I Want to Live Like Normal People

We interrogate the hottest rumour in showbiz.

Saturday night and The Old Queen’s Head in Islington is heaving with beautiful women. I have to shout over the blasting R&B in order to be heard. And I need to be heard, because I’m here to find out, once and for all, if the rumours are true.

I am here on my first assignment for this very magazine. I had never considered myself an investigative reporter before, until now. Last week, the call came in. Rumours have, for the last few months, been swirling around the aforementioned pub. Rumours of a scandalous kind. Sex Rumors. Celebrity sex rumours, to be precise.

Word on the street is, practically every twenty-something woman in London has a friend of a friend who has had sex with Paul Mescal.

In case you hadn’t heard, the Irish actor and heartthrob of Normal People fame established himself as an Old Queen’s Head regular while performing in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Almeida Theatre earlier this year. The conveniently located pub-cum-nightclub became Mescal’s local jaunt, and word started to spread. Presumably exhausted from hours of Stanley Kowalskiing for the general public, Mescal would come to the pub to unleash whatever was left of his innate, Brando-esque magnetism. His goal? To let loose and get loose with some of the lucky ladies of Islington. And, from what I hear, the ladies of Islington have been flocking to meet him.

But the Mescal sex-lore is far more specific than simply the actor’s vaunted status as a top shagger. Multiple sources have also claimed that, after his amorous liaisons, Mescal is in the habit of taking women on a walk in the park and suddenly distracting them so that he can run away without any consequences.

We’ve all been victims of a smash and dash before, but doing a literal runner? Maybe it’s to avoid attention from the paparazzi. Maybe Mescal just loves parading around in those little running shorts. Maybe he’s got deep-rooted, unresolved communication issues. There could be any number of reasons why anyone would pelt away from their conquests post-haste the morning after.

But speculation alone does not satisfy our voracious appetites to understand the myth of London’s leading lothario. So, armed with a pen and pencil, a double rum and coke, and some entirely fake bravado, I set out to uncover whether what the Rooney mill has been churning out is true. 

Arriving at the OQH at 8pm on a Saturday night, I was unprepared for the queue that was steadily forming at the pub’s entrance. It might be a popular watering-hole of its own accord, but the Mescal Effect had obviously increased its notoriety. I wanted to know how often the Irish actor swings through for conquest. I thought the staffers would be the best place to start my search.

A bright-eyed blonde girl working behind the bar was game to help me.

‘Paul Mescal does get talked about in here a lot,’ she said. ‘Louis Tomlinson used to come here a bit too, and Dr Alex from Love Island. I think people sometimes come here for Paul Mescal,’ she went on to add, noting an uptake in punters who had a higher than usual interest in the whereabouts of the actor.

One of the managers who I spoke to confirmed Mescal’s regularity at the pub, saying often: ‘He was on the prowl.’

‘He comes here, he gets twatted, and he leaves with a smile on his face,’ a reserved but more senior member of bar staff said.

I decided the smoking area would be the next best place to scout out some intel. Choosing to keep my own lighter in my pocket, I ventured into the crisp night air, asking around to see if anyone would lend me theirs as an excuse to get chatting. A friendly girl lit my cigarette for me and, after the initial chit-chat, I subtly turned the conversation to Mescal. She was a regular at the OQH, so I asked if she’d seen him in here before. She hadn’t.

‘There’s a lot of him-type characters around tonight, to be fair,’ she continued, observing the crowd of mullet-sporting men clad in head-to-toe Carhartt.

More women chimed in, adding that they also hadn’t seen him but ‘definitely would’ if the opportunity arose.

So far, my trip to the smoking area had confirmed the suspicions I had already; the general consensus that straight women would, on the whole, sleep with the doe-eyed kid from Kildare if the opportunity presented itself. However, I was not here to track down women who would shag Paul Mescal. My challenge now, short of finding and rugby-tackling the star myself, was to find someone who was here to shag Paul Mescal.

With my bladder full from the numerous rum & cokes endowing me with the confidence to interrogate strangers about somebody else’s sex life, I decided it was time to make use of the facilities. And it was there, in the famously open confines of the women’s bathroom, where I finally struck gold.

While loudly discussing my findings so far with a friend who I’d strong-armed into coming to the pub with me, a girl interrupted us.

‘Are you talking about Paul Mescal?’ she asked. ‘He’s lovely,’ she told me as we waited in line for the loos. ‘We had a brief interaction when I met him here in November. He’s a gorgeous guy. He’ll probably be here this evening. He’s always here, if you come on a Thursday or a Friday.’

The Mescal dam now broken, a second girl in the bathroom chimed in.

‘I heard he was regularly on the pull here, doing antics,’ she said, going on to add that she had a friend who had met Mescal in this pub. ‘She shagged him. If anything, she said he was a gentleman.’

‘He was here with a lot of confident Americans, but he was a bit shy,’ she recounted. ‘Apparently he used to be a bit awkward [when pulling girls], but now he sweetens the deal by buying them something from Gail’s in the morning.’

A third girl then joined our conversation, explaining that a friend of hers, who works in theatre production, was at an afterparty with the actor. 

‘She said, he was going around asking anyone who would listen if they would have a threesome with him,’ she informed me.

Head reeling from rum and revelations, I left the OQH with much to consider. The murky waters of Mescal-lore only muddied further, I couldn’t help coming back to one recurring thought. 

‘I think in the next two years he’ll become unreachable,’ a man at the bar had commented on Mescal’s rising stardom. Perhaps his appeal then, is his status as an ‘accessible’ celebrity. At the end of the day, he’s just like the rest of us. He likes a pint after work, getting sloshed in a local bar and sleeping with lots of women. The whiff of Hollywood hangs over the head of someone who, without his acting credits, is truly living the life that every teenage boy dreams of. Running my theory past the man I’m currently seeing, I asked whether, if stardom struck him unexpectedly, he would do the same.

‘Of course,’ he said. ‘Who wouldn’t?’

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