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Rolf Harris set me up on a Las Vegas date with Gloria Estefan; GREAT SCOT LES GETS BIG SURPRISE FOR CHRISTMAS.


SUNDAY Mail Great Scot finalist Les Hoey devotes his life to making others' dreams come true.

But Les had the tables turned when he was surprised by his own "fairy godmother" - Rolf Harris.

TV's favourite Aussie ambushed railwayman Les at work, jumping out of a ScotRail van and asking him if he fancied jetting off to a Gloria Estefan gig in Las Vegas.

And viewers can relive Les's big day in Rolf's Merry Christmas - one of the BBC's Christmas Day highlights.

During the dream trip, Les, 40, of Wishaw, Lanarkshire, plants a smacker on Latino lovely Estefan before being presented with the key to the city by the mayor of Las Vegas.

Big-hearted Les has devoted his life to charity after his daughter Shelley contracted leukaemia and needed a bone marrow transplant nine years ago.

He's a volunteer for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and has raised thousands for the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust. His specialty is organising treats for seriously-ill children.

He said: "I took Shelley to see Boyzone and managed to get her backstage to meet the band.

"Since then, I've arranged for youngsters to meet all the big names, including Westlife, Atomic Kitten, Hear'Say and Steps."

When the BBC were looking for deserving people to receive their Christmas gifts, they read about Les in the Sunday Mail and immediately contacted his wife Mandy to set up the special surprise.

Les said: "I was working on the railways one Friday afternoon last October, and was going back to my van for some gear. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Rolf Harris jumped out on me with Mandy and a camera crew."

Dad-of-three Les was told that, to thank him for all his hard work, the Animal Hospital presenter was taking him on the trip of a lifetime.

And the following month, he and Mandy, a nurse, were whisked off to Las Vegas, where they were put up in the penthouse suite of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. "It was out of this world," said Les, who was driven around in a Cadillac and treated to front row tickets for the best shows in town.

"Gloria Estefan played a one-off gig at our hotel, and led a conga around the first 15 rows of seats," said Les.

"When she passed me, I grabbed her and gave her a big kiss. Later, we went backstage to meet her, and she said: 'I can't believe you're the same guy who kissed me.'"

The Cuban singer said she'd been told all about Les' good deeds and was honoured to meet him.

"She said she'd be happy to help with my charity work, and that I should contact her next time she's in Britain," added Les.

"A lot of people over in Vegas couldn't understand my Scottish accent - in fact Rolf often joked that he was my interpreter. But Gloria said she'd had a Scots bodyguard and could understand me perfectly."

The undoubted highlight of their week-long trip was when Les was presented with the key to Las Vegas at the mayor's office.

Les said: "I was a bit dubious accepting something like this ... I don't think I'm anything special.

"But when I spoke to some of the parents of children I'd helped, they told me to go and enjoy myself.

"I had a wonderful time - and got some more celebrities enlisted for my charity projects into the bargain."

Rolf's Merry Christmas will be screened at 3.10pm on BBC1 on Christmas Day.

The show features eight special people receiving surprise gifts.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 9, 2001
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