October 25, 2002: Barbara Walters 20/20 Interview with Heather Mills
BARBARA WALTERS host: It's been four years since Paul McCartney's beloved wife Linda passed away. Now Paul at 60 has found a new love, a new wife, 34- year-old Heather Mills. And she has lived a life almost as remarkable in its own way as his. She was a fashion model who lost a leg in a freak accident. Once abused and homeless and living in the streets of London, Heather Mills is now a British Lady, married to Sir Paul McCartney, but for Heather Mills the road to wedded bliss has been filled with potholes.
Heather mills had every reason to think this last year would be the best of her life. She was engaged to former Beatle Paul McCartney. Then they were married at a castle in Ireland. It was a fairy tale wedding. But living happily ever after? Not exactly.Ms. WALTERS: Describe this last year, if you can.No wonder. Heather Mills has been publicly branded a thief. Her ex-husband warned, "watch out, Paul."
HEATHER MILLS: Horrendous publicly. Really probably the worst year of my life.
Ms. WALTERS: So this year, which should have been wonderful ...
HEATHER MILLS: Was worse than the year that I lost my leg.
Ms. WALTERS: Really?
HEATHER MILLS: Yeah. Yep. We were spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week explaining and having to justify ourselves to the British tabloids.
Another headline screamed, "Henpecked McCartney." Heather says she is being attacked out of spite because she refused to talk about her secret romance.HEATHER MILLS: You don't realize, if I tell you the ins and outs of my relationship with Paul, there won't be a relationship. But they didn't care and they just got nastier and nastier and nastier.
Ms. WALTERS: What does Paul say?HEATHER MILLS: Paul would love to speak out and say, "Leave her alone. You don't know her.:
Instead, Paul suggested that Heather publish in America her remarkable story titled A Single Step. The
royalties will be donated to Heather's charity, the United Nations Adopt A Minefield Program. The book begins with the almost unbelievable tale of her childhood.
Ms. WALTERS: In order to understand who you are today, we have to go back to who you were. You were emotionally and physically abused by your father then your mother leaves.HEATHER MILLS: She left me and my little sister and my brother and she ran off with a guy. So from a very young age, I had to cook and clean and steal clothes and steal food.Her father denied that he ever physically abused his family. But he was sent to prison for fraud. And that led to more difficulties for 13-year-old Heather.HEATHER MILLS: And my mom who I hadn't seen for years turned up and took us to London. We didn't get on with her boyfriend at all. She said either you leave or he'll leave.
Ms. WALTERS: And your mother said?HEATHER MILLS: You'd better go.
So Heather left home. She says she lived in the streets around London's Waterloo arches for four months.HEATHER MILLS: One day I remember being asleep next to this cardboard box and I could hear the sound of water. And I could smell something strong. And I sort of woke up and felt that my hair was damp and this tramp was just peeing next to my head. And I just thought, that's it. I've got to get out.Heather has been accused of exaggerating the circumstances of her childhood.Ms. WALTERS: The man, this actor, that your mother went to live with ...Whatever happened, no one disputes that Heather's childhood was traumatic. At 15, she was arrested for stealing gold chains from the London jewelry store where she worked. After a night in jail, Heather was put in probation. But things got better when she won a photo contest, which led to some success as a model. She married at 21 years old but the marriage failed after just two years. She continued to model and had several boyfriends over the next couple of years.
HEATHER MILLS: Charles Staply.
Ms. WALTERS: ... yes, has surfaced. He said you never, you know, it wasn't bad. You didn't live in those boxes and your mother didn't throw you out and a few other not very kind things.
HEATHER MILLS: I think there's about 20 other people that would say the opposite.
Ms. WALTERS: And then came August 8th, 1993. You were 25 years old. You were walking to Kensington Gardens in London. Your whole world changed.[scene: BARBARA WALTERS and Heather Mills on a rainy day in London at the site of the accident.]Ms. WALTERS: Typical London weather, Heather.Heather took me to the place where she was walking on that fateful day almost ten years ago.
HEATHER MILLS: No, it wasn't like this the day I had my accident. It was beautiful, sunny day.HEATHER MILLS: And I came up to this curb. Two police cars came flying by at 80 miles an hour. This, a red double decker bus just like this one that's coming by now was actually parked. And it was blocking my view. You can see how big they are so I couldn't see behind it.Heather also suffered a broken pelvis and punctured lungs. At first unconscious, she woke up three days later to learn that her left leg had been amputated below the knee.
Ms. WALTERS: And behind it was the . . .
HEATHER MILLS: Behind it came the police motorcycle. I took another step. The police motorcycle came. Chopped my leg off. I flew that way, just over there. The leg . .
Ms. WALTERS: Across the street.
HEATHER MILLS: Yeah.
Ms. WALTERS: So you're lying there, the leg is here, the cars are going by?
HEATHER MILLS: Yeah, the cars were going around the leg, going, 'what on earth is this in the middle of the road?' And there was blood everywhere. I'm just lying over there watching my leg thinking, 'what on earth is it doing over there'?HEATHER MILLS: I kept forgetting that my leg was missing. So I'd get out the bed and just fall on the floor and hit the stump. And then it would split open again. And it was that frustration at first. And then I thought, I can make a difference. This has happened for a reason.That difference, she decided, would be made in helping other amputees. Within a year, Heather collected 25,000 used artificial limbs in Britain and personally delivered them to war torn Croatia.HEATHER MILLS: I think the first child that we fitted up, Martina, moved me the most because here was a young girl who'd lost her leg from the land mine and some of her fingers. And her parents were very poor. So they could never afford to pay anyone to make a limb. I was just very gentle with her. And when I showed her my leg, she just felt that, you know, it wasn't such a bad thing.Losing the leg gave Heather something that had been missing, a direction for her life. She became
spokesperson for Adopt A Minefield, a U.N. campaign dedicated to the dangerous work of clearing the more than 60 million land mines left behind after wars in over 70 countries.
Heather traveled to India and Vietnam meeting with amputees, showing by example that happiness does not have to end with the loss of a limb. This boy, in Vietnam, picked up an American cluster bomb left from the war that ended 14 years before he was born. It destroyed both legs and one arm.
And it was through her work that Heather met Paul McCartney after a charity event in London.
SIR PAUL: I saw her at the awards ceremony, but we didn't meet. I just heard her speak and I thought she was pretty impressive.Before long, they were a couple. Paul and Heather seemed to be everywhere together. She even advised Paul on his music. And when Heather made a music video, Paul McCartney sang backup.
HEATHER MILLS: I said to my girlfriend, she said, 'Oh, look, there's Paul McCartney over there.' As everybody always says. And I went, 'Oh, yeah, he's really good looking, isn't he?' And that was it.
SIR PAUL: After a couple of weeks, I found her number. And I eventually managed to get in touch with her.
HEATHER MILLS: I got this phone call, 'I want to meet you. Hi, it's Paul McCartney.' And I was like, ' Oh, yeah, right. This is my girlfriend winding me up because I've said, 'Oh yeah, he was good looking.' So I ignored it. Got another phone call. And I went, this might be true. So I rang the number, it was his office.
SIR PAUL: When we saw each other and sat down to talk, I thought there's more to her than meets the eye. She's, I think the more you see of her, the more you realize that there's a very strong character there. She's a very determined person.
Ms. WALTERS: When did it blossom?
HEATHER MILLS: It took a few months. It was nice dating, nice wooing.
Ms. WALTERS: Romantic?
HEATHER MILLS: So romantic. You know, he would say, 'Let's go run in the ocean.' I would say, 'But it's like freezing.' And he's say, 'Let's just go in there.' And I'm like, 'Oh, I've got to put my leg off and da Da Da.' And he'd say, 'No, I'll giving you a piggy back, let's just run in.' So he brings out that kind of free spirit in me.
Ms. WALTERS: You can do everything with this, you can, with your leg. You, you roller blade. You ski, you dance.Paul's daughter Stella is an award winning fashion designer.
HEATHER MILLS: I dance to about five songs, and then it gets a bit hot and falls off.
Ms. WALTERS: And you can just talk about this and laugh about this?
HEATHER MILLS: Yeah, you know, it's just a leg. It's not . . .
Ms. WALTERS: Just a leg. It's not you.
HEATHER MILLS: It's not me.
Ms. WALTERS: It's not everything. He has written a love song for you.
HEATHER MILLS: A lot of, a lot of love songs, yeah.
Ms. WALTERS: Let me see your ring.
HEATHER MILLS: It's that one. That's the engagement ring.
Ms. WALTERS: That's a lovely ring.
HEATHER MILLS: And then little sapphires, we did a little band.
Ms. WALTERS: Heather, let's talk about his children. Because Paul has grown children. And supposedly, you have no relationship or a very poor relationship with them.
HEATHER MILLS: I'm the closest to Heather, the oldest one. It goes James, Mary and Stella and I get on fine with all of them. And yes, they were worried about it in the beginning. I wanted to sign a prenuptial, say I want nothing. They couldn't believe it. They were over the moon. And we all have a very, very good relationship.Ms. WALTERS: Why didn't you have Stella do your wedding gown?The newlyweds are always on the move. Campaigning together for Adopt A Minefield. Maybe part of what makes the marriage work is that Heather and Paul are honest about each other's shortcomings.
HEATHER MILLS: Right. I didn't want to put Stella under pressure because I don't care how much we get on, I wouldn't want to make a wedding dress for my father's new wife. So I never asked her and she never offered.
Ms. WALTERS: Nevertheless, June 11th, 2002 is magical day for Heather Mills
HEATHER MILLS: And apparently, two rainbows came out outside the church. The sun came out. Everyone said it was just a sign. It was lovely. It was one of those perfect, perfect days. And it was the happiest day of my life. It was amazing.HEATHER MILLS: This is a man that has had his own way his entire life. You know, you become that famous at 19, it's sometimes hard to listen to, you know, other people's opinions. So I am very opinionated. And so is he. So sometimes we have our heavy discussions like all couples because I don't believe you should ever be a yes person.
SIR PAUL: She can be a little overbearing, she can be a little bit bossy because she's so single-minded. You suddenly think, 'Wait a minute, you know, I'm here, too. ' You know I will sometimes say, 'Hey, wait a minute, you're bossing me around.'
Ms. WALTERS: You know he says you're kind of bossy.
HEATHER MILLS: I'm very bossy. But men need to be bossed.
Ms. WALTERS: And Paul McCartney needs to be bossed?
HEATHER MILLS: All men. He's just another man..... but he's special.
Ms. WALTERS: Oh, really?
Ms. WALTERS: Do you ever now look at your life and say, it is a fairy tale?
HEATHER MILLS: No, I don't. But I am married to the most famous man in the world and it's very unfortunate, that he's famous, for me. And I would love nothing more, and it's a total, that's the fairy tale there, to live a more anonymous life.
Ms. WALTERS: It won't be possible?
HEATHER MILLS: No. I know. So one day if the press keep, keep, keep attacking me, I might have to be a stay at home wife. I mean, my life would be a lot easier. I could just do lunch, darling.
(kindly submitted by PLUGGED correspondent Joan M. Hopkins)
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