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Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Almond books place in fans' hearts
Marc Almond reading at Border's Bookshop
Almond wrote the book while living in New York
Former Soft Cell frontman Marc Almond has released a book, The End of New York, in the same week as his new album Stranger Things.

BBC News Online's Ian Youngs was at the book launch in London.

Once upon a time, pop stars were real people who wrote their own songs and had proper personalities.

Marc Almond was one of them - a fact proven by the presence of 300 fans to hear him read from his new book 20 years after his heyday.

Try looking up Noel from Hear'Say in 20 years time and you can bet that he will not be followed by hundreds of people every time he pops into a bookshop.

Fan-club convention

Marc's appearance at Borders on London's Oxford Street was to plug The End of New York - not that many people needed much persuading.

In fact, it was less of a reading and more of a fan-club convention. Marc spent five minutes reading from the book and another half-hour taking questions from the floor - of which absolutely none were about this collection of stories, poems and lyrics.

The fans had gathered early on the shop's second floor, sandwiched between Health and Gardening.

They obviously hold Marc in a very special, if nostalgic, place.

All but a few were over 35, and have changed as little as he has.

Fans at Marc Almond's book reading at Border's Bookshop
Hundreds of long-time fans turned up
There were ageing guys with one earring and tattoos poking out of black vests, and women with big, black hair not seen since the mid-eighties.

When Marc appeared, wearing a black leather jacket and rose-tinted glasses, he began preaching to the converted. It is lucky that he does not expect to convert anyone new with this book, written while in the Big Apple - because he won't.

Martin Amis and Will Self would not be much good on Top of the Pops - and, not unsurprisingly, Marc Almond has not translated Soft Cell's sleazy beats and desperate vocals into literary greatness.

The subject matter hasn't changed much, though.

Porn joints

For the reading, he decided to treat us to a story called Chi Chi La Rue's Night at the Eros.

The Eros, he told us, was one of New York's last great male porn joints. It has now been torn down and turned into a burger bar - but Marc managed to salvage the blue neon Eros sign, which now hangs in his house.

"The hustlers circled the customers and the crack dealers circled the hustlers," he read.

"The monitor, dishing out tokens for [video] booths, is paid a couple of dollars to turn a blind eye... Customer and hustler would disappear into a booth and five minutes later the hustler would emerge and slope around the corner to buy some coke or crack. This went on all night and all day."

Interrogation

He never told us how much is fact and how much fantasy, but the story continued to detail the place's glorious pre-hot dog days of strip shows, red velvet seats and a transvestite called Chi Chi.

But Eros is no more and the reading did not last long - leaving the flamboyant star to open himself up to his die-hard fans' interrogation.

That is not a fate many singers would subject themselves to, but without any big-money backing, he needs his fans more than ever.

And they - it seems - still need him.

When are you bringing out a video of the Union Chapel show? Why don't you record an acoustic version of that album? When are you going to play in Switzerland?

Marc Almond signing copies of his book at Border's Bookshop
Almond signed copies of the book after the reading

Questions came about all parts of his career - except for the book. But he answered them nonetheless - and answered them with a smile.

And in the course of his answers, we found out a few interesting facts that will have set Marc Almond message boards alight already.

Mini-album

He turned down an offer from Andrew Lloyd Webber to star in a musical, he said, adding that musicals are things you do in the twilight of your career - before realising he's going to be touring with the Pet Shop Boys soon and that they might take offence.

He also revealed that he may play a show at London's ultra-posh Royal Opera House and that he has been recording with Brit-Asian band Black Star Liner and DJ Mekon - which could result in a mini-album.

Clutching the book-and-CD packs, the fans queued to get them signed before their idol was taken to a TV studio where he was to appear on Gloria Hunniford's Channel 5 chat show.

The fans were happy to have had their audience with Marc, and many insisted that his work now is just as good, if not better, than it was 20 years ago - even if his name is unlikely to appear on the Booker shortlist.

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16 Mar 01 | Entertainment
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