CRIES & WHISPERS

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The Independent Culture
4 ON WEDNESDAY a verdict was finally reached in the improbable but irresistible case that had gripped the nation for weeks. I refer, of course, to the future of Linda the BBC tea-lady.

To recap for the benefit of readers who may have been abroad: Linda, an eccentric but well-loved figure in the canteen at TV Centre, was given her marching orders by the BBC's new caterers, on the grounds that she lacked "customer awareness". There followed an up-rising of a kind seldom found outside English rugby. A petition was signed by 400 people, including Jeremy Paxman, which was big of him as Linda was said to have once told him: "You're full of crap, you are."

News stories appeared in the press; the Observer, an elderly Sunday paper, even made Linda the subject of its main profile. The case became a microcosm of the Birt revolution, with Linda standing for old-fashioned individuality and straight-talking against the forces of greyness and gobbledegook.

Being on the side of the individual, this column was naturally delighted by Linda's victory. But the record needs putting straight in one respect - the matter of the Paxman put-down. It's not that she didn't say it. We know she did, because my colleague Robert Butler was there at the time. It was in his article on a week in the life of Paxman (Sunday Review, March 1993) that the line was first recorded. However, Butler also gave the context.

On the wall next to Linda was a competition poster - win a weekend for two at a country hotel. Paxman said if he won they could go together. To which Linda replied: "You're full of crap, you are." A remark which has been taken as a comment on Paxman in general was in fact a laughing retort to a bit of jokey flirt-ation. The tone has got lost with repetition.

This can now be added to the list of well-known events that didn't happen, or didn't happen the way they were said to have happened. Daniel Day-Lewis, for instance, didn't dump Isabelle Adjani by fax: they spoke on the phone, and it was only when they became too upset to speak to each other that pen was put to paper. (In any case, what's so wrong with writing to someone?) And David Mellor didn't make love to Antonia de Sancha wearing a Chelsea strip: that was a bit of topspin added by her publicist, Max Clifford.

What seems to have happened in each case is that the story became what people wanted it to be. None of these tales was very plausible, but they all fitted in with some prejudice of ours. No doubt there are further examples out there. If you know of one, please write to me at the Arts Desk, IoS, 1 Canada Sq, London E14 5DL, or send a fax to 0171 619 0015.

4 TIME for another in our occasional series of lookalikes - a rather special one, as they say in children's television. Usually we publish photographs to support our case. But this time the photographs are the case and since they emanate from the sensitive pub-licity machines of the stars, our picture desk advises me that we might be sued if we reproduced them. So, long-suffering reader, you'll have to go down to the newsagent's and look at the cover of GQ's June issue, which purports to be a picture of Johnny Depp. Then turn the magazine over and look at the back.

It's an ad for Calvin Klein, featuring Kate Moss. You'd know that face anywhere: pouting mouth, wide-tipped nose, sultry eyes, greased-back hair, general effect that of a squashed diamond. Now look at the front again. Either it's Kate Moss in a very thin disguise, or Mr Depp and his girlfriend are merging into one and the same.

It makes a lot of sense. You're young and successful, you're in the world's most narcissistic business, your lover's in the world's other most narcissistic business, so you turn into each other and achieve the ultimate turn-on - going out with yourself.

Jack Hughes

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