Racism, Channel 4 and a skeleton in the playground

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The Independent Online

* The old classmate of a Channel 4 honcho contacts Pandora, after reading of racism in the Big Brother "celebrity" house.

She claims that the person in question subjected her to "torment" for four years, between the ages of 12 and 16.

The woman, who is of mixed race, tells me: "My mother had dark skin and jet black hair, and used to come to pick me up. I was paler with dark blue eyes. For some reason one particular boy took to bullying me.

"He was so bigoted in his views that I never managed to have a conversation with him without him curling his lips back, sneering at me as if he had a bad smell under his nose. Then he would call me a 'Paki cow' or a 'skinny bitch'. The other one he said was 'Go home wogs'.

"He was a weedy runt of a lad but convinced of his own superiority, always followed around by a couple of thick stooges. He was a real nasty piece of work.

"I used to go home at the end of the day in floods of tears. My parents didn't react. My parents would say, 'He's bigoted and ignorant. Hold your head up high.' Not easy. It wasn't continuous but it went on for years.

She adds: "This sort of thing used to happen a lot more, it wasn't politically incorrect in the same way that it is seen now.

"Thankfully, that is the only time I have experienced racism in my life.

"The fact that it lasted for the duration of my four-year stay at that school made it an unforgettable experience."

* When Carl Barat shared a rock band with Pete Doherty, his songwriting partner spoilt things by developing a nasty dependency on heroin and crack cocaine.

Encouragingly, Barat appears to have a wiser, less addled head on his shoulders. At a weekend gig, the former Libertines guitarist, now frontman of Dirty Pretty Things, told me he has given his main vice (the odd drop of grandma's cough medicine) a knock on the head for a while.

"I've given up drinking for two weeks now," he said. "It's been pretty miserable. When you're sober everyone leers at you and repeats themselves. So at midnight tonight I think I'll treat myself to a whisky."

Barat was performing in the "Pudstock" concert at Camden's Proud Galleries, in aid of the homeless charity Crisis. Unassisted by Dutch courage, he found the event a novel experience.

"This has been my first gig sober in 10 years. It was quite inspiring."

* The biggest name at Sunday night's packed Leicester Square premiere of Dreamgirls - based on the rise of The Supremes - was the R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles. "The singing was easy," she said, "but I had to rein it in, so I didn't come across as Beyoncé." (She plays Deena Jones, based on Diana Ross.)

Beyoncé's performance is overshadowed by that of Jennifer Hudson (together, right), a former cruise ship singer, 25, who rose to prominence in 2004 when kicked off American Idol. Simon Cowell said then that she was "out of her league". Last week she won a Golden Globe.

"I don't know how this has happened," said Hudson. "I won't be listening to the Oscar nominations." (Today at 1.30pm.)

The director, Bill Condon, said: "Jennifer is the Cinderella of our movie. She proves that in American lives, there are second acts."

* News for anti-BBC conspiracy theorists: ex-chairman Michael Grade did not steal anything from Beeb headquarters when he suddenly resigned two months ago. The corporation has replied to a Freedom of Information request demanding to know if Grade was "locked out of his office immediately after he announced he was leaving to join a competing organisation" (ITV).

The Birtspeak response: "As soon as the BBC was notified by Mr Grade of his resignation, the Governance Unit put in place arrangements in line with the BBC's normal business practice, to ensure that he did not receive confidential BBC papers or information." So they stopped sending him programme ideas. No word on his cigars.

They made him come back the next day to return his security pass.

* When Boris Johnson cycles to work in the morning, his fluffy blond locks of "bird's nest" hair make him an easy target for awaiting paparazzi. So, in order to flummox prying lens-wielders, Bozza has taken to sporting a Cunning Disguise.

"He's been covering his head with a bright red beanie hat and wearing this sort of donkey jacket, like Michael Foot," I'm told. "He looks a right sight, but you'd never guess it was him so I suppose it does the trick."

Not everyone is fooled. Apparently, Johnson still gets the odd "Morning, Boris" from sellers of The Big Issue magazine, whose cover he currently adorns.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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