When Melanie Brown flew into London ten days ago from Los Angeles, she couldn’t wait to catch up with her old friend and bandmate Geri Horner.
Such are their busy lives on either side of the Atlantic these days that the pair can go for months without chatting.
But as they hugged each other at a friend’s home that afternoon, it was as if they had never been apart.
On the show, recorded at ITV’s studios on March 22 and to be screened in the summer, Mel was repeatedly pressed by Morgan about persistent rumours that she and Geri had been more than just friends. The singer finally conceded it was true
Certainly they had plenty to talk about – not least the much-anticipated £10 million Spice Girls tour.
The two women – known during their 1990s pop heyday as Scary and Ginger – were looking forward to the rehearsals and meetings that will bring their band together once more for 13 dates this summer.
Little did they know that, just over 48 hours later, their friendship – and potentially the meticulously laid plans for the whole money-spinning tour – would lie in tatters.
It came after Mel unexpectedly confessed on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories to a one-off tryst with Geri in their early days. The bombshell revelation left their fellow band members – and, indeed, the nation – agog.
While the band was managed by the Herberts, before the girls eventually hired pop mogul Simon Fuller, it was Ginger and Scary who were really in charge. ‘They were two women who knew what they wanted. It was very much a case of those two against the world,’ says a friend
It was laughed off by Mel, 43, who joked that Geri is ‘going to hate me’. But Geri, 46, it is understood, was heartbroken. And her hurt may run deeper than it first appeared.
For The Mail on Sunday now understands that Mel’s admission of a one-off night of passion is far from the full story. Friends who knew them back then have revealed their relationship lasted at least a year.
One recalls: ‘It was in the very early days of the Spice Girls and their relationship lasted far longer than one night – it was at least 12 months.
They deeply bought into the whole Girl Power phenomenon – they wanted to lead it.
The source described their relationship as very much a case of ‘lust at first sight’ when the two met for the first time in 1994 after being chosen to join the girl band, then known as Touch. They are pictured in 1997
‘They felt what better way was there to do that than for girls to enjoy one another?’
The source described their relationship as very much a case of ‘lust at first sight’ when the two met for the first time in 1994 after being chosen to join the girl band, then known as Touch.
Mel and Geri, then aged 18 and 21 respectively, instantly gelled when they were moved by their management into a house in Maidenhead, Berkshire.
The pair, who shared a fierce ambition to succeed as pop stars, soon grew so close that they confided their deepest secrets – and also regularly shared a bed.
They were, according to friends, ‘absolutely inseparable’.
While the other three band members – Melanie Chisholm, Emma Bunton and Victoria Beckham (then known as Victoria Adams) – would visit their families at weekends, Mel and Geri stayed at the house.
‘They were so close,’ the source continued. ‘They were together in every sense of the word.
‘They were brought together through the circumstances of being in the band but their living arrangements in Maidenhead meant that they had lots of time alone.
The pair, who shared a fierce ambition to succeed as pop stars, soon grew so close that they confided their deepest secrets – and also regularly shared a bed. They were, according to friends, ‘absolutely inseparable’. They are pictured in 2013
‘Both were very open-minded young women and they wanted to break boundaries.’
It is, of course, no secret that Geri – now married to Christian Horner, boss of Formula 1 team Red Bull – has previously enjoyed sexual encounters with women.
In an interview in the early 1990s, she said: ‘I don’t mind boobs but the other bit is not my cup of tea. I realised I was not a lesbian. It is part of experimenting.’
But the girls’ relationship was far from exclusive. Friends say they still enjoyed encounters with men.
Geri – now mother to Bluebell, 12, and Monty, two – had been working as a glamour model before replying to an ad for girl-band members placed in The Stage magazine by father-and-son management team Chris and Bob Herbert.
‘Hurt’: Geri with husband Christian Horner
‘Geri was a woman of the world, even back then,’ says the friend. ‘And Mel had spent her teenage years in nightclubs. She was around at the time of the anything-goes Hacienda days, so both were very worldly.’
They were strikingly similar characters. Both girls oozed the brand of feistiness that came to define the band; both came from working-class families; and both possessed the dogged determination to make something of themselves.
In the early days at least, they saw themselves as the ‘driving force’ of the Spice Girls.
While the band was managed by the Herberts, before the girls eventually hired pop mogul Simon Fuller, it was Ginger and Scary who were really in charge.
‘They were two women who knew what they wanted. It was very much a case of those two against the world,’ says a friend.
‘Geri’s father had not long passed away and she was hurting from that, while Mel was a long way from home. While things were very exciting for them, it was also daunting.
There have long been rumours in the industry that some members of the Spice Girls (picture in 1996) had enjoyed sexual encounters with each other
‘They were one another’s support, they got one another and were actually very similar.
‘They were the stand-out best friends in the band. They loved one another like sisters – but also fell out in the way siblings do.’
There have long been rumours in the industry that some members of the group had enjoyed sexual encounters with each other. But it wasn’t until Mel’s confession that these were confirmed.
On the show, recorded at ITV’s studios on March 22 and to be screened in the summer, Mel was repeatedly pressed by Morgan about persistent rumours that she and Geri had been more than just friends.
The singer finally conceded it was true, telling him: ‘She is going to hate me for this because she is all posh with her country house and her husband, but it’s a fact.
‘But it wasn’t a thing, it just happened and we just giggled at it and that was it.’
When Morgan enquired how frequently they had slept together, Mel retorted: ‘Oh, stop it, you pervert.’ She then insisted it had happened only once.
Her bandmate Mel C, who was in the audience, added: ‘This is all new to me.’
Mel B, who divorced film producer Stephen Belafonte in 2017 after a turbulent ten-year marriage, is known for her straightforward honesty and described in a recent autobiography a chaotic life of sex and drugs.
It may have seemed curious, therefore, that she would prove reticent on this subject. But her refusal to tell the full story was, those close to her insist, out of respect for Geri.
Geri had already made an admission to American chat show host Howard Stern in 2003 that she had slept with a famous woman.
Mel, who later starred with Stern on the panel of America’s Got Talent, learned from him that Geri was talking about her.
It meant that when Morgan asked her about Geri, Mel felt able to say that she’d slept with her but chose not to reveal anything further.
‘She didn’t want to put too much on the record that would have embarrassed Geri,’ says the source.
‘The view is very much that Geri wants to zip up the past. Her life is now all about cooking and country estates, and Mel likes to remind her of her younger years at times but she actually wouldn’t want to invade her privacy completely.’
Indeed, twice-married mother- of-three Mel has been more candid about her own sexuality, admitting to Morgan on the show that she happily enjoyed a five-year relationship with another woman.
‘You fall in love with whoever you fall in love with. I just don’t have a preference,’ she said.
It may have been a useful promotional tool for Mel, but the timing of her revelations could not have been worse for the band’s upcoming reunion. Rehearsals are due to start in just over a week.
While the other three band members – Melanie Chisholm, Emma Bunton and Victoria Beckham (then known as Victoria Adams) – would visit their families at weekends, Mel and Geri stayed at the house. The band are all pictured above in 1997
While Victoria, 44, decided against joining her bandmates for the tour to focus on her fashion range, she has not been able to resist stirring the pot.
In the days following Mel’s interview, she is said to have called Geri in solidarity to tell her how appalled she was that details of her personal life had been shared so publicly.
Whether Geri will be able to put it behind her – and continue with the band’s plans – remains to be seen. She would not comment on the latest claims last night.
What is proving particularly irksome to Geri is the reunion was designed, in part, to help Mel B financially, following her expensive divorce. Once worth £80 million, by the end of her ten-year marriage to Belafonte she was left with just £961 in the bank.
That, coupled with a huge legal bill she ran up while fighting a custody battle, meant she needed to earn money – and fast.
‘The view is that the others didn’t need to do the tour,’ says the source. ‘Now Geri wonders why she bothered. Especially, she feels, because she has her young son Monty to look after.’
So what exactly does it mean for the 500,000 fans who have paid up to £100 for tickets?
‘It’s very wobbly,’ says a source close to the band. ‘Mel has apologised to Geri and she hopes that will be enough, but with her living in LA and Geri in the UK, it’s taking longer to sort out this situation.’
Forefront in everyone’s minds is the fact that Geri has walked out on the band before – in 1998, in the middle of a tour.
This time, it is feared, it could be less a case of Viva Forever – and more of a permanent Goodbye.