Monday, June 04, 2007
Article on Astrella from the Daily Mail, London
He was the ultimate hippy who left behind him a legacy of memorable flower-power songs such as Hurdy Gurdy Man, Mellow Yellow and Jennifer Juniper.
For a few years in the Sixties, Donovan was more famous than the Queen. But it wasn't just his songs that lived on in people's consciousness. He also left a legacy of dysfunction that deeply affected those who loved him.
He abandoned his lover, the American model Enid Karl and their two children — Ione Skye (now a film star) and Donovan Leitch (who became a Calvin Klein model) — and was estranged from them for many years.
His youngest daughter, Oriole, from his marriage to Linda Lawrence, became pregnant at 17 and has two children by different fathers. And his other daughter, Astrella Celeste, endured a six-year relationship with her heroin-addicted lover, Paul Ryder, from the rock band Happy Mondays.
Yet, somehow, the family has survived and, today, Donovan is more likely to be found playing contentedly with his grandchildren than indulging in the excesses of his past.
Much of the credit for his fragile reconciliation with the splintered parts of his family must go to Astrella.
Having survived the most unconventional of childhoods, she is, today, a beautiful young woman of 34 who is happily married, ready to start a family of her own and about to embark on a music career.
Her first single, Dream, is being released next month on Donovan Discs — the record label she has set up with her father.
And it is instantly clear from talking to her that she is not only creative, but has a sound business head — Astrella and her music manager husband, Jason Rothberg, also have a property company which she can fall back on if her music career doesn't take off.
At the age of seven, Astrella appeared on stage with her father in front of 50,000 people at a charity telethon in Israel. By the age of ten, she was being offered record deals, which her parents declined on her behalf.
'It got a little bit too much too soon, so my father pulled me back,' she recalls. 'He didn't want the same thing happening to me that had happened to him in the Sixties. In his teens, he was selling out every major stadium in the world. But by the time he was 24, he was disillusioned and burnt out.'
At the age of 24, Donovan dropped out of sight and went to live in Ireland with Linda, the woman he calls his 'muse'. They have now been married for 34 years.
He adopted her son, Julian — the result of her affair with tragic Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones, who drowned in his swimming pool at the age of 27 after a suspected drugs overdose — and the couple had two children of their own, Oriole and Astrella.
Throughout her childhood, Astrella was aware that she had siblings in America, but there was no contact with them. She discovered her father had abandoned Enid Karl when their son was a baby and she was pregnant with Ione.
'I was aware of them because I had seen pictures, but we didn't have any contact,' she recalls. 'As I got older, I decided the situation was ridiculous and I wanted to know my siblings. Understandably, Ione and Donovan didn't really want to know my dad because he wasn't there for them when he should have been.
'Ione said a lot of bad things about Dad in Press articles, so I persuaded him to call them, which he did. They came to see us, but it was very difficult.
'So, when I was 17, I decided to spend time with Donovan Leitch and Ione in Los Angeles. It was nerve-wracking at first and I felt guilty that I'd had our father in my life and they hadn't.
'We started off having lunches together, but then spent nearly every day together for about a year-and-a-half. We got very close and even though it's difficult to see them — because I live in Majorca and they are in America — we try to get together when we can.
'There is still a process going on between them and Dad. It will take time to heal. Ione was particularly resentful of him — and quite rightly so. What Dad did was wrong and I would have felt the same.
'I've also spent quite a lot of time with Enid. Last Thanksgiving was a big stepping stone. She invited my mother and father and it was the first time they had all been together. It was very emotional.'
Of all her siblings, Astrella describes herself as 'the goody two-shoes that everybody was always very proud of'. She says: 'I have always been very opinionated and single-minded about what I want.'
What she didn't want was to repeat her father's mistakes.
His years of drug-taking and womanising left their mark on her to the extent that she went totally the other way.
'I was determined to be normal. I had been living my life like a gipsy, surrounded by drugs and crazy people. So when I was 16, I got a job in a clothing store because it was as far removed from my family life as possible.'
When she returned from America, however, Astrella inadvertently got caught up with the very life she had tried to avoid. She met the Happy Mondays' bass player, Paul Ryder, whose brother Shaun had a child with her sister, Oriole.
'I was celibate and hadn't been with anybody for a long time when I met Paul,' she says. 'He seemed really sweet and it was all very romantic. We were together for six years and I was stepmother to his two children.
'But Paul was involved in a very heavy drugs environment. I had never come across heroin before and it was a shock to the system.
'I believed there was something I could do to better the situation, but eventually I realised you can't help somebody who doesn't want to change. And so we split up.'
Astrella went back to America and was determined not to have another relationship — but then she met Rothberg, the man who was to become her husband.
'I was a little scared of him at first because he was very wild, but gradually we became great friends and things evolved from there. It was his honesty that won me over. Fidelity is very important to me and I don't want to be deceived.'
The couple celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary this year and hope to start a family one day. Says Astrella: 'I can't imagine my life without a child, but I need to focus on my career for the next year or two. Because of the way I was brought up, I know that having children is a huge responsibility.'
But, for the time being, Astrella is concentrating on the release of her first single and is working on an album.
She doesn't worry about her career being so closely linked to her father, saying: 'This is the first time my father has had his own record label — and I'm the one who has pushed for it.
'It is hard to work with your own family, but it's worthwhile if you can make it work. My father has done some bad things in his life, but I still love him. Of all my brothers and sisters, I think I am the one closest to him.
'I used to be very frustrated by my family, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. I don't think I would be as tough and as strong as I am now if I hadn't had to deal with the problems we've had.'
Posted by News 24/5 at 5:23 AM