Wanted: black singers (but don't tell the race watchdog)

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's leading pop impresarios, Jonathan Shalit, is involved in a humdinger of a dispute with the Commission for Racial Equality.

In a move that, he reckons, you couldn't make up, the CRE have successfully banned him from advertising for black recruits to his latest girl band.

A few weeks back, Shalit placed ads in the Metro and Daily Star, inviting black women, aged between 17 and 23, to audition for a British version of the American trio Destiny's Child.

Unfortunately, he didn't realise that recruiting staff on the basis of skin colour contravenes the Race Relations Act. The CRE threatened to prosecute, unless he signed an undertaking not to publish such an ad in future.

Shalit - famously credited with "discovering" Charlotte Church - is highly upset, and points out that he has previously managed the successful black pop acts Big Brovaz and Jamelia.

"Next time I audition for the next Destiny's Child, do I have to see white, 50-year-old men?" he asks me.

"It's ridiculous. The irony here is that I've done as much as anyone for black music in this country."

Over to the CRE: "We received several complaints about an advert seeking to recruit singers on the basis of race," they say.

"It is likely to discriminate against other racial groups. We have therefore advised Mr Shalit of his obligation under the Race Relations Act, 1976."

Bush girl dances to daddy's detractor

George Bush's daughter Jenna stands accused of a musical version of sleeping with the enemy.

Thom Yorke, lead singer of Radiohead, reports spotting the alluring creature in the crowd at his recent concert in New York.

It's ironic, since the left-leaning British super-group have previously been stern critics of the US President.

Their last album, Hail to the Thief, was officially inspired by Bush's controversial election victory in 2000.

"We were playing 'The Tourist' at the end of the show, and yes, we did wonder what the shuffling manhandling fighting was in the audience," writes Yorke, in his official internet diary.

"Turns out, it was six bodyguards clearing the way for the first daughter's exit. Some poor soul objected being manhandled by the secret service.

"If I had known all this, my objections would have been forthright and extensive."

Vic'll fix it for OAPs

Vic Reeves is on the verge of taking up the onerous (but somehow jolly appropriate) role of heir-apparent to Sir Jimmy Savile.

The comedian has been asked to develop a new television show based on Savile's 1980s super-series, Jim'll Fix It.

However, in a Post-Modern twist to the original format, the new programme will fulfil the dreams of Britain's pensioners.

"I got offered Jim'll Fix It, except it's with old people," he tells today's edition of the glossy Now!.

"I suppose it's 'what do you want to do before you perish?' I think it'll be quite funny, so long as they don't die in the process."

Bare-faced lie?

When Mark Oaten went bald, he was forced to experiment with rent boys, glass coffee tables, and acts unsuitable for a family newspaper.

Growing a beard also appears to be having a - shall we say - erratic effect on the Lib Dem MP.

Last month, Pandora telephoned Oaten's office after hearing that he was cultivating a "goatee and moustache" combo.

Not true, said a spokesman, who insisted he'd merely neglected to shave for a couple of days and "wouldn't be appearing as Santa any time soon".

Four weeks later, and Oaten has turned-up on Question Time, sporting an extravagant quantity of face fungus.

Unless his forthright spokesman was telling porky pies, it must have grown very quickly indeed.

Hacks and hooligans

The first British hooligan "incident" of this World Cup turns out to have involved two well-refreshed gentlemen of Her Majesty's Press.

On the train home from England's game in Frankfurt, a debate between the Sunday Times scribe Joe Lovejoy and John Richardson of The Sunday Express suddenly turned physical.

"They'd been arguing about Bryan Robson's reign at Middlesbrough," I'm told. "Suddenly punches started being thrown. It was a proper fight, and Richardson's still got a nasty bump on his forehead. Several Sunday hacks witnessed the whole thing, but they've all agreed to keep quiet. It's the most enormous cover-up."

Neither Richardson nor Lovejoy would comment yesterday. However, a mutual friend said: "It wasn't as serious as you think. A few punches were thrown, but they've now kissed and made up."