Pandora: Tony lets his star shine in Hollywood

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The Independent Online

In what Pandora predicts will go down in history as one of the great unions of modern times, Tony Blair will this week make his mark on Hollywood, hosting a gala dinner in Beverly Hills honouring the "British contribution to the city's cultural and business life".

The former prime minister will take time out from his no doubt crammed "peace-making" schedule to share a toast with TV presenter June Sarpong and rock band Daughtry, as well as a host of Los Angeles luminaries – although not, it seems, Sarah Brown, who is also in the US, promoting her White Ribbon alliance with Naomi Campbell.

Naturally, the evening isn't solely about the former Prime Minister; guests will be invited to place bids in an auction in aid of international charity Malaria No More. Star lots include a tour of the studio where Sponge Bob Square Pants was made, a pair of tickets to the American Idol final and – our favourite to win Blair's bid – a place at the Churchill Society's dinner to honour David Cameron.

Pegg's slow progress

We very much hope that Simon Pegg didn't bite off more than he could chew when he signed a three-book deal this time last year. The nation's No 1 nerdish pin-up appears less than confident of the works' progress. "Er, it's going okaaaay," he stammered on the red carpet. "It isn't easy – I don't have much time. Though I probably shouldn't tell my publisher that." Given that they paid a reported seven-figure sum for the goods, that might be for the best.

The heavyweight bout that wasn't

We could hardly contain our excitement when Jeremy Paxman read out Monday's Newsnight line-up: Lord Mandelson "in an outside studio", plus Ken Clarke, both discussing the prospect of green shoots. Was the long-awaited clash of the titans to happen at last – albeit disappointingly with the two big beasts in separate locations? Alas, no. As it turns out, Mandy's offering was pre-recorded. Did he pull out at the last minute? "We never discuss our pre-show arrangements," says a spokesman.

Conway's latest wheeze? Working for Tehran

News of a new departure for Derek Conway, poster boy for expense-fiddling MPs around the nation. We hear that he has recently joined Press TV, an English-language "news" channel funded by the Iranian government. In doing so Conway – who was last year ejected from the Conservative Party after placing family members on the House of Commons payroll – finds himself in the illustrious company of George Galloway, who hosts his own weekly show, and Lauren Booth, Cherie's younger half-sister and occasional contributor to the station. Quite what role Conway is to fulfil, we're not yet sure, though it seems safe to assume that his dandyish son Henry – "blond, bouncy and one for the boys" – won't be helping out around the office this time.

Gavin plays the Proud boyfriend

While Jeremy Paxman juggled foes, at least one of his BBC cohorts was engaging in more pleasant pursuits. A Pandora communicant spotted Gavin Esler amongst the crowd at the Oi Va Voi gig at London's Proud Gallery. Esler steps out with the band's "Violin Vixen" Anna Phoebe. "He seemed to be enjoying himself," says my spy. "I definitely caught a head-nod."

Damian shows his Face(book)

Damian McBride's growing notoriety appears to have affected his virtual popularity. Indeed, it has been drawn to our attention that the rumour-mongering former spin doctor has but one friend on Facebook. Tragic! Of course, there's always the possibility that it's a roguish imposter posing as Mr McBride. After all, he's Mr Popularity in the real world.