Colin Murray's balloon scare ends BBC blue-sky thinking

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The Independent Online

* Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope: it's Colin Murray, Radio 1 DJ - being released into the sky very, very quickly, attached to 500 helium balloons.

In the aftermath of the Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond's 300mph crash in a jet-powered car, BBC chiefs have banned the release of a video promoting Murray's new evening radio show, amid concerns that the balloon escapade will be seen as too dangerous.

Radio 1 colleagues wheezed to create a stunt-style video, showing Murray plucked off the ground and into the hemisphere. "There was a bit of a miscalculation on the number of balloons," says my source, still cackling with glee after viewing the video, "and Colin Murray shot a long way into the sky much quicker than he expected. He released a torrent of swear words at the team below while he was blowing about, demanding they get him down.

"Nothing untoward happened though really; there were ropes. It is absolutely amazing to watch. Bloody hilarious. I don't know why they're so worked up."

After Hammond's accident, dictat was passed down the Beeb's chain of command that the video never be shown outside the corporation.

Have BBC bosses banned the video, I asked a spokesman? "No, no, that's not the case. We're shooting all sorts of promotional stuff for Colin. We've got lots of creative ideas on the slate."

As nothing untoward occurred, we can presumably look forward to its imminent release by the BBC on to YouTube, where, I hedge, it will prove most popular.

* The publicity billboards for Rio Ferdinand's recent autobiography, My Story, hyped the tale of "the most talked about footballer of his generation".

A questionable claim. Beckham? Rooney? Cruel members of the footballing fraternity have suggested that Ferdinand, 27, is not even the most talked about footballer in the England defence (third out of four, ahead of only Gary Neville).

Publishers are more interested in the "high six-figure advance" he was reportedly paid - especially as a paltry 8,000 copies have been shifted in a month.

"The sales figures have been generally disappointing for all the recent football books," concedes a spokeswoman for Headline Books, Ferdinand's publisher. "There's not a feel-good factor around football at the moment. People here worked very hard on the Rio book and we were very pleased with it." Still: no bling for you.

* Paul McKenna has been the victim of some spurious (and untrue) allegations in this country, but the television hypnotist seems to be successfully winning over American audiences.

On Monday, McKenna appeared on a daytime chat show hosted by the comedian Ellen DeGeneres.

He reportedly cured DeGeneres of her lifelong nicotine addiction by placing her in a trance and planting a suggestion that every urge to smoke should be greeted by the thought of "a cigarette coated in liquorice and hair from a barbershop". Delightful!

DeGeneres has been desperate to give up smoking ever since her mother died of cancer. She told McKenna: "You've helped me tremendously; you've saved my life."

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it...

* Iain Duncan Smith, the quiet chap who led the Tories before David Cameron or Dracula Michael Howard, dramatically threatened to quit the Conservatives last summer and become an independent MP.

IDS was outraged by the possibility that former party chief exec Mark MacGregor, who gave evidence against him in the 2003 "Betsygate scandal" (IDS was eventually cleared of inappropriately employing his wife as his diary secretary), might stand for the Tories in the next general election.

Duncan Smith's resignation was looking increasingly likely. Until the weekend, when MacGregor lost in the nominations for Thanet South, Kent.

An embarrassment avoided: listen carefully and you'll hear cheering from Notting Hill's tree-lined boulevards.

* Sometimes a story is so good you know it can't be true. "I've got one for you," says a mole, in the upstairs bar of a seedy Soho pub. "A litigious Scottish politician has colonic irrigation in a clinic near King's Cross. Just ask Giles Coren, The Times columnist. He goes to the same place."

And there the story, sadly, began to unravel. "That is the most amazing email I have ever received!" Coren bawls with laughter. "I've never had that done, but if Pandora would like to send me to King's Cross on assignment to have my bowels watered I would be delighted."

A call to George Galloway's spokesman confirms it is "a load of shite". He roars: "You nearly caused a triple car pile-up! George and Cherie Blair in the spa? Ha ha! I'd love it if this was true, but George wouldn't let them near him."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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