She started the evening looking poised and elegant in a strapless blue dress, her hair sleek, her complexion impressively fresh. But nine hours later a very different looking Goldie emerged from Annabel’s nightclub, struggling to stand and with dishevelled hair and bleary eyes. She had to be helped into a car, only to miss the seat and fall backwards, revealing a considerable amount of shapely leg. Less well-known these days for her string of former lovers - who range from Warren Beatty to the Duchess of Cornwall’s brother Mark Shand - Goldie has reinvented herself as a philanthropist and promoter of a child-rearing philosophy called MindUP, which she talked about on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in a rather different performance to her nightclub antics. Quite how those dishevelled nightclub pictures will go down with the serious people who support her children’s charity, The Hawn Foundation, is hard to tell. The Private Benjamin star’s purpose in visiting these shores was to promote her latest book, a how-to manual on child-rearing called 10 Mindful Minutes. A laughter-filled appearance on Graham Norton’s chat show and a book-signing in Piccadilly got things off to a promising start. Unfortunately for Goldie, her arrival coincided with the release in the UK of a book by her ex-husband, Bill Hudson. In it, he savages the woman he calls ‘America’s Sweetheart’ for alienating him from his children and for denying him access to his grandchildren. He also accuses the actress of damaging their children by using them as a publicity tool to further her career. They were married for four years and had two children - actress Kate Hudson, 32, and actor Oliver Hudson, 35. Neither has spoken to their father for four years. This week I met Bill Hudson to hear his side of the story about his romance with Goldie, their marriage and acrimonious separation. Suffice to say his version could not be more different from hers. Goldie’s new book may celebrate motherhood - “From the day my first child was born, I knew I could not fail at one thing in my life, being a good mother”, she writes - but Bill Hudson is brutally dismissive. “She is hard, she is cold, she is a control-freak,” he says bluntly. “She has this new book about how to keep children happy, but look what she did with her own kids. “She has a raft of publicists putting over her revisionist view of history, but the truth is that she falls short in real life. She cannot legitimately write a book about how to make children happy until she recognises how she made our children unhappy.” To understand the battle being fought between this pair, we must go back to 1975. Goldie, then 29, was still in her first marriage to Gus Trikonis, a film director, when she met Hudson, the lead singer in a successful band with his two brothers, the Hudson Brothers, on a flight from New York to Los Angeles. The attraction was electric and mutual. Goldie had already cheated on her husband with a number of men including Warren Beatty, and had a Swedish lover called Bruno Wintzell installed in her Bel Air home. She jettisoned Wintzell and divorced Trikonis and was soon pregnant with Hudson’s child. They married a month before the baby was due. According to Hudson, now 62, she soon said she wanted an open marriage - a phrase which would come back to haunt her when she repeated it at a press conference and shocked her fans, who had believed in the innocent persona she portrayed on TV shows such as Rowan And Martin’s Laugh-in. But she is a wilful woman - one of her favourite sayings is “What Goldie wants, Goldie gets” - and four years into the marriage, and riding high after an Oscar for the film Cactus Flower, she started an affair with French actor Yves Renier. Hudson sued for divorce. As I revealed in my biography Absolutely... Goldie, she fled with Renier leaving behind her two children, Oliver, aged three, and Kate, just four months. The runaway lovers were absent for the best part of a year and Hudson, who had left the family home in disgust at her betrayal, moved back in to share childminding duties with Goldie’s mother Laura. Eventually Goldie returned, Hudson moved back out and Renier moved in. To start with, says Bill Hudson, Goldie was supportive when giving interviews. “She was saying I was the greatest father, that I would do anything for the kids. But then she decided to turn things around and started saying that she was this abandoned mother. When I confronted her, she explained it made for good press coverage. “Who suffered? Not me, I could take it. The ones who suffered were my children from getting a false sense of history: when they were old enough to pick up a magazine, they read horrible things about me which simply weren’t true.” Nevertheless, they struggled to maintain good relations even when Hudson remarried, to actress Cindy Williams with whom he had two more children (they later divorced and he has another daughter from a subsequent relationship). Goldie embarked on her long relationship with Kurt Russell and together they had a son, Wyatt. “It was fine to start with,” says Hudson, “but she and Kurt set up home in Colorado. The court had ruled I had access to my children on a regular basis when they were in California. When the Hawn-Russell clan was in town, Cindy and I would have the children as often as possible. But that was the caveat - if they were in town. “Goldie travelled a great deal and usually took the children with her. It was impossible for me to make plans that would involve Oliver and Kate because I never knew in advance when I would see them. The fact they could stay in Colorado any time they wanted meant she didn’t have to let me see them.” Hudson, struggling to maintain a contact with Oliver and Kate, found himself outgunned. Goldie’s money, and the ambiguous nature of the court decision on access, meant he was not seeing his children when he had a right to. Once he arranged to take them on holiday to Hawaii, but when he went to pick them up from Goldie’s house in California he discovered she had taken them to Colorado. Yet somehow he still found himself being labelled in print as a bad father. “Because of the image she had carefully nurtured [with roles such as the dippy blonde in Private Benjamin] she knew she could come across as a victim, an innocent woman just trying to protect her children and give them a brand new family with a handsome movie star partner,” he says. “It was so picture-perfect that people believed it. “I still wonder why she went public with our children?” he adds, referring to the many interviews she gave in which they were paraded for the media. “There are a lot of big stars who don’t bring their children into the spotlight to promote themselves. She did that, I had no control over it.” And this, Hudson now confesses bitterly, is when he made the biggest mistake of his life. He gave up. In a painful phone call he told Kate, then 12, and Oliver, 15: “I find myself fighting every time just to see you. I don’t want this public bloodbath any more. You will see me when you want to see me.” With that he stepped away from the conflict. While he wanted his children, he couldn’t cope with the aggravation. “I bitterly regret that. I should have fought all the way,” he says. “It was a formative time for Kate, given that she was just 12. Maybe my children feel I didn’t fight for them. “That gap - my fault - played a part in hurting them. We lost contact for maybe four to five years.” There was then sporadic contact until, in 2007, Hudson found himself cut off entirely. He finally decided to write his book, he says, to put the record straight and to hope his children might read it and relent. As a strategy it is high-risk. A glance through the pages might leave one with the impression of a cry from a thwarted man, a father who by his own actions alienated himself from his children, a faded showbiz figure whose career has been eclipsed by one of Hollywood’s most famous actresses. But read to the end, and a story emerges of a man separated from his children by the superior legal fire-power of a rich woman, and the gradual unravelling of his relationship with his children through no apparent fault of his own. If Hudson is hard on his ex-wife, he is equally hard on himself. Certainly he tells tales out of school - Goldie taking cocaine at a Rolling Stones concert, her affairs on set, her “deep-seated desire for new partners”. He characterises her as vengeful and jealous when the same might be said of him. But the key to the book’s success is the author’s searing honesty and his confession of failure. He admits that all he sees of Kate and Oliver is on the TV or in the cinema. Hudson last spoke to them, on the phone, four years ago. “I told them my brother, their uncle, had throat cancer. They responded well, but there was no reconciliation. I have no relationship with my children and I’ve never met my grandchildren.” Meanwhile, his ex-wife forges ahead with her charity which supports a meditation technique called mindfulness. Highly regarded by some, including Education Secretary Michael Gove, this method for de-stressing the young and helping them to enjoy their life, surroundings and relationships, offers hope where families are difficult. But it will take more than meditation to exorcise the ghosts of the marriage which caused her ex-husband such heartache.