Pandora

pandora@independent.co.uk
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The Independent Culture
Sail on, Michael Ashcroft. The Tory Treasurer has stitched up another nice little deal, but this time it is with a boatyard, not a newspaper. He has spent an estimated $2m (pounds 1.2m) refurbishing his 150- foot yacht Atlantic Goose. Workers at the Derektor-Gunnell boatyard, near Mr Ashcroft's Florida home of Boca Raton, have reportedly been kitting out the boat with "the latest James Bond gadgetry" for "the past four months". This week in London Mr Ashcroft was told to raise pounds 10m for the Tories' next general election ad campaign. Maybe he could raffle some boat trips?

THE LEADER of the House of Commons, Margaret Beckett, tells us: "There is no identified risk of material disruption... as a result of the [millennium] bug." As Commons Leader, Ms Beckett speaks on MPs' salaries and allowances, so one would assume members will not have to worry about not being paid at the end of the month. Not so. Nothing has been left to chance, and they will be paid a week early.

Are the England cricket team turning to God in their pursuit of victory? Pandora has received reports that before leaving to face the South Africans, the team attended an Alpha course, a trendy introduction to spirituality that boasts such graduates as Jonathan Aitken and the Latin popster Ritchie Valens. Team representatives denied the search was on for the Holy Bail: "As far as I know, the last time the team met up before the Test was at a medical in Loughborough." Even if the team have put their faith in God, recent form suggests they do not have a prayer.

PRESIDENT CLINTON has joined those paying tribute to Peanuts as its creator, Charles Schulz, retires. "The characters [he] created are more than enduring icons. Charlie Brown, Linus, Snoopy, Pigpen and Lucy taught us all a little more about what makes us human," the fallible President said. Speculation about the last strip of Peanuts is rife, but any notion that Charlie Brown would finally kick that football was scotched by Schulz's editor, Amy Lago. Asked if such an ending was likely, she admitted: "Knowing Schulz, probably not." Pandora has been told to expect a final team farewell from the baseball mound.

Youssef Chippo, Coventry City's Moroccan midfield star, is stuck in a classic Catch-22. Tackled in an interview recently, Chippo was asked what his favourite English food was. "Beans on toast," came the unexpected reply. Asked what he thought about the English weather, he answered: "Too windy."

YESTERDAY MARKED the centenary of Noel Coward's birth. He could put on a show both on and off stage, as a new book, Firefly, by Chris Salewicz, reveals. When, in the mid-Sixties, the impresario received a visit from the Queen Mother (Gawd bless 'er) at his Jamaica hide-away, he made quite a performance over the catering, as a neighbour, Blanche Blackwell, recalls. Finally plumping for lobster mousse, Coward had trouble defrosting it. "We put it in the garden with a gardener standing over it because there were some dogs and cats around. But [there was] just no way." Iced soup had to be laid on, with Coward noting that the mousse had "collapsed into a grey heap" with "the consistency of an ordinary Slazenger tennis ball".

Rock me, Amadeus, a new star is born! Wednesday night's Broadway opening of Peter Shaffer's play of musical Schadenfreude was particularly edgy. David Suchet's Salieri was blown off stage by Michael Sheen's interpretation of Mozart. Polished performances from Sheen were evident in the West End run of Amadeus, and he shone as Jimmy Porter in the National Theatre's revival of Look Back in Anger. Signs are good for Sheen: born in Port Talbot, he is from the same Welsh cradle as Anthony Hopkins and Richard Burton. He certainly made an impact on Wednesday night - one critic described him as: "So luminous, it's scary."

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