The most expensive thing the comedian Cleo Rocos ever purchased was the freedom of hundreds of trapped wild birds at a market in Bali.
Rocos, who famously starred alongside Kenny Everett in the Kenny Everett TV show in the 1980s, also reveals she had to go on Celebrity Big Brother in order to pay an unexpectedly large tax bill.
In 2012, she set up her own tequila business, AquaRiva Tequila, which she says was the best financial decision she has ever made.
Now 57, she spoke to Donna Ferguson from her home in London’s Canary Wharf, which she rents with her ‘fabulous’ elderly mother.
All in the best possible taste: Cleo Rocos
What did your parents teach you about money?
That having it wasn’t everything. It was good to have, and should be respected, but being happy and having an interesting and eventful life was more important.
My father was in shipping and we travelled a lot. My mother worked in the Foreign Office when she was young but gave up her job to stay at home with her children. Money was never discussed and I was never really even aware of it. We were like the Durrells, a comfortable middle-class family.
What was the first paid work you ever did as an actress?
When I was 14, I got a small part in the film The Rutles, a fabulous spoof on The Beatles with Eric Idle. I looked a lot older than my age so I got paid £100 to play a girlfriend watching the band perform. I had to sit on a rooftop and look cool. I loved it.
Have you ever struggled to make ends meet?
Yes, for about six months when I was 22. I had gone to LA to make a film. But after I got there, it was delayed and then it fizzled out. I had no work, no money and no car but some friends invited me to stay with them, so I did.
One evening, I went out for dinner and when I came back, my friends had gone away for a few days. I had nowhere else to stay so I climbed up on to the roof of their building in an evening dress and high heels, and slept there for a couple of nights, until my friends came home.
I had to share the roof with a pregnant raccoon, which was quite unnerving. It made me realise how quickly you can find yourself in quite an extreme situation.
Have you ever been paid silly money?
Yes, for personal appearances with Kenny Everett in the 1980s. We’d get paid £10,000 each to turn up and say a few words. That was a lot of money back then and it would only take about half an hour. The 1980s was the best decade of my life, financially, and it was the most enjoyable.
Cleo Rocos with late TV star Kenny Everett in 1988
What is the most expensive thing you have ever bought for fun?
The freedom of some wild birds that were being sold in a market in Bali.
I was filming there in 2003 and spent £2,000 buying all the tiny little birds that had been taken from the wild and trapped in cages. There were literally hundreds of them. I hired several cars to take them as far away from the market as possible and then I set them free. Watching all these little birds fly out and sing as they took off was just fantastic. It gave me huge joy.
What is your biggest money mistake?
Not saving money for a large tax bill that I didn’t realise I would have to pay one year.
I’m a responsible person but when you’re self-employed, you have to pay tax in advance for the following year.
And that can easily go very wrong when you’re in the acting industry and your income isn’t as good one year. I ended up owing the taxman quite a lot. Enough for them to be cross with me: tens of thousands of pounds. As a result, I had to do Celebrity Big Brother in 2007.
I would never have gone on the show if I had not had that tax bill. But I did lose weight there which was fabulous.
Everyone was touching food without washing their hands, so I just ate oats.
The best money decision you have made?
Investing in my own business. In 2011, I spent 11 months in Mexico with a master blender creating my own tequila brand, AquaRiva, which is now sold all over the world.
I also have my own organic agave syrup which is in Waitrose and Tesco. It means I get to party a lot. But because my tequila is so clean and delicious, one wakes up feeling fabulous the next day.
Do you save into a pension or invest in the stock market?
No, I don’t. I like to be able to access my money. I don’t want to lock it away or put it in the hands of a financial adviser.
I’m not greedy and I see investing in the stock market as a lot like gambling or a sort of pyramid scheme.
How can something be worth something one minute and then nothing the next? I know technically it can, but the idea makes me nervous. There’s no real value to any of it.
Cleo rents a home in Canary Wharf with my mother
Do you own any property?
No, I rent a home in Canary Wharf with my mother, who is fabulous. I don’t want to give away her age but she’s passed her 90th birthday.
Normally, we have regular cocktail parties with wonderful people floating through in exciting outfits. But at the moment, that’s not happening, obviously.
I love renting. I love feeling that at any moment, I could decide I want to go and live somewhere else, and go. I love the freedom. What I can’t bear is ever feeling trapped by anything. Renting suits me very well.
What is the one little luxury you treat yourself to?
Getting my hair cut at Richard Ward salon, in Sloane Square, two or three times a year. You go in there and you feel as though you’ve been on holiday, and the haircuts are so good they last months.
They have the most unbelievable clients. You might be sitting next to Michael Caine or the Duchess of Cambridge but it’s so jolly, everyone in there is just being themselves.
It can cost a few hundred pounds for a haircut and colour, but it is so worth it. It’s like going to a lovely private members’ club.
If you were Chancellor what would you do?
I would abolish all taxes on small businesses until their turnover is over £500,000. My business passed that threshold a while ago but I know it’s hard for small businesses to get set up.
If new businesses are going to flourish and employ more people, they need the chance to properly get off the ground and the Government needs to play a part in that.
What is your number one financial priority?
To keep a roof over my head in the future, or maybe get a yacht to sail on.
But I’m not thinking about my retirement. Retiring is not something I ever intend to do. I’m not intending to ever get old either. I don’t deal in years, I deal in degrees of fabulousness.
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England’s schools get powers to appeal GCSE/A-level results
Schools in England will be able to appeal their students’ GCSE and A-level results if they can prove grades are lower than expected.
England’s exams regulator has said schools and colleges can appeal if they can show historical data used to standardise grades is not a reliable indicator of this year’s results due to a change of circumstances.
However, individual pupils will not be allowed to challenge grades themselves, Ofqual has confirmed, and schools and colleges will need to appeal against results on their behalf.
The guidance – published a week before A-level results day – comes after a former private school head warned that not allowing appeals against unfair exam results risks ‘imposing a life sentence’ on some pupils.
It follows chaos in Scotland, where 124,564 pupils were marked down by exam bosses, after teachers ‘tried to give them the highest results in history’.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘It is vital that students with exceptional circumstances are not held back by the way grades have been calculated’
Concerns have been raised that the ‘narrow’ criteria for challenging grades may ‘exacerbate existing inequalities’ and result in legal action against exam boards.
It comes after this summer’s exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, schools and colleges were asked to submit the grades they thought students would have received if they had sat the exams.
However, it was revealed last week that statistical modelling will be used to determine the majority of this year’s A-level and GCSE results, rather than predicted grades from teachers.
Exam regulator Ofqual announced the government u-turn after concerns regarding the reliability of teacher-predicted grades were raised.
The new statistical model will take into account a number of factors, including pupils’ previous attainment, results of previous students at the same school and the predicted grades teachers submitted in March.
Now, new guidance by Ofqual sets out how schools and colleges can appeal GCSE and A-level grades, which students are set to receive over the next fortnight.
Schools and colleges can appeal if they were expecting results this year to ‘show a very different pattern of grades’ to results in previous years because of the ability profile of students this year.
If a school has had a ‘significant change in leadership or governance’ – and it can provide evidence that its previous grades are ‘not a reliable indicator’ of this year’s results – it will also be allowed to challenge results.
If a single-sex school has changed to co-educational – or a school has experienced a ‘monumental event’ such as flooding or fire which meant it had to move and it affected previous exam results – then they can appeal grades.
Schools and colleges can appeal to the exam board if it believes it made an error when submitting a grade or if it believes an exam board made a mistake.
Pupils can ask their school or college to check whether it made an administrative error when submitting their grade – and they can ask them to submit an appeal to the exam board if it did.
Students will not be able to directly appeal their calculated grades to the exam boards, but they can submit allegations about bias or discrimination.
Ofqual has advised students to complain to their college or school in the first place about potential malpractice. If their concerns are not addressed, pupils can formally complain to the exam board.
Students in England who are unhappy with their grades will also have the opportunity to take A-level exams in October and GCSE exams in November.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘It is vital that students with exceptional circumstances are not held back by the way grades have been calculated – including those who are highly talented in schools that have not in the past had strong results, or where schools have undergone significant changes such as a new leadership team.
‘This appeals process does this. Students will also have the opportunity to take exams this autumn if they are unhappy with their grades.’
Not allowing pupils the right to appeal GCSE or A-Level exam grades they think are unfair had earlier been linked to imposing a ‘life sentence’.
There are concerns that results day next week could be chaotic as thousands of teenagers may receive ‘unfair’ marks.
Dr Martin Stephen, the former High Master of St Paul’s Boys’ School told The Daily Telegraph the system was equivalent to ‘imposing a life sentence, with no right of appeal’.
The new guidance comes after outrage in Scotland where the grade moderation process reduced the pass rate of the poorest Higher pupils by more than twice that of the richest.
The Scottish Qualifications Authority downgraded the students’ marks for the exams that were not sat, changing a massive 93.1 per cent of all the moderated scores.
Chief Examining Officer Fiona Robertson said if the SQA had not stepped in exam pass rates would have risen at every level and would have been the highest on record.
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Ellen DeGeneres bullied 11-year-old boy by calling him ‘fat’ and ‘stupid’
Ellen DeGeneres bullied an 11-year-old boy, calling him ‘fat’ and ‘stupid’; made fun of his clothes and ‘took pleasure’ in his distress, the now grown victim claims.
In an exclusive interview with DailyMailTV, Ben Gravolet said the under fire TV host worked for his mother’s recruitment agency when he was a child, and claimed Ellen – then aged about 20 – would regularly subject him to biting, mean insults.
‘I would dread going to [my mom’s] office to see her after school or on a day if I was sick and Ellen was there,’ Gravolet said.
‘She would criticize my weight. I would try to do homework in the office, she’d call me stupid, she’d call me fat. She would criticize my clothes.
‘I was just a boy and this was a grown woman who took pleasure in seeing me become visibly upset.
‘I don’t think there’s any excuse for it. I was a defenseless kid. What could I have told her back?
‘It has an effect if somebody in a superior position to you, who’s much older, goes ”You’re fat. You might want to lose some of that weight chunky boy.” I was always self conscious about my weight and it made things worse.’
Ben Gravolet, 52, told DailyMailTV in an exclusive interview that ‘vile’ Ellen DeGeneres bullied him as an 11-year-old boy, calling him ‘fat’ and ‘stupid’. He claimed Ellen – then aged about 20 – would regularly subject him to biting, mean insults
Gravolet (pictured around 11 years old) said: ‘She would criticize my weight. I would try to do homework in the office, she’d call me stupid, she’d call me fat. She would criticize my clothes. I was just a boy and this was a grown woman who took pleasure in seeing me become visibly upset’
His allegations follow claims from dozens of staff on The Ellen DeGeneres Show who have said that racism, bullying and sexual harassment was rife at the show
The Belle Chasse, Louisiana-based father-of-three said in the late 1970s Ellen worked as a recruiter in the lakeside New Orleans branch of Snelling Personnel, owned by his mother.
Gravolet, 52, who now works as vice president of a New Orleans marketing agency, said the multi-millionaire comedian ‘was just the meanest, nastiest, most horrible person.’
‘One incident stands out in my mind,’ he told DailyMailTV. ‘I was sitting beside her desk. I was drawing, and she criticized the drawings. She said ”I guess that would look nice if you could draw”.
‘As I watched her meteoric rise to fame, people would say how great she was and all I could think was she must be an incredible actor because she was one of the most vile people I’ve ever met in my life,’ he said. ‘Who takes pleasure in giving a child pain?’
Gravolet’s allegations follow claims from dozens of staff on The Ellen DeGeneres Show who have said that racism, bullying and sexual harassment was rife at the Hollywood studio.
The scandal prompted Ellen, 62, to email an apology to her staff – which some have labelled as ‘complete bull’, claiming she was ‘power-hungry’ and part of the ‘toxic’ environment on set.
Gravolet claimed that even aged 20 his mother’s former employee enjoyed wielding power over others.
‘It appears to me that she hoards power over those that are lesser than her. It’s almost as if she has to feel controlling. It seems like she has to be superior, be better.’
Gravolet’s furious mother, Tana Robinson, told DailyMailTV Ellen was ‘extremely rude’ but that she only found out about the alleged bullying of her son a few weeks ago.
Gravolet, 52, who now works as vice president of a New Orleans marketing agency, said the multi-millionaire comedian ‘was just the meanest, nastiest, most horrible person. As I watched her meteoric rise to fame, people would say how great she was and all I could think was she must be an incredible actor because she was one of the most vile people I’ve ever met in my life,’ he said. ‘Who takes pleasure in giving a child pain?’
Gravolet said the under fire TV host worked for his mother’s recruitment agency when he was a child, and claimed Ellen – then aged about 20 – would regularly subject him to biting, mean insults. Pictured: Ellen in 1987 around aged 28
The recent scandal prompted Ellen, 62, to email an apology to her staff – which some have labelled as ‘complete bull’, claiming she was ‘power-hungry’ and part of the ‘toxic’ environment on set
‘I think I probably fired her. Had I known that was going on, I’d have punched her and then fired her,’ Robinson, 72, said. ‘A horrible person does that to an 11-year-old boy.
‘I can’t even put myself in the shoes of someone at that age that dislikes children so much or whose ego is so low that she has to smash a child to feel good about herself.
‘A bully is a good word for it. She never tried to bully me because she knew she couldn’t. So she bullied him with me not knowing about it.’
Last month one current and ten former employees of her daytime chat show accused its three executive producers, Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner, of ‘bullying.’
The executive producers issued a statement saying: ‘We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience.’
Lassner also tweeted: ‘Nobody is going off the air.’
Jonathan Norman, a co-executive producer, is alleged to have ‘groomed’ a former employee by taking him to concerts and showering him with other gifts and perks before attempting to perform oral sex on him.
Kevin Leman, the show’s head writer and executive producer, is alleged to have solicited oral sex from an employee. Others say they witnessed Leman grope another colleague.
And Ed Glavin, an executive producer, allegedly ‘had a reputation for being handsy with women,’ according to former employees.
The former staffers told BuzzFeed News they believe Ellen knew that several of her senior showrunners and producers were alleged to have committed sexual misconduct against junior-level employees.
A source close to DeGeneres denied she knew about the allegations of sexual harassment by show producers before they were published last month.
Ellen DeGeneres and three other executive producers from her daytime talk show were reported to have held a call Monday to ‘clear the air’ with staffers and discuss the show’s future
Last month one current and ten former employees of her daytime chat show accused its three executive producers, Ed Glavin (second from right), Mary Connelly (far right) and Andy Lassner (second from left), of ‘bullying.’ Jonathan Norman (far left), a co-executive producer, is alleged to have ‘groomed’ a former employee by taking him to concerts and showering him with other gifts and perks before attempting to perform oral sex on him. Kevin Leman (center), the show’s head writer and executive producer, is alleged to have solicited oral sex from an employee. Others say they witnessed Leman grope another colleague. Glavin allegedly ‘had a reputation for being handsy with women,’ according to former employees
Leman and Norman have denied all allegations. Glavin has not addressed the claim publicly but is stepping down from his position, according to Variety.
Ellen responded by sending a memo to her staff, apologizing for the alleged misconduct on her watch, but accusing her colleagues of ‘misrepresenting who I am’.
‘On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen Degeneres Show would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect,’ she wrote.
‘Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.
‘I’m also learning that people who work with me and for me are speaking on my behalf and misrepresenting who I am and that has to stop.
‘As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or — worse — disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me.’
After Ellen sent the memo, two former members of staff told the Sun the 62-year-old host’s ‘apology and denial that she knew anything was going on’ regarding misconduct was ‘complete bull’.
The pair told the paper: ‘For over a decade Ellen has treated her staff poorly, which is ironic because of her persona when she is on camera.
‘She is literally like two different people. One is awful, power-hungry and constantly yells at everyone for any little thing that goes wrong with the production of the show.
‘The other character that Ellen plays is what the world sees – a hilarious, kind and giving woman who is a fearless advocate for the LGBTQ community.’
The former workers said the show has a high staff turnover because of the pressure that Ellen applied. But explained the fear of her ‘power’ had prevented complainants from coming forward earlier.
Production sources revealed staff have taken to calling Ellen ‘Talk Show Karen’. Ellen was photographed taking a walk with an unidentified friend on Saturday afternoon in Santa Monica
Stand-up comic and former Everybody Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett tweeted Friday: ‘Sorry but it comes from the top @TheEllenShow Know more than one who were treated horribly by her. Common knowledge’
‘Love you for life’: Kevin Hart joins the slim line of stars sticking up for embattled talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres in a gushing Instagram post on Tuesday
Katy Perry insisted she had ‘only ever had positive takeaways from my time with Ellen and on the show’ in an impassioned statement
One of the sources said: ‘She cannot go on living a lie and treating people this way. Her reputation and disgusting behavior has finally caught up with her.’
The show’s parent company WarnerMedia last week launched an investigation after the employees went public with their grievances.
Warner Bros., the studio that runs the show, has declined to comment on the sexual harassment allegations, citing an ongoing internal investigation.
Celebrities and comedians have joined the outburst of criticism for the chat show star.
The former boss of Today, Australia’s Channel 9 morning show, said when Ellen came to his set for an interview during her 2013 Australia tour, her staff demanded nobody talk or even look at her without permission.
Gravolet (pictured) said Ellen’s bullying revelations have made him feel ‘vindicated’. ‘I don’t take pleasure in seeing this happen to her now but at least it makes me feel like I wasn’t the problem and I feel vindicated,’ he told DailyMailTV.
Stand-up comic and former Everybody Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett tweeted Friday: ‘Sorry but it comes from the top @TheEllenShow Know more than one who were treated horribly by her. Common knowledge.’
Actress and director Lea Thompson also tweeted ‘True story, it is.’
Podcaster Kevin T. Porter claimed on Twitter that Ellen is ‘notoriously one of the meanest people alive’ and offered to donate $2 to Los Angeles food banks for every person who replied to his tweet with a story about her alleged rude behavior.
But music manager Scooter Braun came to Ellen’s defense, tweeting ‘@TheEllenShow is a kind, thoughtful, courageous human being who stands for what is right and highlights on her show the best of us.’
Others including singer Katy Perry and comedians Jay Leno and Kevin Hart have also tweeted glowing reviews of their ‘friend’.
Still, Gravolet said Ellen’s bullying revelations have made him feel ‘vindicated’.
‘I don’t take pleasure in seeing this happen to her now but at least it makes me feel like I wasn’t the problem and I feel vindicated,’ he told DailyMailTV.
‘If she did that to me 40 years ago, leopards don’t change their spots.
‘I feel for her as a person with all this going on. But at some point you’ve gotta stop. You’ve got to go get enough help to find out why you take pleasure in someone else’s pain.’
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Coronavirus R-rate could be as high at 1.8 in Northern Ireland as it records 43 more cases
The Department of Health said the R-rate rose from between 0.5 and one last week, to between 0.8 and 1.8 this week, in a dramatic escalation of Covid-19 in the region.
R represents the number of individuals who, on average, will be infected by a person with the virus.
It comes as more than 20 coronavirus clusters have been identified in Northern Ireland.
Of the 23 pinpointed in the region since May 25 when the test and trace programme went live, 11 clusters remain open, according to the Public Health Agency (PHA).
First Minister Arlene Foster at a press confrerence at Dublin Castle for the first summit of the North South Ministerial Council on July 31, 2020. More than 20 coronavirus clusters have been identified in Northern Ireland
It means the planned reopening of pubs and bars that don’t sell food has been pushed back to September 1.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: ‘Because of the concern around the level of community transmission and the desire to frankly prioritise the reopening of our schools… we have decided that it is prudent to pause the reopening of our public houses.’
Some 168 cases of Covid-19 have been associated with the clusters, with nine areas connected to five or more cases.
Earlier this week, two businesses in Newcastle, Co Down, closed temporarily following outbreaks among their staff.
It means the planned reopening of pubs and bars that don’t sell food has been pushed back to September 1. Pictured, a closed pub in Belfast
The statement from the PHA came on Thursday as the Department of Health’s daily updates showed 43 more positive cases of coronavirus have been detected in the region, bringing the total to 6,049.
No new deaths were recorded on Thursday, leaving the total in the region at 556, according to departmental figures.
The PHA has defined a cluster as two or more laboratory-confirmed cases of Covid-19 among individuals associated with a key setting, with illness onset dates within a 14-day period.
Key settings which have seen a cluster include workplaces, retail or hospitality premises, domestic gatherings, and sporting settings, however the PHA said the transmission risk is highest in a household setting.
Key settings which have seen a cluster include workplaces, retail or hospitality premises, domestic gatherings, and sporting settings. Pictured, parishioners wearing face masks in Armagh on June 29
Since July, the average number of close contacts linked to cases has more than doubled.
The rise may be attributed to the gradual easing of lockdown measures, but may also be explained by the relaxing of attitudes to social distancing.
Dr Gerry Waldron, head of health protection at the PHA, said: ‘Clusters are managed through the contact tracing programme, and where we need to advise or inform the public of any increased risk to public health we will do so in a timely manner.
‘In the past seven days, five clusters have been identified. Thirty-five cases have been associated with these clusters, with 239 close contacts.
‘This should act as a timely reminder that we must not become complacent – coronavirus remains in circulation and we have seen an increase in cases in recent weeks. It is therefore essential that we remember the key advice to help keep ourselves and those around us safe.
‘Maintain social distancing, wash your hands regularly, and get tested if you display any symptoms of coronavirus.
Prison officers wearing PPE clothing as they await new committals at HMP Maghaberry in Lisburn, Co Antrim
‘Speculation around current clusters of Covid-19 across Northern Ireland is not helpful.
‘We will not be commenting on individual cases of Covid-19 or going into the detail of every incident that emerges, as this could lead to people being identified, create stigma, and focus attention on individuals, families or groups, and therefore deter others with symptoms coming forward to be tested.’
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said while community transmission remains low in Northern Ireland, the number of positive tests per day has increased three-fold from early July.
Chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young said: ‘The most recent data for Northern Ireland underlines the need for continued vigilance.
‘There are five key steps each of us can take to keep ourselves and others safe – rigorously maintain social distancing; wash our hands well and often; wear face coverings in enclosed spaces where social distancing is difficult; co-operate fully with the Test, Trace and Protect programme, and download the Stop Covid NI app.’
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