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Monday Sep 19 2011
There are few people who wouldn’t be intrigued to know exactly what it is like to walk in the shoes of a rock star wife, and fewer still would refuse to spend a day in the life of one; even if it was just to see whether the glamorous lifestyle lives up to its name.
Although it is easy to put these “rock chicks” on a pedestal and admire from a distance the wealth, fame and sheer unadulterated glamour they seem to effortlessly possess; one must also remember that they, too, are only human.
It’s a showery Sunday afternoon but the ambience is casual from the moment I enter Paige Savage’s hotel room. Close friend and confidante Rosemary Boyle is seated nearby and the girls are reminiscing about the previous night out, in The Pink restaurant where they enjoyed the company of two other friends, Una Williams, photographer and Jacqui Corcoran, proprietor of Korkys, after a day-long photo shoot, which was a first for Paige.
“I never felt so comfortable around people in all my life,” the blonde beauty insists. Paige is full of praise for Una, Vinny Gough (recently crowned Mr International), and Rosemary, who directed the whole shoot.
Paige, who is married to Def Leppard bassist Rick Savage, possesses every cliched trait of a rock star wife, with lustrous, platinum-blonde hair and a seemingly carefree spirit. As she sits on the sofa in her fifth-floor luxury suite at the Westbury Hotel, Dublin, it is hard for the onlooker to imagine that this glamorous smoky-eyed woman could have anything but the perfect life.
However, the mother of three tells a very different tale; the polar opposite of the life many would perceive her to have. It’s a life troubled by the sometimes taboo illness known as depression, which started way back in her childhood.
Born in United Kingdom to a Polish mother, Paige was given up for adoption and was entrusted into the care of Irish parents in London. The family moved back to Ireland when the young girl was 10 years old.
“I’ve always seen Ireland as my real home. That’s why Rick doesn’t mind me coming back so often,” the relaxed beauty explains.
But a terrible thing happened to her here. As a teenager, Paige’s life took a turn for the worst when she was raped by a stranger at the tender age of 13. Never telling anyone of the rape meant the event festered in her mind for many years.
The horrific incident had a profound impact on her, and from a young age she began to self harm by cutting herself; she had suicidal tendencies which paved the way for years of torment and mental illness; feelings of worthlessness engulfed her. “I used to cut myself because the pain was so intense, in my stomach and all over and I was so low, that I just wanted to punish myself,” Paige says, as she shows me a small but visible scar on her wrist that lies beneath the tattooed word ‘Alfheim’.
“My whole self-esteem was shattered,” Paige recalls of the memories, “And I also developed eating disorders.”
When she found herself in what she thought was a loving relationship, in her early 20s, Paige discovered she was pregnant with her first child, Jordan, now 18. However, the relationship ended and the young mum found herself rearing her first born alone.
Determined to be a good mother to her daughter, Paige searched for work and opportunity brought her face to face with Robbie Fox, who interviewed her for a job in the cloakroom of his club.
“I got offered the job but 20 minutes later, I rang him back and said, ‘I think I’m a little bit more intelligent than that’. And he said, ‘f***in’ women!'” she laughs cheerily. “Two days later, he offered me the cash desk job in Renards.”
Paige’s eyes light up when she mentions the well-known businessman’s name and insists that he became the best thing that ever happened to her. Other close friends include Caroline and Denis Desmond, who are godparents to one of her children and Helen, wife of guitarist with Def Leppard, Phil Collen, whom she “trusts with her life”.
“I could trust him with anything; tell him everything. He has always looked after me,” she says of Robbie, the father figure who she feels lucky to have had come into her life.
Subsequently, Paige got promoted to hostess at Renards and when Rick Savage, who at that stage was long out of his first marriage, came into the VIP room one night, professing his undying love for her, she dismissed his declarations as a drunken episode.
“He told me, I love you, I love, you and I said, ‘Well I don’t believe you!’ And then he told me, ‘Look, I will stand on my head right here in the VIP room, to prove it to you’,” she says of that fateful night 15 years ago. He did it and the rest, as they say, is history.
Though deliriously in love and finally finding some happiness, Paige still carried the troubles of her past and kept them hidden away from her new love. Feeling ashamed and trying to battle the pain of depression and anxiety, Paige admits that at times she would want to go into a dark corner and not come out. She credits her young daughter as the only reason she picked herself up and pulled herself out of the dark place her mind was in.
“It’s a terrible thing to say, but sometimes I really didn’t care if I lived or died. I didn’t care about the cutting and I also developed an eating disorder because my whole self-worth was gone. In a way, I was an actress; I was performing because I was covering it all up; cutting in places people wouldn’t see and taking laxatives to make myself thinner.”
Paige revelled in the fact that the handsome bassist took Jordan on as his own child; the youngster even took his surname before Paige and Rick married. The now grown-up and talented 18-year-old recently found herself on stage in Sheffield performing a Taylor Swift song for a charity gig.
“She even looks like Rick,” the proud mother says of her daughter who is studying design in college and then hopes to go off to Nashville to pursue her singing career.
Her happiness grew with the birth of her son, and pregnant with a third child, the family moved to Sheffield, much to Paige’s distaste. Professing a love for Ireland, which she sees as her real home, the young mother felt she had no friends over there and she likened the move as going “from Dynasty to Emmerdale” once she left the cosmopolitan city of Dublin and moved to the vast unfamiliar countryside.
She was suffering from post-natal depression after the birth of her first son while pregnant with her second, and was prescribed diazepam and other anti-depressants.
With Rick on tour, a toddler to run after and another baby on the way, Paige felt utterly overwhelmed and found herself going back to Ireland on the boat, desperately trying to escape the bleak- looking situation.
Rick eventually persuaded her to come home as the birth of her third child drew near. Nine days after Scott’s birth, Rick went off touring with the band and the young mother struggled to get some sleep at night as one of the kids had a bad ear infection and the other cried all the time, as a lot of babies tend to do.
Evidently, the reality that she couldn’t cope with the spiralling post-natal depression meant she returned to prescription anti-depressant drugs.
A delicate, almost endearing vulnerability is displayed when she pulls her knees up to her chest and begins to describe a day which she feels she is able to talk about, because now she is “over it”. She tells me she is not ashamed to say she went through it.
Planning three months ahead, the troubled young mother hoarded her medication and one night, went into the library in their home. Locking the door behind her, she took every single pill along with copious amounts of alcohol. Paige insists she took enough “to kill a horse”.
The moment she felt herself “going”, the desperate mother and wife put in a last goodbye call to a friend in Spain, telling her she loved her.
“The pain became just too much for me to cope with. It was all the time. I was afraid to go out of the house and just wanted to stay in the dark. When I felt myself slipping away, I felt so relieved that I was going. I thought the kids would be better off without me and that I was doing them no favours. I was a loser, a no-hoper.”
Paige can’t remember anything after the phone call but after being treated for her suicide attempt in Sheffield, she went over to Spain and spent time recuperating at her friend’s villa.
“I was told the door was kicked in and that the ambulance came but I can just remember waking up in Spain, opening my eyes and crying, all the while saying to myself, ‘I am such a loser, I can’t even kill myself right’.”
Coming home, she received counselling and her husband Rick began to learn more about depression, once his wife began to open up to him about her problems.
“If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be sitting here. He actually saved me. He did his very best for me and he always carries that worry with him that I could get sick again. He spots the signs and then when he is away touring, he will call me all the time because he is worried.”
Going back on the pills shortly after her suicide attempt, Paige used sources such as the internet to get the drugs she desired which she thought would numb the constant unrelenting pain.
Feeling like a useless mother and keeping the memory inside of that day when her innocence was taken away at the tender age of 13, Paige felt an overwhelming sense of guilt, and for years felt like a “slut” and “dirty”. The man has never been brought to justice.
The outpouring of her troubled past also brings with it the story of one of her first boyfriends, who lived near her home; someone Paige says she thought she would marry. When they broke up for a short period, she realised how much she loved him and, just before they were to reunite, he was killed in a freak bike accident. Paige cries in the arms of her close friend, former model Rosemary Boyle. It is all part of the healing, and strangely inspiring to see.
One might ask why the rock star wife is telling her story now, after so many years. Paige insists that it is because she wants people to realise that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that money certainly does not buy happiness.
“All money buys is false friends. I have been used so many times and belittled by people. People have an image of a woman that has everything. Well, I don’t. I learned to block things out and build walls.
“If someone has cancer, then everyone says, ‘oh poor you’, but not if you say you have depression. They kind of look at you and say, ‘oh don’t be so ridiculous, you’ll be fine’. Depression is an illness and it is a killer, and I’m telling people my story so that they realise that the grass is not always greener on the other side.”
Nowadays, she puts all her efforts into her three kids, whom she claims are her best friends, and enjoys nothing more than spending time with them. Reminiscing about a recent trip to Portugal, where they all swam with dolphins, brings a broad smile to her face.
The two boys are keen footballers and one of the reasons the family is still living in Sheffield is Rick’s hope that they may one day follow in his footsteps and play for Sheffield United. Paige accompanies her rocker husband on tour whenever possible, and lately she has been finding herself jetting back and forth between Sheffield and the States, where Def Leppard are currently on tour.
Although she is glad that the darkest of times are firmly in her past, Paige still suffers with depression and takes each day as it comes, although thankfully she is not suicidal anymore. Her kids are a fantastic outlet for her and she attends her counsellor regularly.
Asking her how she copes on a daily basis, Paige insists she has come a long way from the dark times and turns to God and his angels for help.
“I went to a clairvoyant, years ago, when I was looking for answers and he told me I was going to receive a very sacred cross. When my adoptive grandmother died, my father came home with a box,” she says.
In the brown box was a really old cross, maybe 100 years old which came from Lourdes and had been hanging over her grandmother’s bed for years. When she is feeling low and in pain, she holds that cross and prays for strength.
“There is a lot of pressure on women these days and I want people to know that it is OK that these things happen but it is not OK to leave them festering inside. Don’t hide it because it eats you like cancer.”
What are her hopes for the future? Paige uses the perfectly apt saying which sums up that glimmer of positivity that emanates beneath the facade.
“What it was in the beginning shall be in the end,” she says softly with a smile.
“I was born pure. By the end of my life I’m hoping it will be what it was when I came into the world, right at the very beginning.”
Suddenly, the sun shines through the window of the suite and with that Paige Savage stands up and hugs me tight. Life goes on. She is leaving the rest to providence.