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ZETA CHAMPAGNE IS A TONIC FOR EX LESLIE

STEPHEN LISLE

14:00 - 05 August 2003

Tv Presenter John Leslie has spoken out about the unwavering support he received from ex-girlfriend Catherine Zeta Jones. The former presenter of This Morning said he remains close friends with the Swansea Oscar-winner despite their lives and fortunes taking very different paths.

After the couple's 18-month relationship that started in 1991, Catherine went on to win Best Supporting Actress at this year's Oscars while Leslie's career has been left in tatters by allegations of sex assault.

But just 48 hours after the presenter was cleared of all charges, a bottle of champagne was sent to his London home. An accompanying card read: "From Catherine and Michael."

Leslie said: "It was a touching and generous gesture. But then Catherine is a decent person.

"We live very different lives in very different places now. It would be so easy for her to ignore her old life, but she didn't forget."

The pair met in 1991 when they were both up-and-coming talents. Leslie had been a Blue Peter presenter while Catherine was a young actress in TV series, The Darling Buds of May.

Leslie said: "We first met at a party after a Chesney Hawkes concert. It was a great show and he invited me along to the party afterwards in Berkeley Square. I was tired and didn't really feel like traipsing back into town but Chesney badgered me to come along. And Catherine was there.

"She was lovely, we were together for 18 months but in the end it didn't work out. And no it wasn't because she wanted marriage and babies and I wasn't ready to commit. I know that's what the press reported, though I am pretty sure Catherine herself never said any of that stuff, but the real reasons are simply not up for public discussion. Not that there is any dark secret there but I simply won't discuss why I broke up with any of my exes. I don't do that kind of kiss-and-tell either."

Although Catherine is now married to movie megastar Michael Douglas and is one of Hollywood's biggest names, Leslie has no regrets.

"I don't think of Catherine as the one that got away," he said. "Things just didn't work out for us. When Catherine moved to America, it was a whole new existence for her, she would still get in touch when she was back over here.

"There is no one more proud of her than me. I'm really happy everything has worked out so well for her and she and Michael are so happy.

"I was in love with her and she was in love with me, no question."

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