Pandora: A happy new year, up before the beak

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The Independent Online

While you're pulling out the bubbly and belting out "Auld Lang Syne" this New Year's Eve, spare a thought for Lee Hurst, whose celebratory plans have had to be put on hold thanks to an unfortunately-timed date with the law.

The follicularly challenged comedian, who became a household name thanks to his work on the popular BBC television sports quiz They Think It's All Over, is due to spend the day at Guildford Magistrates' Court for a hearing over his notorious "stage rage" incident earlier in the year. He is being charged with criminal damage after smashing an audience member's £300 phone.

The announcement comes three months after the incident, when Hurst was accused of turning on the punter during a gig at the Surrey town's You Must Be Stoking club.

On spotting the man sending a text message while he was on stage, Hurst is said to have launched into a colourful tirade, accusing the poor chap of secretly trying to record his stand-up routine, before grabbing the offending phone and smashing it on the floor.

He is said to have raged: "I'm fed up with you people filming me and putting it on YouTube," before he stomped off stage. He then allegedly refused to return to complete his performance for a crowd of around 300, who had each paid £9 for a ticket.

Connie's conundrum of her own

Connie Fisher wants to be taken seriously. The West End starlet and winner of Andrew Lloyd Webber's TV singing contest How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? tells me that she hopes to move away from musicals in the New Year and do something a little more esoteric.

"Lots of people have told me that I remind them of Maureen Lipman," she explains. "I know it's difficult to do and be taken seriously but I really want to make that jump."

In fact, Fisher claims she has already taken several steps towards emulating the esteemed actress's success.

"I called her up and asked her to watch me in The Sound Of Music and then we went out for dinner. She gave me some great advice and told me about her early career.

"We have written to each other a couple of times and I am going to see her in her new play. She is a great inspiration to me."

Nature lover likes snail mail

Just as those irritating end-of-year emails start flooding your inbox, brimming with unwelcome boasts from family members, why not turn to Bill Oddie to end your irritation?

"I don't use email!" exclaims the eccentric nature lover. "I don't even have a computer.

"I find it much better to use the Royal Mail – that way people don't just shoot off unnecessary comments. It was a trick I picked up with my editors while writing my book.

"If you email them a chapter, they just delete everything and then send it back with all the changes. If I post it to them they've only got the one copy, so they call up and discuss everything properly."

Old punk refuses to Wilt

A full 18 years after he left punk band The Stranglers, Hugh Cornwell continues to cause trouble. I hear the grizzled rocker has riled the residents of Trowbridge, Wiltshire, with his latest solo offering, "Please Don't Put Me On A Slow Boat To Trowbridge".

The tune has driven the town's mayor John Knight to a passionate defence: "He hasn't opened his eyes. There are more listed buildings here than there are in Bradford on Avon."

Elton's sacrifice to the recession

Has Elton John been hit by the credit crunch? The famously extravagant party host is offering uncharacteristic discounts on tickets to his New Years Eve bash at the O2 this week. Pandora hears it's now possible to buy four tickets for the price of three (or get 25 per cent off). But how will they pay for all the sequins?

New version is in a terrible State

The big-screen remake of the BBC's much-loved mini-series State Of Play seems likely to offend the many viewers who are still loyal to the original.

The trailer has leaked online and all I can say is, be prepared for an entirely different experience.

The pleasingly-shabby London scenery has been replaced by an American setting. There are plenty of high-gloss, low-brainpower action sequences, car chases and shoot-outs. And the just-as-pleasingly-shabby Bill Nighy is nowhere to be seen.

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