Pandora: Charity tipple has a bitter after-taste

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The Independent Online

Jolly generous chap, that Andrew Lloyd Webber. The composer has informed readers of this week's Heat magazine that he still intends to give the proceeds from the sale of a prized Picasso to good causes.

"I'm hoping to sell it for £35m," he says. "And it's all going to theatre charities."

The picture, widely referred to as The Absinthe Drinker, was painted during the artist's Blue Period, and is currently the subject of a bitter legal dispute in the High Court.

Two years ago, it was dramatically withdrawn from auction at Christie's, New York, when a German-Jewish professor claimed that his family had been forced to sell it to the Nazis.

Why is Miliband trying to conceal his time with Ken?

Ken Livingstone's relationship with the New Labour hierarchy is often described as being almost as frosty as an Eskimo's refrigerator. A case in point is the revelation that, after a search through Hansard transcripts of parliamentary debates over the past 19 years, Gordon Brown has never once mentioned Mr Livingstone by name.

Now the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband also stands accused of trying to minimise his association with the London mayor.

According to Andrew Hosken's new biography Ken: The Ups and Downs of Ken Livingstone, Miliband – despite working at the GLC during the 1980s – prefers to airbrush the experience from his CV. "When it came to hiring staff, the GLC claimed to have the pick of the crop," Hosken writes. "The future Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, was once a GLC management trainee under Ken Livingstone's leadership, although he no longer mentions this fact in his official CV."

He is right. Altthough he lists whole range of swotty-sounding positions in his personal website's biography, there is no mention of Miliband's time at County Hall. Similarly, he also omits it from his Who's Who entry, despite the (seemingly) less important entries showing his support for Arsenal and South Shields FC.

No reply from Miliband's office yesterday. Hosken, meanwhile, is tickled pink. "He worked there in about 1984 or 1985. I find it very funny he seems to have forgotten," he chuckles. "Surely he can't be ashamed of it?"

I'm a lady! Walliams's book set to cause a stir

David Walliams's debut outing as a children's novelist doesn't look like being a run-of-the mill affair.

The Little Britain star signed a two-book deal with HarperCollins last December, who promised his first offering would be a "a humorous, classic tale that features an engaging boy hero".

That's certainly one way of putting it. At yesterday's London Book Fair, a mole spotted a promotional poster for the book, details of which have thus far been kept heavily under wraps. It revealed the novel would intriguingly be called The Boy in the Dress.

"Changes are still being made, but it's about a boy who decides to wear dresses, and how making that decision can change your life," a HarperCollins spokesperson informs me. "It's all quite fun."

Incidentally, it was also revealed that Walliams has collaborated on the book with Quentin Blake, the renowned illustrator who provided pictures for that other unconventional children's author, Roald Dahl.

No holds Bard for Carla

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy's recent state visit to London on the arm of the French President was supposed to hail a new "entente amicable" between Great Britain and France.

Encouraging, then, that Carla, right, who managed to reduce most of the male contingent in Palace of Westminster to slobbering wrecks, is already planning a return visit.

"I'm keen to visit Stratford because I have such a love of Shakespeare," she tells this month's High Life magazine.

"My friend Marianne Faithfull, or 'my dear professor' as I like to call her, insists that I read a couple of his sonnets every day."

Doubtless, the Bard isn't the only subject she and Faithfull discuss.

They also both share the distinction of carving a notch in the well-worn bedpost of Mick Jagger.

Crap shoot

Just who was behind last Friday's bizarre "shit-bagging" of the London Evening Standard scribe, Sebastian Shakespeare? As reported in these pages, the editor of the paper's "Londoner's Diary" section was assaulted with horse manure outside his home by a man believed to have been a prominent figure slighted by the column.

One rumour suggested the waspish restaurant critic, Giles Coren, was involved after the diary printed a disparaging piece about his late father Alan. Coren, however, tells me nothing could be further from the truth. "Sorry to disappoint but it wasn't me," he says. "Besides, I was in New York."

Shakespeare's colleagues at the Standard were being admirably loyal and keeping schtum yesterday. But there is a magnum of champagne in it if any of them do want to turn supergrass.

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