Rundown Rhyl enjoys a night of Hollywood dreaming

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Rhyl, a town which has been waiting for a good lick of paint for the past 20 years, suddenly couldn't move for the stuff yesterday.

Rhyl, a town which has been waiting for a good lick of paint for the past 20 years, suddenly couldn't move for the stuff yesterday.

Sky blue, navy blue, sunshine yellow - it's all been thrown at the walls of the five-screen Apollo multiplex cinema where posters were warning of "wet paint everywhere" and industrial carpet cleaners were slogging over the red foyer carpet, attempting to restore its original garishness.

By tonight, they will have rolled out another red carpet and braced themselves, one last time, for what is a mix of the surreal and the unthinkable: the arrival of Tinseltown in Rhyl.

By a spectacular stroke of good fortune, the faded north Wales resort, whose best claim to fame is local girl Carol Vorderman (and even she is strictly from up-coast Prestatyn), has landed the British film premiÿre of one of the biggest Hollywood movies of the year, the Jim Carrey comedy Me, Myself and Irene.

No matter that the film, which makes comedy out of schizophrenia, has repelled some critics in the United States. Its arrival has already worked the locals up into a lather and the Wales on Sunday newspaper into a positive froth. "Some of Wales' hottest stars will be out in force for the glitzy premiÿre [which is] every bit as glamorous as the US and London screenings," the paper bubbled last weekend.

A Welsh designer, Julien Macdonald, dressed the actress Joely Richardson and the former television presenter Kelly Brook for their daring recent London film premiÿre appearances and so Rhyl, quite rightly, expects the same. "We are looking for the glamour on the night," pronounced one organiser, yesterday.

Since neither Freddie Starr, Ricky Tomlinson, nor Vanessa Feltz offer terribly much off-the-shoulder - let alone backless - potential, the townspeople who will congregate behind 20 specially erected crash barriers for a glimpse of something chic tonight may be disappointed.

There'll certainly be no sign of real stars here, like Jim Carrey or the glamorous tennis player Anna Kournikova (who has a cameo role in the film).

"We've said from day one that we can't expect Jim Carrey to come from Hollywood to Rhyl," admitted the chief organiser, Doug Mortimer, yesterday. "Freddie [Starr] is high on the list but he's not that predictable, even if he does accept."

Stars of television series such as Vets in Practice, Airport and Hollyoaks are all among Mr Mortimer's "irons in the fire". The good news is that Neighbours star Sarah Vanderburgh and girl band Atomic Kitten have promised to show up.

Voels, the local coach company, doesn't care who is famous among the 743 people - many of them ordinary locals - who have paid £45 a head to fill the Apollo's five cinemas and watch the film tonight. Its drivers will be on hand to chauffeur them 400 yards along the seafront to the bar of the New Pavilion Theatre which the lads from Rhyl football club are tarting up for a slap-up party with free bar. "We've budgeted for £15 a head and are hoping for the best," said Mr Mortimer, optimistically.

The man who has bestowed this fleeting fame on Rhyl, however, will be at the premiÿre.

Paul Higginson passed through Rhyl football club's ranks as a teenager before leaving for a law degree and is now vice-president of Twentieth Century Fox and assistant managing director of the football club. He didn't attend a single match last season or this but offered the premiÿre when asked to fundraise for the club.

Dave Norrey would shake his hand if he had half a chance. He's manager of the Greenwoods gentlemen's clothing store in the town to which Rhyl's menfolk have flocked for their DJs for the Pavilion do. "We've hired 20 or so," said Mr Norrey. "They all want to get dresed up nicely for it."

Jackie Fell's Grade One hairdressing salon is rather feminine but the Welch Fusiliers bandsmen who will perform tonight have still been trooping in for their short back and sides. Even Stephanie Watts, who runs a barber's shop four miles away in Rhuddlan, has enjoyed a lift in trade. "The gents want to look the part too," she said.

The traders need all the help they can get since Rhyl is shockingly faded. First Leisure, a big investor, moved out several years ago leaving only local companies and Denbighshire's debt-ridden council to fund the resort's attractions.

The Pavilion Theatre manager, Gareth Owen, insisted that Rhyl is accustomed to the big time. "We've had the likes of Boyzone and All Saints performing here," he said. But when the tinsel has gone, it will be to the sounds of the rather less esteemed Fathead and Fudged group that Rhyl prom will see out Saturday evening.

"So much is resting on this one," said Mr Mortimer. "It's symbolic. We've got to get the positive feelings back in this place and this is the way to start."

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