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Elton John World News: A Celebrity Haunt is up For Sale

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Tuesday 25 April 2006 @ 18:03 - GMT

A hotel where Rod Stewart danced the conga, and Elton and Leonard Bernstein asked that a Steinway piano be delivered to their rooms, has been put up for sale at £8million, the Daily Record has announced.

One Devonshire Gardens creator, Scots entrepreneur Ken McCulloch, has described transforming a dowdy townhouse terrace into an international establishment as his "finest hour".

Under his direction, the interior became the epitome of opulence, the service was exemplary and the food Michelin-starred.

 Meryl Streep described the hotel as "just gorgeous" and George Clooney was so seduced by its elegance he toyed with buying a house like it in Glasgow.

Devonshire built its reputation on creating a home from home - and no request was too over-the-top.

Elton stayed in the hotel when he performed at Ibrox Stadium.

He and his entourage booked out one of the hotel's three townhouses and a vast bedroom was devoted exclusively to his flamboyant costumes and glasses.

One former employer said: "It was incredible. The room was filled with rail after rail of his crazy costumes and his glasses were laid out neatly in rows.

"He wanted to be able to walk in and choose his costume for that night. Then it all had to be packed up again."

Staff - in classic uniforms of pressed white shirts and black aprons - were given forensic briefs on guests and it wasn't unheard of for them to be sent to the library on research duty.

Workers were encouraged to spend one free night at the hotel as guests to see it from the other side. Wine expert Johnny Walker was the hotel's sommelier for 13 years and remembers the briefs from the stars' PRs as more demanding than the guests'.

 Britney Spears booked the hotel two years ago when she played at the SECC. Her management were so aghast to find other guests there that the hotel agreed to turn all others away.

Then - even though a gym had been set up especially for her - she sat in her room, munching  Tunnock's Teacakes.

Johnny also recalls the staff being nervous when INXS - then with late frontman Michael Hutchence - were due to arrive.

He said: "They had a wild reputation. Everyone thought they would smash the place up.

"But they were nice guys. Someone told Hutchence one of the waitresses was also Australian. He found her, gave her a kiss and the harmonica he had just been playing at his gig."

Billy Connolly stayed for three months in 1998 while he filmed The Debt Collector but was politely refused when he'd wander into the kitchens begging master baker Jimmy Burgess to part with his secret shortbread recipe.

Johnny said one of the smartest moves McCulloch ever made was to keep the front door locked.

He said: "It made it private for visitors and the glitterati using the restaurant."

It also kept out another regular fixture - screaming girls.

They would stand in the cold for hours hoping to see their heroes.

Some celebrities were too precious to acknowlege them, but Johnny recalls Robbie Williams as attentive to his fans.

He said: "He would stick his head out the window and shout or wave to them. He seemed to have a lot of time for his fans." Another staff member remembers Rod Stewart and pals doing the conga through the hotel during a visit to Glasgow to watch Celtic.

The line disappeared into the cloakroom only to re-emerge led by Rod with a laundry basket over his head.

McCulloch sold the hotel for £3million in 2000 to luxury timeshare developer Residence International.

The new owners offered freebies to customers willing to hear a sales pitch.

When critically-acclaimed chef Andrew Fairlie left, celebrity cook Gordon Ramsay launched his restaurant Amaryllis in the hotel. However, it wasn't a success.

With £2million debts, Devonshire was placed in the hands of the receivers.

But it returned to profit under its latest owners, the Citrus Hotels Group who installed the £1000 Mews Suite and the upmarket brasserie, Room.

Three months ago, the latter's trendy S Bar boasted Motley Crue in one corner, REM in another and Robert Carlyle in the middle.

Angelina Jolie has eaten there, as have Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow, who chose a quiet spot to feed their toddler, Apple.

Twenty years on, and One Devonshire is still a celebrity magnet.