Matthew Bell: The <i>IoS</i> Diary (22/05/11)

On intimate terms with AXZ and KML
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The Independent Online

"Don't inflict Brown on the IMF" – that was how the Express delicately phrased its objection to Gordon Brown's bid to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn. But the Daily Mail took a rather different line yesterday, supporting Brown for the top job. In two prominent articles, it quoted unspecified "allies" of the ex-PM being "angry" at the Tories for blocking him. Now, who could these "allies" be? One prominent figure known to have Brown's ear is Paul Dacre, editor of the Mail. I'm told Brown has been keen to get in touch with his old pal in recent days, though, unfortunately for him, Dacre was on annual leave in the Caribbean last week. Still, somehow the chaps back home worked out what their line on Brown was, all the same.

Lars von Trier has blamed his gaffe at Cannes on his "Danish sense of humour". The art-house film director shocked an audience – including the star of his latest film, Kirsten Dunst, who mouthed "This is terrible!" – by saying he sympathised with Hitler. But hasn't he now made a further gaffe, by insulting the people of Denmark? It's particularly offensive to Sandi Toksvig, Denmark's funniest export, whose family was bombed by Hitler's forces during the war. "Many of the stories I grew up with were about the family crying with laughter while Mr Hitler did his best to bomb them to smithereens," she said recently, speaking of where he sense of humour came from. Her family's experience of the war also helped her write Hitler's Canary, a children's story based on the events of 1940, when her family helped smuggle Danish Jews to Sweden.

The novelist Edward St Aubyn has won plaudits for writing about his traumatic childhood (he was raped by his father aged five) in his five Patrick Melrose novels, of which he has just published the latest, At Last. But St Aubyn has another, more upbeat, claim to fame, which is that the Queen was once invited to and attended his birthday party. The story goes that she didn't know how to operate a lift, so St Aubyn had to run downstairs and press the buttons for her, before pegging back up four flights to be there to greet her, panting and a little flushed.

We know social media helped mobilise the Arab Spring, but could Apple now be making matters worse? iPad users will discover that if you tap in the word salafi, the name of a group of Muslim fundamentalists, auto-correct changes it to salami. Forcibly substituting a Muslim group with a European pork-based product may not help ease tension in the area.

The creator of Taggart, Glenn Chandler, has taken a racier storyline for his latest venture, Cleveland Street – the Musical: it's a romp about the notorious male brothel which may or may not have entertained Prince Albert Victor, known to his family as "Eddy", a grandson of Queen Victoria. The current run at the Stag Theatre in London only has one week left, but the cast have been having fun with their script. After ITV announced they were axeing Taggart last week, one of them managed to slip in the line "There's been a murrr-der!"

The Lady editor Rachel Johnson was given a "Desert Island Lunch" on Friday by the swanky Mayfair club Morton's. For reasons that aren't quite clear, the Berkeley Square joint is honouring eight journalists by asking them to choose 10 journalists and 10 close friends they would invite to their last lunch on earth. She chose Ruby Wax, Sir Stuart Rose, and her father Stanley, among others. "All the other journalists being honoured are far more distinguished than me," she tells me. "What I realised as I was putting together the guest list is that all my favourite people are journalists." But there was no sign of either of her journalist brothers, Boris or Jo, or her old sparring partner, Julia Budworth, owner of The Lady.

Griff Rhys Jones and Christopher Biggins are calling on someone with deep pockets to step in and save Dress Circle, the record shop in Covent Garden specialising in musical theatre and cabaret, which could close next month. The kooky showbiz hangout on Monmouth Street has suffered from dwindling trade and a 35 per cent rent hike two years ago. The Rocky Horror Show star Biggins, who won I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here in 2007, has demanded Sir Cameron Mackintosh fork out. "He owns plenty of theatres, and he could save this," Biggins says. Rhys Jones says the local authorities need to get involved. "If places like Dress Circle disappear, Covent Garden will be useless to the upmarket visitor it currently attracts. It may as well be an outdoor Brent Cross," he says.

m.bell@independent.co.uk

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