People: Philby comes in from cold

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IF HE were still alive in Moscow, Kim Philby would be delighted to learn that he has produced one final surprise. The old spy has become the main issue in the mayoral race in Pittsburgh, and is getting favourable mention as an agent of change.

It all started when Tom Murphy, a Democrat well ahead in the race to be the next mayor of the Pennsylvania industrial city, said he was 'really impressed and intrigued' by Philby's 'commitment to change'. At the end of a speech he said: 'I ask you to leave here tonight committed, as Kim Philby was, to revolution.' Murphy aides say he was simply trying to wake up dozing academics at a dinner at Carnegie-Mellon University.

Whether the presentation of the Soviet Union's best-known double agent as a role model for the voters of Pittsburgh will sink the Murphy candidacy, despite the end of the Cold War, remains to be seen. But Kathy Matta, the Republican candidate, is milking Murphy's admiration for Philby for all it is worth. 'It's appalling to me that a candidate for office in a free society would even consider mentioning a scoundrel like Kim Philby in a favourable light,' she said.

ONE mayoral candidate in Naples is no admirer of Communists. Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the dictator, began her campaign with a promise to root out crime and corruption in Italy's most chaotic southern city.

If elected, the 31-year-old MP for the neo-Fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI) would play host to the leaders of the world's richest nations when the Group of Seven meets in Naples in July. Asked how she would react if some G7 leaders felt uneasy about being hosted by Mussolini's granddaughter, she snapped: 'If they are that stupid, I don't want to meet them.'

Ms Mussolini, who is running neck- and-neck in polls with Antonio Bassolino of the former Communist Democratic Party of the Left (PDS), says she has 'the courage of youth'.

'I will put on my tennis shoes and go into the back alleys and houses of Naples to speak to the people,' she said. 'My only enemies are illegality and corruption.'

NOT in tennis shoes, was that a middle- aged male model sandwiched between Anjelica Huston and Paloma Picasso at the Christian Dior fashion show in Paris? Or one of those European kings without a throne? No, it was the film director Robert Altman, who has been viewing the ready- to-wear collections as part of his research for his next film, Pret-a-Porter.

Altman denies his film will be a frontal assault on the fashion business, but reports persist that Pret-a-Porter will be along the lines of The Player, a satire about greedy Hollywood power-brokers who have no aesthetic judgement. 'I'm not taking a shot at them - I'm honouring them,' Altman said of designers, models and critics, some of whom are to be cast in the film. So far, Lauren Bacall and Marcello Mastroianni have been recruited, along with the designer Sonia Rykiel.

(Photograph omitted)

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