Elton John still standing tall after 50 fantastic years

Glittering in a silver costume topped with a 3.5ft wig crowned by a silver galleon and a train of ostrich feathers borne by two semi- naked Adonis-style attendants, Elton John set off for his 50th birthday celebrations last night in a removal van.

The pop star, usually only 5ft 8in, stood 9ft tall in his hand-made period outfit, and the extra height meant he could not travel to the 530-guest bash at Hammersmith Palais, west London, by conventional transport.

Instead, he hired the van - decorated to resemble an 18th-century French drawing-room - to make the short hop from his house in Holland Park. He was hoisted into it on a hydraulic platform along with the two attendants bearing his 35ft silver and white train. As he left the house to gasps from onlookers, Elton said it had taken him more than two hours to get into the pounds 50,000 costume.

In the van, draped in red velvet, were gold thrones for Elton and his friend David Furnish and chairs for the attendants, along with flowers and paintings to amuse them en route. They were probably glad of the entertainment, since their journey was delayed by at least 45 minutes as a result of the traffic chaos generated by his celebrity friends descending on the Palais in a long line of limousines.

The pop group Take That were briefly reunited but tried to hide their identity by wearing masks. The husband-and-wife comedians Dawn French and Lenny Henry arrived dressed as Michael Jackson and his pet monkey, Bubbles.

Guests sat down to a meal of Asian and Chinese food surrounded by thousands of pounds' worth of flowers.

Music was provided by Boy George as DJ, along with a gospel choir.

The singer Paul Young, dressed as a Cavalier, said: "It was the most brilliant thing I have ever seen."

For the American pop star Billy Joel, the party was "totally wild". He said: "It was like being back in the Sixties."

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