The Feral Beast

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The Independent Online

What a costume drama: BBC sells its wardrobe for a song

As budgetary cock-ups go, it's up there with the Dome. The BBC has been forced to sell off its entire costumes and wigs department for a fraction of its real worth. The collection, built up over 50 years and containing the stuff of dreams for any child, transvestite or fantasist, numbers a million outfits and 10,000 hairpieces – used in everything from 'Blackadder', left, to 'The Fast Show'. Last month a rival costumier, the Superhire Group, was due to buy the BBC collection, but the deal fell through at the last moment. As the department had already ceased to operate in preparation for the sale, BBC Resources had to find another buyer quickly. Step forward Angel Costumiers, the UK's biggest supplier, which was able to beat the BBC down to a bargain price. The sale is likely to cost the corporation in the long run, as its shows will have to hire all costumes and wigs back from Angel at commercial rates. Hiring from the BBC's in-house department typically cost programme makers about £60 per week; it will now be more like £120.

Lost in translation

We've all seen the ads offering seductive tax-free jobs in Dubai, but some of that Eastern promise is disappearing with the speed of a genie popping back into his lamp. Last week 15 staffers are thought to have resigned from al-Jazeera, the Middle East's English-language channel, after disputes over promised perks such as school fees and flights back to the UK. They are said to be unimpressed that their contracts were written in Arabic.

The grand National

Ex-'Telegraph' editor Martin Newland has at last decided on a name for his new Emirates-based newspaper – 'The National'. But the question being asked is, the National what?

Drudge dread

Matt Drudge was hailed by campaigners for free speech when he rode roughshod over a deal not to break the story of Prince Harry fighting in Afghanistan. But has the scoop paid off? The latest figures show traffic to his news website, the Drudge Report, has remained static.

Not playing it by the book

Every town now has its own literary festival and this week it's Oxford, courtesy of 'The Sunday Times'. But hacks from media outlets other than the sponsor should think twice before heading up the M40. Press enquiries get a frosty phone reception: "I suppose you want to know how to get plenty to drink and how we can make you all happy?" snaps an Oxford woman of a certain age. Um, aren't we supposed to be the feral ones?

And not to be taken literally

The Beast revealed last week that 'Sunday Times' columnist Cosmo Landesman has split from his young wife of three years, Maxine Chung. Now I hear the news has saddened Landesman's first wife, motor-mouthed columnist Julie Burchill, who has been a keen admirer of her successor's beauty and even based a character on Chung in her recent teen-novel, 'Sweet'. Dr Maxine Fox is the Anglo-Chinese abortionist whom the heroine, Sugar, takes such a fancy to that she pretends to be her own pregnant mother in the hope of obtaining an internal examination. Says Julie: "Not that Miss Chung is an abortionist – but she is certainly a fox!"

A show-stopper from Les

The autobiograpy of Les Dennis, out on Thursday, promises to spill the beans on life after his wife, Amanda Holden, had an affair. But the title, 'Must the Show Go On?', will raise a few sniggers as Dennis has been trying to sell 'Here Comes the Queen', a rehash of 'Are You Being Served?', since last summer. "We've been there, done that," says my man in the studios. "Nobody wants it."

How many parties can three gossip columnists get to?

It's a brave man who takes on a seven-day-a-week gossip column. Tim Walker at the 'Telegraph' is just such a one. But two weeks into the new daily Mandrake and it seems reality is sinking in. "They're finding it hard to keep up the pace with only three of them on the desk," whispers a mole, "Tim and Richard Eden are used to having a whole week to prepare one column. They've asked for the Sunday column to be shortened down from half a page. And they've been told there is no budget for any extra staff." Walker continues in his capacity as 'Sunday Telegraph' theatre critic, while Eden and number three Christopher Lamb cover parties and write the copy at least two nights a week. But requests for Eden to have a picture byline on the days he is in charge have been rejected from on high. To date, the column has been excellent – keep feeding that monster, boys.