I thought I was grown up at 14… but I fell into clutches of older men and almost ruined my life. Movie beauty Charlotte Lewis tells a harrowing tale every girl should heed.
FOR almost 20 years British Hollywood star Charlotte Lewis has been haunted by a secret past. She knew it would catch up with her one day. Now she is getting it off her chest. At 14 she slept with men for money. Quite simply, the girl who found fame and fortune with superstar Eddie Murphy in The Golden Child was once a call girl.
It seems impossible to believe, as we sit in the elegant surroundings of the Los Angeles Mondrian hotel, that this stunning English Rose could have stooped so low.
But she wants to tell all, how she went from hooker to Hollywood. She believes it will be a lesson to others, but more important a release for
Her darkest days came at the ridiculously young age of 14. She was still at Bishop Douglas Catholic Secondary School in Finchley, north London, when she went through a rebellious phase, playing truant and chasing the night-time glamour of London’s West End.
Even now she finds it hard to face the truth. You suspect she has even lied to herself as a protective measure.
CHARLOTTE, now 31, says LSD and marijuana were at the root of her wild ways. She didn’t know what she was doing. Yet it is clear she went back for more time and again.
« One morning I woke to find a pile of Pounds 50 notes next to the bed, » she says. « I couldn’t remember quite what had happened, but when I saw the money I knew what was going on and felt sick. » The older man who had just left her bed assumed she was an experienced vice girl. Charlotte insists she was drugged and had her drinks spiked by an older woman she thought of as a
friend, not realising she was a cunning madam who pandered to perverts to feed her own drug habit.
Yet even AFTER she discovered this, young Charlotte ‘entertained’ a succession of other men through that ‘lost summer’ of 1982.
« I don’t how many men might have had sex with me for money, » she finally admits. « I was in a permanent haze. I was 14 and looking for excitement, yet I was so naive. I’d go out with my so-called friend to a nightclub then everything would become blurry. I’d have a vague notion of talking to some man, and my friend saying, ‘You HAVE to be nice to him’.
« Obviously she was making deals with these people, taking money off them so they could have sex with an underage girl. »
Charlotte rushed to confront her ‘friend’ But, she says, the 22-year-old woman convinced her it was a mistake, just a gift. »
It is hard to believe anyone could be so gullible. But now Charlotte was left open to the most terrifying experience of her life. After a visit to Stringfellows club in London, she and the woman went to a Thames-side apartment. Inside were a number of Arabs.
Thousands of pounds were laid out on a table and Charlotte was told she could have it all if she agreed to go to Saudi Arabia with them. « I kept asking why? » she said. « Why would they give me money to go to Saudi Arabia? They kept promising me a fabulous education, great accommodation. Then my
so-called girl friend said, ‘Of course, if you go there you’ll have to grow up VERY quickly’. And she looked at me in that nudge-nudge, wink-wink way. »
THIS was too much even for a rebellious teenager. « I could see these men eyeing me hungrily, like meat, » she shuddered, « and I thought, ‘My God, I’ve got to get out. They’ll kidnap me, take me out of the country’.
« It was like an Alice in Wonderland house with long corridors and door after door. I made an excuse, then ran.
« The men came chasing me, but I managed to escape. I still believe to this day that if I’d not got out I would have been kidnapped and smuggled out of the country to end up as a sex slave.
« I went home to my mother and told her everything. She was marvellous about it. »
In fact, her mum had been going frantic with worry. Charlotte had been spending such long periods away from home that the social services were on her case.
« Perhaps I should have realised what was going on, but I didn’t, » Charlotte continues to insist. « I craved excitement and I liked men. « And although I knew sex was illegal because I was under-age, I didn’t consider it a crime.
« What happened to me is an object lesson to girls not to play truant and think they’re grown up when clearly they’re not. »
HER rollercoaster life of sex was far from over. « I’ve been at the top of the world, and I’ve also been to the edge and looked over into the abyss, » she said. « It wasn’t pretty. » In a no-holds-barred interview Charlotte also confessed how she seduced kinky director Roman Polanski when she was a nubile 17-year-old then slipped between the sheets with Warren Beatty. Later she bedded Charlie Sheen and Mickey Rourke and in a drunken brawl kicked Kiefer Sutherland in a very tender place! She also made love to British video producer William Annesley, found Liz Hurley’s pyjamas in his bed and mailed them to Hugh Grant.
In a film career littered with failed romances she also romped with rock wildman Michael Hutchence and chatted up superstar Jack Nicholson on his way to the loo then whispered: « Can I come too? »
She was also romanced by Dodi Fayed, Mick Jagger and Jim Carrey, and weaned off drugs with help from Eric Clapton.
Charlotte said wistfully: « Someone once told me, ‘You can always find a friend to party with, but it’s harder to find people to help you afterwards’. »
The daughter of an absentee Iraqi father and a half-Irish half-Welsh mother, Charlotte explained: « I had a taste for acting from drama lessons in school. »
SHE spent every spare moment in the Finchley Odeon watching movies. « I remember gazing at Brooke Shields in Blue Lagoon and thinking, ‘I want to be her’, » she sighed.
When Charlotte was 15 she was spotted by a photographer who suggested she try modelling, so she joined an agency called Bookings.
« I remember with my first pay cheque I bought two steaks for me and my mum and she cooked them, » she said. « Money had been short and she’d sacrificed a lot. A model friend asked me if I’d ever thought of going into films. She turned out to be a friend of Roman Polanski, who was living in Paris. « We bought a cheap rail and ferry ticket, went to Paris and met him. I think he was entranced with me because I looked like Nastassja Kinski, who he’d directed in Tess.
« I knew Roman had done something wrong in America (he was wanted by the police for sleeping with an under-age girl) but I wasn’t too sure what. Anyway, I was fascinated by him, and I wanted to be his lover.
« He’d already cast me in his film Pirates, so it wasn’t like it was a casting-couch thing where you HAVE to sleep with someone to get the part. I wanted him probably more than he wanted me. »
She was 17 when they first had sex. They remained lovers for six months. « It ended when we went on location to Tunisia. I was one of the few females there. I was far from home, lonely and a little afraid. » And into her insecurity, Polanski lobbed an off-hand, cruel remark that was to bring
lasting unhappiness. Charlotte recalled: « Roman would say, ‘You’re gaining weight’. It was ridiculous-I was a thin teenage girl, but I took it seriously and stopped eating. Then I’d overeat, and for years I suffered from bulimia. I know that was the start. »
CHARLOTTE also discovered how inexperienced starlets are often treated like a sexual version of pass the parcel. At the time, Warren Beatty was visiting Tunisia to scout locations for his movie Ishtar. Polanski bet him that he couldn’t get Charlotte into bed. « Roman didn’t think Warren could
do it, » said Charlotte, « but the fact is I seduced Warren, not the other way around, so I don’t feel I was misused. He’s a married man now so I’ll draw a veil over it. »
When filming on Pirates was over, Charlotte had more money than she’d ever seen in her life. She bought clothes, shopped, nightclubbed and treated her mother. The casting director for Pirates recommended her for another upcoming film, The Golden Child, starring Eddie Murphy. At last the girl from Finchley was going to Hollywood, and she was still only 19.
« It was dreamland, » she smiled. « I’d never been to America, and suddenly I was in the first-class compartment of a 747 heading for LA with a limo to pick me up and take me to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
« The Golden Child was set in Tibet, and I actually thought I was going there.
« It was my first lesson that so much of Hollywood is illusion-Tibet was to be a set at Paramount, with a little location shooting at a ski resort called Mammoth Mountain five hours from LA.
« They spent so much money re-creating Tibet in California it would have been cheaper to actually fly to the country. »
Suddenly Charlotte had ‘arrived’. Everbody wanted to know her and, apparently, everyone was her best friend. She was still only 19 and about to meet Charlie Sheen, one of Hollywood’s great lovers. « It started with an amazing coincidence, » she said. « On the flight over to LA I’d been reading
US magazine, and there was Charlie listed as one of Hollywood’s 20 most eligible bachelors. I said to the flight attendant, ‘I think I’ll go out with him when I get there’. »
THREE days later she was at a party and in he walked. She recalled: « I said to him, ‘I’ve never seen the sea. I understand you live near the sea. Will you show me?’ He did and we became lovers. »
Charlie, she said, « was like a child when he made love, sweet and sensitive and very anxious to please. But after a while he began arriving home late. His brother had told me Charlie was an alcoholic, but I didn’t believe it.
« Once Charlie and I got drunk together while he was making Young Guns. We had a storming fight. I was being restrained when I accidentally kicked his co-star Kiefer Sutherland in a very painful place. It hurt! And it took quite a few years before Kiefer forgave me. »One day Charlotte phoned Sheen’s home and a girl answered. « I realised he was cheating on me, » she said simply. « It broke my heart because I truly loved him. »
Charlotte was paid 150,000 dollars (a little under Pounds 100,000) for The Golden Child. But taxes and a bit of extravagant living soon ate that up. Soon she found herself virtually broke and down on her luck back in London-until Eddie Murphy came to her rescue.
She explained: « He’d asked me to come and visit his family in New Jersey, and I started to cry on the telephone and said, ‘Eddie, I’m totally broke, I don’t even have enough money to buy food’.
« He told me I HAD to go back to Los Angeles and restart my career. He sent me a one-way first-class plane ticket to LA, had a car meet me and take me to an apartment he’d rented for me.
« I was instructed to go to a local bank where I found an account opened for me with 50,000 dollars in it-that’s about Pounds 30,000. Let me emphasise that he and I have never been lovers. It was just a generous Eddie Murphy gesture. » Charlotte bounced back in the film Dial Help. Since then she has appeared in movies such as Excessive Force, Men Of War, The Glass Cage,
Mutual Needs, Navajo Blues and Legion. She has also appeared in several TV shows, including a small part in hit comedy Seinfeld.
With the string of films came a string of lovers.
MICKEY Rourke had a passionate night with her, then rudely didn’t call and she refused to have anything more to do with him.
Although she does say: « Sometimes he’ll come up to me if I’m eating with someone in a restaurant, and say, ‘I slept with Charlotte when she was very young, you know’. »
Then there was British video producer William Annesley.
« William was the love of my life and is now my closest friend, » she smiled, « though once he got a little kinky, brandishing a whip and suggesting I use it on him. But I’m not into sado-masochism. » Hollywood had toughened Charlotte and she was furious when she discovered Hugh Grant’s girlfriend, Liz Hurley, had been sleeping with William.
She grinned: « I found her silk pyjamas so I sent them by Federal Express parcel to Hugh Grant with a message saying, ‘These are your girlfriend’s. I found them in my boyfriend’s bed ». I wanted Hugh to know Liz was cheating on him. »
It was a little unfair, because Charlotte had a roving eye too. At one party she bumped into Jack Nicholson on his way to the bathroom.
She recalled: « Cheekily I said, ‘Can I come with you?’ His eyes lit up and he said, ‘Sure’. I think he imagined I’d have sex with him. When I got in there I said, ‘I’ve always wanted to kiss you’.
« He said, ‘OK’ and we kissed passionately. He was a GREAT kisser, and it went on a long time. We might have gone further but, as it was, my boyfriend William was on the other side of the door. »
Charlotte started an affair with the late INXS singer Michael Hutchence after seeing him in a bar with Patsy Kensit, Titanic star Billy Zane and his wife. « Michael was a beautiful and sensitive lovemaker, » she sighed. « INXS was a good name for his band-he liked excess. He suggested we have group sex. He was happy for there to be me and two other women or maybe even
another woman and another man. I couldn’t do that. »
DODI Fayed was the next man to woo Charlotte. He flew her to the Cote d’Azur and took her on his private yacht as he later did with Diana, Princess of Wales.
« I was living in the lap of luxury, » said Charlotte. « But I wouldn’t sleep with Dodi. I didn’t find him sexually attractive. I actually fancied his British SAS bodyguards more than I did him. »
Mick Jagger was another who pursued her, intrigued that she wouldn’t sleep with him because he was famous. And she never did, although she says: « I saw Mick recently. He looked incredibly sexy. »
Then came the drugs. In a city where party hosts put out the cocaine along with the drinks and snacks, it was all too easy. « I was never an addict, » Charlotte said firmly. « I was never in the gutter and it never affected my work.
« Sure cocaine, sure Ecstasy, and of course marijuana. Then one day I simply realised I had to sort myself out, deal with my eating disorder, quit the drugs, stop smoking.
« Eric Clapton, who is a good friend, advised me to go into the Priory clinic in Britain and I did. I haven’t touched any kind of drugs for more than two and a half years. »
She returned to LA in January and immediately began to date movie idol Jim Carrey. « He was kind, charismatic, funny and unbelievably gorgeous, » she laughed. « But I wouldn’t sleep with him. »
Nowadays Charlotte drives an old Volvo and shares a little bungalow with a female costume designer who has a young baby.
« My life is better now, » she said. « Of course, this isn’t living my dream, but I’ll tell you what is.
« It would be to have a husband I loved and who loved me, to have babies, lots of them. »
News of The World
Wild Child; Interview; Charlotte Lewis
Stuart White in Los Angeles
8 August 1999
The News of the World
(c) 1999 News Group Newspapers. All rights reserved
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(c) Times Newspapers Ltd, 1999