My pet name for Sharleen

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The Independent Online
Here's a good game, and it's one you can play at home. The aim is to find out what your pseudonym would be should you ever want to become a porn star. So you take the name of the first pet you ever had and put it together with your mother's maiden name. I tried this on Sharleen Spiteri and we discovered that her porn name is Lady Hosie. I like it. The Hosie bit has rather apt phallic overtones and the whole name has a vaguely perverted whiff of lederhosen about it.

But it's unlikely that Sharleen will be applying for a role in Hot Wet Lusty Nymphos Do It Upside Down just yet because she and her band Texas are doing rather nicely thank-you-very-much. Their fourth album, White On Blonde, came out in March and is still in the top 10. Its sales are now approaching the half million mark in this country alone. In Europe it's currently only being outsold by the Spice Girls album. When it's finally released in America at the end of August, the line will probably go off the graph.

And it's not just that the band are successful. Suddenly, after 10 years of existence, Texas are fashionable too. Sharleen says she doesn't know why this has happened, but one of the reasons could be the fact that she's decided to step out into the limelight from the shelter of the band. So there she is on the cover of the latest issue of GQ, and there she is inside "as you've never seen her before" striking rather uncomfortable- looking fashion poses in flimsy frocks - from tomboy rocker to sex siren in one fell swoop.

Sharleen was a hairdresser in Glasgow when she formed the band with her friend Johnny McElhone, who was once in Altered Images. She still has a house there (with a recording studio built in), but she's based in London these days, even if a hectic performing schedule means she's rarely there for very long at a time. The day we met she was leaving for Switzerland to play at a festival, which meant that the interview was largely conducted in a cab between Islington and Heathrow.

I decided to treat the occasion as an opportunity to become a Smash Hits reporter for a day, so I can now tell you that Sharleen's favourite colour is red, her favourite film is Lawrence of Arabia, her favourite book is Perfume by Patrick Suskind and her favourite flowers are lilies. She watches This Life, the three words she would use to describe herself are "ask someone else", her worst vice is biting her finger when she's thinking, and the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to her was bounding on stage at a concert in France and shouting, "Bonjour Lyon!", resulting in boos from the crowd and the sudden realisation that she was in Bordeaux.

Sharleen told me she's "not very rock 'n' roll", which became clear when I asked her if she'd ever thought of doing something outrageous, and she took me to mean bungee jumping. What I really had in mind was throwing TV sets out of hotel windows. "No, I'm the kind of person who would go to throw it out of the window and then think, 'Oh no, there might be someone down there and I don't want to hurt anyone'," she said.

She may be sensible, but she's hardly unadventurous. Climbing and snowboarding are amongst her hobbies ("I like getting out and about") and this Action Woman image is enhanced by the fact that she drives a brand new Land Rover as opposed to some sporty little runabout. She's a down-to-earth kind of person, in other words, and she seems to attract similarly nice, down- to-earth fans, the sort of people who, when they recognise her in the street, will just say politely, "Hiya! Alright?" rather than stalking her every move.

And after 10 years, she knows the job and she knows the procedure. At Heathrow we bade each other farewell. "Oh and don't forget to mention we've got a new single out on Monday," she said as she disappeared.

Why is Noel a party favourite?

NEXT Wednesday, as everybody knows, Noel Gallagher and his wife Meg will attend a drinks party at 10 Downing Street. But the big question is why Noel has been invited but his brother Liam has apparently been snubbed. On the face of it, one would assume that the predilection of the so-called "wildman of rock" for taking cocaine and causing criminal damage to cyclists' sunglasses might have something to do with it, but as the Daily Mail joyfully pointed out last week, the guest list on Wednesday already includes three confessed drug users, including Noel Gallagher himself. I rang 10 Downing Street to ask if they could shed any light on this unfortunate omission, but a spokeswoman told me she couldn't comment on the guest list and that she felt it would be "invidious" to discuss why one person had been invited and another hadn't.

"I presume they're worried that he's going to wreck the place," Andy Coulson told me when I asked him the same question. Coulson edits the country's best pop column, the Bizarre page in the Sun, and bizarrely enough he attended a similar party at Downing Street last week, although he says he has "absolutely no idea" why he was invited to a reception for "leaders in design and the creative industries", as the invitation put it. "It was brilliant," he says. "I had a chat with the PM, you know." And as his readers know, his conversation with Tony Blair was concerned entirely with his current slightly surreal campaign to rehabilitate the career of Leo Sayer. "I remember him. Curly hair, quite a small chap," said the Prime Minister. "Leo Sayer's certainly high on his agenda, I can see that," said Coulson.

But back to next Wednesday night and the other big question: is there a shelf in the gents? "I've no idea," he said.

Ooh aah, that's going too far

THE image of butlers took a bit of a blow last week. First there was the splendidly named butler Percival Hole, who admitted in court having taken his employers' pounds 59,000 Bentley Turbo, which he then sold, spending most of the money on champagne, cocaine and prostitutes. And as if that weren't bad enough, the freelance butler Michael Hardern made an ill-fated attempt to seize control of the board of the Nationwide Building Society, saying he wanted to invite Eric Cantona onto the board and ensure the society's High Street branch doorsteps were clean enough for the homeless to sleep on.

"I must tell you, they're not my people," said Ivor Spencer, who runs the Ivor Spencer International School For Butler Administrators And Personal Assistants and the agency that goes with it. "In 17 years we've worked for the royals, heads of state, embassies, very wealthy people all over the world and of course the top soap stars, and we've never had this. "

I wanted to know if Mr Spencer vetted his butlers before sending them out into the butling world.

"Well the position is," he said in calm, butler-type tones, "the employers usually give them a psychological stress evaluation test or a polygraph test with electrodes to the body, oh yes, or a handwriting test. I think it's called graphology, I'm not certain. Because these people are so wealthy, they've got art treasures and everything, and the insurers won't insure them unless the butler is checked out."

Should you be interested, Mr Spencer's course lasts five weeks and costs pounds 3,255. He says business is booming. "We find people are getting work all the time with our diploma," he told me. "We've got someone going out to one of the Gulf states to run a palace - 125 staff he'll have under him. Amazing!"

Crazy offers are stacking up

I'M delighted to tell you that following my announcement last week of my new Mohamed Al-Fayed "I'll-Scratch-Your-Back" policy on this page, offers of dinner have been flooding in. I shall be responding to them in due course.

Furthermore, in response to my decision to sell off my old clothes, following the lead of Diana, Princess of Wales and Janet Street-Porter, I have received an offer for my stack-heeled boots (circa 1974) from a very nice woman called Esther at Crazy Clothes Collection in Notting Hill. Sadly, there are still no takers for the Jasper Conran camel coat and the white waterproof jacket that makes me look like a lollipop man.

Proud of his racing frame

FOR some of us, today is a very sad day because it marks the end of this year's Tour de France. If you're an aficionado, then the three weeks of the Tour is the highlight of the sporting summer, and far more exciting than any test match or Wimbledon final. Alexei Sayle is another fan, although he told me from a field somewhere in Essex that sadly he hasn't been able to give it his full attention this year because he's in the middle of filming his latest comedy series.

"It's the ultimate sport and makes every other sport look silly in terms of human sacrifice,"said Alexei. He cycles himself ("mostly just around town to voice-overs and stuff"), although he doesn't really have the build to be a racing cyclist. "Actually I had a bike designed for me by Raleigh's top designer," he told me. "He said I had exactly the same build as Beryl Burton, the women's road racing champion."