COMEDY / All that glitters: Gary Glitter's career has had its setbacks, but, as James Rampton discovered, his hairstyle continues to inspire diehard fans

The frontman of Take That was recently on Live and Kicking, BBC1's Saturday morning children's show. Emma Forbes, the host, asked him about his status in the group. 'Are you the leader?' 'No,' came back the outraged reply, 'Gary Glitter's The Leader.'

Some 20 years after his string of Number Ones, Glitter still has a grip as tight as his corset on the popular imagination. The latest manifestation of this is Leader] - The Gang's Tribute to Gary Glitter, an affectionate tribute written and performed by Steve Furst and Mike Leigh (M Simon Leigh, that is). Just what is it about the man with the biggest hair this side of Dynasty that provokes 10,000 people to join his fan club? Why does he still command the sort of adoration normally reserved for the other Gazza? 'He's a larger-than-life creation,' Leigh reckons, 'a showman with a sense of humour and a tongue-in- cheek attitude.'

Relaxing in an Arts Theatre rehearsal-room strewn with Glitterabilia (Leigh brandishes a GG jigsaw), the pair reflect on lives bedecked with Glitter. They first discovered a mutual love of the hairy-chested chanteur at school in Winchester. 'Our shared love came to us in an ancient history lesson,' Furst recalls. They went on to start a Glam Rock Appreciation Society.

Following impromptu performances at college discos, they soon graduated to a fully-fledged tribute band, the splendidly named All That Glitters, with the raven-haired Leigh as the Leader. The group enjoyed many fine moments during a 150-concert career - such as supporting the Abba tribute band, Bjorn Again, in 1992 but surely none finer than playing on the ferry to Holland. They are, Leigh reveals, still 'available for weddings and bar mitzvahs.'

But the worshippers at the altar of Gary wanted to pay more fulsome tribute and thus the play was conceived. According to Furst, the piece is 'missionary work . . . like all missionaries we like thrusting things on people.' Leader], a loving biography complete with six different Glitter outfits and five live songs ('Do You Wanna Touch Me? (Oh Yeah),' 'Hello, Hello, I'm Back Again,' 'I'm the Leader of the Gang (I Am),' 'I Love You Love Me Love,' and 'Oh Yes] You're Beautiful'), charts a career with more ups and downs than Alton Towers. 'He's had some gloriously disastrous moments,' Furst laughs. Most notable among these were his 1974 kung fu movie audition and the 1981 'Rocky Circus Tour', in which Gary teamed up with Gerry Cottle to become 'Leader of the Ring'. 'It was an idea very, very ahead of its time,' says Furst. But the world wasn't ready for it. The show closed after four nights.

Glitter was declared bankrupt in 1980, and spent a few 'wilderness years' in New Zealand. He made a comeback on the 'chicken in a basket' circuit in the early 1980s, until student entertainment officers, who had enjoyed Gary in their youth, started booking him for college dos. A star was reborn. Heinz soup and British Rail joined the queue for his services in adverts. 'This is the essence of the play,' Leigh muses, 'that Gary's a real fighter.'

Last summer Furst and Leigh led Leader] to Edinburgh, where they indulged in some of the tackiest PR since Freddie Starr's hamster-eating exploits. They handed out condoms marked 'Come on] Come on]' and drove around the city in a silver Mini adorned with a giant platform shoe on the roof.

Glitterati from Belgium and Denmark have booked tickets for Leader], and a theatre company in Germany has expressed interest in the rights to the show. Furst is not surprised: 'It's a timeless piece of drama. I can see Jonathan Miller setting it in 1930s Chicago.'

Next up Furst and Leigh are planning either The Lena Zavaroni Story or The Gary Numan Story - 'a short five- minute vignette' - but for the moment they admit to being enslaved by 'an obsession that has got completely out of control,' as Leigh puts it. They have seen Glitter live 50 times, and Furst claims to have turned his lavatory into a GG shrine. They are hopeful of 'meeting their Maker' when Gary comes to the show later in this run. 'We never tire of him,' says Furst. 'We look at the lyrics, and, like born again Christians re-reading the Bible, we always find new things in them.'

'Leader] - The Gang's Tribute to Gary Glitter' is at the Arts Theatre, London, WC2 (071 836 2132), booking to 30 July

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
'Africa' will be Angelina Jolie's fifth film as a director

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Arts and Entertainment
Bryan Cranston will play federal agent Robert Mazur in The Infiltrator

Books
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines