Chapter Eighteen

Clíodhna

In October 2005, New York-based journalist Annette Witheridge joined the band in Philadelphia on their A Bigger Bang American tour.

‘Backstage at the Wachovia Sports Arena, there was a door with a black sign on it bearing the words “Camp X-Ray” with a burly security guard standing in front of it,’ she remembered. ‘But it was not the press that they were seeking to bar. This was the entrance to Ronnie’s and Keith’s shared dressing room and private domain. Their persona non grata was Mick Jagger.’

It was the one that came to be known as ‘the tour of bad blood’. The Stones themselves weren’t calling it that, of course, but word gets around. Mick’s willowy six-foot-three ‘girl-fiend’ L’Wren Scott, a thirty-eight-year-old West Coast fashion designer who towered above him (she was known to bend discreetly at the knee when they were about to be photographed, so that the difference in their heights would not be apparent), and who had been decorating his arm for the past four years, somehow became the object of spite and speculation.

They had met at a fashion shoot, and she had been ‘throwing her weight around’ ever since. The beautiful brunette with hip-length hair and the grace of a prima ballerina had a knack, according to rumour, for rubbing people up the wrong way. It was claimed that the rest of the band hated her and that the entourage were always bitching about her behind her back, calling her ‘the First Lady’ and making fun of her superior demeanour. Keith Richards allegedly called her ‘Le Man’ and teased her relentlessly about her gigantic feet. Others referred to her spitefully as ‘the apostrophe’, and took exception to the ways in which she was always trying to influence Mick’s decisions. He was no fun when she was around, they complained.

Communication between the boys and Mick was said to have almost ceased because of her. It was L’Wren, Ronnie and Keith had allegedly decided, who was to blame for recent dissent. She was exerting too much control over Mick. The delicate rhythm of the band, which had worked fine for years, didn’t need her or anybody else’s interference. There were whispers that Mick had changed; that the man who had always called the shots with women, subtly treating them with kind contempt and obliging them to cower to his rules, was now her subordinate. Poor L’Wren stood accused of throwing her weight around. Nobody liked her, they said, least of all Ronnie and Keith. How dare she tell them that they couldn’t smoke in her presence, that they shouldn’t wear those embarrassing stage clothes, that they should listen to her when she offered her advice about what they should be wearing.

‘She wasn’t even there in Philadelphia with them,’ said Annette, ‘but all the talk was about her. A member of the crew even said to me, “I’ve been with the Stones for ten years, and it’s never been this bad before. They get around by private jet,” he said. “Mick boards last and doesn’t even acknowledge the others. There isn’t even eye contact between them. But L’Wren’s not the real problem. It’s the Stones. Each of them has his own drug, and with Mick, it has always been women. But the bottom line is that Keith and Mick hate each other. Ron sides with Keith, and Charlie keeps his head down. Rock’n’roll. L’Wren hasn’t done anything wrong. This accusation that she is ‘the Stones’ Yoko Ono’, trying to bust up the band, is the most offensive thing I’ve ever heard. Yoko didn’t break up the Beatles, Paul McCartney did. If the Stones call it a day, it won’t be L’Wren or any other woman who makes that happen. It will be the band themselves.”’


Things calmed down. Mick and L’Wren remained an item. They lived happily ever after for the next nine years. L’Wren designed outfits for the Stones’ Glastonbury performance, and launched her own high-end fashion label. Her clothes were worn by Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Obama, Renée Zellweger and Nicole Kidman. Then, in March 2014, when she was forty-nine years old, she killed herself. She left no note.

L’Wren and Mick had just returned from a holiday at his glorious Stargroves Villa in Mustique, the beachside home where Jerry Hall had long been the lady of the house. It’s a stunning place, I have been there. Only the night before she died, she had hosted a dinner party in her own New York apartment.

Having pored over the details, it is hard not to feel baffled. What was going through her mind, that she felt she had no choice but to end her life? On Monday 17 March, the morning of her death, she texted her assistant Brittany Penebre at eight thirty in the morning, and asked her to come over to her apartment. When Brittany arrived around ninety minutes later, she found her boss’s fully clothed, lifeless body flumped on the floor. L’Wren had hanged herself with her own black silk scarf. How could this by all accounts caring, thoughtful woman do such a thing to a valued assistant of whom she was personally fond? She must have realised the trauma that Brittany would experience on finding her employer dead in her flat. The poor girl managed to dial emergency and to get an ambulance round, but her efforts were too late. L’Wren was beyond help. By the time her body was ready to be removed, a gaggle of photographers had gathered around the entrance to her apartment block.

None of the guests who attended her dinner party the previous night had felt cause for concern. If she seemed ‘quiet’ or maybe a little ‘troubled’, they ventured, it could only have been because she had been having a few business niggles. It was also hinted at that she was experiencing financial difficulties. There might have been something in that. The British division of her design company, LS Fashion Ltd, which she had launched eight years earlier, had deficits of £3.5 million. Production delays had forced her to cancel her London Fashion Week show. While she was known for styling and dressing numerous celebrities, many of whom she counted as personal friends, they were unlikely to have paid for the garments she made for them, because that is how the fashion industry works: you make me free gowns, I’ll lend you my celebrity profile by wearing them in public to red-carpet events, I’ll be photographed and interviewed everywhere, I’ll drop the name of my designer, and you get the benefit of all the publicity because it will drive up the value of your brand. That’s the general idea.

L’Wren’s clothes were not the kind one sees in department stores. They were beyond the budget of all but the elite. Some even suggested that she was about to cut her losses and call time. Others refuted this, insisting that, not only were her projections positive, but also that she had entered into co-brand deals with a number of partners including Banana Republic and the make-up range Bobbi Brown. In any case, if her financial predicament had been too great to bear, wouldn’t her rich-as-Croesus boyfriend have stepped in to bail her out? I wonder if she asked him.

Mick wasn’t there that night. Not that his absence was a portent. He just happened to be Down Under with his band. The day that his partner’s body was found, they had just arrived in Perth for the start of their tour of Australia and New Zealand. At least they did the right thing and swiftly cancelled. This apparently kind, thoughtful girl who was such a mover and a shaker on the fashion scene, who had a huge circle of friends, many of them rich and influential, and about whom few had a bad word to say, clearly had demons. But what could they have been, and what had activated them? Not even Mick could fathom it. And the consequence of not letting her nearest and dearest know why she did it, so that they will always wonder and suffer … Perhaps this was a simple, tragic case of extreme depression, which deprived her of reason and left her feeling that she had no choice. But the manner in which she took her life was such a violent thing to do. The image of that will haunt her loved ones forever.

‘Still struggling to understand how my lover and best friend could end her life in this tragic way,’ Mick made known. His extended statement on his Facebook page added the following: ‘We spent many wonderful years together and had made a great life for ourselves. She had great presence and her talent was much admired, not least by me … I have been touched by the tributes that people have paid to her, and also the personal messages of support that I have received. I will never forget her.’ They were perhaps the most tender words that Mick had ever shared publicly about any of the women with whom he had lived his life.

Her funeral service was held at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. One of the oldest in Los Angeles, many celebrity ghosts stalk its lawns. Judy Garland’s remains lie there, as do those of Mickey Rooney and Rudolph Valentino. This was not a celebrity burial, however, but a subdued and private affair, with only about seventy guests in attendance. Mick’s daughter by Marsha Hunt, Karis Hunt Jagger, read a poem. His daughter Jade by Bianca Jagger read Psalm 139. His grandchildren by Karis, Mazie and Zak, read Psalm 23: ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil …’ This was clearly a woman who had forged close personal relationships with her partner’s family, and by whom she was greatly loved. Long-serving Stones backing vocalist Bernard Fowler sang the Christian hymn ‘Will the Circle be Unbroken’. He was accompanied by Eurythmic Dave Stewart on guitar.

A memorial service was held in May at St Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue, New York, at which extended family, friends and colleagues paid tribute. She was a ‘girl’s girl’, she was ‘warm and funny’, and she ‘made people feel special’, they said. She was also ‘a good listener,’ ‘considerate of others’, ‘never a diva’ and ‘serene and happy’. As one might expect of a woman with the world at her feet, a global superstar partner, a loaded, privileged lifestyle and access, through Mick as well as via her own high-profile contacts, to virtually anyone in the world she wanted to meet. Not only all that, but she was wealthy and successful in her own right, despite the fact that her business was in deficit. She owned her $6 million apartment on 11th Avenue, and had recently paid off its outstanding mortgage. She and Mick shared homes in London and in Paris, on the Left Bank, boasting a bathroom tiled with Lalique glass. They also just happened to have Mick’s French home to hang out in; the one that he and Jerry purchased in 1982 for a couple of million pounds. The majestic sixteenth-century château La Fourchette1 stands on the outskirts of Pocé-sur-Cisse, a tiny village in the Loire Valley. Mick calls it his ‘haven of peace in the valley of kings’. The Stones have recorded there. He is said to be fond of mountain biking in the vicinity, and also of fishing and cooking. As well he might be.

All this, it seemed, was not enough. Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker spoke at L’Wren’s memorial service of ‘a mysteriousness’ to her that was impossible to pin down, marked by ‘silent boundaries’ that her friends knew never to cross. What could be behind such detachment and coldness? Perhaps the answers were to be found in her distant childhood, which had been hallmarked by rejection and a sense of standing out like a sore thumb. Yielded for adoption shortly after her birth, she landed in the lap of a good family and was much loved while growing up. Even so, she may never have overcome the need to know her true identity. Many adoptees feel this. Some are driven to search for their birth parents, and are often bitterly disappointed by what they find. We do not know whether L’Wren went down this route. But there were questions, the answers to which she presumably never found.

She was raised as Luann Bambrough in Roy, Utah, one of three adopted siblings. Her father Ivan served in the military during the Second World War, and was subsequently employed by an insurance company. The family were Mormons, and kept a modest but comfortable home. By the time Luann was twelve years old, she had literally outgrown her childhood. Already six feet tall, she was being taken for and treated like an adult. In 1985, when she was eighteen, the striking teenager happened to be spotted by fashion photographer Bruce Weber during a visit to the state. He was later to shoot her for a Calvin Klein commercial, for which she was paid $1,500. That was it, she knew what she wanted to do. She upped and left the backwater behind for glamorous Paris, where her modelling agency restyled her ‘L’Wren’. While she was far too tall for the catwalk, she was perfect for photographic work, especially her forty-two-inch legs. David Bailey famously photographed her for a Pretty Polly hosiery ad, in which her pins were portrayed as the hands on a clock.

She moved to Los Angeles during the mid-nineties, and left modelling behind to work as a photographers’ stylist. Shoots on which she worked for Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts and Mario Sorrenti graced the pages of the glossies, including W magazine and Vanity Fair. She got married in 1993, to the property entrepreneur Anthony Brand. The union lasted only three years and did not produce any children. Four years later she met Jagger on one of her photo shoots. They rapidly became involved. It was he who would encourage her to establish her own fashion label. Her parents having died, and her relationships with her siblings having thinned, there were fewer and fewer reasons to return to Utah. Mick’s family became her family. She forged and tended close relationships with every one of his children: he had seven by four different mothers, as well as four grandchildren. His first great-grandchild would be born around the time of his girlfriend’s memorial service. The Jagger grandkids called her ‘Glammy’, a nickname she loved. The one she was way less keen on was the one by which she was far better known. ‘Mick Jagger’s girlfriend,’ she would say, ‘is what I am, but it is not my name.’

Could she have feared his infamous propensity for infidelity? Did she worry that he would dump her for a much younger model, just at an age when she was too old to give him her own baby? Not that she said much to her friends about wanting one. Besides, Mick didn’t want any more, he was into the great-grandkid phase now for heaven’s sake! But fifty is fifty. She was about to turn that age in April 2014, a month after her death. Even the thought of that birthday is enough to shake confidence and strike fear into the heart of the most desirable woman. It just is. She had also undergone knee surgery a few months earlier, to repair a torn meniscus. Hobbling around on crutches was hardly her style. It must have reminded her of her frailty, and of the inevitable ageing process, while her partner still had what it took to attract younger and younger females. Oh, she knew all about his diversions. Most of the time, she turned a blind eye. But was this the thing that threatened her? Did she know of someone in particular who was already hovering in the wings?

After her death, it came out. Humping Jack Flash had become close to Melanie Hamrick, a twenty-seven-year-old dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. It was claimed that they had met during the Stones’ tour of Japan, only a few days before L’Wren was found dead. Any impropriety was furiously denied. A picture on a balcony told a story.


‘I chased this very pretty, very tiny, incredibly graceful ballerina across an underground car park at the Lincoln Center,’ said journalist Annette Witheridge. ‘We’d been sure for months that something was going on between her and Mick. It struck me how uncannily similar to L’Wren Scott she looked in the flesh. Same colouring, same look. She was in her late twenties at the time, but looked about ten years younger. Like a schoolgirl. I found out where she lived: in a grotty first-floor walk-up, one of those non-elevator tenement blocks that you see all over old New York. It was shabby. Soon afterwards, I got to know a couple of people at her ballet company. Although it was considered a great honour to be a member of that company, they clearly weren’t earning very much. One of them told me that Melanie had been engaged, but that she stopped wearing her ring after stories about her and Mick began to leak. ‘She must have seen an opportunity and ran with it,’ he said. ‘Who can blame her?’ It was obvious to me, from the way they talked about her, that she was highly ambitious and not that well liked. ‘She wasn’t even a principal, just a member of the corps de ballet,’ her colleague told me. ‘The rumours started, and she called in sick. When she returned, she had become a prima donna. You could tell because she was wearing Jackie O sunglasses. At night.’

On 8 December 2016, thirty-two months after L’Wren Scott died, Melanie Hamrick gave birth to Deveraux Octavian Basil Jagger in a New York hospital. Mick was present for the arrival of his eighth child. In 2019, his partner retired from the American Ballet Theatre after fifteen years, to focus on choreography and to mother her son. Both of them.

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