October 1 2000 UNITED STATES

Bay City Rollers film to turn Tinseltown tartan

John Harlow and Mark Macaskill

AS Britain's first boy band they were famous for their bizarre shortened trousers, pick-and-mix tartans and simplistic songs such as Sha La La La and Shang-A-Lang.

Now the Bay City Rollers, the most adored and mocked pop group of the 1970s, are about to be given the Hollywood treatment by Courtney Love, the widow of rock star Kurt Cobain.

She is raising £40m to make a film based on the group's doomed attempt to conquer America in 1975 and their consequent self-destruction.

At first glance, it is an unlikely coupling: Love, 36, combines her acting career with playing guitar in Hole, the type of hard-core rock band that routinely sneers at boy bands. But, according to contemporaries, she was 11 when the Scots played in her home city of San Francisco, and she never recovered. Beneath her tough exterior is a soft spot for the pop of her childhood.

The Scottish actor Ewan McGregor, who has already played one doomed pop star in Velvet Goldmine, has ex-pressed interest in portraying the charismatic lead singer Les McKeown. Leonardo DiCaprio has, however, turned down the opportunity to portray the guitarist Stuart Wood.

Love has paid more than £30,000 for the film rights to the book Bye Bye Baby by Caroline Sullivan, a comic account of a New Jersey teenager's pursuit of the band across America and her attempts to bed at least one of the band. She was successful - but never named her conquest.

The critical success of Almost Famous, the recently released film of a similar semi-autobiograpical tale of touring with Led Zeppelin in the 1970s by the then teenage reporter Cameron Crowe, has made Bye Bye Baby a hot property in Hollywood.

A rehabilitated drug addict, Love has suffered a sticky transition from rock widow - after a depressed Cobain shot himself in 1994 - to actress. She narrowly missed out on an Oscar for her role in The People vs Larry Flynt, but went on to pick up other awards and has set up Epitome Productions to make her own projects.

The Bay City Rollers, who recently re-formed after a decade of disputes, are at the top of her list. The film will include the glory days, when throngs of teenage girls donned tartan scarves in honour of their heroes, and also the darker aftermath when the band's manager, Tam Paton, was jailed on sex charges. Band members have suffered drink, drugs, health and money problems.

The book, Bye Bye Baby, has been condemned by fans as sneering, spiteful and cruel but the band's current manager, Mark St John, who united them so that they could sue for back earnings of £150m, said he would wait and see what Love did with it.

McKeown, 44, who will be paid to advise Love during the production, has his own ideas on who should play him. "It should be someone big, like Keanu Reeves," he said.

Next page: Where are they now?

Copyright 2000 Times Newspapers Ltd.