Host Clive leads from the bow

Wearing a top hat and tails, with his grandfather's Boer War medal pinned to his chest, Clive Palmer welcomed guests aboard the Titanic.

Not THE Titanic II. That's still a few years down the track. And this one was well and truly on land.

No, last night's welcome was to guests on board the re-creation of the doomed ship at Palmer Coolum Resort on the Sunshine Coast.

Greeted at the entrance by a photographer, who took their pictures with a mock representation of the Titanic's bow, guests were then ushered into one of seven vintage cars Mr Palmer owns (from a collection of 50) and taken to the ballroom.

Mr Palmer stayed at the front of his resort and greeted early guests, agreeing to the odd photograph (including one with this reporter). He seemed happy to play up to the night's comic value, but when he had had enough, we all knew.

Once at the ballroom, a man playing the bagpipes greeted guests and piped them to an area where French champagne was flowing freely.

Mr Palmer was one of the last to arrive.

Surveying the expressions of the more than 200 guests, which ranged from the bemused to the shocked to the awed, he nodded.

Say what you want about Mr Palmer. The man can throw a party.

At $155 a head, it wasn't the cheapest of nights. Still, with 10 courses - for which Mr Palmer made his chefs learn 1900s cooking techniques to ensure the recreation of the Titanic menu of April 14, 1912 was as close as possible to the real thing - and red burgundy and chablis to wash them down, Mr Palmer did not expect to make a profit. Not that he cared. ''I don't need to make a profit,'' he said. ''I'm making a statement.'' What that statement was is unclear.

To ensure he had authentic dinnerware for his guests, Mr Palmer bought an entire gift shop attached to an exhibition of Titanic relics in Singapore. The story floating around the dinner guests was that when Mr Palmer bought the store, visitors standing in line holding their intended purchases were asked to return them to the shelves.

That's the thing about Clive Palmer. Half the time he speaks, his tongue is firmly in his cheek. He seems to enjoy the media spotlight and knows just how much to say to result in ''a beat-up''.

Those are his words.

But with a comedy troupe hired from Melbourne on hand to entertain the wide-eyed guests with songs and dance between courses, an illustrator employed to draw caricatures free of charge (including one for Mr Palmer's four-year-old daughter, Mary, who ran around the ballroom proudly waving it) and visits from the ''professor'' himself, no one left last night unimpressed.

The Palmer Coolum Resort Titanic week was another public declaration of the billionaire's love affair with the famous ship.

In April, Mr Palmer announced he was planning on building a near replica of the Titanic, to add to his tourism portfolio, in conjunction with the state owned Chinese company CSC Jinling Shipyard.

He made the announcement on the same day he said he was considering running against the federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan, for the Brisbane seat of Lilley.

The story Host Clive leads from the bow first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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