IS face is hauntingly familiar.
Rocketing around the filthy garage he uses as his bedroom, the toddler’s big brown eyes, wide smile and huge head on a chubby little body are reminiscent of his famous father.
The mock karate kicks are followed by overly dramatic pratfalls, the face is constantly animated, and when his antics raise a H smile of approval the natural born comic claps his hands and giggles in delight.
Yet for Nicholas Moore, nearly four and son of Dudley Moore, the reality of life today is little to laugh about. He, his mother Nicole Rothschild (formerly Mrs Dudley Moore), Nicole’s two children by a previous marriage to a Motown musician (now in prison for drug offences) and a pair of German Shepherd dogs, are all crammed into a seedy one-bedroom shack in Riverside, a blue-collar town two hours east of Los Angeles.
‘Dudley hasn’t called or written or made contact since Christmas,’ said Nicole. ‘I can honestly say I don’t care, but it’s pathetic for Nicholas.
He wants his daddy. He is getting to the age now when he knows his dad isn’t around. He is getting all excited about his birthday party coming up next month. He keeps asking me, “Is Daddy coming? Will Daddy be there?”
‘But I know Dudley won’t be there. In my heart, I don’t think Nicholas will ever get to know his dad.
‘Nicholas loves to make people laugh.
He must have been born with it. He’s always messing around and he’s the spitting image of Dudley. He’s a really nice kid and Dudley doesn’t know what he’s missing. Nicholas is innocent and has so much hope. He’s got everything Dudley has not.
‘Dudley is a lousy father, he’s the first to admit that. He has no interest in little Nicholas.
We are living in hell. This place is filthy. But Dudley has millions and, even if he hates me, he should look after his kid. Nicholas is Dudley’s flesh and blood – he should be living in a mansion. Instead, he’s living in a dump.
‘I’ve tried contacting Dudley to let him know how we’re living. I’d like him to see how bad things are. But he never responds. He’s just punishing me for not wanting him. I’m fine – the person he’s really hurting is Nicholas.’
Indeed, at times it seems that the star’s young son has been deeply wounded psychologically.
‘One of Dudley’s films came on the television the other day,’ recalls Nicole. ‘One of the other kids said, “Hey Nicholas, that’s your daddy.” And Nicholas said, “I don’t have a daddy.” It was heartbreaking.’ While his son lives one rung above the trailer park (the dustbin of American society), Moore, star of 10 and Arthur, can be seen dividing his time between his oceanfront mansion in Marina del Rey, California, and the home of a pianist friend, Rena Fruchter, in New Jersey, close to the hospitals where he is being treated.
Now 64, he suffers from psychological and physical problems which have turned him into a pitiful wreck. Last year he had a series of strokes, culminating in lifesaving open-heart surgery. Privately, friends fear the 5ft 3in actor, composer and comic is so depressed and weak he is near death.
ICHOLAS has not seen his father since last December.
To even the most casual of observers, it is clear this charming yet neglected child is an innocent victim caught in the centre of a bitter war between two self-obsessed adults. He looks more like a street urchin than a child whose father’s fortune is conservatively estimated at [pounds sterling]8 million.
The ‘curtains’ at the window are a set of tatty sheets. Nicole, who claims to be distantly related to the Rothschild banking dynasty, may be the ex-wife of a movie star, but she cannot afford even to carpet her concrete floor.
Piles of dirty clothes cover every available surface.
The bedlinen is filthy, and while his half-sister Lauren, 12, sleeps in the only
proper bedroom, Nicholas has to share his converted garage-bedroom with his mother and Chris, his ten-year-old half-brother.
It’s a far cry from the Hollywood principality that is his birthright.
Nicholas was conceived, shortly after his parents’ 1994 wedding, by artificial insemination.
‘Dudley wanted the baby badly,’ said Nicole. ‘But he was having problems performing at that time. He had all sorts of problems which weren’t helped by the drugs and drink. But he wanted this child. He told me, “I want to see what our baby will look like.”
‘It wasn’t the most romantic reason to have a baby, but Dudley told me he wanted this child. About three months into it I was certain our marriage was going nowhere. I told Dudley I had reservations. I was considering termination.
But Dudley said, “No, no, no. I want this baby.” ‘ When Nicholas was born, however, Moore set his wife and child up in a separate property because, said Nicole, he did not want to live with them. He bought a [pounds sterling]500,000 beach house for them close to his own home, keeping both properties in his name.
In those days, little Nicholas’s nursery entourage included a nanny, a cook and even someone to water the plants.
But that safe nest collapsed with his parents’ marriage. As the house was in Moore’s name and Nicole was prevented by a prenuptial agreement from making a claim on his fortune, she had little capital or income.
Four-times-married Moore would have allowed her to continue living in the house but, she said, she could no longer afford to pay for its upkeep and
fled Los Angeles to escape her mounting debts. She returned to the tiny house in Riverside her parents had bought her for [pounds sterling]50,000 when she was 18.
The house had been let out for the years of Nicole’s marriages and was now in a terrible state but, as she said, she had nowhere else to go.
In this grim tale it’s hard to say which of the two parents are most at fault – Dudley, who lives his life in a well-documented blur of alcohol and psychiatric disorder, or Nicole, the 33-year-old former junkie.
HAT is certainly true is that Nicholas is another casualty in what was one of Hollywood’s most destructive relationships, the others being the protagonists themselves.
They met in 1983, when teenager Nicole, at that time married to musician Charles Cleveland, hurled herself on to the bonnet of Moore’s open-topped Bentley as he drove down Hollywood Boulevard.
The Oxford-educated star was instantly smitten by this erratic beauty.
However, despite the start of an intensely sexual affair which would last more than a decade, Moore married 6ft model Brogan Lane shortly after meeting Nicole.
She claims their affair continued through Moore’s marriage. She divorced Cleveland, who is now HIV positive, and Moore and Lane divorced in 1992.
Yet when Nicole and Dudley married two years later, even that was not without sensation – a few days before the wedding, she had Moore arrested for allegedly beating her up during an argument on Oscars night.
‘We had a passionate relationship from the start,’ she recalled. ‘It was always sex, sex, sex with Dudley.
We laughed together and fought together. It was fiery, but it was love. We both wanted kids, yet we ended up destroying each other.’ The marriage does seem, even by Hollywood standards, to have been remarkably destructive. When Nicole finally filed for divorce in 1997, she claimed Moore had plied her with drugs and forced her to engage in lesbian sex acts with [pounds sterling]500-an-hour hookers.
She freely admitted using drugs such as cocaine, Ecstasy and speed during their marriage. She also said Moore had made her have [pounds sterling]20,000 of plastic surgery, for breast enlargements and a nose job.
Moore retaliated by saying that living with Nicole had been a virtually constant series of screaming tantrums and that she had fleeced him of a fortune.
And yet last Christmas, on the eve of their divorce becoming final, Moore made a last attempt at reconciliation – only to be told that Nicole had found her current boyfriend, a 26-year-old karate instructor.
‘Dudley tried to move back into our lives like nothing had happened, ‘ said Nicole. ‘He was very frail and had this huge scar down his chest from the open-heart surgery. I told him we could be friends, but I didn’t want to start an intimate relationship again. He saw I had a new boyfriend and it drove him nuts with jealousy. He decided to punish me.
‘Now Dudley’s totally messed up.
He’s a physical and mental wreck.
When I last saw him he told me he was just waiting to die. He wants to die. The trouble is, he’s got a little boy. And that little boy needs him.’
It may be that it is exactly this need that Moore cannot bear. At Nicholas’s birth he was ecstatic, but there were those who did not feel the joy rang true. He gushed to Hello! magazine: ‘This is the greatest moment of my life.
I have never known such happiness. I feel truly blessed.’ And although he called Nicholas the ‘only good thing’ to come out of his ‘Fatal Attraction’ romance with Nicole, hollow laughter could be heard in the wings.
ATRICK MOORE, 23, Dudley’s only other child, by his second wife, Tuesday Weld, speaks from bitter experience. He said Moore could never be a ‘proper dad’ because he had never come to terms with being rejected by his own father, a railway engineer called Jock, from Dagenham, Essex.
‘Dudley was born with a club foot,’ said Patrick after Nicholas’s birth.
‘He told me his dad never accepted him. That’s where it all started. He never accepted me. I feel nothing but pity for Nicholas. When I heard Nicole was pregnant, my heart sank. I read quotes from Dad saying he was looking forward to “getting it right” the second time around. But I didn’t hold out much hope. Dudley should never have been allowed to have children. He’s too selfish and messed up.’ When Nicole left Moore, he insisted that their son have a DNA test. It proved positive, however, and he was ordered to pay child support to Nicole. The sum, [pounds sterling]3,000 a month, is hardly a pittance, but is nowhere near enough to keep his child in the style to which he was accustomed.
Friends say it is not his little boy he is trying to hurt, but the mother.
‘Dudley hasn’t abandoned his son,’ said one, who refused to be named.
‘He just can’t deal with the whole situation. Being near Nicole at this time would kill him. He is deeply depressed and in the worst state any of us have seen him in.
‘Dudley’s never been any good with children. He doesn’t hate his son – he just doesn’t know how to deal with him. It’s a terribly sad end to a remarkable life and career.’ As for Nicole, she will have to try to reach some sort of compromise, for the sake not just of Nicholas but also herself.
She has run up [pounds sterling]13,000 on her credit cards. What money she had has been squandered, she said, on lawyers’ fees.
Nicole appears to be unable to earn her living at anything other than being married to a rich man.
But at the moment she is holding firm and it seems unlikely she will return to Moore.
‘I know I could be far better off if I just went back to Dudley,’ she said.
‘But I won’t. I like having a young boyfriend. After being with an old man for so long it is nice to have a young guy who can satisfy me.’ ‘Dudley’s cheques are always late.
And since I told him I didn’t want reconciliation I haven’t heard a word from him.
‘But I don’t care. I can survive without him.’