Star pursued by legion of self-confessed 'Tarts'

Category: Misc./General Career News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: July 27, 2007 | Publication: MARTYN MCLAUGHLIN | Author: The Scotsman
Publication/Article Link:The Scotsman

HE MAY be a Hollywood superstar, but many Scots would struggle to recognise Gerard Butler.

But the actor boasts an international legion of women whose devotion knows no bounds.

They call themselves the Tarts and more than 300 will next week descend on Scotland for a most curious pilgrimage.

From a Glasgow chip shop to an Inverclyde water treatment works, their journey will take in some esoteric sites.

But the Tarts do not care. They will go anywhere and do anything in the name of Gerry.

The scale of Butler's global fanbase may appear strange. Although he starred in the blockbuster 300, he does not have the profile of a Sir Sean Connery or Ewan McGregor. Yet for the Tarts - whose number runs into the thousands, and who span generations and classes, from teenage girls to company directors - the draw is all-consuming.

On their trip to Scotland they will visit places where the actor spend his formative years, and go to the locations of Dear Frankie, the Butler movie fans cherish above all others.

Morag Dunbar, a Balerno-based Blue Badge tour guide is well prepared for next week's activities. Last year, she organised the inaugural Dear Frankie tour. This year's will visit more shooting locations, including a former chip shop in Glasgow's Trongate area.

Her experience with the Tarts has not dulled her incredulity. "How can I put it?" she said "I don't want to be seen to be laughing at them, because they're all very, very nice women who do wonderful work for charity.

"But it's definitely the most unusual event I've ever hosted as a tour guide. I've had to watch the DVD of Dear Frankie more times than I can remember."

The tour, on Tuesday, will begin at the University of Glasgow, where Butler obtained a law degree, and go on to Paisley, where he grew up.

From there, the Tarts will journey to Inverclyde, the setting for much of Dear Frankie, where sites include Overton Water Treatment Works, overlooking the Firth of Clyde, a tenement building in Greenock's Margaret Street, mudflats on the outskirts of Port Glasgow, and a park bench in Battery Park.

In the six years of its existence, the main website for the fans, www.gerard-butler.net, has raised upwards of 100,000 for causes close to Butler's heart.

The Tarts, mindful of the emissions from their trip, and have raised more than 10,000 for the conservation charity, Trees for Life, towards the planting of over 2,000 trees in the Caledonian Forest.

Last year, Butler, 37, recorded a video message for his fans and spoke to them via a telephone link. Members of his family, including his mother, Margaret Butler, and stepfather, Alex Coll, were guests of honour.

Organisers of the 2007 event are tight-lipped as to any surprises in store for the Tarts.

Debi McMillan, from Berkshire, is overseeing the organisation of the itinerary, which begins on Sunday and lasts until the following Saturday.

She handed a birthday card into Pinewood Studios near her home where he was filming. She included her telephone number, thinking it unlikely he would get in touch. A month later, Butler called to thank her.

Such calls are common, though Butler does not wish them to be publicised. The actor telephoned a woman nursing her dying mother on Christmas Day to offer a few words of support.

Ms McMillan said: "He's an amazing man and we all gain such strength from him."

PECS APPEAL: THE CV

GERARD Butler is one of Scotland's most successful - but arguably least known - actors.

He starred as King Leonidas in the recent swords-and-sandals epic 300, the story of the heroic Spartan stand against a massive Persian force.

He is also due to reprise Sean Connery's Oscar-winning role as Irish street cop Jimmy Malone in the prequel to The Untouchables.

Glasgow-born Butler, 37, moved to Canada with his family as a child. But they later returned to Paisley, where he was brought up.

He was president of the Glasgow University Law Society and qualified as a solicitor. He spent a "miserable" few years in the profession before opting for acting at the age of 25.

He made his big-screen debut in 1997, in Mrs Brown.