A strike will not stop Terry trousering his large packet

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The Independent Online

It has not been the easiest of months for the usually avuncular Sir Terry Wogan. In last week's "Testiclegate", the veteran Points Of View presenter – comfortably settled on a chair with his knees akimbo – sparked complaints to the BBC about his crotch-clinging mustard moleskin trousers, pictured right.

Now Sir Terry, 69, faces a fortnight of soul-searching while he waits to hear whether his BBC colleagues will strike over some of the worst job cuts in the corporation's history.

The Irishman, who earns £800,000 a year for presenting his breakfast show on Radio 2, became the nation's favourite "scab" two years ago, upsetting fellow workers when he crossed picket lines to enter the studio and broadcast as usual. He refused to take a leaflet about the strike action from broadcasting union officials.

"Of course I have sympathy for the strikers," he said then. "But I have a job to do. I am on a contract." Sir Terry's presence was also a comfort to the BBC management – his programme was one of the few not to be affected.

If talks with the board break down and the unions stoke the braziers this time, Sir Terry is expected to again leave his colleagues outside the building while he takes to the air and earns his weighty salary. "He is not going to be affected by the cuts and he feels a duty to his listeners to just keep going regardless," said a BBC colleague.

Who else, after all, will supply the slippered masses with their airy banter and easy listening?

* Call it odd, call it downright fishy, but something doesn't add up about Whitney Houston's "surprise" appearance at the 'Fashion Rocks' party at the Albert Hall, in aid of the Prince's Trust.

The troubled singer, left, who hopes to revive her musical career after several spells in drug rehabilitation, took to the stage at the gala to introduce girl band Sugababes. Audience members were surprised that she quickly scarpered off to the shadows without warbling a note herself.

In fact, Whitney, left, was supposed to perform. A Fashion Rocks insider says that Houston's entourage turned up two days earlier to lay out candles and "remove any pictures that might offend". She arrived on the day and was meant to sing Lady Marmalade with Sugababes.

A source says: "Whitney rehearsed that morning but pulled out, complaining of a sore throat. She had to be replaced by Patti LaBelle."

* The Jamaican singer Beenie Man, right, has renounced homophobia. But it is never too late for a bigoted danchall reggae musician to have his moment before the Commons Standing Committee on the Criminal Justice Bill.

Mr Beenie, real name Anthony Davis, was the subject of a cracking row between MPs about coarse language in Parliament. Ben Summerskill, of the gay rights group Stonewall, testified that the rapper wrote anti-gay lyrics. At the request of Tory MP Edward Garnier, he read out "Batty man fi dead" (gay men must be killed) and other choice violent sexual content and kept going, and going. Committee chairman: "Order! There is enough illustrative detail to make the point." Mr Garnier: "It was my fault. I needed to know what the problem was."

Says Summerskill: "One hopes the transcribers of Hansard weren't too shocked."

* A belated RIP to Alan Coren, who died on Thursday. Last year, the humorist caught necrotising fasciitis ("flesh-eating disease") while holidaying in France. He fully recovered and enjoyed telling how he emerged from his coma in Nice's Hôpital Saint Roch.

"My first words," he explained, "were, 'Get me a hand grenade!' I had it in my head that I was in occupied France and the Boche were at the gate, drawn thither by collaborators who had spotted the short-wave radio in my suitcase."

A family friend elaborates: "Alan thought he was a shot-down RAF pilot. When asked by French doctors if he was OK, Alan refused to speak to them other than to give his name, rank and serial number, despite the fact he had never done National Service.

* Ministers Decide, the memoirs of the chalk-striped Thatcherite Norman Fowler, were described by Jeremy Paxman as "dire" and by the biographer Stephen Pollard thus: "Unless you have endured [their] sheer tedium, you can't begin to understand the nature of boredom." A bit harsh on ol' Norm, given how he forced Maggie to acknowledge the scourge of Aids in 1986.

But this Sunday, Lord Fowler will relaunch himself as a much edgier figure, on stage at London's Drill Hall theatre (currently hosting an exhibition of transgender paintings, And Then He Was A She) for a Q&A on Thatcher's treatment of Aids and gays. "He'll come on after talks about cinema, clubbing and what's happening in saunas today," says organiser Rupert Smith. "Then after Lord Fowler, I'm going to stick on the big black drag queen called Le Gateau Chocolat." Times change!

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