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The Independent Culture
IS CHARLIE Whelan looking for a job in television? If so, he's certainly playing his cards right. Yesterday, Gordon Brown's former press spokesman described his own television viewing favourites for another newspaper: "The new BBC News 24 is very good. I've got Sky Sport, so I watch football. I do like soaps; Coronation Street is my favourite." Yes, that's the BBC, Sky and ITV all nicely plugged but, sadly, there's no mention of the Mirror Group's Live TV. Surely Charlie enjoys topless darts?

REMEMBER BACK in the Eighties when Julian Schnabel, not Damien Hirst, was the wunderkind of the ultra-cool contemporary art scene? Schnabel certainly does, which may be why the former New York waiter, who was first discovered by that mega-collector Charles Saatchi, seems less than pleased by our Damien's continuing success. In an interview with the rock-idol- turned-journalist David Bowie, in Modern Painter magazine, Schnabel says: "Damien Hirst owes a lot to a lot of people." More specifically: "I think he owes me plenty." It's difficult at first to see what Hirst's formaldehyde- drenched sharks owe to Schnabel's pictures, which were littered with smashed crockery. However, Pandora recalls that Saatchi started investing in Hirst's masterpieces not long after he decided to sell off many of his Schnabel paintings, so perhaps that's what the artist means by "owes me plenty". However, in another spasm of spite, Schnabel adds: "I can't be only responsible for the bad artists! I mean, I think he owes plenty to Jeff Koons too."

LEONARDO DICAPRIO has now arrived on location in Phuket, Thailand to film The Beach, based on Alex Gardner's best-selling novel about a commune of hippie beach bums. However, rather than sleeping on the sand, DiCaprio has taken over a whole floor of the luxury Panwha hotel, according to a local Thai newspaper. In addition to these spacious digs and his $20m (pounds 12m) salary for the flick, the Twentieth Century Fox studio, owned by Murdoch, is also providing Leo with the use of his own large yacht. Not bad treatment, especially when compared with the accommodation status of Rupert Murdoch himself, who, sources tell Pandora, is currently shopping for a loft in dreary lower Manhattan.

MEANWHILE, THE non-Murdoch owned New York tabloid Daily News has set itself the task of keeping track of the romantic interests of Anna Murdoch, the billionaire's estranged wife. Having floated the names of the producer David Niven Jr and the property magnate Marshall Rose, the paper's latest candidate is a wealthy, 72-year-old New York widower, named William Mann, who would only say: "I'm not going to comment on that. Thank you very much."

HERE'S A collector's item Pandora's readers are certain to covet! It's a solid, 24-carat-gold CD of Frank Sinatra singing live in a suburban Chicago dive called the Villa Venice, in 1962, together with his rat pack mates Sammy Davis Jr and Dean Martin. Entitled The Summit, it is being released by a company owned by the Sinatra family called Artanis Entertainment Group. Guess what Artanis spells backwards?

YOU MAY have hated the talking Furby toys, but what about a toy talk- show host doll - especially one you can stick pins in? Yes, it's the "Jerry Stinger" bumblebee Meanie toy, based on Jerry Springer, the trailer-trash culture hero (pictured), one of a series of new US products called "celebrity bean bags". Other dolls in the series include the Moodoona and the Quack Nicholson. "I was hoping for a Nobel Peace Prize, but I'll settle for this," Springer told a reporter. After the way he slagged her off this week, surely Fergie would be in the market for a Michael Porkinson hog bag.

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