The word ‘wayward’ has been attached to Victoria Sellers’ name for as long as there have been gossip columnists happy to do the attaching. However, she represents a fascinating case study in the nature/nurture debate; when you’re the product of a whirlwind romance between a 22-year-old Britt Ekland and a 40-year-old Peter Sellers, and you grow up under the harshest of spotlights, is it inevitable that you’ll end up, in her own words, being “held up as the poster child of Hollywood excess”?
Sellers certainly experienced the whiplash of her father’s capricious and volatile temperament. Obsessed with Ekland, Sellers was jealous of the attention that she lavished on their only child, with the result that Victoria was parked with a succession of nannies while her mother was whisked to her father’s film sets. They divorced when Victoria was just three and she spent her childhood attempting to navigate a series of reversals and blow-outs. Her father once bought her a pony, only to ‘re-gift’ it to Princess Margaret’s children (he was allegedly having an affair with her at the time). She once showed up at the Dorchester Hotel to have dinner with her father, who peremptorily launched into a vicious screaming fit because she was wearing purple: “He was into Buddhism at the time, and it was considered an unlucky colour.” She was drinking champagne — with parental license — at 14, and her father’s death the following year precipitated a tailspin: “I went completely punk rock, doing drugs and progressing from there on.”
At 19, she was sharing a house in Los Angeles with Tatum O’Neal, then a far-from-temperate influence herself; the pair kept vials of cocaine on their kitchen shelf, “above the doughnuts and below the noodles”. The following year, she was accused of stealing £50,000 from a drug dealer, and, three years later, was given probation for her role in a cocaine ring. Convictions for marijuana and amphetamine possession and jail stints followed. Then there was her connection to Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss; friends since they’d met on the LA club scene when they were both 15, Victoria moved in with Fleiss after her arrest in 1993 in connection with her prostitution ring, “just to help her out”. That “help” resulted in an ill-advised video, Sex Tips with Heidi Fleiss and Victoria Sellers, in which the two cruised the LA freeways in a stretch limo, dispensing scabrous bedroom advice like a pair of potty-mouthed Dr Ruths.
Victoria’s belated wake-up call arrived in 2006, when there was talk of revoking her residency permit for the US, her home for 30 years, because of her criminal convictions. She was held at a detention centre for six weeks while the matter was thrashed out. “To be in that situation at 41?” she said. “I was, like, enough now Victoria, you have to get it together.”
Sellers’ ‘recovery’ was, inevitably, as public as her downfall; she signed up to appear in a reality TV show called Rehab, in which celebrities spent two weeks in a ‘clinic’ vying to establish who was the most damaged. It may be a measure of her success — or perhaps, in her particular looking-glass world, of abject failure — that Victoria Sellers finished some way down the field.