Film Star Hugh Grant Is Arrested for Lewd Conduct Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Los Angeles police officers arrested film star Hugh Grant for lewd conduct in public and also arrested Divine Brown for prostitution after the two were caught having oral sex in a parked car in Hollywood. The incident generated much gossip and attention in the media but did not harm Grant’s career. The publicity also earned for Brown more than one million dollars for telling her story to British tabloids and television and radio shows in the United States and for posing for the adult magazine Penthouse.

Summary of Event

Hugh Grant’s brush with scandal came at a time in his career that could have meant disaster for him. However, if anything, the incident in which police caught the debonair English actor with a prostitute in Los Angeles left him relatively unscathed and gave the prostitute he paid fifty dollars for fellatio a chance for fame and fortune. [kw]Film Star Hugh Grant Is Arrested for Lewd Conduct (June 27, 1995) [kw]Grant Is Arrested for Lewd Conduct, Film Star Hugh (June 27, 1995) Grant, Hugh Brown, Divine Los Angeles;Hugh Grant arrest[Grant arrest] Grant, Hugh Brown, Divine Los Angeles;Hugh Grant arrest[Grant arrest] [g]United States;June 27, 1995: Film Star Hugh Grant Is Arrested for Lewd Conduct[02720] [c]Prostitution;June 27, 1995: Film Star Hugh Grant Is Arrested for Lewd Conduct[02720] [c]Sex crimes;June 27, 1995: Film Star Hugh Grant Is Arrested for Lewd Conduct[02720] [c]Public morals;June 27, 1995: Film Star Hugh Grant Is Arrested for Lewd Conduct[02720] [c]Law and the courts;June 27, 1995: Film Star Hugh Grant Is Arrested for Lewd Conduct[02720] [c]Publishing and journalism;June 27, 1995: Film Star Hugh Grant Is Arrested for Lewd Conduct[02720] [c]Hollywood;June 27, 1995: Film Star Hugh Grant Is Arrested for Lewd Conduct[02720] Hurley, Elizabeth

Grant had begun acting in films just before graduating from Oxford University during the early 1980’s. Of his early films, the two that drew the most attention from press and public both had sexuality as a major theme. In Maurice (film) Maurice (1987), a prestigious adaptation of E. M. Forster’s novel about a young gay man’s coming of age in early twentieth century England, Grant played the title character’s first lover. In the Australian production Sirens (film) Sirens(1994), Grant played an Anglican priest who learns to let go of his inhibitions while frolicking in the Outback with an artist’s gorgeous and often naked models. However, it was the film he made directly after Sirens, the wildly popular comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), which put him on the edge of superstardom.

One of the biggest hits of the 1990’s and also one of the highest-grossing films ever produced in the United Kingdom, Four Weddings and a Funeral focused on a handsome young Englishman who has had dozens of girlfriends but cannot commit for long to any of them and who becomes obsessed with a somewhat promiscuous American woman even as she prepares to marry another man. Critics praised Grant’s comic flair for both verbal and physical humor, and audiences were impressed with his good looks and abundant charm. He had just arrived in the United States to begin work on his first big-budget Hollywood film, Nine Months (1995), when he solicited Divine Brown on a street corner on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

Divine Brown’s background could not have contrasted more markedly from that of Grant. Whereas Grant had grown up amid upper-middle-class affluence in London, Brown had come of age in one of the poorest, most crime-ridden neighborhoods of Oakland, California. Following in the footsteps of her friends, she turned to prostitution in her late teen years as a way to pay the bills. She acquired a pimp, who called himself Gangster Brown, and with whom she had two daughters. Under his guidance she began to work regularly on the streets of San Francisco and Oakland. On June 27, 1995, the night that she was solicited by Grant, she was a new arrival to Los Angeles, just as Grant had only recently come to California to try his luck in Hollywood. Grant agreed to pay Brown fifty dollars for oral sex. Before the sex act could be completed, however, two police officers interrupted the pair and arrested them. Brown was booked for prostitution and Grant for lewd conduct in public. Within twenty-four hours, their mug shots were in newspapers around the United States, with accompanying copy detailing their encounter.

However brief their time together, the names Hugh Grant and Divine Brown were inextricable in print, on television, and in the minds of the public. Comedians found the incident irresistible, as did newspaper Cartoons cartoonists. Brown and Grant were repeatedly featured on late-night television news and were the topic of many talk-show jokes. Grant’s longtime companion Elizabeth Hurley made a public statement about the hurt and humiliation she was experiencing because of her lover’s infidelity and the surrounding media circus, and the media covered her statement with the sort of deadpan seriousness usually afforded presidents or the chairs of important committees.

Just as the frenzy began to die down, Grant’s attorneys appeared in a Los Angeles court on July 11 to answer to the charges leveled against their client, rekindling media and public interest in the affair even though Grant did not attend the hearing personally. Through his lawyers, he pleaded no contest to the charge of lewd conduct in public. The judge ordered Grant to pay a fine of $1,180 and to take a course in HIV-AIDS awareness. He also placed Grant on two years’ probation.

Even after the settling of Grant’s court case, the public—and the principals—did not stop talking about the events of June 27. While his attorneys represented him in court, Grant appeared on one of the most widely watched television programs in the United States, Tonight Show, The (television) The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. If the audience expected to hear far-fetched rationalizations, contempt for the police, disparaging remarks about Brown, or expressions of self-pity, they were surprised. Grant simply, clearly, even somewhat humbly admitted that he had done what he had been accused of, that it had been wrong, and that he was sorry. Both the studio audience and host Jay Leno were obviously impressed with his straightforward mea culpa, and Grant went on to make more or less the same statements again and again on other programs, including King, Larry (talk show host) Larry King Live and Talk shows Philbin, Regis Live with Regis and Kathie Lee. Though the names of Grant, Brown, and Hurley continued to be bandied about in the media for months to come, the scandal was effectively diffused by Grant’s appearance on The Tonight Show.

Impact

Because of Grant’s ready openness about the incident, the scandal had little effect on his career. Nine Months proved to be a modest hit and Grant’s career proceeded without a hitch. His work has included popular and critical favorites such as Notting Hill (1999), Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), and About a Boy (2002). His relationship with Hurley did not fare as well. Though they managed to stay together for some time, they announced their split in May, 2000.

The effect the scandal had on Brown was perhaps more startling. She is rumored to have made more than one million dollars from her few minutes with Grant. Much of the money came from British tabloids, such as News of the World, News of the World, The which paid lavishly for her recollections of that night in June. Brown also appeared on a wide array of American television programs, including the two most notorious Talk shows talk shows of the decade, Springer, Jerry The Jerry Springer Show and Stern, Howard The Howard Stern Show. She also posed for adult magazines such as Penthouse magazine Penthouse and even starred in a Pornography;and Divine Brown[Brown] pornographic video re-creating her and Grant’s encounter. At some point, she also recorded a music album.

An ethicist might suggest that Grant survived the Brown scandal purely because of his honesty and openness. Certainly it could be argued that if the incident had any impact at all on the public as a whole, it provided an exemplar for how to deal with one’s own wrongdoing: Admit the mistake openly and apologize. However, as admirable as Grant was in taking responsibility for his actions, the scandal did not harm his career mostly because of changing times.

By the final years of the twentieth century, a young actor’s consorting with a prostitute simply was not as shocking or damaging to his public image as it would have been in previous decades. The sexual encounter between Grant and Brown, albeit involving an exchange of money, was consensual and between adults. Furthermore, Grant was an actor who played in films geared toward adults. His actions would have fared differently had he been a celebrity such as Paul Reubens, Paul Herman, Pee-wee (Paul Reubens) Reubens (Pee-wee Herman), who was charged with public indecency in 1991 and whose work was geared toward children. Grant, Hugh Brown, Divine Los Angeles;Hugh Grant arrest[Grant arrest]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bowyer, Alison. Liz Hurley Uncovered. London: Andre Deutsch, 2003. In its coverage of the scandal, this work favors the viewpoint of Elizabeth Hurley over Hugh Grant and traces the couple’s long relationship until its end in the wake of the Divine Brown scandal.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bracewell, Michael. The Nineties: When Surface Was Substance. London: Flamingo, 2002. Insightful examination of the decade in which the scandal occurred. Hugh Grant is mentioned as a prototypical celebrity of the period.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Neal, Sarah. “Populist Configurations of Race and Gender: The Case of Hugh Grant, Liz Hurley, and Divine Brown.” In Thinking Identities: Ethnicity, Racism, and Culture, edited by Avtar Brah, Mary J. Hickman, and Maírtín Mac an Ghaill. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999. A sociological look at the intersections of ethnicity, race, and culture in the case of the Hugh Grant-Divine Brown sex scandal.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Parish, James Robert. Hollywood Bad Boys: Loud, Fast, and Out of Control. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 2002. A revealing collection of biographies of Hollywood male celebrities, including Hugh Grant, who are known for extremes of behavior.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tresidder, Jody. Hugh Grant: The Unauthorized Biography. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996. Published soon after the sex scandal. Offers insights and observations fresh from the time.

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