TRICIA Baker was angry. In fact, the Phoenix housewife was so angry that she decided to tell the local television station about it. Her problem, as she explained to the nice lady from Channel 10, was this: she thought she was at the front of the queue but discovered hours after she had started to queue that the line would in fact start 10 metres away. She might have to go to the back of the queue now and that might mean that she wouldn't get a front row seat in the bleachers. And if that happened, maybe she wouldn't to do something she had always wanted to do. Which was? To see Patrick Swayze. Not to talk to the star of Dirty Dancing, mind you. Nor even, God forbid, touch him. But just to be able to say she had seen him, perhaps shout 'Patrick, I love you' but, above all, to inhale a little of that most heady of intoxicants: fame. On March 28, 1994, fame came to Phoenix, Arizona. The newspapers called it a restaurant opening but Tricia Baker and her friend Jennifer Arnold knew better. They knew that night would bring their first, and possibly their only chance to see the likes of Swayze, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Whoopi Goldberg, Roseanne Arnold and Geena Davis in the flesh. That was why they had left their husbands at home in bed the night before and, armed with soft drinks, cameras and magazines, headed for a spot on the sidewalk outside the Biltmore Fashion Park shopping complex at 3 am. By the time Channel 10 News got to them at 11 am, they had been joined by some 200 fellow queuers even though the restaurant opening wasn't due to start until 8 pm. 'It's not an opportunity you get every day,' explained Tricia once she had finished airing her grievances on television. 'This is a dead town. Compared to Vegas, there's nothing here. I've been here all my life and there's been nothing like this. Before all we had was a sun parade [they live in the Sun Valley] once a year.' And now they had Swayze, and Jennifer's personal favourite, Jean-Claude Van Damme. That's why they were so upset at possibly losing pole position. That's why a Planet Hollywood opening isn't just a restaurant opening. HONG Kong will find out that for itself on May 29 when Planet Hollywood comes to Canton Road. The hype has it that the opening bash for the 1,900-square metre eatery housed in the old Ocean Theatre will be the biggest starfest Hong Kong has ever seen. Word has it that $8 million will be spent on bringing partners Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Bruce Willis, plus a host of other stars, to town. The idea is that once Hong Kong takes off, Asia will swiftly follow. The truth is this: you'd better believe the hype. If (and here's something Clive James would probably like to get his greying matter around) fame does has a price, then you'll probably find it somewhere on the menu. So successful have Planet Hollywood founders Robert Earl and Keith Barish (the producer of The Fugitive) been in distilling and then selling the essence of fame itself, there's probably a 'celeb-burger' lurking next to the BLT on rye. Planet Hollywood, you see, is about far more than a successful chain of diners with celebrity endorsements. It offers the general public and, one suspects, a fair few of the stars, a chance to embrace fame, to jump up and down and scream about fame, and even to believe in fame. When Planet Hollywood opened in London ($11 million spent, 100 stars present, up to 20,000 spectators) one reporter noted that the fans realised they would attract the attention of TV cameras if they leapt up and down in a frenzy, even when there weren't any stars around. Being a fan is enough in itself. The reality of Planet Hollywood is that only on very rare occasions will you actually get to see a star if you eat there. Going to Planet Hollywood is all about being a fan, about being part of the mechanism of fame. The movie world equivalent of the Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood is all about looking at movie memorabilia, catching movie moments on video monitors, buying T-shirts and bomber jackets, perhaps watching movie makers doing deals over ribs and Evian, and the knowledge that you may be sitting in the same seat that once accommodated Melanie Griffith. 'DOESN'T Melanie Griffith look great in real life,' I murmur to myself between sips of Sol at the exquisite Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Arizona Biltmore Hotel. I am at the kind of cocktail party that most of us only visit during that half hour of fitful sleep between the alarm going off and the bathroom being free. In one corner, Sly Stallone playfully trades mock punches with Danny Glover and Jean-Claude Van Damme. In another, Charlie Sheen and Dennis Quaid look as if they mean serious party business. Whoopi Goldberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger beam at each other at the entrance ... The highlight of any Planet Hollywood opening is the brilliantly-orchestrated arrivals ceremony whereby between 30 and 100 stars step out of limos, traipse along a red carpet to a stage outside the restaurant and chat with Variety columnist Army Archerd, the man who greets celebrities at the Academy Awards. Behind barriers and packed into the temporary stands erected over the past two days are the fans. Baying, whooping, triggering camera flashes as if their lives depend on it, the Tricias and Jennifers get what they came for. But before that happens, the stars have to assemble, sip a tongue-loosener or two and prepare for the hard work ahead. Luke Perry is the first to show. 'Hong Kong?' says the Beverly Hills 90210 nice guy. 'My brother's just been there.' The room starts to fill and weird social groupings emerge. In one corner, the hosts of Saturday Night Live hang out with grizzled rocker Alice (Wayne's World) Cooper while Van Damme and his flamboyant wife Darcy bounce around the room, stopping to pose for pictures with Tom and Roseanne Arnold. The latter looks subdued, eyes darting out nervously from behind cosmetically altered features as if expecting a tabloid journalist to leap out from behind the potted plants. Lori Petty looks a million miles removed from her character in A League Of Their Own while Sheen really does look like a wild man. The most blissfully loving couple have to be Geena Davis and husband, Cliffhanger director Renny Harlin, who tower over the throng. Dennis Quaid looks chunky, James Belushi is extraordinarily tanned, Jerry Garcia looks subdued and Don Johnson looks as if he's building up a head of steam for the fun to come. Swayze looks rather shy but Kirstie Alley is having fun, and isn't that Stevie Nicks in the corner? And so to the venue. The arrivals are carefully timed to build to a crescendo involving the two main men, Stallone and Schwarzenegger (Bruce Willis is working and can't make it). But there are definite standout moments. Alice Cooper is greeted by a supplicatory chorus of 'We're not worthy' from more than 10,000 spectators while Van Damme steals the show by arriving on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Inside, local dignitaries and party-goers wander around the club, checking out the movie memorabilia (a life-sized Terminator model, Indiana Jones accoutrements, Goldberg's habit from Sister Act 2, ingots from Goldfinger and even a bit of topiary from Edward Scissorhands). By the time the stars make it in from their on-stage obligations, it's apparent most of the guests will have to content themselves with saying they had simply been in the same room as stardom. The celebrities get to sit in their own roped-off section, the rest of the party-goers drink, eat and watch the action outside on video monitors. Near the door, though, well-dressed bejewelled women of a certain age (though it's hard to be specific about ages in Silicon Land) line up at the entrance, snapping pictures and trying to chat to the stars as they turn up. Outside, Stallone milks the crowd, tossing T-shirts, shaking hands and compounding the impression that he's a genuinely nice guy. Once the Governor has officially opened the club, it's time for the band to kick off. Led by Steven Stills and featuring Sly's brother Frank on guitar, they belt out rhythm and blues numbers with Don Johnson on lead vocals and Goldberg backing. The party thunders on. In the bathroom, Pauly Shore and Belushi chat. You have to wonder if it's 'done' to approach a celebrity for an autograph next to the hand towel dispenser. At least one of the party-goers - huge blonde hair and improbable breasts straining against a black one-piece - has decided the toilets represent her best chance of chatting with a star and lurks outside. Slightly surprisingly, the man everyone wants to meet is basketball star 'Sir' Charles Barkley who has arrived with his impossibly tall Phoenix Suns team-mates. How does one pluck up courage to say 'hi' to a man like that? Easy. Gulp a beer, stroll over and say, 'Hi. I've come a long way to meet you.' The nice man takes my hand, doesn't break it, and makes small talk about that day's game. Davis and Harlin are still all lovey-dovey in one of the booths, Stallone carries on working the party along with Earl and Barish. Schwarzenegger continues to exude this extraordinary aura: you don't approach him hand outstretched. Oh, and guess who's the first to leave at 11.20 pm: the wild man of rock himself, Alice Cooper, with family. IT'S hard to imagine the authorities allowing Canton Road to be overrun by hordes of screaming fans on May 29, which is why Planet Hollywood will probably set up a stage next to the Cultural Centre. Bruce Willis has said he wants to sing, Van Damme will doubtless unleash more kung fu kicks than a TVB prime-time costume drama and, provided Jackie Chan and his fellow stars provide the kind of support they have shown so far, the Planet Hollywood opening will dominate Chinese-language paparazzi columns for days, if not weeks. Some Hong Kong entertainment industry commentators have wondered out loud whether the local equivalents of Tricia and Jennifer will really get all that excited about Hollywood stars. It is a fact of local life that the editors of the glossy weekly Chinese-language magazines refuse to put Western stars (even Stallone and Schwarzenegger) on their covers because they know their circulations will dip. But they know too that celebrity sells. Fame is the glue that binds this town. Fame is the carrot that dangles in front of legions of salesgirls and stewardesses during beauty pageant season. And from May 29 fame comes flame-grilled, with all your favourite seasonings and fries on the side.