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The Independent Culture
FRIENDS OF Peter Mandelson have spoken of his hilarious wit, and Pandora can now share a charming example of same. On Monday, Mandelson was waiting to appear on a Channel 4 television feed, live from Blackpool, when the TV folk realised they were short of one make-up artist. Instead, they drafted in a Talk Radio producer, Jo Phillips, who was based in the next studio, to help brighten Mandy's features. When Phillips entered the room, Mandy quipped: "Do you want to touch me up?"

MONDAY EVENING'S party for Nigella Lawson's new cookbook How To Eat, held in London's new One Aldwych hotel, had a guest list that could be published as a small book entitled The Chattering Classes. Those in attendance included Salman Rushdie, Alan Yentob, Sir Robin Day, Martin Amis, Alexandra Shulman, Lord Saatchi, Piers Paul Read, Matthew Evans, Michael Heath, the author's father Nigel, her brother Dominic, and many others. However, the one guest whose presence was truly an honour was that of Nigella's husband, John Diamond. Just 10 days out of hospital after his second major cancer operation, John glowed with pride for his beautiful and talented wife. It was certainly the book party of the year - and produced a candidate for remark of the year. New Labour's favourite PR woman, Julia Hobsbawm, eight months pregnant and looking lovely - but impatient - was asked why she wasn't in Blackpool. Patting her bump, she declared, "To hell with Labour. I just want labour."

HAVING ABANDONED his former girlfriend and child, and gushed out his feelings for the late Diana, Princess of Wales in his autobiography, the former England rugby captain Will Carling's national popularity has probably never been more desperate. What better time, then, to launch a 19-city UK lecture tour, in which Carling promises to describe "his spectacular career, both on and off the field". However, according to a spokeswoman for the tour promoters Hutt Russell: "The question and answer session may prove... er... somewhat... we don't know how difficult it will be yet. Depending on public opinion, we may have to change it."

Depending on same, they may have to enclose the podium in bullet-proof glass.

FOLLOWING YESTERDAY'S story about Courtney Love's loo seat being auctioned on the Net, Pandora has uncovered a booming, previously undisclosed trade in celebrity lavatories. Not only was the telephone ringing off the hook yesterday, with dealers in these precious commodities keen to boast of their fine collectables, but the BBC will be featuring a jewel of a lavatory on its 6 December episode of Antiques Roadshow. Yes, the late John Lennon's lavatory will be appraised on the show. Owned by Gary Honniball, a hospital technician from Bury St Edmunds, the Victorian porcelain lav, decorated with a blue-and-white floral pattern, comes from Tittenhurst Park, a house also owned by Beatle Ringo Starr! The loo was later bought by the lucky Honniball for pounds 500 - he says his friends were keen to be photographed on it.

AS THE endless intoxicating parties take their toll on the delegates in Blackpool, many will be attracted to Thursday's fringe event on "Old People: Can't Pay, Won't Pay", when drinks and a buffet will be offered along with Paul Boateng MP and Stephen Timms MP, the parliamentary under- secretaries for Health and Social Security. The reason? According to the event's press release, issued by Simmons Public Relations of Luton: "The meeting is being sponsored by the Hangover Housing Association."

WILL THE reclusive, camera-shy director Stanley Kubrick (pictured) make a rare public excursion this week and visit the Donmar Warehouse to watch Nicole Kidman's critically acclaimed performance in The Blue Room? That's the suggestion of Variety columnist Army Archerd, whose interview with Nicole appeared yesterday. She and husband Tom Cruise have spent several years working for perfectionist Kubrick in his forthcoming film, Eyes Wide Shut, which the director has promised to show to its stars for the first time next month. "We've been here so long, the children speak with British accents," Kidman said. However, since yesterday's Variety story, it remains to be seen whether Kubrick, who zealously guards his privacy and insists that his employees sign rigid secrecy agreements, will actually show up.