I COULD hardly believe what Anne Dudley revealed to me last week about Oscar-night parties. "It's not true that they go on all night," she said. "We arrived late at Elton John's party and he had gone, the bar was closed and it was only 2.30. In the end I just went home to bed."

Which sounds like no way to treat one of Britain's only two winners.

Dudley won her Oscar for best original score in a musical or comedy for her work on The Full Monty, the only one of the film's four nominations to succeed.

"To be honest it's all a bit of a blur," she told me from Los Angeles. "They call out your name and I got it into my head that they'd made a mistake, so apparently it took me an awful long time to get out of my seat. Then it takes forever to get to the front. I saw Geena Davis and she was grinning broadly and looking very encouraging but then I didn't dare look down or I'd have been looking straight at Jack Nicholson and Robin Williams."

She is grateful that the committee a few years ago separated the awards for best dramatic and best comedy score: "The music that kept winning was for the big-budget blockbusters and the small score stuff was never getting a look in. This year Titanic would have walked off with it."

But wasn't her Oscar basically for choosing "You Sexy Thing" by Hot Chocolate? She laughs. "No. For one thing it wasn't just me that chose the 1970s songs. And what I actually won for was the other music that helped the drama along. People have an impression of the music as a whole. I had this idea that the film was about these individuals who came together to achieve a group thing. And so I had the idea of putting different types of instruments that you wouldn't normally put together like a sax and a harmonica and taking these strong individual sounds and make them work together as a group.

"I saw The Full Monty at a screening in Soho. I decided that I would like to do it and started work from there. I had to do about 20 minutes'- worth of music. What's hard is something like a period drama of 120 minutes and you have to come up with as much as 100 minutes of music. That's seriously hard work."

Dudley studied at the Royal College of Music, getting the highest marks in her year. She also wrote music for The Crying Game, Buster and The Pope Must Die, and for television she composed for Jeeves and Wooster and Kavanagh QC.

She was also a founder member of the avant-garde pop group The Art of Noise: "We just wanted to be anything that we wanted to be. It's an experimental group and it's never really lost that."

The group produced a cover of Prince's "Kiss" with Tom Jones, and she worked with him again on The Full Monty. "Tom is my favourite person to work with. We were telling his agent about the film, that it was about five unemployed men who take up stripping in Sheffield and you could see he wasn't keen. 'Have you gone a bit downmarket, Anne?' he said. Anyway we had to chase Tom around because he was on tour until we ended up in a little studio in Newcastle and Tom did it and it became his song. He took it to another level."

She also does arrangements for pop groups such as Pulp. "I don't want to become an old fogey so I like doing things like that. I like to keep my hand in ... Jarvis Cocker has an extraordinary brain and a quite extraordinary body."

But she says composing for television or film is often not given the credit it deserves - "It's the Cinderella of the TV production."

She also thinks it is critically important to our reaction to drama. "It immediately takes you into a certain world. As soon as the Poirot tune starts you know you're in for an hour of murder, mystery and escapism. It's a shortcut for the brain. It's getting right to you and your emotions.

"But as a composer you end up feeling overlooked. It's so awful when the titles roll and the music plays and then the announcer talks all over it. It's so annoying. And there's never enough money for enough musicians or enough time and you never get any credit for what you do in the end.

She says that, like most of the others involved in The Full Monty she has not made a lot of money despite the film's success. "It was just a straightforward job. But then it is perfectly normal to take a fee. To negotiate a percentage of box-office profits is almost unknown for composers. But you can't go around with a chip on your shoulder. The fact that it's the most successful British film raises your status as a composer, so next time your agent will be able to negotiate more for you."

And what is she planning to do with her Oscar? "Oh I expect I'll be able to find some shelf or other for it," she says.

DO YOU prefer your drink to be a little black dress or a trouser suit? Confused? Not half as much as I was when attending the Champagne Information Bureau's annual tasting last week. More than 60 vintage and 60 non-vintage champagnes were offered up to producers to sample those all-important wines for the Millennium.

Champagne-tasting is serious business, with the British more and more eager to quaff the stuff. The CIB announced last week that the amount of vintage champagne imported to the UK had risen by 12.8 per cent in 1997. The bureau put it down to higher disposable incomes, a strong exchange rate, changing consumer behaviour, the restaurant boom, and the Millennium effect.

Antony Mallaby ("He is Mr Bollinger," hissed a PR respectfully) advised that, for those wishing to put down a good bottle for the Millennium, the 1990 vintage was the one to choose from, although it was no good for investment purposes (the press pack noted sadly that champagne is not a liquid asset). He commented: "In the late 1980s, drinking champagne was very frivolous, the Thatcher-generation people drinking when they had achieved a high deal. Now I think it's different."

"People drink champagne more sensibly these days," agreed Guy Salter, MD of Laurent-Perrier UK. How boring that sounds. Still, asked to describe their drinks, Mr Mallaby rhapsodised: "Bollinger is a little black Dior dress". Not to be outdone, Mr Salter described Laurent-Perrier as "a bit lighter and trendier - a DKNY trouser suit."

Why Blackpool isn't Tony enough

BLACKPOOL last week became the last resort for trendy New Labour with the announcement that the party had decided that its annual conferences would be held in the more balmy climes of Brighton.

Officially, the reason is that Labour has been offered a better financial deal by Brighton. But for those who suspect a New Labour plot to keep the Middle Englanders from having to go to a town made famous as a playground for industrial workers, the answer may be a bit simpler.

The Audit Commission has just released its annual performance indicators for local authorities which covers everything from collection of council tax to collection of dustbins, and includes the inspection of food outlets. While most councils complied, Blackpool declined to give any figures, no doubt shamed from three years ago when it admitted that only one in three eateries had been inspected.

Could it be simply that Blair and his colleagues are not willing to risk food poisoning? A spokesman for the council said yesterday: "Oh, goodness, I can't really comment on that."

AH, THE vagaries of Cool Britannia. The Minister for Education and Employment, former Tory Alan Howarth, was most peeved last week when the plane he was travelling in had to be diverted from Manchester to Castle Donington. After he indulged in much huffing and puffing, his press officer gently pointed out that he was not the only VIP on the flight to suffer. Looking down the aisle he saw a fetching brunette talking furiously into a mobile phone and agreed. But New Labour obviously doesn't equal new gallantry, as the minister left Posh Spice stranded at the airport. "I would have offered her a lift in my taxi but I didn't know what David Beckham would say," the minister confesses timidly.

HM unimpressed by Cavalier bill

THE parsimony of the Royal Family is legendary - shortly after Prince Charles was born, a palace official went to Westminster Food Office to collect the baby's ration book for free cod-liver oil and orange juice. So maybe landlord Nigel Ashby should not have been surprised when the Queen refused to settle a royal bar bill. But then, it did date back 350 years.

Mr Ashby wrote to Buckingham Palace asking for a one-off payment of pounds 1,000 after he uncovered an unpaid bill dating back to the Civil War. While researching the history of the Malt Shovel Pub in Spon End, Coventry, he uncovered records of a debt incurred for the billeting of Royalist soldiers at the watering hole.

However, a reply from Buckingham Palace informed Mr Ashby the Queen did not feel she was liable for the bill. A Buck House official wrote: "... at this distance in time and in the absence of suitable evidence, or the current address of the hostelry's original creditor, I regret that the Queen does not feel able to accede to your request".

Mr Ashby's original letter was returned (together with a stamp).

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