Drugs, illness and ‘clown feuds’ – what came next for ’90s EastEnders pinups

Back in the nineties, the young stars of EastEnders enjoyed a level of pop culture adoration and hysteria similar to the boy bands of the time.

Posters of the hunky male stars adorned teenage bedroom walls across the country and inspired a frenzy of lust from young fans.

Take Michael Greco – who was once voted sexiest man on TV; or Paul Nicholls who was practically a national object of desire.

But what have your favourite EastEnders heartthrobs been up to since leaving the show  – which celebrates its 35th anniversary tonight?

From near-fatal falls and drug addiction to bizarre 'feuds with local clowns', here's what came next for your favourite actors and actresses…

Michael Greco (Beppe di Marco)

From 1998 to 2002, Michael Greco and his designer goatee had fans swooning as Italian restaurant worker Beppe.

The star spent most of his time shirtless before being axed by executive producer John Yorke in 2002 as part of a revamp.

But the story of what he's been up to in the mean time is an odd one.

According to his Wikipedia page, he retreated to his hometown of Dunbar, Scotland, where he clashed with local clown Gladys Chucklebutty.

It all supposedly kicked off at a kids' party when Gladys made unkind comments about the 5ft 9 actor's height as he competed to win his height in pizzas.

However, it's highly likely that some clever so and so came up with that story given Michael is from Sutton, south London, and now lives in Los Angeles after finding big success as a professional poker player.

After being known as a regular on London's party scene, aside from a brief appearance in Casualty in 2017, he swore off the spotlight and has lived a largely anonymous life away from the cameras.

“I kind of gave up acting a while ago, a couple of years after I left EastEnders and just thought this celeb style isn’t really for me," he told the Express last year following his split from Hollyoaks star Stephanie Waring.

“I just wanted to shun the limelight… I was very private and didn’t really do interviews, I wanted to keep myself… then I just lost my way.

“I just lost my love for the acting game really.”

Martine McCutcheon (Tiffany Mitchell)

When Martine joined the show in 1994, the role of Tiffany was only supposed to be a small one.

But she quickly attracted legions of fans and a staggering 22 million people tuned in to watch her death on New Years' Eve 1998.

After years of being terrorised by brutish husband Grant Mitchell, Tiffany was about to make a break for it and start a new life in Spain with their daughter Courtney.

But her plan unravelled like a Greek tragedy when she went to collect Courtney from the Queen Vic only to find Grant had been released on bail.

Determined not to let her take their child, he grabbed Courtney and stormed out of the pub with an hysterical Tiffany in his wake.

Then out of nowhere, Frank Butcher's car came hurtling around the corner and ploughed into Tiff, who died in the middle of the street with one poignant tear trickling down her cheek as she took a last look at her daughter. It was heartbreaking stuff.

And it wasn't the way Martine had hoped to go. When she handed her notice in to pursue a pop career, the star hadn't expected to be killed off and accused show bosses of doing it out of spite – they retaliated and said she'd just wanted a 'safety net'.

Her 1999 single Perfect Moment reached number one in the charts and was followed by roles in Love Actually and My Fair Lady on London's West End.

But everything started to fall apart when her health took a nose dive due to a streptococcal infection, thrombosis in her leg and skull and depression.

Martine was later diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome ME and Lyme's disease and suffered recurrent miscarriages because her immune system 'was shot'.

At her darkest point, she was declared bankrupt, confined to a wheelchair and told husband Jack McManus to go and find someone else.

"You're pushed to your limits too much. You feel like you're really hungover, like you've been beaten up by Mike Tyson. I was getting lots of infections and my immune system was down," she told Loose Women in 2016.

"I did say to him at one point, 'If you want to go on and meet someone else, go.

“I don't want you to lose out because of me.”

But Jack refused to leave and at the age of 39, she gave birth to their longed-for son Rafferty and released Lost and Found, her first album in 15 years.

Paul Nicholls (Joe Wicks)

Thanks to his children's TV work, Paul was already a teen pin-up when he joined EastEnders as schizophrenic Joe in 1995.

The teenage heartthrob was a huge hit – was voted TV's sexiest actor twice – and appeared on the cover of magazines including Smash Hits, Heat, Just Seventeen and Sugar.

He also had flings with two of the soap's leading ladies, Martine McCutcheon and Daniella Westbrook.

But the pressure of being a teenage heartthrob became too much and he quit Albert Square after just two years.

Afterwards, Paul openly admitted struggling with depression and getting hooked on alcohol and drugs.

He reportedly didn't go to rehab, but managed to get teetotal on his own by 2008 before starring in Holby City, Waterloo Road, Law and Order: UK and Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason.

But in 2015 footage emerged of Paul allegedly  smoking from a suspicious pipe.

And he previously blamed EastEnders for his struggle with drink and drugs.

"People said I had too much too soon when I was playing Joe Wicks, and maybe they were right. I didn't want to be a heartthrob, and I could not handle the attention," he previously said.

He added: "I was well on my way to a total breakdown. I was drinking a lot and taking drugs.

"I had lost control of my life. The more I partied, the more I was telling myself, 'Wow, this is what acting is all about.'"

In 2017 he suffered a cancer scare when a benign throat tumour left him unable to speak for months, and later that year he almost died after spending three days trapped in a Thai rock pool with a smashed leg after trying to take a selfie.  

Sean Maguire (Aidan Brosnan)

As an apprentice footballer for Walford Town FC, Sean's character Aiden had everything going for him when he first entered the show in 1993.

But a series of injuries killed his career and a tempestuous romance with troubled teen Mandy Salter saw him end up homeless and hooked on drugs.

More than 23 million people tuned it when he tragically tried to kill himself on Christmas Day that year. Thankfully, Mandy managed to save him but the next day he returned to Ireland, walking out of Albert Square for good.

Embracing life after TV, Sean released three albums, with his biggest hit Good Day reaching number 12 in May 1996.

After his pop career fizzled, he relocated to Los Angeles where he has starred in Eve, The Class, CSI: NY and Once Upon A Time as Robin Hood.

He married police detective Tanya Flynn in October 2012 and they have two sons aged four and two.

Lucy Speed (Natalie Evans)

Lucy's character was introduced as an add-on in 1994 when the soap first went to three nights a week.

Jealous of her school friend Bianca Jackson's friendship with Tiffany Mitchell, she embarked on an affair with her boyfriend Ricky Butcher and gave the game away by stuffing her undies in his overalls.

She left just a year later in 1995 after being run out of town by a furious Bianca, but returned in 1999 as a successful businesswoman who owned a dating service.

It was through that that she met and fell for car dealer Barry Evans and they had a son, Jack, before Natalie plotted to leave town with Ricky – only to learn he'd been having it off with Sam Mitchell.

Lucy finally quit the soap for good after Janine Butcher murdered Barry in 2004, feeling that her character had nowhere left to go.

She said at the time: "I'd been back for five years and had very little to do the year before. I quite like being busy and I could see the scriptwriters were struggling with Natalie and where to place her so it seemed like the right time to go.

"It's nice that they've left it open, I'd hate to think the door was shut behind me. Absolutely, I'd like to go back, never say never. Maybe I'll track Janine down.”

Moving on from Walford, she appeared in 1998 movie Shakespere in Love, Men Behaving Badly, Dangerfield, Holby City and Jeroicho before playing the mother of a missing boy in series two of Marcella.

She married model and actor Spencer Hayler in September 2009,  and welcomed their daughter Kitty in 2012 followed by son Sullivan in 2018.

She lives in Fulham, London, and remains close friends with Charlie Brooks who played her on-screen nemesis Janine.

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