Pandora: Scrum down at the Dorchester?
Wednesday 13 February 2008
David Beckham is universally regarded as the sporting world's foremost gay icon, but a rival is orchestrating the sort of public relations coup even Becks would be proud of.
The England rugby player Ben Cohen, who has a strong following among the pink community, has organised a special reception in their honour at London's Dorchester Hotel in May.
"I have received many letters and emails from guys. Some of them very graphic," he says. "I decided that if people are taking time to write to me and watch me play, I need to give them the support they give me."
Cohen is a happily married man, but it will interesting to see if any of his cauliflower-eared colleagues choose the occasion to come clean.
Vine's Stuckist rival sticks one on her at exhibition
The artist Stella Vine is about to renew her long-running hostilities with the Stuckists – the group of contemporary artists set up by her former husband, Charles Thompson.
The two parties have been at loggerheads since Vine, a former member, sold one of her paintings to their principal bête noire, Charles Saatchi. Now, one of their number, an artist called Mark D, is about to open an exhibition of paintings in London satirising Vine's work, which famously includes portraits of such celebrities as Kate Moss and Diana, Princess of Wales.
The artist, real name Mark Randall, has painted a picture of Victoria Beckham based closely on the Diana portrait bought by Saatchi. He has replaced a speech bubble of Vine's text of Diana begging her butler, Paul Burrell, to come over with Beckham, saying: "David, can you come home I'm really frightened America doesn't love me."
A picture also appears similar to one of her famous portraits of Moss, this time with the supermodel shown eating slugs.
Vine and Randall already have form. Several years ago, he tried to buy one of her paintings but was told to "go fuck yourself" once she discovered his connection to Thompson.
"There's no law against it, modern art does this sort of thing all the time," he tells me. "Stella is more than welcome to pay a visit to the exhibition but, judging by the last time we spoke, I can't imagine she will do."
Konnie spurns cash to protect her assets
Konnie Huq is discovering that life away from the Blue Peter sofa might not always be as cushy, but it is potentially far more lucrative.
Since quitting the BBC children's programme last month, Huq has reportedly been approached by several men's magazines to pose for a number of raunchy photo shoots.
It now emerges it wasn't small change that was being offered across the negotiating table. "Playboy were offering half a million for her to be the centrefold," her agent, pop impresario Jonathan Shalit, tells me. "Loaded magazine were also in touch wanting some topless shots. But Konnie is just not interested."
It is an admirable stance, though probably wise now that the 32-year-old intends to reinvent herself as a grown-up presenter.
"Konnie is from a very religious Muslim family, so let's just say that it would not have gone down well with them either," adds Shalit.
Jamelia's not afraid of ghosts
Jamelia has launched a refreshingly candid defence for employing a ghost-writer to pen her forthcoming memoir.
The leggy poptress, who has sold her life story to the publisher Orion, has decided to farm out typewriting duties to former Daily Mirror gossip-monger Jessica Callan.
"Let's face it, if I was writing it we'd be looking at being finished sometime around 2018," she told me at a party. "But I am working closely with Jessica and I'm sure she'll do a great job."
Orion reckons Jamelia's tale will be an "inspirational account" of a young woman combining a chart-topping career as well as being a mother.
Illustrating that point, she rather sweetly cut short our conversation to go and let her babysitter get home.
The mutton-chopped Pensions Secretary James Purnell has enjoyed a steady climb up the greasy political pole, but is in danger of ruffling a few feathers in his Stalybridge and Hyde constituency in Manchester.
The area is home to a large number of Manchester United fans, which could lead to some tricky doorstep encounters for Purnell, a Londoner. He passionately supports Arsenal, who are five points clear of Man U in the Premiership.
* The tennis player Andy Murray faces opposition from his mother, Judy, over his mangled locks. Mrs Murray has hung a cartoon of her son with the slogan "Get Your Hair Cut!" at their home in Dunblane. "She is moving past the subtle suggestions as far as the hair's concerned," reports Murray's website.
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