In 1995, Hugh Grant pulled his white BMW over to a corner on Sunset Boulevard. A miss Divine Brown, recently pedicured with her hair done and in scarlet red heels, told him for $100 she would take him to her nearby hotel room. Having only $60 on him, the prostitute (fondly called Little Red Riding Hood) got into the car, and they drove to a more secluded place.
At the time, Brown didnt know Grant was famous. Nor did she realize that he had left the car on while she began to service him, and his excited foot kept tapping on the break pedal, shining the break lights on and off. This attracted the attention of two police officers, who came to the side of the car, laughing. Despite telling the police that their encounter was of mutual consent and no money had exchanged hands, police arrested Grant.
Grant had recently received a small bit of fame from the hit Four Weddings and a Funeral. But the mug shot taken on that night brought his face to a new level of public recognition. Humorously, it was incredibly similar to the mug shot taken in 9 Months, his newest film opposite Julianne Moore that was about to be released.
Nowadays it is incredibly common to hear about celebrities hiring the services of gorgeous, high-end escorts in arenas much more subtle than street corners. But back in the mid-nineties a gal could simply walk the street, much like Julia Roberts in the smash hit Pretty Woman.
And that is pretty much how the media sold the story of Divine Brown.
Brown, whose real name is Estella Marie Thompson, was born into a family of six children in a poor part of Oakland, by San Francisco. Wanting to provide for her children, she turned to prostitution when she couldnt pay an electric bill. Realizing she could make thousands of dollars in a single evening, she would fly to L.A. and treat herself to a night of pampering before starting work. But she never could have imagined the 30 minutes in a white BMW that would fundamentally change her life.
Unlike other escort scandals that had come before then, neither Brown nor Grant shunned the spotlight or became enraged at the media.
Brown was the first to open up, going on every talk show she could such as Jerry Springer (who was busted in his own sex scandal back in the 1970s) and Howard Stern. Instead of shrinking after being exposed as a working girl, she made over 1.5 million dollars from the scandal through publicity and a lipstick and lingerie line. It was enough to move her and her children (along with her boyfriend/”manager”) into a four-bedroom house. She put her daughters through private school and college, owned high-end cars and lavished herself in clothes and jewelry. And she invested enough money wisely to secure that shed never have to walk the street again.
To date Brown, who now goes again by Stella Thompson, lives in Atlanta and runs a music production company with her fiance.
And Grant? He came clean a little while after Brown took to the spotlight, but was honest and upfront from the beginning. When he was arrested he was extremely embarrassed with the police, but evidently polite and accommodating. And unlike other celebrities who had recently been caught in escort and prostitution scandals, he didnt rage against the media or deny what he had done.
In an interview with Jay Leno (which was originally scheduled to promote Nine Months), he said, “I think you know in life what’s a good thing to do […]”
On Larry King Live he said. “I could accept some of the things that people have explained, ‘stress,’ ‘pressure,’ ‘loneliness’ — that that was the reason. […] But that would be false.”
Grant was given a small fine for the misdemeanor and put on two years of probation, but his fans gave him overwhelming support because of the way in which he handled his outing. Movie offers came pouring in, and Grant became an incredibly common face in U.S. film culture.
Years later he would be surprised to learn that the women dancing on his lap in a Spanish night club were, in fact, prostitutes and not just gorgeous women who liked to fondle famous Brits. Evidently though he has a taste for beauties, he learned from his arrest and tried to live relatively scandal-free afterwards.
And as for Brown—that is, Thompson? She says that thirty minutes with Grant was a “blessing”:
I love Hugh Grant. Hugh Grant put my kids through school, gave us a chance of the life we probably would’ve never reached. We had a chance to travel on private jets. If I can meet him and shake his hand all I would like to say is: ‘Thank you. I appreciate you, and if there is anything I can do in return I would love to be a friend’.