Pandora: A kosher Bridge too far for Roman Abramovich
As any Chelsea football fan will testify, when Roman Abramovich's name becomes linked to a project, the rumour mill excitedly reports that a hefty injection of his reputed £8bn fortune is not long coming.
So imagine the flurry of excitement in Jewish-related websites yesterday after seeing the front-page story in this week's Jewish Chronicle, which claims London's most famous Russian import was said to be considering funding the United Synagogue, Britain's biggest Jewish religious organisation.
According to the report, Abramovich is in talks with senior figures at the United Synagogue about a sizeable investment, "possibly in excess of £100m."
So far, so (relatively) kosher. Except some parts of the story appear just a little bizarre.
The story blames the investment as the reason why "big-money signings at Chelsea have been thin on the ground in recent months." Also, it claims the two hotels within the club's Stamford Bridge stadium could be turned into a state-of-the-art United Synagogue, meaning "the Star of David would then stand alongside the Chelsea lion at the gates of the stadium".
Pandora's Jewish mole smells fish. "It's just been the festival of Purim, a time for April Fool-style jokes," I'm told. "This appears to bear all the hallmarks of what's called a Purim spiel."
Neither a spokesman for Abramovich or the United Synagogue were available to comment on the story yesterday. So forgive me if I remain a touch sceptical for now.
Gone fishing! Sophie and Jamie line up a wild day out
Strange as it sounds, Jamie Cullum and his statuesque girlfriend Sophie Dahl have revealed themselves to be surprise supporters of sustainable fishing.
The unlikely couple, who have been dating since last July, are due to accompany chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Mark Hix on a day's sustainable sea fishing in Dorset this May after Cullum splashed out £20,000 on the trip at a charity dinner. "They'll be learning how to catch fish whilst Mark will be showing them how to prep and cook them," I'm told.
"Jamie and Sophie were sitting at a table with a few of his chums when he bid for it, so it sounded like they were all going to go together." Hix says he hasn't heard from the couple yet, but has already had a few thoughts about what to do afterwards on the day. "I thought we could cook up in my new restaurant in Lyme Regis with some wild sea veg."
Not such a pretty Penny
It's not just Amy Winehouse who'll be thumbing through Chas Newkey-Burden's biography of the troubled singer with trepidation.
In one excerpt of the forthcoming tome, the journalist describes GMTV presenter Penny Smith, below right, appearing with Winehouse, also pictured, on BBC2's Never Mind the Buzzcocks, wearing a top "resembling a plate of hummus with cumin and paprika sprinkled over it".
Newkey-Burden tells Pandora it was "toe-curling" watching Smith trying to outwit Winehouse. "It must be hard for Penny Smith to be in the vicinity of such talent. She must know she could never do Amy's job but that Amy could spend an evening swallowing several kilos of ketamine, a bucket of Valium and 20 pints of Tanqueray and still present breakfast television better than Penny." Steady on!
A bum deal
News that a porn star calling himself Ben Dover was in the running for the job as Labour's general secretary has certainly opened a can of worms.
Over the weekend, a red-topped newspaper claimed that Dover – real name Lindsay Honey – was put forward for the job by a city recruitment firm. Dover has since taken exception to the piece.
Not because it lists his body of work (his films include such work as Hey Fatty Bum Bum) but because he was described as a Labour supporter.
"That was what I found particularly offensive," he says. "Call me a porn star, call me sleazy – I couldn't care less, but don't affiliate me with anything to do with the Labour Party. I certainly don't swing to the left."
Crook gets the last laugh
Long before Mackenzie Crook was forced to sport a ludicrous "pudding bowl" haircut for his role as Gareth in The Office, he faced worse ignominy as a stand-up on Britain's notorious toilet circuit.
"Someone actually threw raw liver at me at a really tough place in Birmingham," he says.
"The act before me was a gross-out magician, who did an illusion where he pulled out his own liver, then left it on stage."
Still, his long climb up the slippery showbiz ladder appears to have been worth it in the end.
Crook is currently appearing in the Brit-flick Three and Out, in which he gets to "snog" new Bond girl Gemma Arterton.
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