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The Independent Culture
ON HIS first visit to Bulgaria last weekend, Prince Charles accompanied the country's President, Petar Stoyanov, to the city of Plovdiv, where Mr Stoyanov was born. During a tour of a grand house in the city's old town, the official party encountered a woman playing the piano. When she launched into a Beatles tune, the Bulgarian and Charles joined together in belting out the lyrics. The song was "All You Need Is Love". Pandora finds this both a sad and profound song for the Prince of Wales to croon. What a pity he won't be repeating his performance on Friday night, when the Queen and Prince Philip host their own grand party for his 50th birthday - to which Camilla Parker Bowles has not been invited.


GETTING TO the bottom of the mysterious Tom Cruise Blockbuster incident is not proving easy. Last week, of course, it was widely reported that Cruise had been refused membership at a Blockbuster video shop because he lacked two pieces of identification. Yesterday, Pandora revealed that Cruise's official press spokesperson now insisted that the incident had never happened, and that Tom Cruise had never set foot in a Blockbuster shop - anywhere.

In the latest twist, a Blockbuster spokesperson responded to Pandora's Monday story: "The sales assistant on duty in the Blockbuster store last week was adamant that the person who came in and made a brief enquiry about membership was the real Tom Cruise." This, of course, prompts the question: "If the shop assistant was so certain, why insist on all that ID?" The PR rep had a ready answer: "There are some very good lookalikes around, which proves the point that we always require ID."

As Cruise has recently vowed to wage legal war on anyone who publishes lies about him, and won a pounds 250,000 libel suit against The Express in the first victorious battle of that war, Pandora would not dream of questioning his veracity. Instead, Pandora offers a case of superb California fizz to any reader who can supply more information on this sinister Tom Cruise lookalike, and his insidious campaign to embarrass the Blockbuster video shops.


HOW WET can you get? That was the obvious question to ask after yesterday's launch of the Women's Unit report, "Delivering for Women: Progress So Far", led by Baroness Jay and Tessa Jowell. Held in a basement room of London's Commonwealth Club to document "18 achievements in 18 months", in fact the Women's Unit has not achieved a high profile outside Cherie Blair's inner circle of friends. Ten minutes into the presentation, a faulty sprinkler system sprayed the largely female audience. "It was very frightening," reports one drenched attendee. "We didn't know what was coming out of the ceiling - poison gas or what it was." Fortunately, it's a tough Unit and the potential wet T-shirt event soon reconvened.


EXCUSE ME, your Zippergate is still open. The latest bizarre development in Washington sees the independent counsel Kenneth Starr finding himself the subject of an inquiry by an independent investigator. A federal judge is, according to The Washington Post, looking into 24 possible illegal leaks by Starr and his team of snoopers to US media outlets including The New York Times, NBC, Fox and, yes, The Washington Post. The eventual report on Starr's alleged leaking is likely to be a serious bore compared to that multi-volume libidinous spew on Clinton that Starr presented so proudly to Congress a few weeks ago.


THE STRIKING-looking Australian actress Cate Blanchett (pictured), may have "outed" the former 16th-century English queen whom she portrays in the new historical biopic, Elizabeth.

"Elizabeth had very narrow hips, and she wore these tight, stiff-boned corsets that must have looked fabulous on her," Blanchett told an American journalist recently.

"But I can tell you they were difficult to wear. There are some people who say she was in fact a hermaphrodite, which would explain those hips."

Pandora looks forward to the full story, with all the intimate details, in next Sunday's News of the World.