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Monday, 18 September, 2000, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Paula's forgotten legacy

By the time of her death, Paula Yates commanded little respect, least of all from the press. But for the likes of Denise Van Outen and Sara Cox, she blazed a dazzling trail on TV.

Paula Yates-baiting had almost become a national sport when news of her untimely death broke on Sunday.

The woman who walked out on "Saint" Bob Geldof and spilled the secrets of her sex life in an autobiography, was routinely attacked in the press for any number of faults.

Yates and Geldof
Before The Tube she was best-known as Geldof's girlfriend
But the sniping and controversy that came to dominate Yates's later life were only ever half the story, elements that served to obscure her former career as a television presenter.

And the bad publicity makes it is easy to overlook what an influence she had on television today.

Together with Jools Holland, Paula Yates was one of the frontline presenters on Channel 4's seminal music show, The Tube.

The programme, which ran for five years in the 1980s, is still remembered for giving pop music credibility on TV.

A television first

Before TFI Friday, before The Word, and even before Channel 4's Janet Street-Porter-inspired Network 7, there was The Tube. The show was even recently resurrected for a one-off millennium edition, on New Year's Day.

"[Paula] played a crucial part, co-presenting with Jools Holland, in creating 'in your face' television, which The Tube pioneered in the 1980s," said TV executive Andrea Wonfor, in tribute.

Jools Holland
Piano man: Like Paula Yates, Jools Holland had no experience of TV presenting
Much of the show's success was rooted in its own self-generated anarchy.

Neither Holland nor Yates were trained TV presenters - quite the opposite in fact. He had been the keyboard player with Squeeze, she was known in music circles as the girlfriend of Bob Geldof, singer with the Boomtown Rats.

"After the first few programmes, Jools and Paula received an unbelievable slating," remembered The Tube's creator, Malcolm Gerrie, last year.

Carry on regardless

"One music magazine even printed that they hoped her baby would miscarry. A couple of tabloids started a campaign to get them off TV," he told The Journal, in Newcastle.

But instead of letting her inexperience get in the way, Yates played it up. It was a rare show that she did not trip over her lines, fumble for a follow-up question in interviews and look into the wrong camera.

Gary Roslin and Gaby Roslin
Blonde on Blonde: Yates and Big Breakfast co-presenter Gaby Roslin
Audiences once heard her say "Oh, it's f***ing freezing" just before doing an outside broadcast.

Before anyone had even heard of Denise Van Outen, Sara Cox, Kelly Brook or even Amanda de Cadenet, Paula Yates established the cult of the ill-disciplined, coquettish TV presenter, always armed with a barbed put-down for any interviewee who thought they could take advantage of her.

Long before ladism, let alone the phenomenon of the ladette, Yates was a sexy blonde TV star with a healthy sense of cynicism.

The Tube was unorthodox in many other ways. Based in Newcastle, rather than the more obvious London, the show allowed bands to play live, which was a breath of fresh air for those tired of Top of the Pops-style miming.

1960s role model

According to Gerrie, the inspiration for Yates's role had been Kathy McGowan, the bubbly co-presenter of the 1960s BBC pop show Ready, Steady, Go.

Denise Van Outen
A Yates clone? Denise Van Outen
Among the show's "second tier" presenters was Muriel Gray, now a respected journalist and arts commentator.

While Gray came across as Yates's intellectual superior, she was in awe of her glamorous co-host.

"At a time when television's version of womanhood was either brainy and plain, or pretty and dumb, she broke the mould, by being precisely what she wanted to be," wrote Gray in Monday's Guardian.

"Frighteningly clever, outstandingly witty, intuitive and original, she was a free-thinker, and her shoes matched her handbag."

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See also:

17 Sep 00 | UK
Paula Yates found dead
17 Sep 00 | UK
A life in the spotlight
17 Sep 00 | UK
Tribute to a 'wild child'
17 Sep 00 | UK
Yates' turbulent loves
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