KEANU REEVES KISSED ME AND I THOUGHT 'THIS CAN'T BE REAL'
The extraordinary story of the ordinary English girl who seduced a star, and surprise, surprise, it all ended in tears (also published on January 27, 2002 as a shorter version with scan under the title 'Keanu's Brummie love')
by Becky Morris and Christine Challand
Tucked away in the corner of a smart Sydney restaurant sit an attractive but otherwise unremarkable couple. Their conversation is relaxed, punctuated by laughter. He is tall, dark and reasonably handsome. She's a small, fresh-faced blonde with her hair scraped into pigtails. Both are wearing jeans and trainers.
As he leans forward and touches her cheek, her face lights up. For all the world they look like a couple of surfers taking a break from Bondi Beach.
Yet the truth could not be more different. For he is Keanu Reeves, star of blockbuster films such as The Matrix and Speed, one of the most bankable and desirable leading men in Hollywood. She, remarkably, is Rachael Jones, an ordinary English girl from Birmingham.
Their relationship, played out over a few weeks recently in Australia, where she had gone to work for a local radio station, may seem like a modern-day version of Cinderella. But there is little chance of a happy ending for the former Catholic school girl who tasted the highs and very public lows of life as the girlfriend of a movie star.
Now, back home in the Midlands, she is left asking herself whether it was an innocent holiday romance, or if she was being used by Reeves as a means of provoking jealousy from his long-term girlfriend Amanda de Cadenet.
And inevitably, despite, Rachael's protestations to the contrary, many will wonder about her real motives for sleeping with Reeves, and why she was willing to do so just a few hours after they met.
Whatever one thinks of her, it's clear Rachael wasn't prepared for the unedifying exposure that followed in the Australian tabloids, which gleefully described naked romps on the actor's balcony.
So, who is the girl who found herself so suddenly at the eye of a media storm?
Rachael Jones grew up in a modest semi-detached home in Birmingham with her mother Bernadette, who works in a building society, and father Ken, a housing officer, and three younger siblings.
She left the Roman Catholic girls' school St Paul's in Birmingham with 11 GCSE's and four A-levels before gaining a first-class degree in media studies at the London College of Printing.
By the time she met Keanu Reeves, she was living on her savings after the radio station where she worked had folded, and had resolved to return to England to try her luck at launching her career as a newscaster here.
Today, sitting at home in Birmingham, Rachael 26, is undoubtedly slightly shell-shocked at the interest her hitherto quiet life has excited of late.
Speaking about her affair for the first time, she says: 'So many friends have asked me what it was like to wake up with Keanu Reeves. I have to admit, it was all rather bizare. Yes, it happened and yes, it was wonderful.
'And of course I miss him,' she says, her voice trailing off uncertainly.
From spending day after day - and night after night - with Keanu Reeves, she is now back at home, heavily in debt, and hoping to get back her old job at a radio station in Hull.
All in all, it's a far cry from careering around Sydney on the back of the star's Harley Davidson. And Rachael knows only too well that his long-term love is not her but de Cadenet, the British former wild child.
Rachael says she and Reeves have spoken a couple of times on the telephone since her return but, in her heart she knows it is time to give up on him. 'The relationship I've had with Keanu sounds blissful,' she says. 'But the reality is it could never have been anything more than a fling. People like me just don't live that sort of life permanently.
'If only he had been a normal person, I think our relationship would have stood a chance, as there was something really special between us. But he lives in another world and it's not one I can join him in.
'Being back here with my family for Christmas has made me realise I don't envy him his life. Yes, he makes a lot of money and he's passionate about film-making. But I learned the hard way that when you are that famous, everyone wants a piece of you and you just don't know who you can trust.
'Even in the time we were together, supposedly good friends of mine sold my story to Australian newspapers behind my back. That was devastating, and all of a sudden I was plagued by phoney friends who previously hadn't given a damn about me.
'I was being invited to every Press opening and society garden party going by people who didn't even know me. It was pretty sickening.' But nonetheless, Rachael still treasures her memories.
'As far as I was concerned, he was the kind of man you hope to meet but never do. The only problem was that he just happened to be a Hollywood star.'
So how did that meeting come about? As Rachael tells it, it was merely a happy coincidence. She met Reeves in Tatler, a small members-only bar in Sydney's exclusive harbourside area.
Rachael wasn't a member but she and her friends had found that if you were young and pretty, the bouncers were prepared to let you in. Fresh from the shower and with her hair still wet, Rachael was laughing with a friend when Reeves walked in.
'I wasn't planning to go out that night but a friend persuaded me. I threw on an old denim dress and didn't even have time to dry my hair or put on make-up.
'During the evening he just walked up to me and said: "Hi, I'm Keanu."
'I blurted out: "Hi, I'm Rachael and I'm just going to the loo",' and immediately felt embarrassed at saying something so banal, but he just laughed.
'I kept trying to include my friend in our conversation, but I soon realised he was keen to talk to me.
'Of course, I knew who he was and there was a lot of chemistry between us. But I wasn't thinking this was my big chance to make a play for him - it simply seemed too far-fetched that anything might happen between us. It was amazing enough to think that I had even met him.'
It may well have been Rachael's down-to-earth and highly irreverent outlook on life that attracted Reeves to her. Despite being able to command multi-million dollar salaries for his film appearances, Canadian born Reeves has always played down his brooding, playboy image, preferring instead to spend his spare time playing in a small rock band and riding his Harley Davidson.
In America, he lives in a suite costing £2,000 a week at the Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.
But the remarkable difference in their lifestyles did not stop him choosing to go home with the young English girl that night.
Within a few hours they were leaving together, to the amazement of all concerned, and none more so than Rachael. 'It was getting quite crowded at about 3am and so when he asked me if I'd like to go somewhere else, I asked him if he wanted to come back to my apartment for a beer,' she says.
'I was in the process of packing to come back to the UK because my work visa had expired, so my place was far from tidy, but he didn't seem to mind.
'It was then that he kissed me and I can remember thinking: "My God, this can't be happening." 'It was very tender and sweet between us. Soon it was so late that I could hardly keep my eyes open, but instead of going back to his hotel, Keanu asked if he could stay the night and we both just fell into my bed.'
Considering they had met only hours before, Rachael seems to have shed any inhibitions she may have had with indecent haste. 'It was only really when I woke up at about 11am the next day and saw a tuft of hair sticking up on the pillow next to me that I realised it had really happened.
'To be honest, I was surprised, he was still there. When he did wake, it was very natural between us, and even though it did cross my mind my friends would be completely shocked, I still didn't let it faze me.'
Rachael admits she was instantly attracted to Reeves. But it was not, she insists, because of his looks and celebrity profile, rather for his character.
Yet that morning there was no lack of physical attraction between them. She says: 'I have to admit, that morning we made love for the first time. It felt very right between us. Then he took me out for lunch. I knew I'd be happier going somewhere low-key, so we ended up spending four hours at an Italian restaurant called Bel Mondos in the Rocks and just made each other laugh.
'He's well-educated and well-read and was very interested in my family and my job. I think he liked the fact that I wasn't in awe of who he was, and he laughed when I told him I thought Speed, the only film of his that I'd seen, was rubbish.
'I've always been a very down-to-earth person and I think he realised it was a case of what you see is what you get with me. Maybe that's why we hit it off so well. He must have known I was more interested in the person than the image.'
From then on, in between Reeves' fitness training sessions at a local film studio, the couple were virtually inseparable, sharing days and nights at each other's apartments and eating out at Sydney's fashionable and exclusive bars and restaurants.
'A couple of my friends told me I was making a complete fool of myself but now I realise that probably had more to do with a bit of jealousy than anything else.' Rachael says.
'The only time I did find myself laughing about what was happening was when Keanu gave me the keys to his Audi soon after we met and said I could use it as my own. There were days when I took my friends out for a drive and I'd suddenly think: "Good grief, here I am driving Keanu Reeves' car."
A simple endorsement of Rachael's apparent indifference to Reeves's fame and wealth is the fact that, despite having to survive on savings from her £17,000-a-year salary, she was always determined to try to pay her way when they were together.
She says it was her credit card behind the bar on the evening of their first meeting, and there is no sign of expensive clothes or jewelery that he could easily have lavished upon her.
'I was very mindful of the Pretty Woman label,' she says. 'He never offered to buy me anything and I certainly never asked.
'He knew I shared my apartment rent with two friends and that I was desperate to try and get a job when I came back to England to pay off my college overdraft. But at the same time, he must have realised I would have been very offended if he'd offered me any money.
'I don't even have a picture of the two of us together, and when my friends asked me to get his autograph, I'd refuse. I didn't want to be seen as some desperate gold-digger or someone who thought it would end in marriage.
'I loved his company but I really valued the time I got to spend with my girlfriends. There were even a couple of occasions when I cancelled seeing Keanu because I'd arranged to see them instead.
'One afternoon I was having such a good time at a friend's swimming pool that I completely forgot the time and turned up at his apartment nearly an hour late.
'He was as laid-back as me and just said: "We've missed the cinema, then", and laughed. We talked a lot about books and films, but I never asked him about his private life.
'It wasn't until I read some of the papers that I discovered he'd had such a tragic past - he never discussed with me the fact that his girlfriend died in an accident earlier this year after having their still-born baby two years ago. And I wouldn't have asked. Neither of us talked about ex-loves, and I had no idea that Amanda de Cadenet was supposedly still on the scene.'
So the days and weeks passed with the lovers happy in one another's company in the relaxed surroundings of Sydney.
But then, one day, the reality of her boyfriend's fame intruded with a jolt which Rachael says left her deeply disturbed. 'I was mortified to find myself quoted in the papers calling Amanda names and saying he'd have to "make do" with her when I'd gone. It was completely made up by some of my so-called friends.
'I think Keanu believed me when I told him what had happened, but it did cast a shadow over us, as you can imagine. I was horrified when I opened the papers and saw that quote across the headlines.
'Soon it had filtered back to the Sunday tabloids here, complete with pictures of Keanu and me in the park, taken secretly with a long lens. I had to ring my mum and tell her not to get upset when she found out.
'Of course, she and my family knew I'd been seeing Keanu - I told them when it looked like it was going to become public knowledge, and they were happy for me.
'They were a bit worried, though, about what might happen to me, and they certainly weren't prepared for fabricated headlines.'
One cannot help but wonder if Reeves, who at 37 is 11 years Rachael's senior, should have prepared her better for the media onslaught.
'It's only now that I wonder if he perhaps had a hidden agenda and was trying to make Amanda jealous by being seen with me,' says Rachael. 'It's not a nice thought.'
The knowledge that the outside world was increasingly starting to intrude was shockingly confirmed the day the couple had to make a run for it through the kitchens of a restaurant.
'I began to realise that I couldn't trust anyone, and everyone seemed to be out to get me' says Rachael. 'I couldn't even take my dog for a walk without being photographed.
'And one morning I was on my balcony just doing some stretches in my underwear and was photographed to accompany a made-up story about me making love with Keanu outdoors. It was awful.'
Given that Rachael knew about the extent of Reeves's fame, one has to wonder about the extent of her naivety in expecting her life not to change at all.
'In private, we were like any normal couple,' she says 'but in public my life and his were completely different and maybe he envied the freedom I have to do my own thing.
'We used to talk about Shakespeare a lot and we also talked about writers such as Thomas Mann and Dostoevsky. He enjoyed reading and writing poetry and he liked to see a lot of films that weren't mainstream.'
During their month-long relationship, Reeves was in between filming schedules and would spend a lot of his time in martial arts and fitness training - something Rachael wasted no time in teasing him about.
'I'd lie in wait for him behind a door and then jump out doing a Kung Fu routine,' she laughs. 'I was forever taking the mickey out of him and he always thought that was really funny.
'That's what we enjoyed doing the most - just laughing and having fun together.'
Ironically, in the end it was neither the exposure to the public eye nor a lovers' tiff that ended the affair, but simply the fact that Rachael's visa ran out and she was forced to return home.
'We left on good terms' she says. 'Keanu said he'd stay in touch and told me he thought we'd had a great time together.'
Now, despite everything she insists she is glad to be back. 'My mum and dad have always supported me, although I'd be lying if I said they were over the moon about everything that has happened.
'We're very close as a family and even though the winter weather in England is going to take a bit of getting used to after the Australian sunshine, it's good to be back home and enjoying my mum's spaghetti bolognese again.
'It's my birthday on Christmas Eve so it'll be great to catch up with all my girlfriends. Birmingham might not be quite as exciting as Sydney but it's home.
'I suppose my biggest regret is not realising the implications of my relationship with Keanu and not being well enough prepared to cope with the public interest.
'As for him, it was important to set the record straight about Amanda de Cadenet. I have read that she is supposed to be going out to Australia at Christmas. Who knows what she thinks of me? I just hope I never end up meeting her.'
Given that de Cadenet, the daughter of a top racing driver, is a regular on the Hollywood scene, one can only assume that such an encounter is, to put it midly, unlikely. And perhaps, given a little more time, Rachael will come to realise that that is no bad thing.
After all, it seems that, for her, a close encounter with one star has already proved to be more than enough to be going on with.