(As mirrored from the scotsman.com)

Tartan Day thrives on kilts and the city

NEW York proved to be the city that never sleeps for Boswell who took on its 24-hour party people lifestyle with an enthusiasm that made five nights in the world’s greatest city seem like five years.

After arriving in time to catch a vibrant 6th Avenue parade on Saturday featuring 1,400 pipers from all corners of the globe, including own our Earl of Caithness resplendent in his Highland garb, dinner in the very Sex and the City surroundings of Greenwich Village preceded an unscheduled visit to late-night drinking hole The Spotted Pig.

REM’s lead singer, Michael Stipe, has an interest in the British-style pub and in the very wee hours there, in one of its corners, could be seen the great man himself sipping insouciantly on a glass of vino.

Not wishing to cause a stir, it was only when Stipe made a temporary exit on to the street outside that introductions could be made, especially as the singer found himself in the unusual position of having his re-entry to the establishment blocked by a locked door. Leaping from his barstool, Boswell was more than happy to play the unusual role of temporary doorman to a multi-millionaire rock musician, but could not resist saying “I’m sorry I’ve got to do this,” before thrusting out a proffered hand. “Thanks man,” said Stipe nonchalantly after shaking hands, leaving Boswell grateful for such a New York moment.

It was a shame that the same could not be said for Scotland’s first man Sir Sean Connery, who pitched up to a Dressed to Kilt fashion show at Sotheby’s on Monday in a mood that could only be described as black as thunder.

His exchange with Scotland Today presenter Nichola Kane, when he batted off her routine questions about the evening with his own grilling of her, was bizarre.

Ms Kane explained: “It would have been quicker for him to trot out a bland quote on how good it was to showcase the Scottish kilt or just say sorry I have nothing to say, rather than ask me these strange questions.

“The sad thing is I’ve interviewed people like Bill Clinton and Michael Douglas before who were both charming, yet our own biggest star is rude to me for the second time, as he once told me that talking to people like me ‘gave him a sore throat’.”

In the flesh Sir Sean has real presence and perhaps it might have been that he was feeling tetchy after having a dram or two – certainly something he alluded to in his speech before the models came sashaying down the catwalk.

Another explanation could be his age – a theory proffered by the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, George Reid MSP.

“People forget that Sir Sean is quite an old man,” explained the likeable George.

“I remember taking him round on a private tour of the new Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood and because the lifts weren’t working we had to climb up the stairs. After going up one flight I turned round and he was visibly exhausted.

“He has reached an age where he doesn’t like delay and wants decisions and things to happen quickly.”

• Boswell will be in Perthshire for a week of fishing on the Tay to recover from the delights of New York so Lyons takes charge again. The highlight of the week will be Saturday’s Ayr races which are expected to draw large crowds eager to catch a slice of our version of the Grand National at Aintree that finished in such thrilling style. Expect bands, top-quality racing and the odd pint of beer.

Rugby star Chalmers tackles the catwalk

ONCE proceedings had been wrapped up at Sotheby’s it was over to Jimmy’s Downtown for the after-show party, where the wine flowed freely, as did the cigarettes once the proprietor’s other half decided the lady was not for puffing away out of doors.

Present were the Dressed to Kilt organisers Geoffrey Scott Carroll and Peter Morris, as well as the former Scottish fly half Craig Chalmers, who professed to be relieved after making his New York catwalk debut.

“Although I’ve been out to New York before on a rugby tour against America it certainly did not involve much modelling,” Craig said over a foaming pint.

“I was quite pleased that the rugby ball I threw into the crowd came back and the SRU should be pleased that their tartan and rugby shirt got a New York airing. The kilts tonight look fantastic and are very stylish so lots of guys should wear them.

“Careerwise I have just finished playing for the Pertemps Bees so I’m hoping to return to Scotland but am on the lookout at the moment for something.

“Obviously what happened to Scottish rugby during the last Six Nations competition was very disappointing but they’ve got to give Matt Williams 18 months at the job before any verdicts can be made. The older players in the squad also need to stand up and be counted when teams go through troughs like these.”

Before departing to embark on another failed attempt to return to his hotel room at a sensible hour, Boswell inadvertently did his good deed for the day by picking up and handing in a diamond bracelet that had been dropped on the floor. It turned out to have 36 diamonds on it, belong to someone who was grateful to have it back and be worth at least £50,000.

Hamming it up in high fashion

POOR old Jack McConnell managed to grab more headlines than some of the film stars present at Dressed to Kilt by his adventurous choice of a Howie Nicholsby pinstripe kilt. But, to be fair to the First Minister, the evening was very much about hamming it up and he was promoting a young Scottish designer.

Perhaps next time a darker shirt, rather than the traditional white lace-up ghillie job that he wore, would have not have had the cynics sneering so.

As for the Presiding Officer donning such kit, forget it. With a chuckle George Reid said: “These modern kilts are all well and good but a man in my time of life has a very clear idea of what a kilt is and what it isn’t when it comes to actually wearing an outfit myself.”

Either way, the star of the fashion show, kicked off by the dignified Earl of Caithness, was the singer Huey from the Fun Lovin’ Criminals who seemed determined to break the non-smoking rule of Sotheby’s on or off the catwalk and who should be over in Glasgow for the summer’s T in the Park festival.

Glasgow fashionista Kelly Cooper Barr kept the Scottish end up with her warmly received foray down the catwalk in an elegant hat – something also contributed to by Edinburgh milliner Yvette Jelfs.

The reinvention of the kilt from leather to cord to pinstripe certainly got the thumbs up from the New York fast set with abstract painter extraordinaire Stefanie Ashby saying: “It’s really cool what they’ve done with the kilt and some of the models are doing it with a great attitude and energy. I’m going to have to now go over there to check out my Scottish side.”

The excitement of the show also seemed to go to the heads of some of the US photographers in the pit who were on the point of threatening to shoot each other rather than the fashion show.

As temperatures rose over securing the best vantage point the bouncers came up with the ultimate deterrent by stealing two of the offender’s lenses forcing him to give chase. An enquiry from one of the Scottish snappers present asked as to what the guy’s problem was gained the response from a local lensman: “Nah he ain’t got no problem. He’s just an a**hole.”

Otherwise Kyle MacLachlan was dressed head to toe in the Vivienne Westwood-designed red tartan of his own family, which hails from the shores of Loch Fyne.

The Twin Peaks and Sex and the City star said: “I’m actually off to the west coast of Ireland soon for a week of golf and have just finished making a film called Touch of Pink with the British actor Jimmi Mistry. I got to play Cary Grant which was great for me as I’m a big admirer of his.”

The former Monarch of the Glen star, Alastair MacKenzie, was decked out in a brown corduroy Howie Nicholsby outfit and was looking tanned and relaxed having spent the previous two months in Egypt on a camel. Sharing Boswell’s predilection for the filthy weed the pair braved the arctic winds to step outside to indulge their habit.

“I have just returned from two months filming a remake of Death on the Nile with James Fox and Daisy Donovan in Egypt which was fantastic,” said the affable Al in between puffs on his Camel Light.

“Not only did we get to spend a lot of time riding around the place on camels but there was a chance to take in the sights so it was another day another temple. After really enjoying my time on Monarch of the Glen I’m living in London but do try and get up to Perthshire as often as I can to see my family. I’d love to do another film so I’m currently on the hunt for work.”

Alastair also regaled a tale of his own brief encounter with the REM singer, Michael Stipe, in London.

“I was walking down Old Compton Street on my way to a dinner party when I walked past Michael Stipe. I agonised over whether to say anything but could not stop myself from going up to him to tell him what a fan I was. Unfortunately when I got to the dinner who should be among the guests but Michael Stipe himself!”

Good to know that even the celebrities can get starstruck themselves sometimes.

Quaffing with the comics

THE evening continued over the 44th Street road, so to speak, in the St Andrew’s Bar, which as New York’s sole Scottish watering-hole, was the natural venue to toast the finale of a hugely successful Tartan Week.

Riotous skirlers the Gutty Slippers, who had distinguished themselves with their Broadway debut a couple of hours earlier at the Icons event, duly blasted out the late-night drinkers with some rousing tunes which went down a storm with those New Yorkers who had stumbled in unawares.

Just as Boswell was about to put away his pad and pencil there propping up the bar could be seen two of Britain’s finest comic exports, Eddie Izzard and Dylan Moran. Black Books star Moran was in town as part of a British and Irish Comedy Invasion sponsored by BBC America Comedy Live.

Izzard, in a masculine rather than feminine guise, said: “I’m over here filming a movie in New York called Romance and Cigarettes which should be out in the autumn. I had no idea this Scottish thing was going on but it’s great and quite an atmosphere.”

The St Andrew’s Bar is run by Martin and Mark Whelan and throughout Tartan Week became the unofficial filling station for the Scots and is certainly the place to head for next year’s celebrations, plans for which are already afoot. Boswell will check his diary nearer the time but if so would try to avoid treating the New York nightlife like the last days of Rome again.

Scott happy to get back to his roots in the Big Apple

IF EVER the Scottish powers that be give out gongs for film stars who do not forget their roots, then Dougray Scott should be at the front of the queue. The star of Enigma interrupted his filming schedule to attend a Scottish Executive Central Park shindig, which was followed by an excellent Scottish Screen dinner. He also attended Dressed to Kilt and the closing event the Icons of Scotland dinner at the Hudson Theatre on Broadway.

Currently working on a project with the director Walter Salles in New York the Scot more than flew the flag for his homeland although this may have also had something to do with a potentially lucrative contract with clothing company Pringle.

Dinner at the Icons do was marinated Scottish salmon and fillet of beef garnished with mushroom haggis whipped up by the prize-winning Balmoral Hotel’s Jeff Bland. Sharing Dougray’s table the film star told Boswell that he still found time in between films to catch up with his beloved Hibs.

“I went to both the Rangers and Livingston Cup games,” said Dougray. “Beating Rangers in the semis was a great achievement and no more than a Hibs team packed with loads of exciting young talent deserved, so it really was disappointing to go on and then lose to Livingston. My young boy was especially gutted as he’s already become about as fanatical a follower as I am.”

Dougray met and posed for a picture with the now New York based protégé of Ewan McGregor, Ziggy Payton. Because the actor is currently on location on an extended motorbike tour of the world McGregor’s Spirit of Scotland prize was picked up by the 21-year-old Ziggy, who hopes to become a star. Both are former pupils of Crieff’s Morrison’s Academy.

The Scotland Magazine and VisitScotland Tartan Day shindig was co-hosted by the Edinburgh literary colossus Roddy Martine, who said in his speech: “I’d always wanted to appear on stage on Broadway though I suspect this will probably be the first and last time I do so. I was discussing New York moments with my friend Ed Black but what could be more of a New York moment than being on Broadway with a former Oscar winning actor Cliff Robertson.”

But once he had finished his master of ceremonies duties Roddy recounted his own tale about a night that week in the nearby legendary Algonquin Hotel with its Round Table of lit wits.

“Our party included the vivacious Glasgow designer Jilli Blackwood who managed something quite momentous,” added Roddy.

“She was asked to lower her voice in the Algonquin.” But the ghosts of former habitués such as the Twenties’ writer, Dorothy “One more drink and I’d have been under the host,” Parker, would doubtless have nodded in silent approval of such behaviour.

The post dinner prize-draw included a set of three photographs donated by The Scotsman which were greatly appreciated by Greenock-born freelance travel writer Ian Keown – now based in New York.