Sunday, 4 August 2013

Who is Michelle Rocca?

 


 Van Morrison's current wife is Michelle Mary Teresa Rocca born in Dublin, Ireland in 1961.  She is a former model, television presenter, and winner of the Miss Ireland title in 1980. 
She is the daughter of Paddy and Maureen Rocca and granddaughter of Italian immigrant Egidio Rocca who founded the successful business, Rocca Tiles.  Rocca grew up in a large family with two brothers and three sisters. She attended University College Dublin studying Greek and Roman Civilisation and Italian and French Archaeology.  She's fluent in several languages and has earned an MA degree from Trinity College in Dublin and also a degree from Bristol University in England.
Rocca worked in the family business and also modelled until she joined RTE in 1987 as a television presenter. In 1988, she co-hosted the Eurovision Song Contest with Pat Kenny in front of a worldwide audience of 600 million viewers. This high profile gig surprisingly didn't lead to a bigger career on television and she continued to juggle her modelling career with occasional presenting jobs, such as the 1990 Miss World contest.
Her personal life has been subjected to some pretty intense scrutiny, particularly in Britain and Ireland.  She began dating Arsenal and Irish International footballer John Devine when she was 17 and they were married in 1981. The couple had two daughters, Danielle and Natasha, but were separated in 1987 and divorced in 1990.
She then became engaged to Cathal Ryan, son of multi-millionaire Tony Ryan who co-founded Ryanair. After living together for two years, they separated when Michelle was expecting their child, Claudia, who was born in April 1991.  Michelle then lived the single mother's life with her three daughters.  She was seen by friends as a good mother devoted to her kids.  Her home life was non-stop grind of taking the three kids to school, cleaning toilets, cooking, picking the kids up from school and putting the kids to bed. 
Michelle then instituted a law suit against Cathal Ryan over an alleged assault at a society party at a stud farm owned by Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai in 1992. Eventually Rocca was awarded just £7,500 in a case some estimated cost her £200,000. Morrison supported her, turning up in court most days.

Van first met Michelle Rocca in the early Nineties, at a dinner party given by Desmond Guinness at Leixlip Castle, a mix of celebrities, intellectuals and aristocrats. Michelle, so the story goes, initially thought Van Morrison was Val DoonicanTheir relationship was first revealed in The Sunday Independent June 27, 1993.  The public seemed fascinated by the unlikely relationship and they often featured in the Dublin gossip columns, an unusual event for the reclusive Morrison. Rocca appeared on one of his album covers—1995's Days Like This.  She also appeared on the cover of the October 1994 tribute album, No Prima Donna: The Songs of Van Morrison. Then in 1995 she moved to Clyde Lane in Ballsbridge, next door to Van’s place.
Van was intense and full-on but he was not without his charms. Most nights or days out with Michelle and Van were like pages from an F Scott Fitzgerald novel. There was a boozy lunch with Van, Michelle and Marianne Faithful in Cookes Cafe in the mid-Nineties where someone knocked a coffee all over Faithful and she stormed out. Then there was another night in the Shelbourne in 1995 Van introduced Michelle to Mick Jagger, who unwisely barely raised his head in acknowledgement. She soon dressed him down for his lack of manners. 
There were food fights in La Stampa and George’s Bistro. One night in 1994 in La Stampa a guest offered to pay Van for his share of the meal. Van put his hand out and Michelle said with a laugh that she would cut his hand off if he took it. There was a running joke with Michelle that when Van opened his wallet, bats flew out.

Rocca began to exert a fashion influence on Van. A friend of Rocca's named Ian Galvin — then a chief buyer at Brown Thomas — started styling Van Morrison’s clothes. Marianne Faithful had rung Michelle to complain about Van's clothes saying that she had to change his look because he "looks like he wears clothes that he slept in”.  The 'look' Rocca developed for Van includes a three-quarter length slim coat, the hat, the glasses, the white coat and the black jeans.
In 1996 The Daily Mirror newspaper broke a story that she had been two-timing Van with Angus Gold, who at the time was racing manager in Newmarket for Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, one of the world’s richest men.  Over time there has appeared little evidence the story was correct.  However, Van and Michelle's engagement was broken off. A few months later the couple reunited.

Like all couples and families, the marriage hasn't been without its share of difficulties.  In 2004, daughter Natasha was seriously injured in a car crash in America, where she was studying and modelling. Michelle and Van rushed to her bedside. She recovered and is now pursuing a TV career in London. On January 20, 2009, Michelle's 42-year-old brother Patrick killed himself, as the recession hit his property empire. A father of two sons, he had enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, playing tennis with Alan Sugar, counting notorious weirdo Uri Geller among his friends and once offering the use of his helicopter to Bill Clinton. A generous man, he contributed much to local groups in Porterstown, near Castleknock, where he lived with his family. Her brother's death has been a difficult burden for Michelle to bear. 

Van and Michelle have settled into a comfortable domestic arrangement.  They have two children together  Aibhe born 2006 and Fionn Ivan born 2007.  Both parents are determined to maintain privacy for themselves and their children. However, the relationship hasn't always been easy. The occasional epic row would spill out into public showdowns. However, in general Michelle was a match for the curmudgeonly side of Van's nature, able to defuse with a well-timed quip much of his unsociable behaviour. She had a gift for gentle mockery that could take the sting out of some of his darker preoccupations.
While Van values his privacy above all else, perhaps it's obvious to point out that the price of fame in the entertainment world is that lack of privacy.  If Van had continued as a window cleaner for his whole life he wouldn't have had the intrusion on his personal life like he's had.  But would he have really traded all the houses, money and fame for the life of a humble window cleaner 

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