I can’t keep my hands off the stars!
TV Quick, June 2001

Sir Paul McCartney

I can’t keep my hands off the stars!
TV Quick, June 2001

Fluffy white towels had been laid on the couch, massage oils were set out on the table. Danella Mercati adjusted her sarong as her next client appeared. His tracksuit was soaked through by the rain, wet hair was stuck around his face. But his eyes were unmistakable.

Danella grinned as she held out a towel to Sir Paul McCartney. She’d grown used to getting intimate with the rich and famous, seeing them walking round in their underpants.

While working as a masseuse at the exclusive Caribbean island resort of Parrot Cay, she spent her days easing away the stress of A-list celebs such as Bruce Willis and Natasha Richardson. ‘Not many people can say they’ve had their hands on a Hollwood star!’ she says.

Danella, 25, was offered the job in the Caribbean when she was working at The Dorchester hotel in London. She massaged Christina Ong, owner of Parrot Cay, who offered her a two-month contract at the luxury hideaway where guests can pay more than £1000 a night and even the gardeer wears an Armani uniform.

Reading the brochure, Danella didn’t need much persuasion. ‘From the prices, you could tell what sort of people would be visiting,’ she says. ‘Christina said it was popular with Hollywood stars.’

Danella packed and left two weeks later, saying goodbye to her house-share in Ealing, West London. The exclusive resort on Parrot Cay – the only thing on the island – had luxury guest beach huts in landscaped grounds by the clear-blue sea and white sands. Water sports were on offer, and lobster and other delicacies adorned the restaurant tables.

A big party soon after Danella arrived gave her a glimpse of the high life. The staff, celebrating on a balcony above, could spy on the guests – men in dark suits, women in gorgeous gowns and expensive jewellery. ‘It was another world,’ Danella says. ‘I heard that Demi Moore had left the island that day and Bruce Willis would be arriving later.’

Danella’s work brief was straightforward – to keep the guests happy. ‘If someone wanted a massage in the middle of the night, we were expected to do it,’ she says. ‘If they wanted us to join them for dinner, we had to go.’

A week later, she got her hands on her first celebrity client, when Sir Paul McCartney arrived with his son James and fashion designer daughter, Stella. ‘I was in awe,’ Danella admits. ‘Paul McCartney came up to the spa and when he saw my name badge, he shook my hand and said. “Nice to meet you, Danella.” It felt strange hearing a famous person saying my name.’

During his three-week holiday, Paul McCartney often had a massage, or just stopped by for a chat. When Danella let slip that staff couldn’t get hold of exotic fruit, he began bringing her bags of goodies such as mango and papaya from his beach hut.

‘He was the nicest of guests,’ says Danella. ‘One evening, he’d booked a massage at the Spa when a tropical storm broke out. I caled him and asked if he’d prefer me to come to his beach hut so he wouldn’t get wet. But he said he’d come over himself as he loved the rain.

‘He was a chatterbox, he talked about his days in The Beatles, about musicals – we both loved Guys And Dolls and The King And I. My life was nowhere near as exciting as his, but he asked me about me and my work. He also spoke a lot about his late wife Linda, and how he missed her.’

Danella met Paul’s daughter Stella, who’d always have an evening stroll, walking arm in arm round the grounds with her father. ‘She wasn’t dressed in anything fashionable,’ Danella says. ‘Just white vests and a sarong or tracksuit bottoms.’

Towards the end of his visit, Sir Paul was joined by girlfriend Heather Mills. ‘I didn’t know who she was,’ Danella says. ‘Paul introduced this beautiful, elegant woman, who was going to teach him yoga. I thought that she might be his stepdaughter. But it became obvious she wasn’t. I saw them walking hand in hand, kissing tenderly. They were very affectionate. You could tell they were in love.’

Generous tips meant Danella earned around £600 a week. But not every client was as easy-going as Paul. ‘Bruce Willis was the only one who acted like a star,’ Danella says. ‘It was clear he was use to having people running around after him.’

One day, Danella arrived at his beach hut, struggling to get the heavy massage couch through his front door. ‘I thought he might give me a hand, but he told me to hurry up because I was letting the mosquitoes in’.

But Danella couldn’t help noticing his well-toned body. ‘When you give someone a massage, you can tell a lot about their body. Bruce had a great body – much better than it looks on TV.’

He stayed in a plush villa with his three children, their nanny, and his then girlfriend Maria Bravo. ‘It was hard having a proper conversation with Bruce because the children were usually in the room. I heard them mention their mum Demi Moore, telling Bruce what they’d been up to with her. The kids were fun. The oldest, Rumer, who is 12, was obviously used to having a massage. She knew exactly what she wanted.’

During her second month, Danella met Natasha Richardson and her husband Liam Neeson. ‘I gave Natasha a massage,’ she says. ‘She was very beautiful, with a great figure, lovely skin, perfect hair and nails. I chatted to her many times.’

After her two-month stay, Danella left the resort and went travelling around America. Back in England, she no longer mingles with Hollywood celebrities. But although she has an open invitation to return to Parrot Cay, she wants to set up her own massage practice. ‘It was a wonderful place, but the evenings were very quiet,’ she says.

‘When I watch films and see the stars I’ve massaged, it feels strange. But at least when my friends are drooling over Bruce Willis I can smile, and remind them I’ve had my hands all over him!’