West Coast store key to chain's turnaround.

The rain stopped flamboyant millionaire Richard Branson from pulling one of his usual publicity stunts but it didn't ruin the opening day fanfare for the Hollywood Virgin Megastore.

Branson, who was wearing a kilt, planned to scale the front of the 5-story building, promoting the new store's product lines as he ascended. Once on the roof he was to introduce Inxs, with its new lead singer, who were to perform a set for customers and fans gathered on the closed off street below.

“Mother nature wasn't on our side,” says the Krysty O'Quinn, of SJ Communications, the outside publicist for the Virgin Entertainment Group North America. “But we still had a great turn-out and great sales.”

Branson and 40 look-alikes, who were all dressed as Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose, stormed the crowd to the tune of “Paradise City” and showered them with champagne and Jack Daniels for the opening montage celebrating the chain's new West Coast flagship store.

Along the way, Branson managed to moon the crowd, which apparently discovered that his posterior was tattooed with the Virgin logo, something that would have been revealed if he scaled the front of the store.

The opening's planned performances by Inxs and Gang of Four were cancelled but they did stay to meet fans.

The new Hollywood store as well as the chain's recently refurbished Times Square store are key ingredients in the chain's turnaround, which began in 2005, after the chain suffered a $3.7 million operating loss in the fiscal year ended March 2004.