New York Confidential: Clinton's growing nose beats `The Avengers'

The `White House Sex Line offers the option of speaking to Monica, Paula or Jennifer'
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The Independent Culture
NOT SURPRISINGLY, several entrepreneurs have already begun to exploit US President Bill Clinton's recent problems to make a fast buck.

A book appeared this week called The Clinton Syndrome, which advances the theory that the President is - you guessed it - a sex addict. The shameless author, Jerome D. Levin, is trying to promote the book as an important work on a vital health issue. "If he were to go public people would admire his courage and it would be a wonderful model for other suffering addicts," he told The New York Post. Somehow, I don't think that's an option the President is considering.

Alternatively, if you tune in to Channel 35 on New York's Time-Warner cable network - a channel known locally as "the naked station" due to its pornographic content - you can see ads for a "White House Sex Line" which offers callers the option of speaking to Monica, Paula or Jennifer.

My favourite scandal-inspired product so far is the "Clinton Growing Nose Watch". The President's face is on the dial and every 10 seconds his nose grows a couple of millimetres. Needless to say, as his nose grows it assumes a very un-nose like shape.

SOPHIE DAHL - a friend, not a girlfriend, alas - has been staying with me for the past couple of weeks and had an interesting encounter with a con man the other day. He stopped her outside my flat in the West Village and told her he was the head of wardrobe for the film director Tony Scott. He explained that he'd left some vital costumes in his apartment and needed $30 for a taxi so he could get them.

This particular hard luck story was obviously tailored for the West Village, a largely gay part of town. Presum-ably, some local residents are so thrilled to meet a real, live Hollywood costumer they are only too willing to part with $30. Sophie says she knew he was making it up but gave him the money anyway, bless her cotton socks.

NEW YORK will be commemorating the anniversary of Diana's death in its own way. On Sunday, the first staged reading of Queen of Hearts, an off- Broadway musical about the life of the Princess, is due to take place at the Grove Street Playhouse. The reading is open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis, but the media interest in the musical is so great members of the public probably won't get a look in.

The show officially opens on 1 October and stars a 23-year-old Connecticut actress called Kendra Munger in the lead role. Let's hope it fares better than Jackie, a musical comedy about the life of Jackie Onassis, which closed earlier this year after playing to half-empty houses.

BY THE time you read this I may well be dead. Hurricane Bonnie is lurking ominously somewhere in the Atlantic and I'm due to fly back to London shortly for my cousin Conseulo Moorsom's wedding.

What makes this prospect par-ticularly alarming is I've just been reading a book called The Black Box: All-New Cockpit Voice Recorder Accounts of In-flight Accidents. The book consists entirely of transcripts of conversations between airplane captains and their co-pilots just before their planes crashed. It includes the story of one co-pilot who managed to get 73 people killed because he neglected to follow the standard emergency procedure.

On one score, however, I can rest easy. The captain of American Eagle Flight 4184 is recorded saying, "I'll tell you, flying at night. I don't like it a damn bit." At least my flight across the Atlantic is during the day.

HOLLYWOOD'S DISASTROUS film version of The Avengers looks set to leave a permanent dent in the British tourist industry. On its opening weekend it took a disappointing $10.7m at the North American box office, leaving it trailing in third place. Last weekend its box office receipts according to Variety fell by "a stunning 66 per cent" and it didn't even make the top 10. By some margin, it's the biggest bomb of the summer.

Like many contemporary movies, The Avengers has spawned its own unofficial Web site. However, this one is a little different. "You have reached the official `Avengers Movie Sux Ass' Web page," reads the opening message. "This is a special event, for only very rarely do movies suck so much that they have Web pages dedicated to warning people away." Of all the hostile reviews posted by members of the public, my favourite is: "I've seen better film on teeth."

The mistake the film makers made, apart from an incomprehensible plot, poor casting and trying far too hard to strike an ironic note, is not to have set it in the Seventies. Instead, it's set in a non-specific pop neverland that can't decide whether it's Swinging London Mark I or Swinging London Mark II.

Following the success of Boogie Nights, the disco era has become box office gold in America. A number of films set in the Seventies are about to be released, the most eagerly awaited of which is Studio 54 starring Mike Myers. There is even a new sitcom set in the safari-suit decade called That Seventies Show, which has become an instant hit. Had the makers of The Avengers stuck more closely to the original series, and turned it into an Austin Powers-style costume drama, it probably would have done much better.