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The Independent Culture
WE'VE HEARD of advertisers trying to interfere with editorial - those corporate bully-boys Coca-Cola are notorious for it - but never the other way round. Until now. And where else would it happen but in the topsy-turvy world of Associated Newspapers? The Evening Standard, not known for blanding out sexy news stories, turns into Miss Prissypants with potential advertisers. One Night Stand, the celebrity dress rental shop behind Sloane Square, submitted an ad to the newspaper that began: "Got a stiffy in the mail...?" (In Poshopolis, a "stiffy" means an invitation.) The Standard's ad rep laughed out loud - but subsequently told One Night Stand that the ad was "too suggestive" to run. Apparently all retail ads must now be passed by the fashion department. The proprietor, Jonathan Harmsworth (pictured), must be thrilled that his highly paid style cops have nothing better to do with their time - or his money.

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REMAINDERS OF the Day: A Slight and Delicate Creature, the memoirs of Margaret Cook (remember?) was published on 25 January at pounds 20. The Book People, based in St Helier, are offering it today at pounds 4.99.

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IT WAS Robin Cook who was tipped for an early bath - but Michael Howard who took it. Howard's abrupt departure to spend more time with his money may not be quite the opportunity William Hague needed to bring fresh young blood to his ragged team. Blue-bench handicappers like the look of the Norman Tebbit-wannabe Iain Duncan Smith for the job: he's Eurosceptic, he's brainy, and... he's not the Vulcan-foundling John Redwood. But an outside candidate with something of the right about her is moving up smartly on the rails: shrill, francophone Gillian Shephard. The tale spun by her flock is that Howard's abrasive style in the Commons was counter-productive, tending to tip the scales in Cook's favour even when he was under attack. Given that the gnomic Foreign Secretary has been foxed by females in his private life, the synapse path is that femme fatale Shephard could produce identical results across the Dispatch Box.

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ALLEZ LES crayons bleu! Apologies almost outnumbered guests at l'Institut Francais for the launch of a triumphalist footie tome, France and the World Cup. Was the publisher, Frank Cass, optimistic in expecting Marcel Desailly and Franck Leboeuf to attend? Both were on defensive duty during Chelsea's European Cup Winners' Cup tie that night. Gerard Houllier was another no-show; presumably the Liverpool boss was underwhelmed by the prospect of blocking questions from the floor about Robbie Fowler's Stamford Bridge spat with the Channel Islander Graeme Le Saux. The sports minister, Tony Banks, was watching the Chelsea match, and Glenn Hoddle had retired to contemplate his karma. Let's hope the French team's midfield shows similar precision organisation during Euro 2000.

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101 USES for an Old School Tie - No 1. Strangling your lawyer. Harvard Law School has warned the diminutive designer Ralph Lauren off featuring its crest on his ties. What brilliant mind would knock off the trademark of an institution that prides itself on churning out some of the most predatory litigators on the planet? Perhaps Santa Palmer-Tomkinson will be able to tell us in May, when she takes over publicity chores for the designer's new flagship store, near its arch-rival Tommy Hilfiger in London's New Bond Street. Or perhaps Pandora can save her the trouble; Lauren's first job in fashion was working for Rivets, a firm that specialises in manufacturing... old school ties.

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FOLLOWING MARTIN Amis's tooth-capping, it seems corrective surgery has become de rigueur for our literary stars. Latest to succumb is the former recluse Salman Rushdie, who has had his eyelids lifted. "It's strange, he used to look like Garfield; now he looks like Tony Blair," says one who ran into Rushdie recently. Is this perhaps a homage to the late Stanley Kubrick's completion of Eyes Wide Shut? More likely, say literati, he's preparing a new, sexier Salman for the media blitz around his new novel, The Ground Beneath Her Feet, which features songs that may be set to music by Rushdie's new best friend Bono.

Contact Pandora by e-mail on pandora @independent. co.uk

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