Pandora

AS THE Royal Opera House sets out to review jobs and salaries, union activists at Covent Garden are said to be concerned about how fairly they will be treated. Pandora is confident, however, that they will receive excellent consideration, thanks to the recently-appointed chairman of the Royal Ballet, Lord Eatwell. Now president of Queen's College, Cambridge, Lord Eatwell was Neil Kinnock's economics adviser, and Old Labour's economic spokesman in the House of Lords. Surely you won't let the brothers down, m'lud?

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MUCH GRUMBLING yesterday among Lobby journalists after Downing Street announced that, unlike his last few visits to America, no plane was being chartered for Tony Blair's trip to New York on Monday. Not only do British journalists have to make their own way across the Atlantic, but they must arrive two days early to obtain credentials to attend the Prime Minister's UN address. Lobby conspiracy theorists fear that the lack of a chartered flight is due to Blair's reluctance to be extensively covered schmoozing at the New Age "third way" world leaders' seminar with his friend Bill late on Monday. But Downing Street firmly deny this, saying the brevity of the visit is responsible. Indeed the caring, sharing Downing Street Press Office is so sympathetic to the journalist's plight that spokesperson Maggie Cleaver told Pandora: "If you hear of anyone having a problem, do get them to call me." Just pray that Alastair doesn't pick up the receiver.

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IS NINETIES' London as "cool" as London was back in the "swinging Sixties"? Surely, photographer David Bailey is the man to ask, and on Monday night, Pandora had the opportunity at a party for his new film trilogy Models Close Up, held at the Alphabet Bar in Soho. Bailey said he didn't think in comparative terms since, as far as the London Scene goes, "I've never been off it". True enough, as a glance around the party quickly revealed, with Chris Evans (whose Ginger Productions produced the film) rubbing shoulders with Damon Albarn of Blur. But does today's "cool" compare to Sixties' parties where you might have seen Lord Lucan, John Lennon and Brian Jones mixing with, yes, David Bailey?

ANNA MURDOCH announced her resignation yesterday from the board of News Corp, the corporation her estranged husband, Rupert, leads as chairman and CEO. However, there's no telling what's in store for Rupert when the case reaches the California divorce courts, where Anna will be represented by the super tough Hollywood divorce lawyer, Daniel Jaffe.

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ON MONDAY evening, Howard Marks was feeling very "at home" during his first visit to Damien Hirst's Pharmacy. Together with David Bowie, Boy George and some of London's trendiest young conceptualists, Absolut vodka was hosting a party to celebrate its sponsorship of British artists. "I've been in a lot of drug filled rooms," Marks laughed, looking around at the walls decorated with pills, capsules and vials. "This does have a certain psycho-active ambience."

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THE GNOMES of Zurich won't be welcoming Bill Gates as a neighbour after all. In July, Swiss newspapers reported that the Microsoft billionaire was hunting for a flat in Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva. There was also a rumour that he was placing some of his funds in the country. But the word from his company is that he has no plans to establish any Swiss residency. The gnomes' loss could be the American taxmen's gain.

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AFTER TEN years' absence from her native Australia, Kylie Minogue (pictured) has returned to star in two locally-produced films: a drama called Sample People and a horror film entitled Cut. The former star of Neighbours, and a successful singer, Kylie's last Australian film appearance was in an Australian vehicle called The Delinquents. However, lest anyone think she's lost her box office appeal here in Britain, Madame Tussaud's recently invested pounds 30,000 to have a new Kylie waxwork created. "Worth every penny because she is still so popular," said a Tussaud's spokeswoman.

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