Panto excuse as McKellen falls off the pink power list

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The Independent Online

As recent events have shown, there is little to rival the drama of a good old-fashioned punch-up between prominent members of the gay community.

Fascinating, then, to hear of bad feeling between Gay Times and two of Britain's foremost gay personalities, the actor Sir Ian McKellen and "pink" entrepreneur, Ivan Massow.

Both men are surprising absentees from the magazine's annual "power list", published with much fanfare last week. Sources at Gay Times, Europe's biggest gay magazine, say Massow, right, was left off the list because of an (as yet unspecified) dispute with its editorial team; McKellen, left, was asked to take part but refused to find time in his diary to have his portrait photo taken.

Since both have prominent roles in the gay rights movement - Massow was the first entrepreneur to offer financial services specifically to homosexuals; McKellen, a co-founder of Stonewall, is the most famous gay Briton in Hollywood - their absence is the subject of heated debate.

"Everyone, from Graham Norton and Paul O'Grady to Matthew Parris and Alan Duncan took part in the project," I'm told. "You can just about defend Massow's absence but McKellen might have pulled his finger out."

Although Sir Ian was in London during the magazine's photo shoot, his spokesman said: "He was too busy filming and then he had to do his pantomime, so there just wasn't the time."

As for Massow, his office reports: "This sounds like a bit of bitchy queenery."

'Iraq? Are you out of your mind?'

Kevin Spacey made headlines recently, when it emerged that his new play, The Soldier's Tale, would tour Iraq after its run at the Old Vic.

You'd have thought this would require the Hollywood star to risk life and limb by travelling to the Middle East with his troupe. But apparently not.

"Are you out of your mind?" spluttered Spacey, left, when I asked if he'd booked the trip. "No, I think I'll be staying put on solid UK soil, thank you."

If only life were as easy for his employees. Before Christmas, director Andrew Steggall was despatched to Baghdad, complete with body armour and guards, to recruit local actors for the play.

"As far as I know, this is the first time anyone had tried to do this sort of thing," added Spacey, who was speaking at the Morgan Stanley Great Britons Award.

"Obviously the situation there is a little unstable right now, but Andrew is still hoping to take the play out to Iraq soon."

* Peter Tatchell responded to the furore surrounding Simon Hughes with astounding dignity and grace.

Not so David Starkey, right, who reckons the Lib Dem leadership contender ought to be hung, drawn and quartered for his previous "homophobic" campaigns.

"Simon Hughes brings shame on the word gay, especially bearing in mind the by-election he fought opposite Peter Tatchell," Starkey tells me. "I suppose it came about because his constituency still rests on the council house vote, which is pretty unreconstructed. But it's completely unforgivable."

As to what we might learn from Hughes's downfall, Starkey adds: "The only sensible thing is to be out.

"I decided that a long time ago. You can screw a camel and it won't get printed, so long as the press know you're going to do it beforehand."

* The Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, faces mounting pressure to cancel plans to spend Easter on a freebie cruise off the coast of Africa. At least one colleague is now thought to have written, begging him to cancel his controversial "jolly".

Meanwhile, members of his congregation are circulating a transcript of his last Ash Wednesday sermon: "Our Lenten fasting should not be some token abstinence from sweeties, but a conscious effort to reduce stimulation," it instructed.

Is Chartres now practising what he preaches? "Cruises are a great way of reducing stimulation," notes one man of the cloth. "But they're not exactly in keeping with the spirit of Lent."

* Her Majesty the Queen is going to great lengths to make sure her tour of Australia in March goes without a hitch.

In order to prepare for the jaunt - likely to be targeted by local republicans - she's invited a selection of eminent ex-pats to tea at Buckingham Palace.

Guests including Shane Warne, Jason Donovan, and Shane Osborn, the antipodean head chef at Pied a Terre, will brief her on affairs Down Under. "I have indeed received my invite," says Osborn, who was recently voted Young Aussie of the Year.

"I think the idea is for her to pick our brains, and to brush up on the Australian accent."

"People like (Neighbours actress) Delta Goodrem will also be there.

"Sadly we aren't allowed to bring partners, but then my girlfriend's Irish, so she'd probably be a security risk."