People: Mafia boss is kitchen Toto

PRISON cuisine has never been anything to write your censored letters home about, but the Sicilian Mafia's reputed boss of all bosses, Salvatore Riina, has it better than the ordinary inmate of Palermo's Ucciardone jail.

Toto, as he is known, cooks his own meals in a corner of his windowless cell because the authorities fear he might be poisoned if given prison food. Like other top-security prisoners, he is supplied with meat, fish, pasta, vegetables and fruit in the hope that he will escape the fate of Michele Sindona. Sindona, a Sicilian banker linked to the Mafia, died in jail in 1986 after drinking poisoned coffee.

ANOTHER Italian putting his hands to good use is Gherardo Colombo, the judge spearheading the 'Clean Hands' anti-corruption inquiry. He helped to save a woman who threatened to jump from a window of the Milan court building unless Mr Colombo agreed to see her. The judge went to the fourth- floor room and tried to persuade the woman to come down from the window, but she fell and was left hanging from the sill. With the help of a bodyguard, Mr Colombo pulled her inside to safety.

A CLOSE encounter of a different kind occurred on the remote Pacific island of Palau, which is not used to celebrities. Excitement reigned among the inhabitants when John F Kennedy Jr and Daryl Hannah arrived on a diving holiday. The son of the assassinated US president and the actress who played a mermaid in Splash enjoyed the waters and the courtesy of the island. 'People respect their need for privacy,' said a Palau Visitors' Authority representative. 'Palauans, as other islanders, are curious, but harassing and going for autographs is not a part of it.'

A Palau presidential spokesman said the star couple were not the first celebrities to visit the island. 'Lee Marvin was here to do Hell in the Pacific,' he said. That was back in 1968.

WHILE young JFK was enjoying himself with one blonde actress, his cousins were strongly denying their father's involvement with another. Congressman Joseph Kennedy, on behalf of his brothers and sisters, condemned a new television film about a purported affair between Robert Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe as 'a lie'. The film, Marilyn and Bobby: Her Final Affair, shown on a US cable network, is an account of the alleged 1962 romance between the attorney-general and the film star.

'Nothing that has appeared in the quarter century since Robert Kennedy's death has been so offensive,' the Kennedy statement said. 'The film is a lie. It is contrived to mislead the public and to malign the memory of people who were real, not fictional. For many who were Robert Kennedy's admirers, friends and family, it will cause hurt and heartache beyond measure.'

TELLING a lie, or rather just making a joke, was Bernard Tapie. The Olympique Marseille soccer chairman said 'it was just a joke' when he told a reporter for the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur that he was broke. It was, Mr Tapie said, 'what he clearly wanted to hear'. Mr Tapie said in the interview that the value of his companies had tumbled and his properties, including his yacht Phocea, were mortgaged. 'I escaped prison, not ruin. The truth is . . . I am broke.'