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The Independent Culture
Jeffrey Archer's difficulty with dinner companions continues. In Fantasy Feast 2000, Hector Proud's collection of celebrities and their wished-for dinner guests, Archer says he wants his wife Mary, Muhammad Ali and Nelson Mandela to be among them. But in the latest issue of Essentials magazine Jeff has revised his choice to Joseph Fiennes, Roger Black, Victoria Wood, Annette Bening and Nell Gwyn. There is no indication that Mary will be seated at His Lordship's high table. But at the prospect of meeting Nell Gwyn, Archer salivates: "I've always wanted to know if she was as sexy as King Charles found her."

THE NEW film of Chekhov's play The Cherry Orchard has won a royal seal of approval - Bulgarian royalty, that is. The film, starring Charlotte Rampling and Alan Bates, which premiered in front of B-list royals the Prince and Princess Michael of Kent this week, was watched with particular interest by Prince and Princess Kyril of Saxe-Coburg. The 32-year-old Prince Kyril has reversed the cliche, "You've seen the film, now buy the T-shirt". He has bought the house and the surrounding orchard where the movie was shot.

France has reinvented road rage. When the Renaud family from Nantes named their baby daughter Megane, a local magistrate saw red and stopped them in their tracks. He believed that the name was too similar to the Renault Megane car, and would thus disadvantage the child. The family now faces a court summons and will find out next month whether a judge will allow them to keep their daughter's name intact. Let's hope there will be jam today and jam tomorrow for baby Megane.

PAMELA ANDERSON and Tommy Lee may be re-coupling on New Year's Eve but, if previous sessions with a marriage guidance counsellor are anything to go by, they will need the best of millennial luck. "There's a wonderful exercise where you throw a quarter, a nickel, a dime and a penny on the table," explains the pneumatic ex-Baywatch babe. "Then you ask, `What do you see?' When our therapist did this with us, I said, `Silver, copper, round things, change.' When he did the same thing with Tommy, he said, `Forty-two cents'."

Victorious AA Gill, the self-confessed "Orson Welles of filth", shamelessly played the crowd at the Bad Sex Awards on Wednesday. "I don't know what to say... I'd like to put you all in my next book!" he blubbed. The banter between the newly crowned writer and The Literary Review's Auberon Waugh, however, was less loving. "Adrian wouldn't know good sex if it came and sat on his lap," accused Waugh. "Well, it must be difficult to judge when you're not having sex yourself," countered Gill. "Writing love scenes then would be like one hand clapping... which is just what I think Bron's sex life must be like, actually."

ANOTHER PARTY guest with reason to celebrate was the novelist Matt Thorne (Tourist and Eight Minutes Idle). Recent internal shufflings at Sceptre seem to have benefited Thorne and his circle. Not only has his good friend Nic Blincoe been made an editor at the Hodder literary imprint (this on top of his career as a novelist and book reviewer; has the Monopolies and Mergers Commission been informed?), but, in a shrewd move, Thorne has gone to pastures new at Orion. Matt will be sad to leave the happy family at Sceptre, but advance warning of the price to be paid by Orion for his output seems to have dried those tears: "It's great," he says. "Really... great!"

Let it not be said - not even by Asda - that Jeffrey Archer's books do not enjoy continued popularity. Three of the disgraced peer's novels fetched pounds 55 at a cancer charity auction held by the Welsh Assembly this week. The purchaser was Monmouth's Tory member David Davies. "I'm glad that Jeffrey is still able to do things for good causes," he told Pandora.

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