Click to follow
The Independent Culture
There is no doubt that Jack Straw has friends in high places, but tales of his visit to Glasgow earlier this year suggested that the Home Secretary's network has hidden depths. The visit narrowly avoided descending into farce after the Home Secretary's car had its wheels removed and was left standing on bricks. To add insult to injury the car stereo had also been taken, the incident occurring while Straw was in a meeting. When Mr Straw was alerted to the news by a fraught assistant, he cheerfully replied: "Oh, don't worry about that," and then popped back inside to make a quick phone call. A little while later, the wheels and the radio had been mysteriously reinstated.

FRANK DOBSON's Christmas card this year is designed to make even the most hardened Livingstone supporter say "Ho! Ho! Ho!" On its front an exasperated Father Christmas proclaims: "For the last time, I am not Frank Dobson."

Boys and girls from The Mirror go out to play tonight at the paper's Christmas party. The tabloid bash has been advertised by a lurid poster depicting editor Piers Morgan and his deputy, Tina Weaver, as Austin Powers and Miss Kensington from said movie. "Austina & Piers" invite the red-top's groovers to "Oh, behave! - but not too well". We'd expect nothing less.

MAYBE PIERS will take the opportunity of his paper's party to regale staff with tales of his past life, as he does in the latest edition of Arena. Piers claims that his previous job editing mega-rag News of the World put a real strain on his marriage to Marion, a ward sister at a London hospital. He confesses: "We used to joke that for every life she saved, I would ruin one."

That charming picture of Shaun Woodward's brother Leslie, or rather sister Lesley, as shown on the front page of a certain newspaper yesterday, has been given a special airing in Westminster. Pictures of both the Tory defector and his sex-changed sibling have been put up inside one of the lifts in the 7 Millbank building which houses MPs and their staff. Underneath, one wag has written: "Enter at your own risk. Which one has made the greatest change?"

NO MATTER what improvements are made to Virgin Atlantic in its new deal with Singapore Airlines, Michael Caine is unlikely to use Richard Branson's outfit again. Caine once "tried out" Virgin after Branson tempted him away from BA. Unfortunately, as Michael Friedland describes in his biography of the British actor, Caine lost patience with the Virgin experience when he was subjected to a thorough security check. "Do you think I'd try and blow up your [expletive] aircraft?" the exasperated Caine asked the security man. Though the Virgin employee concerned knew whom he was dealing with, he insisted on obeying orders. There followed an angry phone call between Caine and Branson, with Caine vowing never to fly Virgin again.

"Actors are allowed to be a little eccentric," contends Nick Nolte, Hollywood's ex-pretty boy, who now says he is tired of people criticising his more informal approach. "There is an assumption that I don't care about what people think because of the way I dress and because I don't comb my hair much," he complains. "I'll go into a restaurant and I'll hear somebody say, `Why does he do that? He's wealthy and he's dressed like a slob'." Nolte who cut it in movies such as Prince of Tides and Affliction, adopts a particularly slack approach to interviews: "Actors come to interviews in all sorts of clothes," he told TV Guide Online. "I always wore medical clothes for a long time. And now it's pyjamas."

BUFFY THE Vampire Slayer, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, will consummate her relationship with Angel next year. The love-making outraged US audiences. But Gellar riposts: "When Buffy and Angel slept together, there was an uproar because we didn't show condoms on the night table. Come on! This is a 16 year old having sex with a 240-year-old vampire. He shoots blanks!"