People: The importance of being Ernesto

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The Independent Online
THE flamboyant figure who claimed victory yesterday in Panama's elections, Ernesto Perez Balladares, is trying to distance himself from his former associate, the disgraced leader Manuel Noriega who is serving a 40-year jail term for drug-trafficking.

Burly Mr Balladares, nicknamed 'The Bull', sports well-cut suits and bright red ties for formal occasions and looks every inch the millionaire landowner and entrepreneur that he is.

But on the campaign trail, Mr Balladares preferred jeans and striped shirts and, like any good estanciero, was at ease gladhanding the poor in the barrios and far-flung rural areas.

He is credited with picking his Revolutionary Democratic Party up off the floor after Noriega was overthrown by American troops in 1989. Mr Balladares prefers to identify with the late populist leader Omar Torrijos, in whose government he held several ministries. The party, linked to military rulers for decades, has been reborn, he insists. 'This is a renovated party and this election attests to the triumph of democracy,' he says firmly.

The Nobel prizewinner Mother Teresa had to be given an injection against rabies after being bitten by a dog. She bent over to pet a mongrel that normally sleeps outside the gate of the headquarters of her Missionaries of Charity, and the dog bit her on the finger.

She shrugged it off as nothing serious. 'It's not much,' she said, but it kept her from a ceremony at which a book about her was published.

The ageing cabaret star Lena Horne has to admit that she doesn't like her work. 'I hate singing,' she tells Entertainment Weekly. 'I mean, I don't hate it when I'm doing it. But I don't sing in the shower. I don't sing in the kitchen. I don't sing until I have to.'

As a girl, la Horne, 76, wanted to be a schoolteacher, and had to fabricate her sex kitten image. 'I made my living being sexy,' she said. 'I would never let (the audience) know that I hated it. I was thinking, 'God, let me get through then I'll have dinner at eight. What am I gonna have from room service?' '

Another ageing star, Brigitte Bardot has appealed to President Francois Mitterrand to stop presidential hunting parties for visiting dignitaries. At a rare press conference, the actress said that for 21 years 'I have devoted my life, my energy, my fame and my fortune' to animals. She said she would return her Legion of Honour in exchange for an end to the hunting parties.

Miss Bardot, 59, dressed in black and bathed in an orange light on a platform with other campaigners, still had the pout that made her famous nearly 40 years ago. On a screen behind, films of pigs' throats being cut and spewing blood, horses hung up alive by one leg or live frogs chopped in two provided a less enchanting backdrop.

Bardot was at one point interrupted by a horse butcher who shouted at her about the campaign she launched a few months ago to stop the French eating horsemeat.

(Photograph omitted)