Now He’s 64

At an age when most 64-year-old multimillionaire pop stars might reasonably hope their significant others would still be needing and feeding them, Paul McCartney spent his landmark birthday in the middle of a split from a wife who’s about to sue the News Of The World for calling her “a £2,000 per night hooker.”

Unfortunately, all keen students of the U.K.’s libel laws (and all lovers of salacious tittle-tattle) will have to be patient because the high drama that’s bound to surround Heather Mills McCartney vs. Rupert Murdoch’s News International won’t unfold until her divorce with Sir Paul is settled.

Only then, if ever, would judges bother over whether the paper’s alleged “highly defamatory” stories have lowered Mills McCartney’s reputation in what’s usually referred to as “the minds of right-thinking people” or if the paper published accurate and fair stories that are of public interest.

It has all the makings of a fascinating scrap. The McCartneys have blamed “media intrusion” for their split. Paul posted notes on his Web site saying the newspapers are lying about it, but it’s unlikely they have seen the worst of U.K. tabloid gutter journalism or experienced just how far the paparazzi hog can stick its snout into the trough when it’s drooling with hunger.

Mills McCartney’s lawyers say the Sunday paper’s stories alleging that their client was a highly paid prostitute when she was in her 20s are “vicious and untrue.” It’s likely that they’ll also be taking action against “the individuals” behind them.

In a written statement, her team claimed the sources behind the lurid and well-illustrated stories are “unreliable” and were paid for their contributions.

A spokesman for News Of The World, which is edited by Andy Coulson, told The Guardian, “We stand by the story 200 percent.”

The paper is understood to be contemplating whether to publish even more details in the coming weeks.

Her lawyers’ statement also said she’s recovering from surgery on the leg that was amputated below the knee after a collision with a police motorcycle in 1993.

“Heather is very distressed by this article,” it said. “She continues to recover slowly from her revision amputation operation and has suffered weight loss, anxiety and sleeping problems as a result of the stress and anxiety of the breakup of her marriage.”

Stephen Taylor, who heads her legal team, told The Guardian that News Of The World had threatened to print the allegations three or four years ago but was stalled by the threat of legal action.

In the week before it published a four-page “exclusive” June 11 alleging that she’d been paid for sex with such well-heeled clients as former international arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, The Sun, its News International stablemate, ran topless pictures of Mills McCartney that were said to be taken from a 1988 German publication called Die Freuden Der Liebe.

It continued publishing more pictures after its sister paper had run the prostitution pieces.

McCartney’s estranged wife insists the German book was “merely an educational lovers’ guide,” according to a June 9th story in The Daily Mirror, which quoted various unnamed “friends” and “PR professionals.”

The PR professionals reportedly said the papers had been waiting for the pair to split before unleashing negative stories they were reluctant to air “while Ms. Mills McCartney was married to the former Beatle.”

“Many critics have since had their knives out for her,” The Mirror explained. The paper went on to say the 1988 photos of her in clinches with a model that have appeared “in a downmarket newspaper” have further fueled claims that the divorce would be one of the most bitter in pop.

Exclusively revealing that Sir Paul has been calling her “up to six times a day to console her” because he fears the newspapers’ attacks may have “left her a wreck,” The Mirror claimed that he’s “told pals” that he’s really worried about her because “she’s in pieces.”

The pals said he’s “fraught with worry” about the effect on their 2-year-old daughter Beatrice.

As for the pictures in The Sun, he reportedly “told friends” there’s nothing in his wife’s past that he doesn’t know about. “I knew she’d done the pictures before we married. It was such a long time ago.”

Another pal, this time one of Heather’s friends, was quoted saying, “Beatrice isn’t a baby any more. She can tell when mummy’s upset and Paul’s naturally very concerned.”

The troubled couple is said to be hoping to conclude an amicable settlement and joint custody of Beatrice.

The statement announcing Heather’s intention to sue NOTW and possibly its journalists and sources said: “The interests of her daughter are of paramount concern. She will defer issue of legal proceedings until the arrangements in relation to the divorce are concluded but intends to sue at that stage all parties (including individuals) who are intent on damaging her reputation.”

– John Gammon