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Six degrees

Rachael Barker

 

Andrea Bocelli is due to perform in front of his Hong Kong fans on Friday. The Italian tenor was born with congenital glaucoma then lost his sight entirely at the age of 12 when, defending the goal in a football match, he was hit on the head by the ball and suffered a brain haemorrhage. Doctors, fighting to save his one good eye, even resorted to leeches but their efforts were in vain. The biggestselling artist in the history of classical music has been introduced on stage with the words, “If God had a singing voice, he would sound a lot like Andrea Bocelli”, by Celine Dion …

 

The youngest of 14 children, the Quebecker Canadian has come a long way from her poverty-stricken childhood – during which she was nicknamed Vampire Queen at school due to her sharp features – since winning the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest, for Switzerland, oddly. The doyenne of excruciatingly sentimental pop ballads has dipped her toe into acting but her breakthrough was denied by the failure of talks that would have seen her star in Runaway Bride alongside Richard Gere …

 

The American actor returned to the Oscars ceremony this year following a two-decade ban for anti-China comments he made in 1993. His long career has seen him turn down lead roles in cult classics Die Hard and Wall Street, while the parts for which he is most famous – in Days of Heaven (1978), American Gigolo (1980) and An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) – were all first offered to John Travolta. Gere was on Hong Kong television screens recently – in an appearance branded “tiresome” and “tedious” by the British press – on a BBC talk show hosted by Graham Norton … 

 

The 50-year-old Irish presenter, who was raised Protestant in a predominantly Catholic nation, has little respect for his more sanctimonious countrymen. “People like Bono really annoy me,” he said. “He goes to hell and back to avoid paying tax … And then he’s asking me to buy a well for an African village. Tarmac the road outside your house, you tight-wad!” Norton’s career could have taken a very different direction: he auditioned for the role of Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of The Rings …

 

The trilogy, which took up 1,770 kilometres of film, was shot over 18 months, during which time a few of the actors came of age. After a night out drinking in Wellington, New Zealand, the pesky hobbits climbed to the top of the city’s iconic Bucket Fountain and urinated into the highest receptacle, which, as bucket fountains are wont to do, then tipped over and spilt its load into all the other buckets, according to an anecdote relayed by Elijah Wood (Frodo) to standup comedian and TV host Jay Leno …

 

The American presenter, who turns 63 today, is a renowned petrolhead and seasoned Monopoly player (he likes to play with real money). Leno’s motor collection encompasses 190 vehicles, including 90 motorbikes. In 2006, the badger-haired comic and presenter wowed his live audience by eating, on air, his first vegetable in 37 years. Leno has had two tenures as a full-time host on NBC’s The Tonight Show – the first from 1992; the second from 2010, when he returned with an inaugural show featuring guest star Andrea Bocelli.
 

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