pounds 130m buys you a lot of canapes - but not a lot else

DICKIE FANTASTIC on the schmooze
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The Independent Culture
It is Thursday night, and as darkness falls on "the most significant day in the history of the computer age" I am heading towards the Grand Celebrity Party to rejoice - along with everyone else in the world - the wildly successful launch of Microsoft Windows '95. All across the globe tonight, even in countries that I've never heard of, folk are celebrating. pounds 130m has been spent on the launch alone (the most money ever for a media launch) and pounds 130m can buy you a lot of balloons and canapes. In Poland, they have launched a submarine to take revellers to the bottom of the sea. In Brazil, people are dancing in the streets and only the golden rays of dawn can put paid to the festivities. The world has been united in joy and happiness.

I am very excited. I have blagged a ticket to the very hub of the British celebrations and am on my way to the Equinox disco in Leicester Square with a swagger in my step. I must admit to a little surprise when I discovered that out of all the locations in Britain they opted for Equinox. Equinox is a poor man's Hippodrome, the Hippodrome is a poor man's Stringfellows - and Stringfellows is a poor man's everything.

Outside, however, five enormous bouncers guard the red carpet and tourists mill excitedly about, taking photographs of everyone in tuxedos and evening gowns. Unfortunately, I soon discover 99 per cent of the tuxedos are being worn by Microsoft middle management, which doesn't stop them from posing for photos or the tourists from taking them. I ask one lady from Ohio why she is using up her film on such esoteric subject matter and she replies: "I thought they were British movie stars."

I look around me at the ungainly rabble - hunched businessmen in ill- fitting dinner suits, ugly hair and cheap spectacles, as they stand and grin for the amateur paparazzi. This says a lot about what the Americans think of us. They honestly believe we'd allow this lot to be our movie stars.

The Windows '95 people have kept the celebrity list very close to their chests, which could only mean one of two things: either the stars in attendance are of such stellar proportions that the leaking of their names could constitute a potential riot - or no stars are coming.

The latter turns out to be the case. pounds 130m has been spent and the best they can do is a Marilyn Monroe lookalike.

"Ooh," she says, blushing breathlessly in a soft and enchanting Marilyn drawl, "I don't understand what's going on. I'm a bit stupid. All these computers."

"Can you do 'Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend'?" I ask.

"No I carrrn't," she snaps, suddenly, in a sharp south London accent. "I'm from Peckham. OK?"

As the party rages around me, I get chatting to Simon and ask him why, exactly, Windows '95 is so fabulous, why it will herald a new Aquarius in our lives.

"It's just unbelievable," he says. "It's huge. Just huge."

"In what way?" I ask.

"Just enormous," Simon replies. "It's revolutionary."

"How?" I ask.

Simon looks flustered.

"Um," he says. "It really is... look. I don't know. OK? I don't understand. I work in accounts. And if you quote me you'd better change my name."

"Would you be sacked for not understanding?" I ask.

"They're very, very sensitive," Simon replies. "Put it that way. Change my name."

"And shall I not mention that you work in accounts?"

"No, it's OK," says Simon. "A lot of people work in accounts."

He looks across the packed dance floor.

"Pretty much everyone you can see," he says, "works in accounts."

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