Paul McCartney, right, and Nancy Shevell are set to marry in an intimate ceremony in London. (AP Photo/Evan Agostini, file)
Making small talk at a recent party in Las Vegas to celebrate a new Beatles musical, Paul McCartney found himself separated from his wife-to-be, Nancy Shevell, for the first time that evening.
He was, according to those present, suddenly distracted – his eyes darting around the large room until he spotted new York-born Nancy, stunning in a thigh-skimming gold-silk dress.
As soon as there was a suitable lull in the conversation, Sir Paul nipped back to the side of his 51-year-old fiancee.
When he returned to the group, he had miss Shevell with him, clasped firmly by the hand. Sir Paul noted the amused glances of fellow partygoers and sheepishly conceded: “What can I say? She’s my comfort blanket.”
Few who know the couple well are in any doubt that, after the catastrophe of his second marriage to ex-model Heather Mills, Paul, 69, has finally found a woman who can fill the void left by his beloved first wife Linda, who died from breast cancer 13 years ago.
“most of his friends saw Heather as a mental aberration on Paul’s part,” one of his circle told me yesterday. “but in Nancy he has found what Linda gave him: someone who nurtures him, but who quietly cajoles him when needs be.”
Certainly, Nancy, who has kept out of the limelight during their four-year relationship, is seen by many in Macca’s circle as a formidable figure.
Friends say there was “some good-natured negotiation” before haulage heiress miss Shevell finally relented to her fiance’s wishes and agreed to make their marital base in Britain, instead of at her home in new York’s exclusive Upper East side district.
Finally, they say, a compromise was reached, which means the couple will spend most of their time at McCartney’s London townhouse in St John’s Wood and his 933-acre estate in East Sussex.
But once a month, the new Lady McCartney will travel to America – where she is vice-president of her family firm, new England Motor Freight and the patron of her drugs charity.
“Paul’s got his way on that one,” says a member of his entourage. “but Nancy is no pushover. Paul’s never been interested in women he can dominate.”
Indeed, visitors to McCartney’s homes here say his new wife-to-be has already been subtly stamping her mark on the cluttered farm in Peasmarsh – the McCartney family home where Linda’s ashes are scattered.
Nancy has persuaded him to do away with the more dreary furniture, invested in scented candles, new expensive linens and soft furnishings.
But if her tastes are more Park Avenue princess than Linda’s bohemian style, the success of Paul’s relationship with miss Shevell is precisely because she is, in so many ways, similar to Linda.
After all, both came from rich Jewish-American East Coast families. Photographer Linda Eastman, who McCartney married in 1969, was the daughter of wealthy new York showbusiness lawyer Lee Eastman – who later managed Paul’s career.
Divorcee miss Shevell, who is 18 years younger than her new fiance, is the heiress to a £250million haulage firm built up by her trucking magnate father Myron “Mike” Shevell, in nearby new Jersey. And like Linda, Nancy has battled breast cancer, after surviving a brush with the disease in the Nineties.
Both women are a world away from working-class, pushy Heather who Paul married in haste nine years ago while still struggling to come to terms with Linda’s death.
Crucially, Nancy’s background and aversion to the limelight has endeared her to the rocker’s children: Mary, 42, Stella, 40, James, 34, and 48-year-old Heather, the daughter from Linda’s first marriage, who Paul adopted.
That they have so readily taken to her is in striking contrast with the McCartney offspring’s loathing of miss Mills, who was awarded a £24million pay-off when the couple divorced amid acrimony in 2008.
Even so, family friends say it took time before fashion designer Stella, who more than any of the children has her father’s ear, completely warmed to the idea of her father walking down the aisle again.
When Sir Paul first floated the possibility of marrying Nancy, who has a son, Arlen, 19, from her 20-year marriage to new York lawyer Bruce Blakeman, Stella is said to have asked: “Do you have to marry every woman you meet?”
But the charming Nancy worked her magic on her future step-daughter, and made a point of wearing Stella’s fashion creations while on the arm of Sir Paul.
Last Christmas, miss Shevell even hosted a vegetarian Christmas for all the McCartney clan at the family estate (although not a vegetarian herself, she never eats meat in Macca’s presence).
In fact, the children have known miss Shevell on and off for the best part of 20 years, since Paul and Linda became friends with Nancy and her first husband during family holidays in the U.S. at their respective summer homes in new York.
And an added bonus is that, while detractors of miss Mills accused her of being a gold digger, the latest mrs McCartney is clearly not after Sir Paul’s money.
Indeed, Nancy is said by his friends to have offered to sign a pre-nup agreeing to take nothing from his £495million fortune should the marriage end in divorce.
As with miss Mills, however, the musician rejected the offer. even so, Nancy is believed to have signed a short one-page legal statement giving up the right to make any claim on the trust funds of McCartney’s children and grandchildren.
Those close to the couple insist Paul did not instigate asking his new wife to sign the papers, but say it was a legal requirement because his divorce from miss Mills stipulates he must protect the trust of Beatrice, their seven-year-old daughter from the marriage.
And yet despite her moneyed upbringing, miss Shevell’s life has not been without its share of controversy.
Her 74-year-old father, a tough-talking self-made man, was charged with fraud, along with his brother Daniel, in 1975 when it emerged one of their haulage companies had a convicted mobster on its payroll.
The case never went to trial, but the brothers were forced to relinquish control of their businesses. The firm later went bust leading Daniel, miss Shevell’s uncle, to commit suicide.
Undeterred, Nancy’s father was soon building up another trucking business, which now turns over £250million a year.
But claims of links to the underworld remained. in the late Eighties, he was accused of cultivating a “corrupt relationship” with Tony Provenzano, an infamous mobster hitman who was later jailed for murder and extortion.
In 2009, Mr Shevell was put under investigation by the U.S. Government’s Organised Crime Strike Force over his alleged links to Vincent “the chin” Gigante – head of the Genovese family, one of new York’s principal crime dynasties.
A lawsuit claimed Mr Shevell paid off Gigante’s mobsters in return for “sweetheart deals”, which gave his company carte blanche to operate outside of union rules, although Mr Shevell later maintained the suit was settled without any charges against him.
None of which has damaged miss Shevell’s position as one of the leading lights of Manhattan society or put off her fiance.
After their London wedding, the newlyweds are said to be planning a party in new York for her family and friends next week.
Sir Paul is also due to premiere the debut ballet he has written, Ocean’s Kingdom, in the city at the same time.
It promises to be a triumphant homecoming for the newest Lady McCartney.
No more lonely nights: from left, Sir Paul marries first wife Linda in 1969, with Heather Mills in 2002 and current fiancee Nancy Shevell in 2009
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