Blur drummer turns schmooze operator

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The Independent Online

Of all the rock stars who have shunned the limelight, none has been more happy to do so than the Blur drummer, Dave Rowntree. So it comes as something of a surprise to learn that he now aims to plant himself front of stage at this May's local elections.

Rowntree has just announced his selection to stand as Labour's candidate for a forthcoming council by-election in Marylebone.

"I've been a long-standing member of the Labour party and active in local politics for a while. I'm chairman now of my local Labour branch," he says.

"I'm a Westminster resident and in my experience of living here, it all looks lovely - there are hanging baskets everywhere - but you only need to scratch the surface and see that there's a lot of deprivation and a lot of inequality around. I think someone needs to do something about it."

Rowntree is going to be facing an uphill task, since Marylebone traditionally maintains a strong Tory presence.

But on the off-chance he is successful, it will probably put paid to any rumours Blur were planning to reform. Besides the local grumbles piling up in his inbox, Rowntree would also be likely to find himself at loggerheads with the group's rabidly political frontman, Damon Albarn.

Albarn, once a loyal New Labour disciple, declined an invitation to Number 10 earlier this year by sending a refusal note that read: "I am no longer a New Labour supporter. I am now a Communist. Enjoy the schmooze, comrade."

Things that make Mark go 'Ugh!'

The Hollywood action star and recent Oscar nominee for The Departed, Mark Wahlberg, has delivered a withering putdown regarding the talents of his fellow "beefcake", Sylvester Stallone.

Wahlberg was in town recently to promote his latest film, Shooter, in which he plays a sniper wrongly accused of attempting to assassinate the President.

Unfortunately, he didn't take kindly to the flick being compared to Stallone's Eighties action-fest, Rambo.

"There have been lots of comparisons, but this film's certainly more verbal than Rambo," he told me. "If you remember, the actors only said, like, two or three things at the end and [Stallone] cried all the time - you can't understand what he's saying, ever.

"Our film, I hope, has a more complex storyline."

Surely Stallone, who is now 60, doesn't deserve such disrespect.

He's currently filming a fourth instalment of Rambo, in which it's promised that he will have a considerably large speaking part.

I spy with my little eye

Perky actress Keeley Hawes is probably best remembered (thus far) for her role as an MI5 agent in the BBC spy drama, Spooks.

Clearly, it's a part she has been unable to shake off. According to her husband (and former co-star) Matthew Macfadyen, Hawes encountered a bizarre fan who was convinced she was part of the Secret Service.

"Keeley was in John Lewis, in the electrical goods section, and a member of staff was explaining to her how a lamp worked or something. And suddenly, in the middle of it, he leant forward and said to Keeley, 'I've applied to join you lot,'" he told me recently.

"He then went back to explaining the lamp, and then looked around, leant in again and said, 'I've sent in my application form. I should hear something soon.'"

Her reaction?

"She just told him: 'That's wonderful.'"

Loving feeling

The stability of Jeremy Irons' marriage to Sinead Cusack has - fairly or unfairly - been a source of speculation for British tabloids for some time.

Both have been accused of adultery in recent years over incidents that they have strenuously denied. Whoever you might believe, a mole gets in touch with Pandora to shed some light on the current state of the pair's 30-year union.

"Jeremy and Sinead were both at Cork airport on Bank Holiday Monday afternoon, standing in front of me in the queue for a budget airline," I'm told.

"And I must say I was quite shocked. The most discreet way I could describe their behaviour was like that of pair of energetic young teenagers."

A wing and a prayer

The British comedian, actress and writer Meera Syal has been a staunch ambassador for ladies' netball over the past few years.

Syal, a former county player, is a regular on the sport's celebrity circuit, where she likes to goal-hang as her team's goal shoot.

Recently, however, she's become frustrated at the sponsor's choice of strip, which, she complains, exposes her "bingo wings". "Every bloody year they make these skimpy, low-slung outfits to play in because everyone on the team is 20, and a size eight," she says. "This year, I said: 'Look - there are some of us who don't want to show their upper arms anymore. Can you not make a thing with sleeves?'"

Maybe they should listen to her. If not Syal might just return to playing for her usual local side which is made up of fellow mothers.