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Last Updated: Friday, 12 May 2006, 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK
Faces of the week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are Keith Richards (main picture), with David Blaine, Michelle Dewberry, Jerry Hall and Theo Walcott.

Keith Richards

Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards has left hospital in New Zealand following surgery on his head after he fell out of a tree in Fiji.

He's done it again - proved he's indestructible. The man for whom the phrase sex, drugs and rock 'n roll was seemingly invented and whose excesses are mirrored in a face that a Spitting Image puppet can barely caricature, has cheated death again, thankfully.

Thankfully not just for his family, friends and Stones fans the world over. Thankfully too for those romantics and image makers for whom only an appropriate rock 'n roll death would be good enough for our Keef. Falling out of a coconut tree would certainly have been an unfitting way to go for this wild man of the music scene.

"I've tried to kill myself for years - but I won't go away," Keith Richards once said. "I think Keith forgot for a minute that he was 62," says former Stone Bill Wyman.

The man who shinned up the palm tree when he could have got some local youngster to do it for him is the same one who, in the 1970s, would score his own heroin rather than have it delivered.

Keith Richards leaving hospital with hat on head
Keith Richards leaves hospital in New Zealand
He carried a gun because "you'd buy the stuff, walk down the stairs, and they'd have a mate waiting there to stick you up and take it back again".

His heroin addiction lasted for a decade. Going cold turkey, he once said, isn't so bad when you've done it "10 or 12 times".

Alcohol too was a close travelling companion. Who can forget his glazed look while being interviewed on television clutching an open bottle of Jack Daniels.

It was while he and former girlfriend Anita Pallenberg were "out of it", that he was rescued from a burning bed by a bodyguard.

On another famous occasion, he managed to recover after accidentally setting fire to himself by jumping into a swimming pool. And he once crashed a car at high speed into his garden shed.

Rebel

It's the sheer indestructibility of Keith Richards that is envied and why, when it was reported that the man so often out of his tree had fallen out of one, fans gave a wry smile.

This resilience against all the odds, together with his impish, self-deprecating wit, has brought him more public affection than the Stones' charismatic front man, Mick Jagger.

For, despite being part of a band that epitomises corporate rock (their current tour is sponsored by American Express), and despite the fact that he is a family man who, he says, "has retired from military combat", Keith Richards still sees himself as a rebel.

Hypocritically, perhaps, he dislikes the vast scale of the Rolling Stones operation even though he acquiesces to the needs generated by the band's huge popularity.

This acclaim is in no small part due to the presence he brings to both live shows and recordings.

Richards on stage with guitar
Still cool after all these years
He may be no fret-board gymnast, but Richards' playing on songs like Brown Sugar, Jumping Jack Flash and Start Me Up is one of the main reasons why the Rolling Stones are known as the world's greatest rock 'n roll band.

Yet, whereas Mick Jagger has become Sir Mick, there was never a question of Keith Richards following suit. "I thought it was ludicrous to take one of those gongs from the establishment when they did their very best to throw us in jail and kill us one time."

He is referring to the time in 1967 when he and Mick Jagger spent a night together in Wormwood Scrubs after being convicted on drugs charges. The affair provoked outrage and the convictions were subsequently quashed.

His "disappointment" over Mick's acceptance of a knighthood points up the differences between the pair's personalities.

Whereas Mick is happy to disport himself around Buckingham Palace, Richards, as he recently told the BBC, "wouldn't let that family near me with a sharp stick, let alone a sword".

But that clash of personalities has been creatively fertile, and any idea that Richards leaves all the business decisions to Jagger is overstated.

The Rolling Stones had been due to headline last year's Live 8 concert. It was Keith Richards who vetoed it despite having been put under huge pressure from "so many knights of the realm". He felt the concert was ill-judged.

Today, Keith Richards describes himself as "a family man, a grandfather... really a benign old chap". Benign is a relative term, of course.

Somehow, even in his 60s, and helped by a still full mop of hair, Keith Richards remains the essence of cool. The next Stones gigs are unlikely to kick off with a rocking rendition of I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.


David Blaine has failed to break the record for holding one's breath.
David Blaine

The illusionist and stunt artist David Blaine failed in his attempt to break the world record for holding one's breath. After spending a week immersed in a water-filled bubble outside the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts in New York City, Blaine attempted to escape from chains and handcuffs while bidding to break the record of 8mins 58secs. But, with his face contorted in pain and bubbles rising to the surface, divers pulled him out after 7mins 8secs.

Michelle Dewberry, Apprentice winner
Michelle Dewberry

A woman who used to work on a supermarket checkout has won the final of BBC television's The Apprentice. Twenty-six-year-old Michelle Dewberry from Hull, who left school with only two GCSE's, landed a 100,000 a year job with the tycoon Sir Alan Sugar. A stunned Michelle said: "It shows you don't need to be loud and cocky and bolshie, just work as hard as you can and hopefully you will get on in life."

Jerry Hall
Jerry Hall

The actress Jerry Hall has revealed that she had spent part of her childhood in fear of her father. Launching the National Association for People Abused in Childhood hotline, the former partner of Sir Mick Jagger said: "My father was a war hero and he had a lot of rages and he was quite violent." The line will be staffed by volunteers and aims to help adults who experienced abuse or neglect as a child.

Theo Walcott, unexpectedly capped for England
Theo Walcott

England football coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has admitted that his decision to pick Theo Walcott for the England World Cup squad is "a gamble". The 17-year-old striker has yet to even make his Premiership debut for Arsenal after joining the Gunners from Southampton in a transfer which could eventually be worth 12m. The young star admitted that his selection was a complete surprise: "First the move to Arsenal and then this. It's unbelievable," he said.

Written by BBC News Profiles Unit's Bob Chaundy


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