Hit & Run: Meet the Biden babes

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The Independent Online

If, as the old saying goes, politics is showbusiness for ugly people, then the female cast of America's extraordinary Presidential election of 2008 has been certainly doing its bit to prove that old sayings aren't always true. A string of unlikely style icons has emerged, from matinee idol Michelle Obama to Cindy McCain, the perfectly-preserved brewery heiress who was profiled by Vogue, and her pneumatic, country music-loving student daughter, Meghan. Then we met Sarah Palin, whose slender frame, suggestive wink, and power suits have set many a middle-aged male voter's heart a-flutter. Now it is the turn of Joe Biden, who unleashes his harem of photogenic ladies in the new edition of US Vogue.

The setting is the lush lawn of Senator Biden's family home in Wilmington, Delaware. The picture shows four generations of what the magazine describes as "The Women in Joe's life" perched atop reassuringly expensive garden furniture like protagonists in an autumnal Ralph Lauren advertisement. At the centre, in jeans and navy V-neck, sits Biden's wife, Jill. She is a 57-year-old former model turned local teacher, and is described in an accompanying interview (without a hint of irony) as "the athletic girl-next-door who grew up to be the pretty teacher everyone has a crush on". Other players of note include Valerie Biden Owens, Joe's younger sister and campaign manager (second left), and his plucky, 91-year-old mother, Jean, who is universally called "Mom Mom". In the foreground lies Biden's family pet – a Labradoodle called Brother.

According to Biden's daughter-in-law Kathleen – who is standing behind Valerie, and is mother to three of the children in the snap (Finnegan, Maisy and Naomi) – the scene represents a normal afternoon at chez Biden. "This house is always filled with family," she says. "There are, like, 20 Bidens here, always."

The Joe and Jill Biden story goes back to 1975, three years after the Senator's first wife Neilia and one-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident – the recollection of which brought him to tears during the recent Vice Presidential debate. According to family legend, they met after Joe – who was struggling to bring up sons Beau and Hunter (Kathleen's husband) alone – clocked a photo of Jill in a fashion advertisement hanging in a local bus shelter. After years of courtship, she agreed to marry him (at the fifth time of asking) and they now have a teenage daughter, Ashley (standing directly behind her mother) in the picture.

Today, the family lives in a prosperous suburb called Greenville. "It is a quiet neighbourhood of big, stately homes, old-growth trees, and three-car garages," Vogue notes approvingly. This genteel affluence can seem at odds with Biden's self-styled profile of a working-class hero. But the Democratic candidate, now 65, is no stranger to accusations of hypocrisy, and has previously shrugged off taunts about his hair plugs and fake tan, together with recent rumours suggesting he's benefited from plastic surgery and Botox injections. Either way, Vogue now seems to be sold on the idea of an Obama-Biden victory. In what may have been a simple error – but could also mark a bold electoral prediction, the magazine's cover bills it as: "All the Vice President's women."

By Guy Adams

THE REAL REASON WHY IT'S TOUGH BEING MADONNA

One of the more intriguing aspects of the Guy/Madonna divorce is that Ritchie reportedly wanted his wife to spend less time working out; she was said to be spending as much as four hours a day in the £6m gym she had built next door to her house in central London. She was even at the gym first thing in the morning the day after her 50th birthday party, and goes riding on Sundays. So, officially, she has no rest days. Even Wayne Rooney has two days off a week.

"There are no short cuts to being Madonna," she said last year. "It's all about hard work. It's diet and exercise and constantly being careful."

We all know that she works out two hours a day, six days a week, with her personal trainer, Tracy Anderson. But Guy Ritchie's observation recently that Madonna has "the body of a 22-year-old Olympic athlete" is somewhat wide of the mark.

Compare Madonna's workout with that of American Olympic swimmer, Natalie Coughlin. She is 26 and trains for anything up to five hours a day, six days a week.

In fact, the future ex-Mrs Ritchie has the body of a 50-year-old who hits the gym a lot. "To have that kind of muscle definition as a woman, you have to combine excessive exercise and not enough food," says diet and fitness expert Laura Williams. "Women aren't supposed to have that little body fat!"

By Esther Walker

A VEGETABLE WITH RAW SEX AP-PEEL

This week, I saw an ad for a potato peeler on prime-time television. Initially, I didn't realise what I was being sold. The campaign pays homage to the testosterone-fuelled world of male grooming. With its sleek curves and super-sharp edge, the latest Zyliss could have been a Gilette Mach 3. It left a smooth surface that was lovingly caressed by manicured female fingers. But this was no upmarket depilator; it was a spud stripper, albeit, according to the husky voice-over, "the best a potato can get". I'll never be able to look a King Edward in the eye again.

By Rebecca Armstrong

LET'S DO THE YAHOOZEE!

Colin Powell is a man who likes to cut a rug. At the Africa Rising festival this week, the former US Secretary of State was invited onstage by the Nigerian band Olu Maintain, who were performing their single "Yahoozee", which has spawned a dance of the same name. To do the Yahoozee the party-goer gyrates his upper body while pointing the fingers into the air. According to the band, such moves symbolise ambition and "a sense of freedom". Unfortunately, in Powell's hands they recalled a dad getting his "groove thang" on at a wedding....

By Rob Sharp

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