Pandora: Spilling the beans on Don Ken

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The Independent Online

Cotton wool buds to City Hall! When darling of the Left in the 1980s, a moustachioed Ken Livingstone eulogised Mario Puzo's The Godfather as "a much more honest account of how politicians operate than any of the self-justifying rubbish in political biographies".

Now 62, he plots his political survival from the glassy bowels of City Hall – and his obsession with the Corleone family persists. "I interviewed Ken seven times and he came out with this Godfather stuff," explains BBC journalist Andrew Hosken, whose unauthorised biography, Ken: The Ups And Downs of Ken Livingstone, is out next month. "The quote he repeated was: 'Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him.' One of his aides was the same, starting sentences with: 'There's a scene when this happens...'" Livingstone's delivery, as he sits stroking his newt, is less of a raspy, low Corleone whisper and more a nasal whine.

Hosken promises not to pull any punches, so must hope not to end up sleeping with the fishes.

Royal hologram artist in talks for Mandela sitting

Chris Levine's best known work is his curious 2004 holographic portrait of Her Virtual Majesty Queen Liz. Despite two sittings, and two subsequent private audiences, the monarch has declined to view his new exhibition of startling and treasonable portraits. One shows the back of her head (leading us from the front) and the snapshot here, right, depicts a vulnerable old lady blinded by the glare of modernity (and flashing camera).

Levine, 47, is in talks to portray another global colossus: the former South African president Nelson Mandela. "I'm hoping to be doing Nelson Mandela later this year," he tells Pandora at the private view of Lightness of Being, "but it's not confirmed yet."

Mandela receiving the pop culture treatment could be similarly controversial. Buckingham Palace will not comment on Levine's new images. "I wanted her to be the first to see it. I did the work with total affection," insists the artist. "It may be controversial if you're [of] a certain conservative mindset but ultimately it's my copyright. I could feel her breathing down on my neck as I did it."

Mario Testino, a friend of Levine, is also willing to sit for the artist, who jokes: "The real Queen alongside the biggest queen in London." Gordon Brown can relax, though. "Politically there is a long list of people I wouldn't do," says Levine. "The Prime Min... no I'm not going to say it."

Ewan goes over to the dark side

Horrors: a misunderstanding with Ewan McGregor. An honorary male member of Pandora's harem stood chatting with Maureen Lipman and the Star Wars actor at Thursday's Spring Gala dinner and auction for the Hampstead Theatre.

Pandora mentioned meeting McGregor's bantering motorbike buddy Charley Boorman, who had joked tongue in cheek that having his solo travel series means he no longer has to carry "deadweight" Ewan. Alas, this got up his nostril like a bee inside a crash helmet – with no less spectacular effect. McGregor, icy stare, reached for his light saber: "I didn't fucking come here to be interviewed by you!"

Pandora's jaw fell. "Now don't fucking cry about it!" McGregor screamed. "Just fuck off!"

Yikes, sorry! Lipman, like Yoda, pursued him with soothing words. "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate," perhaps. Pumped with testosterone and goodwill, Ewan bid £5,000 for a signed picture of Muhammad Ali sparring with Elvis.

Marco at the sharp end

Celebrity product endorsement can be most ambidextrous. Good to see Marco Pierre White not taking things too seriously. The insouciant chef was at Selfridges, Oxford Street, to host a cookery demonstration using his new "Russell Hobbs MPW Collection" of blenders, grinders, knives and vessels. "When you try them I am confident you'll notice the difference," insists Marco on the puff.

Really? The proceedings were momentarily held up when he complained he lacked a suitable saucepan, directing an assistant to grab one from a nearby display. On being discreetly informed the desired pot was part of the rival Jamie Oliver range, Marco shrugged: "A pan's a pan isn't it?"

He famously reduced Gordon Ramsay to sobbing with inadequacy; so periled be the marketing manager who calls White's Japanese manservant, Mr Ishii, about this.

Table football

An unfortunate fixture clash for Nicolas Sarkozy. The hyperactive French President lands here next week for his official state visit. At the Queen's Wednesday night Windsor Castle banquet of honour for him and his sprightly new spouse, Carla, the crème de la crème of Anglo-French officialdom will be forgiven for being distracted.

The feast clashes with the France vs England football match in Paris, local kick-off 9pm. Arrangements will be made to keep Sarkozy, a fan of the club Paris St Germain, abreast of match developments. "Football is not war," he once commented, about violent French hooligans.

Hopefully no silver will be raised in anger and proceedings will remain civil at the banquet table come the After Eights, whoever triumphs.

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