She's behind you! Thandie and Dr Who in radio panto

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* News of a seasonal treat from Virgin Radio. The station's breakfast DJ, Christian O'Connell, has procured the services of Hollywood lady Thandie Newton (co-star of 2005's Oscar-winning Crash) and Dr Who actor David Tennant to perform in a radio pantomime next Thursday. Set the alarm clock for 7.30am.

Back in September, Newton, far right, rang O'Connell at the behest of her husband, who listens to the show.

"I asked her if she'd take part in it and she said yes," O'Connell tells me. "But I thought it was a 'showbiz yes' - where her agent rings Virgin an hour later and warns me to back off.

"Instead her agent called wanting a date and advice for Thandie's outfit." She will don Cinderella's gown.

The production was meant to be a nativity, "but in these religiously charged times," says the DJ, "it is better to play safe and stay away from all that". Shame!

David Tennant, above left, is "a bit pissed off" because he wanted to wear jeans and a T-shirt and play Prince Charming.

Says O'Connell: "It's my bloody show and I want to be the Prince. David is going to be Button, and we are all wearing costumes so he will be dressed as an elf."

Suggs is "The Lairy Godmother" and Brian Blessed is the Town Crier/narrator - so the production may run well over.

The booming comedian is under strict instructions not to tell "the story about his massage sessions with Patrick Stewart". Choke.

O'Connell adds: "It could be the last show I ever do. It is going to be cramped in the studio. Blessed may have to do his bit from reception."

* London's theatreland has attracted a number of Hollywood actors over these past years. Whilst some might have been guilty of trying to resurrect their flagging careers, it's nice to welcome back a true bona fide star.

Jessica Lange, the twice Oscar-winning actress who made her name in King Kong and opposite Jack Nicholson in saucy flick The Postman Always Rings Twice, is to appear in Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie in February, at the Apollo.

Lange was last here in 2000 for Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night (she was an Olivier nominee).

Recent attempts to bring Williams to the capital's stages have struggled. Despite the admirable performance of former Bond girl Rosamund Pike, Summer and Smoke closed after a month due to poor ticket sales in the shadow of big musicals such as Spamalot and Wicked.

Break a leg!

* An outraged mole gets in touch believing he has seen professional luncher Michael Winner using an ingenious ploy to avoid parking tickets outside the Ritz.

"Winner was parked on a yellow line and there was a sticker with an 'E II R' crest in the car window [see below right]," he says. "One's first impression is that it's a royal vehicle of some sort." (And hence unlikely to incur the wrath of the City of Westminster's pencil-lickers.)

Winner demolishes the disgraceful slur.

"It's the logo of my charity, the Police Memorial Trust!" he proclaims. "I can assure you that in five years it has never held sway over any traffic wardens. Though on some occasions we have got the odd fiver passed through the window.

"No, not as tips for the driver! For the charity!"

* Iain Duncan Smith got his Y-fronts in a twist this week after telling a newspaper that gay parents "don't register on the Richter scale of how to bring up children". (IDS says the unwise remark was taken out of context.)

A former employee of The Quiet Man tells Pandora that the pink vote was a delicate subject in the MP's office.

"He used to get quite ratty," said the source. "We once asked him to sign a letter supporting a Gay Pride event in Manchester. He lost his temper, screwed up the letter and threw it against his office wall.

"Another time we were discussing gay rights in a service station. He got so irate and thumped his fist against the table, catapulting a plate of food into someone's lap.

"I don't why he got so touchy. Maybe it was due to his army days."

Come on, Iain. Reach for that rainbow!

* Pandora's heart leaps upon receiving an e-mail from Fiona Gordon, the secretary to the Parliamentary Labour Party, reminding me that "we still have a few DVDs of the Leader's Speech to conference".

The disc is, as she notes, "a little bit of Labour history". And at £5, it is also an affordable, classy stocking filler. Just the ticket for Christmas Day afternoon, to prevent bloated channel-hopping in the gap between Her Maj's festive gabbling and the opening credits of The Great Escape.

"I'm very sorry," says Ms Gordon, when I ring with Pandora's credit card details. "I haven't got any left. I've been turning people away. So many Labour MPs wanted them.

"I think you may be able to buy them on the web." Ah, yes. eBay.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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