Julie Burchill

In praise of Katie Price

In praise of Katie Price
Image: Getty
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A friend told me awhile ago that whenever they saw my name they’d think ‘Oh no – what has she done to upset people now!’ I was mildly miffed at the time but, as a long-standing defender of Katie Price – the criminal formerly known as Jordan – this is invariably my reaction these days on seeing her name. Seeing her dressed up as a nun to launch her foray into OnlyFans, even I was moved to tut.

As an admirer of KP’s sauciness and stoicism, I have watched her antics over the past few years with the feeling of growing dismay which I suspect many of my ex-friends feel viewing my own epic game of Snakes & Ladders with the English media. Though she started out as a glamour model, and was never what you’d call wholesome, it all seemed quite jolly and seaside-postcard Carry On-ish for a time when everything she touched turned to gold-plate.

Kate Price (Getty)

There were the mandatory fashion and cosmetics lines, the string of books, some novels, some autobiographies, all ghost-written by Rebecca Farnworth, who put her in the top 100 authors of the decade between 2000 and 2019, with nearly three million sales. She fell in love with Peter Andre in the celebrity jungle in 2004 and showed her remarkable fearlessness when carrying out the repulsive Bushtucker Trials. For four years the couple seemed like a Heat magazine version of Adam and Eve; she even had an advice column in OK magazine, so enviable did her life seem, so admirable her character, especially in her care for her profoundly disabled son, Harvey.

But in 2018 she was filmed by two men she’d picked up in a bar in Majorca performing a *rap* routine featuring the admirably to-the-point refrain ‘I love coke’. I must admit that the kiss-off line ‘F**k my job in the media’ hit something of a raw nerve, looking back over my own bumpy ride. I loved coke too, for a good three decades – but even with my minuscule degree of fame I can’t ever imagine allowing some hanger-on to take advantage like that. I watched with incredulity as the troubles racked up; plastic surgery beyond the call of duty and beauty, so much that it started to look like out-sourced self-harm. Frequent associations with various men who were all either fitness instructors or DJs; one of them, I was horrified to note, hid behind a bush/wheelie bin rather than be photographed with her, his panicking disembodied voice yelling to ‘Get rid of the paps!’ Her assets had certainly dropped since she was featured on the front of a 2002 Playboy alongside the headline: JORDAN – LONDON’S BAD GIRL.

Never a careful driver, she has been caught drunk or using her mobile phone numerous times since 2008, culminating in a judge commenting last December that Price had ‘one of the worst driving records I have seen…you appear to think that you are above the law.’

The year 2019 was definitely Price’s annus horribilis. She was declared bankrupt, with debts totalling more than £3.5 million. She entered the Priory to be treated for substance addiction. She was fined after yelling at the new girlfriend of an ex-husband at a school playground and issued with a restraining order banning her from making any contact with the woman. Last week she was arrested for breaching that order.

I rarely sympathise with celebrities in trouble, but KP is my soft spot, and now she is on the ropes the self-righteous vultures are circling. It’s mandatory for upcoming starlets and songbirds to witter on about their Mental Elf these days, but Price has never asked for pity, attempting to tough it out when repeatedly held up for ridicule.

Never the gold-digger, always the mourning bride, she is an incurable romantic – an X-rated one, but a romantic nevertheless, forever presenting the latest version of The One and saying the same thing every time: ‘My knight in shining armour…different from all the others…not using me for money or fame’ before it all goes bust after a few years.

They say that people stop maturing at the age they find success in their dream job – for me it was 17, Your Honour, as it was for KP. But now approaching middle age – 43 – she hasn’t got it into her head that, by the time one is out of one’s youth, falling recklessly and repeatedly in love does not bring straightforward fun and games but two ill-matched sets of emotional baggage piling up on the conveyor belt from hell.

There’s so much more to her. People get MBEs for far less than the way she has fought to protect Harvey and other disabled children from online trolling, while the holier-than-thou BBC are happy to ceaselessly employ the vile alleged comedian Frankie Boyle, who once made an unspeakably foul *joke* about the likelihood of sexually assaulting his mother. As with many women in the public eye – especially those who utilise their beauty to advance themselves – men who will have fruitlessly desired her in her youth will now see her downfall as something of a thrill; like watching EastEnders, looking down on KP makes people feel somewhat better about their own lives. 

At the risk of being pretentious, Katie Price puts me in mind of several heroines of classic literature – Emma Bovary, Gloria Gilbert and Lily Bart – all of whom follow their hearts and receive society’s mockery and ostracism in return. But never say die – a new Channel 4 show – The Mucky Mansion – sees her literally attempting to get her house in order. It would be churlish not to allow this sweet, strong, silly girl one more chance to clean up her act.