Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (07/02/10)

All accelerator and no brakes

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It has been chilly in Milan, but now Anna "Nuclear" Wintour, US editor of
Vogue, has single-handedly halved this month's fashion week by announcing she will stay only three days. Top designers including Armani and Versace, desperate for her to see their wares, have quickly rescheduled their shows for her short visit, and now organisers are furious. "We prepared a great schedule and now, thanks to La Wintour, it'll effectively be cut in half," says Mario Boselli, president of the Italian National Chamber of Fashion. "There's a lack of respect." The move has fuelled suspicion Wintour is less keen on the Italian fashion houses, sparked by a cover story, "The Magnificent Seven", which included only one Italian name, Prada – supposedly the devil's preferred label.

Since Lucian Freud's hideous painting of the Queen, royal portraits have been a thorny subject. Now Prince Harry has complained that his hair is too ginger in the new picture of him with Prince William unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery last month. He also jokingly accuses painter Nicky Philipps of giving William more hair than he actually has. But Philipps begs to differ: "If you look carefully, there is a particular flesh-coloured stroke which refers to this problem," she tells me. "I don't set out to misrepresent people." Philipps landed the job via Fine Art Commissions two years ago, and in her defence says she completed William in autumn 2008. "Quite a lot may have changed since then," she quips. As for Harry's hair, it is not ginger so much as auburn, she says, "a combination of raw and burnt sienna". Music to his ears, I'm sure.

Young literary types were puzzled to find the new England captain Rio Ferdinand at a party to launch Philip Womack's second children's book, The Liberators, on Thursday. After looking in at a party at Tyrone Wood's Mayfair gallery, Ferdinand headed on to Willa's nightclub off Regent Street, where the jeunesse dorée were celebrating. It must have made a change from the sirens of Elysium, where Vanessa Perroncel once worked, and with only a minder for company, Ferdinand cut a lonesome figure. But before long he was deep in conversation with a brainy beauty, discussing "sexual theory". It proved a fruitful chat, as she enlightened him on the works of Doctor Freud. Who needs Elysium?

Eagle-eyed viewers of EastEnders have been left scratching their heads after spotting Archie Mitchell standing at the back of his own funeral. Archie's murder on Christmas Day – he was bludgeoned, quaintly, with a bust of Queen Victoria – has been the source of much excitement but maybe he's not as dead as we thought. A BBC spokesman explains: "It's true that he was there. Sadly we can't claim it was a sophisticated Hitchcockian joke. Larry just happened to be on set that day and joined in as an extra." We know budgets are tight but this is ridiculous.

Highbrow American novelist Paul Auster may never write again unless an impending crisis is resolved. The typewriter on which he has battered out all his books including his popular New York Trilogy is on its last legs and he can't find a repairman in the whole of New York City. Speaking at the new branch of Barnes and Noble on the Upper East Side, Auster begged the audience for help. "I don't know what to do, I've been trying to find a typewriter repairman for ages. Of the two numbers in the phone book one no longer exists and the other never answers." What about a computer? Auster has written all his work on the same 50-year old Olympic portable he bought second hand for $40 in 1974. "I can't use a normal keyboard," he explained. "The lack of resistance annoys me."

Lady Antonia Fraser narrowly avoided legal action from writer Duncan Fallowell over a mention of him in her new book about Harold Pinter. In a hand-written letter, she promises to remove the offending line from future editions. No frostiness at the gym Fraser and Fallowell share, then: "I see her in the Jacuzzi, bubbling away in a mob cap most afternoons."

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