Pandora: Palin stays silent on Merton controversy

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The Independent Online

For a silent film festival, the Bristol Silents is certainly generating a lot of noise. The annual affair, which celebrates the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Laurel and Hardy, has become the subject of an uncomfortable row within the comedy community.

Each year, the Gala Night is presided over by Paul Merton – though this year, despite his spending some £20,000 on the show in the past, he claims he was toldby organisers that his services were no longer required, "because [they] believed that [Merton] would struggle to sell tickets."

"You could have knocked me down with a custard pie when [they] emailed my agent," he writes in an angry blog on the subject. "The continued loyalty of the Bristol audience was very special to me and was matched by my loyalty to them."

Instead, organisers approached Michael Palin to oversee the evening, which took place last week. The former Monty Python star agreed to do so – although he now tells us that he was oblivious to the fuss that had been caused.

"They asked me originally to accept an award, so of course I accepted," Palin explained. "That's how I was approached. Then they asked me to address them, so I did – it was a Q&A. I gather now that Paul's nose was a bit out of joint – at the time I knew nothing of it."

Looks like organisers could be struggling for a host next year.

Things can only get better...

The oft-heard complaint of roles diminishing with age is unlikely to be heard from Helen Mirren. "Young girl roles are the most boring," observed the ever-enchanting actress at the premiere of The Last Station. "If you manage to stay on in there, the roles become more interesting. A person of 65 is more interesting by nature of having lived much longer."

Brydon puts a sock in it (again)

Rob Brydon's love affair with knee-highs continues. The Welsh comedian, whose choice of long socks has become somewhat legendary thanks to a recent appearance on the BBC panel show QI, kindly flashed his hosiery at Pandora's request during the after-show drinks at Tuesday's South Bank Show Awards. "Ronnie Corbett introduced me to them," he explained, not at all sheepishly. Corbett, also present, confirms this account. Gents, take note.

No quick exit: Rose defies the critics

Marks & Spencer's shareholders may have found a candidate to replace Sir Stuart Rose as chief executive – but, from the sound of things, recent efforts to remove him as chairman won't be so successful. "I will almost certainly be here this time next year," the ebullient businessman reassured Pandora at the Retail Trust London Ball. "Do I look like the sort of bloke who is about to go and play golf? I want to go partying. I want to go to Annabel's – I bet I can keep dancing as long as you can!" Fancy a dance-off?

Always greener on the other side

Sounds like George Pascoe-Watson, once political editor of The Sun, now partner at the swanky Portland PR, is finding his transition to the other side a little bumpy. On a recent trip to Parliament, he found himself trying to access the green for a live interview. Alas, no longer in possession of his editor's access-all-areas pass, he was halted by security. "At which point I found myself saying something I never thought I'd hear myself say," he jokes. "'Don't you know who I was?'"

pandora@independent.co.uk

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