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The Independent Culture
POOR CHRISTOPHER Sylvester. The pasty-faced Express diarist who writes under the ill-starred pseudonym Brutus has been reduced to lifting items from this column to fill his own. Pandora's a charitable type, but yesterday the hapless chump managed to run a story that appeared here last Thursday (Max Hastings mishearing "venison" for "Benetton"). Somehow Brutus still managed to pepper Pandora's five-day-old yarn with inaccurate misquotations. Even The Express's proprietor, Clive Hollick, didn't bother to deny this week that Sylvester's column is "snide and fanciful". Perhaps it's invidious to blame Sylvester, a quondam night-club crooner, since the pressure's obviously telling on other prisoners of the luckless Lubyanka. As The Express's circulation plunges full speed ahead, down through the magic million barrier, trade press reports indicate advertisers are starting to desert in droves.

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SMASH THAT stereotype - Kiwis are the least sexy people on the planet, according to a new survey. When asked their idea of a perfect evening only 1 in 40 New Zealanders picked sex. It came in behind dining out (29.5 per cent), a gig (13 per cent) gambling (10 per cent) and getting a good night's sleep (9 per cent.) Only 1 per cent of Kiwis under 30 rated sex as their favourite pm pursuit.

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MIND THE generation gap. In response to Roger Chapman (and other eagle- eyed readers who e-mailed Pandora that the 21st century starts on 1 January 2001) here are 10 things you may not know about those who will be 21 in 2001, courtesy of Metin Alsanjak, 19: They've never known life without Aids; they don't know Michael Jackson used to be black and Des O'Connor used to be white. Homer's not an author but the father figure in The Simpsons. They've never been intellectually tested at 16 years of age. They know nothing about the Falklands war. They expect their shoes to feature air bubbles. They have been bombarded by mesmerising amounts of advertising. There's always been a hole in the ozone layer. They grew up on He-Man, Predator and the Terminator - not The Magic Roundabout, The Clangers and Bagpuss. They've never seen an episode of ITV's Crossroads.

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SO GERI Halliwell (pictured) has reportedly snared pounds 300,000 to write a book. Enquiring minds want to know: what was the last book she read? Pandora has a suggestion... Pandora. By Anne Rice. Arrow publishes the pounds 4.99 Vampire paperback next month. But does the Titian-tressed temptress share Pandora's taste for blood?

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NORMAN LAMONT'S steadfast support for Pinochet noir runs to 72 written parliamentary questions. Their cost to taxpayers is pounds 8,280. That buys three round-trips to Santiago. Or 33 flights to Madrid - one way.

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CAN THIS be true? Johnny Depp, fresh from his extensive absinthe-sampling session with Dr Hunter S Thompson, has been signed up to advertise the mind-bending liquor on these shores.

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THE RACE to the Butt of Sack continues - now it's the Beat Generation icon Lawrence Ferlinghetti who's weighing in with a few tips. The founder of the legendary City Lights imprint says that the laureateship selection process is "congealed". Ferlinghetti, one of a highly select pool of poets whose volumes have sold more than a million copies (A Coney Island of the Mind), says friends of his recently saw Seamus Heaney reading at Berkeley University: "They fell asleep." Ferlinghetti, 79, pauses before suggesting the "younger" poets Adrian Mitchell and Tom Pickard, then corrects himself "I guess they're not that young any more." Finally he plumps for Bay-area- based, English-born Thom Gunn. Pandora thinks we could do worse - a lot worse.

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WINNER OF Pandora's saucer of milk this lap is James Naughton, the off- Broadway lyricist whose show Street of Dreams features this parody of Cole Porter's You're the Top: "You're the pits/ You're a wilted salad/ You're the pits/ A Lloyd Webber ballad." Miaow!

Contact Pandora by e-mail: pandora @indepen dent.co.uk

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