Cold Call: Jack O'Sullivan rings Angela Rippon

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ANGELA RIPPON does not seem like a wine-thrower. Eyebrow-raiser? Absolutely. Chorus-line high-kicker? Occasionally (remember that Morecambe and Wise Christmas show). But wine-throwing - it is hard to believe, when listening to her answering machine. The enunciation is so exquisite, I ring a second time to hear that crisp but caring tone, characteristic of posh nurses in Second World War movies. That soft "goodbye", recalling the end of the Nine O'Clock News. "Angela," I tell the machine, "I'd love a chat." I need to know what has turned the nation's most famous newsreader into a pouilly fume-flinger.

"Oh, it was an act of pure devilment," laughs Angela, when she calls back. She is talking about tipping wine over her ex-boss Robin Malcolm, who sacked her four years ago from her job as a presenter on LBC, the London radio station.

The spillage occurred at an LBC party. "I didn't throw it. I poured it very gently."

Does she do this often, I wonder?

"Good Lord, no," she giggles. "As a child I had a habit of throwing things, but I haven't done it for a while. It wasn't done with malice. Suddenly, he was standing right behind me and I just tipped the wine. I did it with a smile on my face. It was hard to take offence."

It must have felt good. "Quite liberating. I thought, that is done and dusted now. It's out of my system. I've made my point." But what about the rest of the party?

"There was a great cheer. I think there were a few other people there who would have liked to have done it. The world seems to be full of closet wine-throwers," she laughs.

I cannot help agreeing with her. Recently, Polly Toynbee splattered the columnist Bruce Anderson over an insult. And Anna Ford, Angela's former colleague at TV-AM, famously soaked Jonathan Aitken, who helped to found the channel.

Is it safe, then, to have a drink with Angela Rippon? Does she fantasise about hosing down anyone else?"Oh, yes," she says enthusiastically. "Actually, there are some people to whom I'd like to do a lot more than that."

So she has a hit list. Who else should wear a sou'wester if they are invited to the same drinks party as her? "Oh, I have no plans to do it again," she says. "Then it would no longer be a fantasy. And I don't want to put them on their guard. Some things are best dealt with quickly, but in other cases, you have to choose your moment. Revenge, they say, is a dish best eaten cold."

Go on, I say, tell us just one of the people in the little black book. Angela hesitates.

"Jonathan Aitken is certainly one I wouldn't mind dousing. They say you should grow angry slowly. There is plenty of time. But the long arm of the law seems to be taking plenty of revenge in his case."

How far, then, would she go? Could she see herself as one of those women who cuts up men's suits? "Oh no," says Angela, horrified at the thought. "I'm not a vindictive person. I'm more forgiving than that."

Yet I can't help thinking that inside Angela Rippon there is a wild thing trying to get out. She was recently filmed pretending to be a bank robber, and was so convincing that the police were called. Is there a little of that Thelma and Louise unpredictability hidden inside that newsreader respectability? She roars with laughter. "I'm not ready to drive my best car off a cliff just yet," she declares. And then she says "goodbye" in that pristine Nine O'Clock News voice again. But I'm not convinced.

Jonathan Aitken, if you are reading this, don't get too close to Angela if she is carrying either a glass of plonk or a loaded .45.

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