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Tuesday, 9 March, 1999, 10:14 GMT
O'Donnell-mania hits the Internet
daniel o'donnell
Daniel O'Donnell: Still lives in his County Donegal village
Easy-listening superstar Daniel O'Donnell is following in the footsteps of David Bowie and Mick Jagger - by hosting a web chat with his fans.

The 37-year-old Irishman is holding the chat on Microsoft's Internet service MSN on Tuesday night - and the site is hoping that his army of fans will kick their children and grandchildren off their PCs for the night and settle down for an intimate cyberspace chat with their hero.

MSN's Gillian Kent is hoping the fans that make regular pilgrimages to see O'Donnell will be able to join him on the Internet.

"We are expecting to see a new kind of surfer. We've had George Michael on before, but we are quietly confident Daniel will outdo him given the loyalty of his fans around the world."

Lives with his mother

During the 1990s, O'Donnell has become one of the biggest names in popular music, but without attracting the same press attention as his younger counterparts like the Spice Girls and Take That.

He lives with his mother in the County Donegal village of Kincasslagh, and regularly hosts tea parties for 7,000 fans - many of whom are in their 60s and 70s.

A recent ad for the Irish national lottery featured a grandmother dreaming of him singing to her, while O'Donnell-mania inspired a stage show in London - Women On The Verge Of HRT.

The Irish Tourist Board estimates he is responsible for 60 per cent of all tourism in Donegal - and most of his fans stay in the Viking House Hotel, which the singer built in 1992.

'Genuinely loves his fans'

His spokeswoman Alison Griffin feels his concern for his fans is what has made him so popular.

"I think he genuinely loves what he does, and he loves his fans. He's concerned about them, and he's very accessible to them. His fans will tell you how he phones them when they are ill, or how he dedicates songs to them at his concerts."

But she admits his success may not translate easily onto the Internet, a medium often seen as being dominated by younger people.

"It will be interesting how many of his fans will log on to the chat. But a lot of them will have children who are well-versed in using the Internet, so if they do have a problem then I'm sure they'll be able to help," said Ms Griffin.

Won't be competing for Internet fame yet

O'Donnell will be conducting the chat from MSN's offices in London, which will also launch the revamp of his record company RMG's site.

But he isn't in a position to compete with David Bowie and Mick Jagger, who have become as big on the Net as they have in the rock charts.

Griffin said: "He wants to learn as much about the Internet as he can himself. I think he'll get more and more into it as he goes on."

He does have a web page of his own - featuring an apology to fans upset by his decision to stop accepting roses during his shows.

With most of his fans in an age group not renowned for its computer use, MSN may well be thinking that if Daniel O'Donnell can't tempt mature ladies onto the Web, nobody else can.

Daniel O'Donnell's web chat is on MSN's site at 2100 GMT on Tuesday 9 March.

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