Real People: Party On

HAD A FRIGHT this week when I stopped to talk to the professional autograph hunters outside The Avengers bash at the Leopard Lounge. Boy they're scary. There they were, a pack of four, twitching like junkies and threatening innocent bystanders with their pad and pens.

The leader of the pack (he had NHS specs, so I presume it was him) told me he had an 800 autograph collection, although he seemed seriously disinclined to make me his 801st. And thank God (no, really!) because after talking to this lot, it appears that celebs these days cannot merely sign their name and walk on, but must also produce a winning smile, swap baby photos and invite the autograph hunter round to tea at their mum's if they wish to avoid censure.

"Kim Basinger? Ha!" cackled one of the girls (rolling of eyes, conspiratorial gurn at friend) when I asked about their experiences waiting for the stars. "She was a f*****g cow wasn't she? Her and Alec Baldwin, they completely ignored us, walked straight by!" "Yeah, and 'er," piped up the friend (stabbing action towards poster of leather-clad Uma Thurman) "She's even worse!"

So it was just as well that Uma decided not to turn up to the party. Or Ralph, or Sean, or actually anyone remotely involved with The Avengers. There's a trend emerging here of course. That is, big budget American film, lowly British release, and a celeb no-show from the US studios. On the upside, having a celebrity party without celebrities (and I've been to more than my fair share recently) has the advantage of becoming rather fun by default. Frankly, the Fairy Liquid girl couldn't have got her hands on more bubbles than I did that night. And although Suggs on stage wasn't going to tickle me where it counts, Roni Size playing a drum 'n' bass set certainly was.

Alas, while Roni was doing his stuff, I was incapacitated on the OK! magazine leopard skin couch with dear old Ozwald Boateng, who was busy telling me I should have gone to the Eve's Bayou party last week. "I was gettin' on down on the dance floor with Sam Jackson," he drawled. "Which is cool, because I make his clothes."

Whatever, I was more worried about OK!. Desperate pleas by the photo- grapher for me to take my jacket off, look sexy and at least pretend I was famous made me freeze completely, and I was finally booted off in favour of a leggy young model, who presumably didn't suffer similar lockjaw.

Still, I perked up with the arrival of sexois French Connection model and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels star Nick Moran, and finally, the incomparable Grace Jones, who cruised in with Philip Treacey as the party was closing in the wee hours, wearing one of his incredible head creations, a mask with red antennae sticking out from the temples.

La Jones immediately demanded a party restart, antennae wobbling dangerously, but the straggle of pissed hangers on who remained couldn't hold it together, so she sloped off with the lads from Elle for a photoshoot. She's one hell of a lady. I hope they had insurance.

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Well, if Paul Smith likes him, he's good enough for me. We're talking art here, and a young painter called Rob Henson, who is staging an exhibition at the Groucho Club, Soho, and who is a favourite of the designer, who has three of Henson's paintings. While the Groucho always rather reminds me of an old people's home, with its carpets and dodgy intercom, it works well as an exhibition space for Henson's arresting work. Not being an art expert, I fear my descriptions will fail to do Henson critical justice, so let's just say that, apart from the occasional, innocent still life, most of Henson's paintings are playing with the macabre.

The creepy What Evil Lurks in The Gardens of Dulwich? for example, stars a naked podgy lady who is "enjoying her time alone", but who is about to be disturbed by what looks rather like a nasty black insect (which, according to Henson, relfects her own Neuroses), quietly climbing through the adjacent window as she lies does her bit on her bed.

"I'm into fantasy and imagined phobia in my work," murmured the crew- cutted artist. "There's definitely a psychological issue at play." So that'll be why his paintings include Death Bed, Shears, Mauled, Cold Comfort and Anguish then.

Coq a doodle doo. Another day, another dollar at Terence Conran's gastronomic empire. I know I said I wouldn't mention Mr C again in this column, but with Coq D'Argent opening at No. 1 Poultry tomorrow, curiosity had me in a headlock and I sneaked a look. You'll be pleased to know the decor is impeccable in a TC way - great outdoor seating area, lovely private garden, groovy loos. But if design doesn't do it for you, Coq D'Argent has the added amusement factor of having a chef who looks exactly like Bruce Grobbelaar. I don't know if that means the food's in safe hands, but by the smile on Conran's face, I'd say the profits definitely are.

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