Pandora

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The Independent Culture
NEXT YEAR'S Eurovision Song Contest has produced a spin off, Channel 5's A Thong for Europe. This competition between European male strippers is well under way, with qualifying heats due to start soon. Strippers from France and Spain, two of the eight nations competing, have complained that there are not enough strip joints in their countries and have had to come over to Britain to practise. According to a Channel 5 source, Britain now has the most strip joints in Europe and can easily offer the practice needed to become King Thong, the ultimate winner of the competition. Nevertheless the BBC, which will screen the Eurovision Song Contest, held in Israel next May, won't have to worry about a clash. "We won't be showing it at the same time as the Eurovision, because our target audiences are similar and they probably won't sacrifice their usual viewing," a Channel 5 spokesman admitted.

IT SEEMS that Tony Blair has found himself on the "wong" side of the New Age obsession which reigns at Downing Street. An organisation called Yellow Dragon has written to MPs to warn them that "unless Tony Blair contacts Yellow Dragon's Master Wong immediately for help", he will lose a leadership challenge from Gordon Brown. Master Wong's Yellow Dragon are fervent believers in feng shui, the I Ching and astrology, favourites of the New Age crowd. So no doubt the crystal-wearing Cherie Blair and her husband will be taking note. As an emissary of Wong's warns, "Remember Tony Blair's massive landslide victory was due to a prolonged spiritual blessing from Master Wong."

LIFE WOULD be a lot duller without Keith Richards. Dubbed as the man who "has tried everything so you don't have to", in the January issue of Q magazine, Richards gets down to earth responding to readers' questions. One reader asks Richards whether Mick Jagger takes himself too seriously. Of his fellow Rolling Stone and lad of the moment, Richards says: "I think he takes everything too seriously. My aim is to introduce more levity into his life. I think Mick maybe has a hard time having nothing to do. Every minute has to be filled." That explains a lot.

THE ACTRESS Susan Sarandon (pictured) has been behaving rather oddly lately. Sarandon has been spotted walking up to complete strangers in New York City and eating their lunch, enjoying a lap dance in a strip club and asking a bookshop assistant to look up all the books that she is in. Fans of the Thelma and Louise star should not despair; the dares were part of Sarandon's guest editor slot in January's Marie Claire and were set up to raise money for charity. Pandora salutes Susan as a good sport and wonders whether the celebrity dare idea could catch on over here. Why not dare Arsene Wenger to try his hand at stand-up comedy, get Jeremy Beadle to end his career? The possibilities are boundless.

SPEAKING OF dares, Pandora has still not heard from the Sports Minister, Tony Banks, on how much he has enjoyed the recent publication of The Wit and Wisdom of Tony Banks. As Pandora vowed yesterday, examples of the MP's wit will be aired until such time as we hear from him. Today's gem comes from a 1994 Commons debate on the cash-for-questions scandal: "Since I was elected I have tabled 6,919 questions. If I had received pounds 1,000 for each of these I'd have netted a cool pounds 7m, which would have meant that I could have faxed this speech from Mustique."

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BRIAN BEHAN, brother of the better known, late, Irish playwright Brendan, is having a spot of bother with his play, The Tale of Two Todgers. Todgers tells the story of a man born with a dual appendage, who claims benefit for it, as well as for his cat and his dog. In the latest version of the play, to be shown at the Hammer-smith Irish Centre on 16 December, Swiney, a miserly DSS official, kills the cat and the dog so the hero, Padser Sausage, can't claim for them. "I've got animal rights protesters threatening to picket the play," Behan complained to Pandora. "I wouldn't mind, but the cat and dog are stuffed. It's not as if I killed them."

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