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THE pairing seemed so unforeseen that, even after a couple of dinners together earlier this month, few could believe that romance was on the menu.
Now, however, there can be no doubt. Just eight weeks after his whirlwind divorce from TV chef Nigella Lawson, the 70-year-old Charles Saatchi has been enjoying the company of rail-thin fashion stylist Trinny Woodall, 49, best known for having presented the lifestyle series What Not To Wear.
The pair went out for dinner this week to Scott’s – the London restaurant now infamous as the place where Saatchi was photographed in June gripping the neck of his then wife, Lawson. The following night they were out again, at a posh brasserie.
Indeed, two dates in two nights would seem to hint at something more than their simply enjoying each other’s congenial conversation.
The often dour Saatchi looked in positively giddy good spirits, laughing at Woodall’s jokes. Woodall herself, in skinny jeans and with a leopard-print clutch bag, appeared just as delighted to be in his company. After the date, she drove him home in her Mini.
Initial denials by her friends about a relationship between the pair seem pointless considering that this seems to be a blossoming mutual attraction between two innately shy individuals.
Unlikely as the pairing may appear, Woodall is a recovering drink and drug addict and has often been attracted to “damaged men” who she can take under her wing.
With a romantic history that includes a liaison with a playboy who died of a cocaine overdose and a marriage to a banker who fought an addiction to painkillers, it may be that Woodall is emotionally suited to someone known to be as temperamental as thrice-divorced Saatchi.
Her own demons are long conquered. She now confesses to be addicted only to “sugar and spending”. She still has a huge collection of clothes and recently had an underground storage area created in her £3 million (R48m) London home just to house them.
Certainly, she is nobody’s idea of a low-maintenance partner. But then neither is Saatchi. He is, it seems, one of those men who can never make enough money or have enough success. He can also be extremely insensitive to the feelings of others.
After that horrible throttling incident with Lawson, he compounded matters by humiliating her when he publicly announced their divorce and blamed the split on her. This enmity has now faded and he and Lawson are said to be quietly making steps towards a friendly reconciliation. Apparently they would both like to find a way to remain friends, if only for the sake of her two children from her first marriage and his daughter Phoebe.
For her part, Lawson is concentrating on her career, filming a new series of cookery competition The Taste in Los Angeles. Having moved on with dignity from her failed marriage, Lawson has given Saatchi a chance to put the past behind him. It has been suggested that his friends drew up a list of five women for him to date, but that he would accept only a meeting with Woodall.
Their first date was at Scott’s, on September 9.
A friend was reported in a newspaper as saying: “It’s almost three months since Nigella left and his women friends, in particular, have been telling him to cheer up. Charles used to be a real man about town, and they want him to get back to his old ways. He can be terribly charming and charismatic, but his confidence has taken such a bashing from the fall-out over the divorce.”
It’s no surprise, therefore, that the initial date with Woodall was followed by two more this week.
So why has Woodall fallen for this complicated man? Perhaps her life story, which is much darker than her glossy image would suggest, offers an answer. The youngest of six siblings, she is the daughter of a wealthy banker and was sent to boarding school at the age of six.
By her early teens she was already using alcohol and drugs. It was, she says, an attempt to numb her embarrassment at suffering from severe acne. “I did everything. I would drink and go mad.”
She fell in with a fast set: European princesses and the children of leading business families. She dated shipping heir Constantine Niarchos, one of the richest men in the world with a £1 billion fortune.
Niarchos was addicted to cocaine and was known by the nickname “Another Line”. When he was found dead at the age of 37, there was enough cocaine in his system to kill 25 men. Perhaps inevitably, Woodall had her first stint in rehab in 1985 at the age of 21, but was thrown out for showing a pornographic film as an April Fool’s joke. She attended Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings in London, but returned to her old circle of friends, and to drink and drugs.
Five years later, she had her last binge – a two-day drink and drugs bender – and hit rock bottom. She spent a year in rehab.
Then in 1994, she met Susannah Constantine. They became friends, drawn together by their shared interest in fashion, and were approached to write a newspaper column about style.
In 1999, she married Johnny Elichaoff, a rock drummer turned banker, and two years later she and Constantine started presenting What Not To Wear. After five successful BBC series and several books, they defected to ITV. However, after trying a new format, the pair were axed in 2006.
Not long afterwards, Woodall’s marriage to Elichaoff ran into difficulties. He was admitted to rehab and they split in 2008.
The combination of the end of her marriage and TV career was devastating for Woodall.
To her credit, ever the workaholic, she and Constantine kept going, selling stomach-flattering knickers online and clothes for mail-order companies Littlewoods and QVC. She said she didn’t dare give up work because she still had to support her young daughter.
She and Constantine still present style shows in Norway and Sweden and there are some hopes of a deal to do the same in America.
But her attempts to breathe life into her TV career in the UK have left little time for romance.
So, what are the prospects for this new romance with the saturnine Saatchi? Like Nigella Lawson, Woodall is hugely sociable and very loyal to a small group of close friends, among them actress and model Liz Hurley, TV presenter Tania Bryer and model-turned-socialite Lisa Bilton.
But it’s hard to see Saatchi, however delightful a dining companion he finds her, joining Woodall on the canapé circuit with her gaggle of posh, pin-thin social gadflies. – Daily Mail