Pandora: Back to Black: Conrad set for a final showdown

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The Independent Online

While he paces furiously like his hero, Napolean, during his last days in exile, Conrad Black is preparing to face his detractors in the British press one last time before his sentencing in Chicago.

Next Wednesday, the former Telegraph proprietor, found guilty of fraud in July, will make a surprise appearance at Waterstone's in Piccadilly, where he will address reporters in order to promote his latest biography of the disgraced US President Richard Nixon.

Black, above right, will conduct a 20-minute interview with his good friend, the historian Andrew Roberts, and will then spend a further 20 minutes speaking to hacks at the event.

Owing to legal complications, he will of course be unable to attend the pow-wow in person, but will instead address his audience via a live video link-up from his home in Florida.

"He recently did a similar event to an audience in Canada from his home in Florida and it went really well," explains a spokeswoman for the bookshop chain. "He was keen to do another one and got in touch with us. He's up for taking questions."

The occasion will also provide eBay aficionados with a nifty piece of memorabilia. Black will be autographing copies of the book using the new hi-tech LongPen device, which enables signatures to be transmitted over the internet using electricity and fibre optics.

"No one expects the questions to be restricted to Conrad's book," I am assured. "True to form, he seems more than happy to bow out with all guns blazing."

* Mystery surrounds Led Zeppelin's decision to reunite for a concert at the O2 Arena in London next month.

Their battle-weary singer, Robert Plant, left, has already insisted the show is merely a one-off, and any subsequent tour was out of the question. "There'll be one show and that's it," he said recently. "We need to do one last show because we've done some shows and they've been crap."

When asked again about the prospect of further gigs, he insisted: "Not for me."

Strange, then, that the musical bible NME reported yesterday that British band The Cult has claimed otherwise. "We'll be back next year, because we're opening for a band you might have heard of. The name starts with 'L' and has a 'Z' in it," the band's singer, Ian Astbury, was quoted as saying.

Says a Led Zep aide: "No decision has been made."Quick as a wink, he adds: "Maybe he's got mixed up and they're supporting Limp Bizkit."

* The former model Meredith Ostrum, better known as the other half of Duran Duran's bleached-blond keyboard player, Nick Rhodes, is adding to her edgy acting repertoire.

The 30-year-old beauty, right, who last year appeared in Factory Girl as the Velvet Underground singer Nico, alongside Sienna Miller, has just completed filming of her first lesbian role.

"The movie is called Boogie Woogie and I play Jaime Winstone's lover," Ostrum told Pandora at the recent Red Cross Ball. "Jaime is really feisty, and she's also a really great kisser."

Rhodes, now 45, is currently with his band on their critically-acclaimed tour of the United States. I do hope that his energy levels still match those of his adventurous young paramour.

* The announcement that BBC News's lively economics editor, Evan Davis, is to move over to the Radio 4 Today programme has presented business editor Robert Peston with a chance to nab back the office that, by rights, really should have been his.

Peston moved over to the Beeb back in 2005 to replace the outgoing Jeff Randall. But no sooner had Randall shifted the last of his brown boxes from his sizeable glass fishbowl, cheeky Davis decided to claim the room for himself.

Peston recalls: "Ah yes, the Randall palace – all those chandeliers and rococo fountains. As it happens, I like my existing well-appointed office and had not given it a moment's thought."

* Not content with drawing a thick green line through the Conservative Party, the eco-warrior Zac Goldsmith, right, has turned his attention to his alma mater, Eton College.

"A visit to the Political Society by Zac Goldsmith led to the commissioning of a study of Eton's heating and energy costs and a useful report has been produced," announces the school's Provost Sir Eric Anderson, a former mentor to Tony Blair. "We will be reviewing what actions to take this year."

Interestingly, it was while Anderson was headmaster that Goldsmith was expelled from Eton after being caught with cannabis. Usually, dismissed pupils are not welcomed back to the school. Perhaps Sir Eric, spotting another political high-flyer in the making, was prepared to make an exception.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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