Pandora pandora@independent.co.uk

Is Greg Dyke Santa Claus? The BBC director-general and Manchester United director certainly has the beard for it. Pandora hears a festive rumour that Tony Blair turned to gregarious Greg to help with his Christmas list last year. Greg was allegedly asked to help the PM to get hold of some Manchester United strips, presumably for Nicky Blair, whose idol is the striker Andy Cole. If this tall story were shown to be true, might Cherie be asking Uncle Greg for some bootees this year?

MEANWHILE TONY Blair's visit to Boots the Chemist in, er, Bootle this week prompted a typically humorous response from the Merseyside townsfolk. As the PM went into the store one local shopper called out: "Bit late for that now." Cherie's comment is not recorded.

The Sun rose on the Millennium Dome this week. "Dawn of the thrill-ennium" screamed the leader of the red-top tabloid on Monday, wetting itself with the "excitement of the year 2000". The soaraway rag continued, "We are also certain that cynics who doubted the Dome's success will start to reconsider. The Millennium Dome has been attacked by what The Sun calls `the negative forces in this country'." Whoa! Could this be the same Sun that once shone with headlines such as "Dump the Dome, Tony"? The same paper that started a "campaign" backed by Richard Branson to "axe this monstrous folly before another penny is wasted"?

THE PR whiz Max Clifford spilled the beans on how he set up the Jeffrey Archer and Gary Glitter scoops at a Reform Club dinner this week. But, rather ironically, the inside story on Max's inside stories was only for the ears of those in the room.

HiYa!, Scotland's answer to the celebrity trash magazine Hello!, has hit the newsstands. The title reflects the particular Scots twang given to this everyday greeting, and was probably a better bet than "See you, Jimmy". The first star-studded issue features - wait for it - Elaine C Smith. Best known as Rab C Nesbitt's wife in the BBC television series, Smith is also noted for her journey across Scotland's political spectrum from Labour stalwart to SNP advocate. Early reaction to the mag is sceptical. "Expect to see `Tea and Digestives with Donald Dewar' in the next issue," jokes our man on Princes Street.

LAURENCE MARKS, comedy writer, is the latest celebrity to out himself as an Arsenal fan. In his new football diary A Fan For All Seasons, the co-creator of Birds of a Feather and The New Statesman parallels his "Gooner" love with his TV career. In one passage Marks writes of waiting to meet New Statesman star Rik Mayall from a train, "When the train pulls in only about half a dozen people get off, none of whom is Rik Mayall. Surely he didn't miss the train. With Rik, of course, anything is possible." Indeed it was, as Mayall, whose latest work includes ads for Virgin trains, was locked in the train toilet.

Sharon Stone believes that girls assessing a guy should first check out his vintage. Speaking during a promotional tour, the actress said: "Watch the way a man drinks wine. Notice if he knows what he is doing, before you decide to take him home." Raising a glass to class, Stone added: "I want to be savoured like a great Bordeaux, not thrown back like some screwtop bottle of cheap wine."

STELLA McCARTNEY'S protestations for animal rights fell on deaf ears this week when she clashed with her fellow fashion designer Stefano Gabbana. Stella sent him a video about the slaughter of animals for their fur. When the two met at New York's Metropolitan Museum Gabbana, who designs fur coats, gave McCartney short shrift. "He told her to take the videotape and shove it," a witness told the New York Post.

Another case for the fashion police is Friends star Jennifer Aniston: "I remember thinking `couture' was a designer. I thought, `Wow, this guy is on every label.' That's how much I know."

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