'Prop idol' Pete begins hunt to fill Saatchi space

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The Independent Online

* When the pop baron (and landlord) Pete Waterman evicted Charles Saatchi from his prestigious gallery at London's County Hall in 2003, it was assumed that Waterman would seek more conventional replacement tenants.

A difficult relationship had become fraught as Saatchi scattered nuisance modern art exhibits about the building - a bronze sleeping bag in a corridor corner; an unloaded builder's skip in the main entrance hall; a mini suddenly parked halfway down the stairs.

Waterman now wants to turn the 300,000 square feet he runs over to young artists and creative businesses, however, to create an "ideas village" championing upcoming home talent. The British Phonographic (record) Industry has already moved in.

"We will have recording studios, artists and people who want to make bars of soap," he tells me. "Estate agents are cynical and want us to rent it as office space to some boring IT departments. The agents think we have lost the plot because we turned them away and tore up the rules.

"But Britain is a small country on a world map and I want us to still have the best ideas in the future. We are looking for about 30 or 40 businesses."

Waterman credits Saatchi's "beautiful" gallery for drawing crowds to the South Bank of the Thames but says: "It was becoming a nightmare. You'd walk around the building scared to touch anything, because you're not sure if it is a crisp packet someone has left on the stairs or Charles's art."

* When Touching the Void mountaineer Joe Simpson was stranded on a peak in the Andes - starved, dehydrated, and alone with a broken leg - he prepared to die.

There was no bright light, soothing calm, or vision of his family. Instead, he found the cheddar-tastic 1978 song Brown Girl in the Ring flying around his mind on a loop. "I remember thinking," Simpson recalls, "Bloody hell. I'm going to die to Boney M."

So should the West End's Shaftesbury Theatre - where the Boney M musical Daddy Cool has finally premiered - plan to sell Kendal Mint Cake during the interval, alongside those funny little pots of ice cream?

"No!" exclaims a lady in Simpson's office when I call. "Absolutely no way is Joe going. He hates Boney M."

Apparently he never particularly liked the record in the first place, and would rather go back up the mountain.

* Giorgio Armani's £1.5m party, sponsored by Peroni, was the most lavish to have graced London Fashion Week. Guests included Leonardo DiCaprio, Beyoncé, Bono and Andrea Bocelli.

Bryan Ferry and Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes spoke earnestly to me about Aids in Africa. I loitered by Armani's table, but he doesn't speak English and "Dov'è la stazione?" seemed out of place. So it was funnier to embark on a mercy mission to our eclipsed C-list celebs.

Calum Best, son of George, first: what did he think of the genocide in Darfur, asked my colleague Johann Hari? A boggle-eyed Best squeaked: "It's all right."

It-girl Lady Victoria Hervey told us she arrived late and missed 50 Cent. "My Maltese Terrier had an accident everywhere. I spent ages clearing it up.

"That's not very glamorous, is it?" No.

* What secret might Lembit Opik have squirreled away? Pandora reported last week that when the amiable Lib Dem, engaged to weatherwoman temptress Sian Lloyd, was asked if he had hidden demons akin to those which destroyed the careers of three frontbench colleagues, he replied that he was "as flawed as the next person".

A reader writes: "I have got to know and to observe Lembit well. If there is a skeleton in his closet, it is that he was an inveterate charmer of young female researchers in a group, rather than individually, and got on reasonably well with the blokes too.

"He is highly (and successfully) sociable. His 'people skills' are definitely in the top quartile. I know of no concealed negative attributes whatever."

* Halt your mortgage repayments, buy a speedboat, and bulk buy tinned food, gin, tonic and lime: the end of our so-called civilisation may be nigh.

Montezuma's Aztecs had it coming when Hernan Cortés and his conquistadors rang the temple doorbell, while Rome's corrupt elite should have realised that their gluttony for banquets and young boys was fatal. For us, the warning sign is surely that the 2007 calendar starring Page 3 model Keeley (20, from Kent) has reached the top-10 bestsellers on Amazon's book chart.

Keeley does contribute "news in briefs" to the red-tops - for instance berating the "rush" of immigrants; or "soft-touch judges".

I have ordered a copy of the literature, in case I am rushing to judgement on this. Expect a review.