Bill Clinton and Liz Hurley's phantom romance: Fancy dress always comes back to haunt you

Misguided media excitement may have been partly due to photographs of the pair in costume at a charity event

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It turns out that Bill Clinton and Liz Hurley did not have sexual relations and the immortal chat-up line “Elizabeth, this is your Commander-in-Chief… I’m sending a plane to pick you up in three hours” was never uttered. It was a daft story made up by Tom Sizemore. 

Still, the misguided media excitement it caused may have been partly due to  photographs of the pair in fancy dress at a charity event. The Potus, tickled pink in his pantomime braided jacket, the actress radiant in white tulle – they look like the star couple at a tsar’s ball, or romantic leads in the world’s oddest production of Cinderella.

Fancy dress is a minefield for the rich and powerful. Think of Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel trussed up as Cardinal Richelieu and Marie Antoinette or Prince Harry in a Nazi uniform. However much the costumes belong to the realm of make-believe, for outsiders looking in, the tendency to see them wrongly as indicators of some deeper truth is irresistible. They are also impossible to forget.

In Hollywood they all turn into invisible women

It is no secret that in Hollywood, women age far less well than men. It’s not their fault. It’s just that after the age of 40, unless they are Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren, women tend to end up in background character parts or on the scrap heap. Men, meanwhile, just get better and better and are encouraged to keep on playing heart-throbs, heroes or prize boxers until their knees give up for good.

Look at Kristin Scott Thomas. In 1996, aged 35, she was feted for The English Patient, in which she played Ralph Fiennes’ lover. Now, in 2014, she is starring with Fiennes again, only this time she is playing his mother. In interviews to promote the film, aptly named The Invisible Woman, she has complained about being an “ageing actress” and “positively ancient”. She has described her horror at seeing her face unretouched on a magazine cover. Her career, she says, is back to where it was 20 years ago, pre-English Patient, with not a leading role in sight. As a result, she says, she may now retire from films.

She is 53, or two years older than Fiennes, who shows no signs of slowing down. If Scott Thomas does leave movies for good, it will be cinema’s loss. But that is what happens when nobody writes roles for older women.

Entwistle was once in the frame. Not any more

It never rains but it pours when you are a disgraced BBC director-general. As if it were not enough that George Entwistle was forced to resign after only 54 days in the post – making him the shortest serving DG in the history of the BBC – and that he was cornered into that resignation by one of his own attack-dog employees, and that his pay-off then became a matter for heated national debate.

Now, Entwistle is reportedly to suffer the ignominy of being the first DG since the Second World War not to get an official portrait. Traditionally all chiefs get one when they leave office, but perhaps this is a period the BBC, and Entwistle himself, would rather not commemorate.

Or perhaps the BBC has gone with the sensible rule of thumb that you get a portrait only if you last longer in the job than it takes to paint one.

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