I’m only 53, there’s a whole new life out there
Tuesday 03 April 2012
She battled actor Michael Madsen, model Nicola McLean and the Playboy twins in the Celebrity Big Brother house, flashed her boobs in the hot tub and went on to be crowned the winner of the reality show in January.
But when Denise Welch returned to the real world, it was the fact her 24-year marriage to actor Tim Healy, 60, was over and she was dating a toyboy 15 years her junior that made the headlines.
It’s enough to leave the strongest of us a wreck but, on Closer’s exclusive shoot, mum-of-two Denise, 53, looks happy and healthy.
She tells Closer: “I’ve weathered the storm. The Big Brother experience was traumatic, but I was most terrified the news of our separation had leaked and that the kids were getting pestered over it by the press. It was the absolute best and worst of times.”
In the end, Denise – mum to Matthew, 23, who’s a musician, and Louis, 11 – revealed her marriage was over live on Loose Women on 6 February. She says: “I was painted as some kind of serial adulterer, I had to do something. Every day another story came out about someone I’d supposedly had a fling with. I haven’t spoken about it before – my marriage split, ‘bra-gate,’ or my least favourite person ever, Michael Madsen.”
Celebrity Big Brother’s ratings rocketed the night a boozy Denise ended up topless in the hot tub with 19-year-old former X Factor contestant Frankie Cocozza.
She says: “I came out of the house to find I had been painted as a villain – just for taking my top off. It’s not the worst thing in the world a person can do.
“My son Matthew said afterwards: ‘I’d have been embarrassed if my mum was bullying someone, but my mum getting her boobs out on a Tuesday night is just par for the course!’ It’s something you might do at a crazy party, feel embarrassed about the next day, then move on from.”
But Denise – who also flashed her bra to photographers during Tim’s 60th birthday party in January – grins when asked if she’s changed her ways. She says: “I can’t say I’ll never do it again – I have a condition called ‘compulsive flashing disorder’ and, anyway, I might get a nice bra campaign out of it!”
The other major Big Brother ratings draw was “fight night” – so-called because Denise had a run-in with one of the Playboy twins, Karissa Shannon, and Nicola McLean. Denise describes the experience as “horrific,” but she reserves her greatest disdain for Michael Madsen.
She reveals: “Michael is a nasty piece of work – he tried to sell a story to the press, saying I’d begged him for sex in the toilet. I have never begged anyone for sex.”
Denise takes a deep breath before talking about her split. She still wears her wedding ring and when asked why, she says: “I have only good things to say about my marriage and just because Tim and I aren’t ‘in love’ any more, it doesn’t mean we don’t still love each other. Why would I get rid of my ring? Tim and I were together for 24 years – we really tried to make things work and we’ve brought up two amazing children.
“We were good friends, but we were getting to the point where we’d have lost our friendship if we kept the marriage going. We grew apart – the physical side of things had been important between us and we were forcing that because we felt we should. If you’re unhappy, maybe you drink too many sherries, then things turn into a row. We didn’t want it to be that way.”
She adds: “Tim and I decided to split before Christmas and, although we didn’t tell the boys, we’d hinted things were going to change. Matthew, who’s very sensitive, had said to me a few years ago: ‘Maybe you and Dad should separate’ – but you keep going to try to make things work.”
Since leaving CBB, Denise – who’s currently staying in London for work, but still lives in the family home in Cheshire with Tim and their sons – says she’s been rushed off her feet. She reveals: “I’m doing Loose Women, then rehearsing every day for Steel Magnolias, my first play in eight years. I needed to get back to the theatre to remind me where I came from. Acting grounds me.”
Denise reveals she’s totally in love with her toyboy boyfriend of three months, party planner Lincoln Townly, 39, and when he arrives at our shoot, she says: “He’s gorgeous isn’t he? I think he’s lovely and he makes me very happy. It’s early days – we’re not living together yet. Lots of stories came out about us early on, which nearly split us up, but we got through that. He’ll be testing me on my lines later and cooking me dinner!”
The couple met last year through friends and Denise says there was a spark between them, but nothing happened until late last year. And she insists she and Tim have been open about their new relationships. She says: “Lincoln and Tim’s girlfriend [cleaner Joan Anderton] are the result of the situation, not the cause. It was important for Tim’s girlfriend to be sure our marriage was officially over before anything went further between them. I haven’t met her, but we’ve said hello on the phone. The boys think Lincoln’s great. I want us all to be one big extended family.”
Denise, who’s 5ft 4, looks slim, healthy and full of energy, even after a 12-hour day. So what’s her secret? She says: “I’ve been so busy, I’m back to a size 8-10 and around 9st – which is what I was after I was on Dancing On Ice last year. I’m looking after myself, hardly drinking and eating properly – Lincoln’s a great cook.
“I feel much stronger now. I’m putting myself and my family first and making decisions based on my happiness. A few months ago, I was thinking, ‘Oh God, I’m 53.’ Now I’m thinking, ‘Hey, I’m only 53 and there’s a whole new life out there!’”
By Ally Oliver
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