Giuliani picks up £50,000 - and shows compassion, too

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The Independent Online

"I think every New Yorker would join me in saying we feel we very much understand what you are going through," Giuliani told a press conference.

"This is a difficult time, but the people of London have responded in exactly the right way."

Heartfelt as Giuliani's words were, they do not always come for free. For I gather that he was actually in town on a lucrative speaking engagement at the Local Government Association's annual conference.

Sources at the LGA report that he was paid a "staggering" sum - said to be something in the region of £50,000 - for a speech on the eve of the bombing on "leadership in local government".

The size of the fee has already caused rumblings of discontent at the organisation, which recently decided to rein in spending and axed the Employers' Organisation in order to get more "bang for buck".

The LGA wouldn't discuss Giuliani's contract last night. But although it receives funding from the annual grant to local councils, a spokesman denied that his fee was paid by the taxpayer.

"The conferences are commercially sponsored and delegates pay for their tickets, so this wasn't from LGA funds. The talk was excellent and fitted in well with the theme of the conference."

* Sienna Miller attracts sympathy for "bravely" performing her West End play, 24 hours after her fiancé Jude Law owned up to bonking his children's nanny.

There will be further calls on her resources of bravery in the coming days. For on Sunday, Miller has a public engagement to fulfil at the Cartier International polo final at Windsor.

The event will attract scores of photographers and journalists with whom she'll be expected to rub shoulders in the sponsor's marquee.

Having already RSVP'd to Cartier, Miller ought rightly to attend. But her spokesman isn't so sure.

"I really have no idea whether she'll go to the polo on Sunday any more," she said yesterday. "It's up to her, and how she is feeling by the weekend."

Either way, I'm sure Miller will continue to have a cosy relationship with the jewellery firm. She often shows up at their events - and is frequently given Cartier jewellery to wear at film premieres.

* Diana, the wife of George Melly, will this week publish Take a Girl Like Me, a memoir of her choppy 40-year marriage. It details several affairs, repeated nervous breakdowns, and at least one suicide attempt.

Tomorrow's launch looks like being a strange old do. Although Melly's current mistress - described in the book as The Greckel - hasn't been invited, plenty of his other extramarital companions will attend.

"Several of George's girls are going to be there," says Diana. "I know of at least two: Louisa Buck, and Margaret Ann Stewart. A couple of my boys are coming, too. I hope they recognise me: I've now got dyed blonde hair and glasses."

Melly is blissfully unfazed by the whole thing. He's agreed to perform at the bash, and declares the book "a marvellous portrait".

* Unlikely though it sounds, Stan Collymore - the headline-prone former footballer - was hired to play Sharon Stone's husband in the sequel to Basic Instinct.

When this was first reported, many suspected a hoax. Even Collymore had doubts, saying he "was on holiday in Thailand and couldn't believe it" when Stone's casting agent called.

He had good reason to be sceptical. "When I did the reality show, The Farm, Rebecca Loos was telling everyone 'I'm casting for a film with Colin Farrell in Amsterdam'," Collymore tells Now magazine.

"She was really excited about it. But when she went to Amsterdam for an audition, it turned out to be Dutch Candid Camera." You can't be too careful!

* The surprise success of Bill Oddie's recent TV show, Springwatch, comes with a sting in its tail. For all the viewers he pulled in, Oddie's decision to train cameras on a family of peregrine falcons in central London has left BBC bosses with a serious headache.

The famous nest was actually built on top of an aerial used by BBC radio cars. This aerial is now broken. But, since falcons are a protected species, the Beeb has been banned from carrying out repairs on it.

Oddie's co-presenter, Mike Dilger, reckons the RSPB will prosecute if the birds are disturbed. "All three chicks filmed for Springwatch are now flying, but may still return to the nest while they are getting their skills up to speed," he tells me. "We hope the family will soon move to the Tate Modern, as it did in 2004, so the antenna can be fixed."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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