Sunday night fever with the Glibb brothers

Ulrika, Tara, Ryvita... everyone who was anyone turned out to be dazzled by the Bee Gees at the LWT studios.
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CRASH BARRIERS are a wonderful thing. They are a nerd magnet. Stick two or three bits of bent steel outside your front gate and I guarantee that within 30 minutes a crowd of rubber-necked anoraks will have materialised, waiting for a sniff of nano-celebrity. At the London Weekend Television studios every Sunday night their patience is rewarded. Because for LWT, Sunday night is party night when they round up daytime celebrities at a loose end and get them in the studios to quiz and chat. On a chilly night last September they were there to be An Audience with the Bee Gees. So was I. It was the longest two hours of my life.

First I must run the gauntlet of autograph hunters ("Oozat?" "Nobody") and stand in the foyer as Merc after Merc disgorges a stream of VIPs. Well, they're obviously VI to somebody but I'm a bit out of my depth. The crowd is wetting itself and calling out something. It sounds like "Ryvita" but it can't be.

This is starting to get a bit silly. I feel like a High Court judge. Who are these people? Finally I give in and turn to the amiable goon in black at my side. He's got a large hearing aid so presumably if I ask him any difficult questions someone can feed him the answers (a bit like Martyn Lewis only better built).



"Who is that?" He did tell me. Only I've forgotten.

I went back to watching them all file before the LWT photographer, who was immortalising the special guests in the classic Saturday Night Fever pose. Well, most of the guests.

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson arrived (registering zero on the nerdometer outside, incidentally). She and I seem to differ on exactly what constitutes Smart Casual. One of us had interpreted this as an ivory silk backless gown and kinky boots. Anyway, in she comes and makes for the lift, which will take her to the free drinks upstairs. As she passes, the spotty Herbert helping the photographer signals to the snapper in dumbshow behind her back.

"Want Tara?"

The photographer, finger on the pulse, knows that Tara's hour has probably been and gone, that by November she will probably have ceased to exist anywhere outside Nigel Dempster. "Naah."

Tara aside, the rest of the audience seems to be on an LWT works outing; is it in their contracts, or just their best interests, to appear on these junkets? They're billed as guests but they're all performing like mad. Queen of celebrity guests must surely be Ulrika Jonsson: pretty face, pretty body and the ability to suggest that she is having the Time of her Life. Not only does she hand-jive with enormous enthusiasm she also asks a question. But then again everybody asks a question. Often the same question, just in case one of the celebrities implodes before transmission date. And every "question" is a cue for a song.

I am not a big Bee Gees fan. I was a bit young for them first time around and Far Too Hip during the big Night Fever comeback. And now that irony has made hasbeens a thing of the past, we get them again on their own Audience With.

LWT has been exploiting this useful and attractive format since 1980. They used to specialise in famous people who could entertain an audience of other famous people just by standing centre stage and reeling off a few polished anecdotes. Kenneth Williams, Billy Connolly, Peter Ustinov, Jackie Mason. Now we're down to the Bee Gees. They are clearly efficient writers of pop songs, but raconteurs they ain't.

After a few drinks the crowd is herded into the studio and cheers obligingly as our three heroes stride in. A very young hack at my side asks me which is which. He's asking me? Together we work out that the bouffant Buffalo Bill lookalike is Barry, the bald one in the hat is Maurice and the Lou Reed wannabe in the little black shades is the other one. We could be wrong. They all look like someone's dad. Not my dad, obviously, but someone's. In fact they've got about four dozen children between them. I know this because somebody asked. That's the level of question we get. They're not questions at all, really, just a chance for a close-up. Everyone is rewarded with a name-check and a smarmy little compliment: "We're all big fans of yours." Either the Gibb brothers make a superhuman effort to keep up with British soaps and gameshows or the producer is frantically muttering into their earpieces: "Her name's Ryvita, she's in breakfast TV." Riveting stuff.

"What drives you now?'

"It's corny but we love music." Belinda Carlisle probes away: "Where do you get the inspiration for your songs?" "For me it comes in the middle of the night," says Barry. There is a lot of this kind of thing.

The double entendre is actually more excruciating than the songs. Unless of course you like the Bee Gees, who have, after all, given Pleasure to Millions. The production was slick and they performed well. Most of the singing and backing was live, and they didn't try any of that "Here's a little something from the new album" nonsense. It was hits all the way. But it was like being given a lift by someone with a top-of-the-range stereo and terrible taste.

As we near the finale we all have to stand up, clap our hands over our heads and boogie. Ulrika boogies, Tara boogies, David Ginola boogies, Frank Bruno boogies, and the tireless superstars power through another helium hit. "You should be dan-cing," they squeak. Only I'm not.