NY extends its chilly welcome to Fidel Castro cold shoulder

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The Independent Online
Fidel Castro will be making his third visit to the United Nations as Cuba's leader this weekend, now that his US visa has been approved. But will he have a good time in New York, the city where he honeymooned in 1948? Not if Mayor Rudolph Giuliani can help it. ''I wouldn't invite him anywhere,'' the Mayor said. ''What Fidel Castro has done to the Cuban people, including friends of mine, is an outrage of this century.''

Mr Castro is to address the General Assembly on Sunday, but will be barred from a gala dinner Mr Giuliani will host, as well as a lunch at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a concert.

When he visited the UN in 1960, shortly after taking power in Havana, Mr Castro turned his back on the glitter and high prices on midtown Manhattan. After considering sleeping in a hammock in Central Park, he checked into the rundown Hotel Theresa in Harlem, where Nikita Khrushchev stopped by to see him. Barred from President Dwight Eisenhower's lunch for Latin American leaders, Mr Castro hosted his own get-together in the Theresa's coffee shop - for a dozen black hotel employees.

Argentina is crying again for Eva Peron, this time over the casting of Madonna in the title role of Evita, the film version of the musical long banned in Argentina. To President Carlos Menem, it is ''a total and utter disgrace''. Archbishop Antonio Quarraccino of Buenos Aires sees it as ''pornographic and blasphemous - an insult to Argentine women''.

Mr Menem, a Peronist, is backing a local film, Evita: The True Story, which begins production in March. Starring Andrea del Boca, a soap-opera star, it will be "a film about the real Evita, not like one of those fakes people who know nothing about her life have been making'', he proclaimed.

The Hollywood version, directed by Alan Parker, begins production in January in Budapest. While the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical portrays Evita as a corrupt populist who slept her way to power, the Argentine film will paint her as a champion of the masses, the saint she is to many of her compatriots.

"Evita was a pioneering feminist, not the prostitute others would have you believe," protested Victor Bo, the Argentine film's producer. Mr Lloyd Webber found her "easily the most unpleasant character I've written about''.

On his recent US lecture tour, Mikhail Gorbachev wasn't sleepless in Seattle but trouserless in Louisville. After getting caught in the rain, Mr Gorbachev sent his trousers out to be pressed while he waited in a hotel bathrobe. When the trousers didn't reappear, and his speech was due to begin, the Secret Service was pressed into service to investigate. At one point, a nervous Mr Gorbachev asked his interpreter if he could borrow his trousers. "Why wear any?" he replied. "This is America."

After another 30 minutes, the trousers were back and Mr Gorbachev emerged triumphant. After the lecture, the peckish ex-Soviet leader wanted some Kentucky Fried Chicken. The policeman who fetched a bucket of Original Recipe for six declined reimbursement. "This way, I'll be able to tell my grandchildren that I bought dinner for Gorbachev," he said.

Who knows what he would have thought of Pocahontas, but Benito Mussolini was mad about Mickey Mouse, reports his son Romano. Mr Mussolini said his father sang Disney songs and thought Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was such a masterpiece that he wanted to see it again and again. The dictator met Walt Disney in 1935, his son said: "He took him to Villa Torlonia [his residence] and they talked about Mickey Mouse, Minnie and Donald Duck.''