argument started again over who would drink the last beer we had. She was drinking my beer and I tried to take it back.
  "I got upset and she got very upset. We were both being as nasty to each other as we could.
  "We were both screaming and shouting. I grabbed her shoulders and the end result was she locked herself in the bathroom. I tried to break down the door by kicking it in but I gave up because I couldn't. I was throwing myself at it but it wouldn't budge.
  "All I wanted to do was talk to her, to hug her. But she didn't know that because I was so upset, I was out of my mind."
  As Fanny struggles to describe the terrifying night her hands shake. The cigarette she tries to roll falls apart and she passes it to Oldfield to finish.
  Fanny recalls: "He grabbed my arm and I grabbed his as well. This happens when you are upset, when you are over the top with alcohol. Things are 10 times worse. But I panicked, I wondered what to do. I ran into the Bathroom - I was in tears, I was scared. So I called the police on the mobile. I wanted help."

BUT when the officers arrived, the musician had gone - storming off to his personal assistant's house nearby to try to cool off.
Declining to press charges, Fanny checked into a hotel - all the time refusing to answer her boyfriend's messages on her mobile phone.
  "I tried desperately to get hold of her," says Oldfield. "She wouldn't answer the phone so I texted her loads of messages saying I was a fool and an idiot. At first she wouldn't speak to me but I kept at it. Two days after the row we finally spoke and she asked me to come back. I was delighted and couldn't wait.
  "I told her I was having a terrible time and I promised to get some help with alcohol and stress. It was wonderful when we got back together - we both cried."
  To make matters worse, a worker at the stables of his 1.5million mansion began threatening him after Fanny confided in her. This has only added to his stress.
  Oldfield is now seeking help at the Arts Clinic in central London. Set up by singer Sandie Shaw, it specializes in helping people in showbusiness.
  To help him stop drinking he is undergoing a course of counseling and psychotherapy. Oldfield is upbeat about controlling his drinking binges.
  He reveals: "I've just had my first session and it was good, very good. They know about the pressures people suffer in the entertainment business.
  "They are helping me cope with the stresses in my life and showing me how to deal with them. They are teaching me how if I get stressed I don't have to reach for a bottle."
  For Oldfield, the argument is a devastating setback just when he thought he was achieving some stability in his life.
  His alcoholic mother committed suicide just months after the release of Tubular Bells, souring his worldwide triumph. He has been married once to Diana Fuller, who ran a New Age counseling course.
  But the day after the ceremony he rang Richard Branson to tell him it was a terrible mistake.

OLDFIELD has five children, three with publicist Sally Cooper and his two youngest with Norwegian Anita Hegerland. He sees them all regularly.
In the late 90s his search for happiness led him to a long drug and booze fuelled bender on the party island of Ibiza.
  To find a partner he advertised in the lonely hearts section of a Sunday newspaper. American divorcee Amy Lauer answered his call and they began a tempestuous two-month affair.
  After they split, she told of their massive rows and his drink and drugs binges.
  Yet from the wreckage of that relationship he found Fanny. They first met in Ibiza where she was dating a hotel owner. They began seeing each other, off and on, and Fanny moved into his country mansion.
  Holding her hand tightly, and smiling broadly as he looked into her eyes, he says: "Fanny and I, we love each other very much. We have a very passionate relationship.
  "When we love each other, we love each other. When we hate each other, we hate each other. Sometimes it can happen all in a day. It can be hearts and roses in the morning, by the afternoon we are screaming 'I never want to see you for the rest of my life'.
  "But by the evening we are hearts and roses again. We are both passionate people."
  The couple's happiness seemed complete when, a year ago, Fanny discovered she was pregnant. But, after three and a half months, she suffered a miscarriage.
  Oldfield says: "We were both really pleased and were planning for the birth.
  "We had names and had started planning for everything and suddenly it's gone.
  "Afterwards we felt the odds were stacked against us. We kept thinking 'why us?'
  "Then we started asking if we should be together. It split us up for a month.

BUT while we were apart we both realized we really did love each other.
"Whatever problems we had we knew we'd work them out."
  To mark their fresh start, Oldfield bought a new house on the banks of the Thames in May. Fanny spent all summer decorating and, ironically, they had only just moved in before last week's row.
  "Fanny felt that my house belonged to my old life and old relationships," he says. "She wanted a home of our own - a place which was ours and where no-one else had been."
  Their dream, now, is to settle into a routine. While Oldfield composes Fanny will look after their four horses and work on the award-winning website she has designed with her boyfriend - www.musicVR.com - which will be launched next year.
  But Oldfield, still haunted by the events of last week, is determined to make things work.
  He says: "A month ago we said to each other 'we don't row any more, what's happening?' Then we had a couple of arguments and now this.
  "We coped with losing the baby and if we get through this then we can get through anything.
  "We still have a lot of work to do. Fanny has found a counselor so we are both doing our best.
  "It will help now that we are working in different places.
  "I won't be so worried and insecure about where she is and what she's doing. I know she's always at the end of the mobile.
  "Any relationship needs a lot of work but this will cement us together. I want to be myself now. I want to be the best person for Fanny and my children that I can be."

The Mirror
Saturday, October 6, 2001

Last updated: 20.10.2008
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