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Ladies on the loose

Their reputations precede them and they’ve been in trouble a good few times. We take a look at Coleen’s close colleagues: that lively, liberated team from Loose Women.

Anything can happen when this lot get together, and frequently does. The raucous, out-of control, lunchtime talk show is famed for its feminist viewpoint and strong sexual content. First broadcast in 1999, the interchanging panel chat freely about news, issues and life in general. The all-woman ITV1 show has an avid and faithful audience of several million viewers and has won a raft of awards, most recently the Most Popular Factual Programme at the National Television Awards in 2010.

Andrea McLean
Former GMTV weather girl Andrea, 41, first joined the show in 2007. Born in Scotland but raised in Trinidad and Tobago – hence the unusual accent – she lives in Ashtead, Surrey, with husband Steve Toms, son Finlay, nine, daughter Amy, four, and their large labradoodle, Jackson. Andrea met builder Steve when they co-presented UKTV’s home makeover show Our House and their relationship sparked the collapse of Andrea’s marriage to BBC producer, Nick Green. Like Coleen, Andrea took part in the ITV1 reality show Dancing On Ice. She partnered professional skater Doug Webster but they were eliminated in week three. She and fellow ‘rubbish skater’, TV presenter Andi Peters, then fronted the weekday fan show Dancing On Ice Extra. Andrea said: ‘Judge Jason Gardner was spot-on when he said I “looked like a giraffe having sex” after I was voted off.’

Denise Welch
Ex Corrie star, Denise, joined Loose Women in 2005 and has often shocked viewers with her revelations – from admitting turning up to the wrong awards ceremony to dishing the dirt on the hilarious bad habits of husband, Tim Healy, star of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. She and Tim, 58, live in Wilmslow, Cheshire, and have two sons, Louis and Matthew. During serious debates, Denise, 52, has also spoken openly about her battle with depression after the birth of her eldest son in 1989. All the while, she was successfully hiding her illness from fans as she played Rovers Return landlady, Natalie Barnes, for four years in Corrie. In her autobiography, Pulling Myself Together (£7.99, Sidgwick & Jackson), Denise, who later appeared as flirtatious French teacher, Steph Haydock, in the BBC drama Waterloo Road, confessed how her depression spiralled into drug and alcohol abuse. She told how she would leave the Corrie set to score cocaine. ‘I don’t know how I did that job,’ she said. ‘I was desperately ill most of my time on the Street.

I started drinking heavily.’ She forced herself to kick the habit when she became pregnant with Louis. Then, with the help of former Corrie co-star, Kevin ‘Curly Watts’ Kennedy (a recovering alcoholic), she attended Alcoholics Anonymous and put a final stop to her alcohol dependency. She describes it as ‘the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life, but it is also the thing that I’m most proud of. I will always have depression – but I’m in control of it now because I’ve given up drinking’. One of Denise’s most memorable episodes of Loose Women was on Valentine’s Day 2008, when her husband Tim appeared on the show and sang Have I Told You Lately to her. Denise burst into tears.

Lynda Bellingham
Lynda is best known for playing the mother of the Oxo family in a series of 80s gravy ads – one of the longest-running campaigns in advertising history. Twice divorced with two sons, Michael and Robbie, from her second marriage, she now lives in north London. Lynda married her third and current husband, Michael Pattemore, on her 60th birthday – on the big day Michael presented her with a Zimmer frame with a personalised number plate. Husky-voiced Lynda, 62, became a Loose Woman in 2007. She got her first big break on ITV soap General Hospital in the 1970s. This led to several prime-time TV gigs including All Creatures Great and Small, At Home with the Braithwaites and The Bill. This time last year, she bravely appeared alongside gorgeous 20-somethings on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing partnered with professional fave, Darren Bennett. She was voted out in the fourth week. Braver still, this winter, Lynda is set to bare her flesh again when she strips off on stage, touring the West End show Calendar Girls.

The Canadian-born actress boldly admitted both in her 2010 autobiography Lost And Found: My Story (£17.99, Ebury Press) and on Loose Women that she turned to drink when her marriage broke down. She said that her second husband, restaurateur Nunzio Peluso, assaulted and emotionally tortured her during their 16-year marriage. ‘I went through a bad patch at home where I would drink a lot,’ she said on the show. ‘I didn’t notice that I was drinking a lot and then girlfriends would come round and we’d sit there all day knocking back the wine. I think my sons suffered from me being drunk.’ Thankfully, though, those days are now all in the past.

Kate Thornton
The Loose Women new girl, Kate, 37, started out making tea as an unpaid work-experience girl on the Sunday Mirror. Her first TV job was presenting a current affairs show with Nick Knowles.
She’s since worked on Top of the Pops, Don’t Try This At Home, Pop Idol, The Oscars and The X Factor.  Cheltenham-born Kate lives in south London with fiancé Darren Emerson, 39 – a DJ who built his name through dance band, Underworld, – and her two-year-old son, Ben. This autumn, Kate has also been fronting ITV1’s reality adventure show 71 Degrees North. The series follows 10 celebrity contestants through a series of extreme Arctic challenges. She didn’t take part in the challenges, but managed to end up in hospital with a fractured wrist in the second week. ‘The contestants are crossing ravines and I fell over in the hotel car park!’ she laughed.

Away filming in Norway for a month, as well as pining for Darren, Kate found herself missing her Loose Women co-stars. ‘I missed them dreadfully. We do have spats but it’s a discussion show, so it wouldn’t work if we didn’t lock horns. I feel a fully-fledged member of the team now!’ Kate, who started on Loose Women in September 2009, has just signed up for another series. So far, her biggest highlight was when George Michael called in. ‘I may have looked cool on the outside when I was chatting, but inside I was squealing,’ she said. ‘He even sent a hamper and it’s in our living room with Ben’s toys in it. Darren will ask “Where’s Fireman Sam?” and I’ll reply “It’s in George Michael’s hamper!”’

Lesley Garrett
Opera singer Lesley first appeared on Loose Women in 2006 and has boasted about looking and feeling better in her 50s than she did in her 20s. She has been open about her gruelling beauty regime, admitting to Botox injections and regular chemical peels. Now 55, she has been married for nearly 20 years to Peter, a GP in north London, and they have two teenage kids, Jeremy and Chloe. Lesley’s career has seen her sing both dramatic and comedy roles, including her Royal Opera debut in The Merry Widow in 1984. Since then, she has become a household name with numerous solo albums, her own TV show, Lesley Garrett…Tonight, and the subject of an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? In 2000 she published her autobiography, Notes from a Small Soprano (£20, Hodder).

Carol McGiffin
Not one to mince her words, Carol is infamous as a party girl who likes to end nights on the town by flashing her bum at the paparazzi. She’s been a panellist on the programme for 10 years and has appeared in more episodes than any of the others. The 50-year-old has also done loads of behind-the-scenes stuff for TV. She produced The Big Breakfast and was married to its presenter,
Chris Evans, at the time. The couple divorced after four years together. Now after 16 years of what she calls ‘blissfully flying solo’, during which time she’s had a seven-year self-imposed sex ban and ‘snogged Russell Brand, Danny Dyer, Gary Rhodes and Dougie McFly,’ Kent girl Carol, famed for ranting on about how great it is to be single, has recently got engaged to toy boy, Mark Cassidy, 28 – 22 years her junior.

The couple live in Hampstead, north London, and there’s talk of them marrying next year. Carol believes that much of Loose Women’s appeal is down to the presenters’ genuine friendships.
‘We do actually like each other. We don’t often socialise together, but when we do, we let our hair down and have a laugh. Even Andrea lets her hair down and gets drunk. She’s come out of herself since she started presenting the show.’ While her life is now pretty settled, Carol, who has just released her autobiography Oh, Carol! (£16.99 Hodder & Stoughton) can’t rule out more flashing. ‘I’ve stopped a lot of that,’ she laughed. ‘I’m not making a conscious decision; I’m getting too old for it. I never know what I will do, but I might flash my bum again.’

Sherrie Hewson
No-nonsense RADA-trained actress, Sherrie, 60, is also unashamedly ditzy – not totally unlike her most famous TV character, Corrie’s scatter-brained Maureen Holdsworth. Sherrie, who lives in Lancashire near her daughter, Keeley, and grandson, Oliver, was first let loose in 2003 and has been a regular panellist ever since. Outside the show, Sherrie made the gossip columns last winter when she clashed with Hannah Waterman on Channel 4’s Come Dine With Me. Sherrie got the EastEnders actress’ back up when she refused to eat her broccoli soup. She then made matters considerably worse by giving the 34-year-old a book on the menopause.

Viewers know Sherrie for her laugh-a-minute humour and outspoken opinions. When introduced at the start of the show, she usually responds to the applause with her famous catchphrase, ‘Come on, let’s hear you!’ But behind the giggles, divorced Sherrie has had her fair share of sorrows. In 2007, after a career of more than 30 years in showbiz, she was forced to declare herself bankrupt. She described the experience as ‘humiliating’. ‘Let’s face it, we’ve all been through the washing machine many times,’ Sherrie says, talking about the Loose Women panel. ‘We’ve all been thrown in the spin dryer and emerged creased and a little worse for wear… but it’s amazing what a bit of starch and a quick iron can do!’

Regular offenders
Each day there is a different line-up of loose women. Other familiar panellists are:

Lisa Maxwell, 47
Perhaps best known as DI Sam Nixon in The Bill, in October this year, Lisa tried to get Prince William to make a guest appearance on the show. She asked at a Clarence House charity bash: ‘What about being on Loose Women?’ But Wills declined, saying: ‘It’s the name; it’s got an awful name.’

Zoë Tyler, 40
Born in Brum, West End star Zoë got her big break on TV as a voice coach and panellist on the BBC talent shows Any Dream Will Do and How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber. Unlike other members of the show’s line-up, she’s reluctant to spill the beans on her sex life, alas.

Arlene Phillips, 67
Since her early days in the 80s pop dance act, Hot Gossip, celebrity choreographer Arlene came to fame on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing. There was public outcry when she was replaced by the younger Alesha Dixon, but Arlene went on to judge So You Think You Can Dance.

Celeb sign-ins
Panellists have also included:

  • Bev Callard, 53, who’s leaving her role as Rovers’ landlady, Liz McDonald, next year after 21 years in Corrie.
  • Lulu, 62, the pop icon who sang Shout in the 60s and, more recently, became one of the many faces of M&S.
  • Cilla Black, 67, singer and presenter of the mega-successful Blind Date and Surprise, Surprise.
  • Carol Vorderman, 50, Countdown’s maths whizz, detox diet guru and contestant of Strictly Come Dancing.
  • Beverley Knight, 36, British soul and R&B sensation, who also has her own make-up range, K, for darker skins.

And a fond farewell to…

  • Jane McDonald, 47, the luxury-liner singer who shot to fame after appearing on the BBC docusoap The Cruise, has been a regular since 2004.

words: hayley jarvis | photographs: ITV


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