Paul McCartney is the single most charming human being I've ever met.
Which is to say that, in life, he seems to a member of the press exactly like the public Beatle we've known for 45 years.
I'm on Heather Mills McCartney's' side anyway. This, I can see, will take some explaining.
There were about 10 of us at a long table throwing questions at Sir Paul for 45 minutes. Because the film wasn't much ("Give My Regards to Broad Street") and I was the last one in the room, I wound up sitting right next to the bloke. It occurred to me at the time that even under such strained circumstances, you probably couldn't be in merrier company in the world -- apart, of course, from your own family. His wit and cheer are that plentiful and that unforced.
Imagine, then, divorcing Paul McCartney, as poor Heather Mills is now doing. He's a Beatle, for pity's sake, which makes him, among the living, a member of the most exclusive club on earth.
Even with all her charities and one leg, Heather Mills couldn't start out from a more unsympathetic position. She might as well be cursing puppies in public or mocking ugly babies.
There is, as most of us know, no such thing as a pleasant divorce. Take the best and most painless one you've ever heard of, give it to the Brit tabloids for a year, and it would sound like a combination of the Battle of D-Day, a psychiatric textbook on aberrant behavior and a collection of night court dockets.
If you have the consummately bad luck to be divorcing Sir Shibboleth, you might as well be photographed in public torturing kittens -- even if you've lost a limb and danced on the prosthesis on the American telly. You're going to be Medusa until all the legalities are taken care of, so you might as well stay home a lot, unless you absolutely have to get out and shake your snakes at the world.
Courtesy of the Internet, we've been able to follow the McCartney/Mills divorce in the Brit press a little over here on our side of the pond. And an atrocity it's been.
Even if it's true that Mills herself was responsible for supplying the press with a good deal of misinformation, it's hard for any fair-minded Yank not to feel some sympathy for the poor woman. She's in Lose-Lose land by the very fact of the man she's divorcing. No wonder she had her public "meltdown" on TV in the past couple weeks -- raging and tearing up and confessing suicidal thoughts on the telly at home, telling America's morning news yentahs she wants greater consequences for press irresponsibility.
And that's where the Mills saga does indeed get interesting.
She could have just weeped and wailed and done a "poor me." But she is, remember, a committed activist citizen of the world so, by God, she's going to turn her personal hard rain of frogs into a quixotic curse on frog lovers everywhere. And woe be to British toads if Mills gets her way.
She wants no one less than the European Economic Union to get into the journalistic standards business and sanction the lying, smearing, vituperative masters of her country's dark slanderous arts. She has, she said memorably, had worse press than a pedophile or a murderer.
Let's all admit that the happy, brilliant, cheery bloke who sat to my right years ago could be just about anything behind closed doors and how would we know? He's been assiduous and supremely successful about preserving his privacy over the decades (it's one of the most likable things about him, in fact.) But all the knighthoods in the world can't obscure the fact that his profession -- rock star -- has occasionally been known in the past to harbor a behavioral kink or two.
Being a billionaire (or in the neighborhood) doesn't exactly intrude on his ability to hide his eccentricities either.
Long live Sir Paul, I say, now and forever.
In this mess, though, my heart goes out to Heather Mills.