The Third Leader: A rose by any other name

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Amazement, I see, has greeted Marilyn Monroe's strikingly achieved watercolour of a red rose, originally intended for John Kennedy and now sold at auction for more than £40,000. Why is this? You might think it's the dizzy blonde thing; but people are still amazed to learn, for example, that Hedy Lamarr invented a torpedo guidance system that anticipated mobile phone technology, and she was a brunette.

Amazement, I see, has greeted Marilyn Monroe's strikingly achieved watercolour of a red rose, originally intended for John Kennedy and now sold at auction for more than £40,000. Why is this? You might think it's the dizzy blonde thing; but people are still amazed to learn, for example, that Hedy Lamarr invented a torpedo guidance system that anticipated mobile phone technology, and she was a brunette.

Brad Pitt, meanwhile, puzzles with his architectural ambitions; ditto, Tony Curtis, artist, and Ethan Hawke, novelist. I often wonder why that great artist and backstroke swimmer, Rolf Harris, has never been taken more seriously. Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger have managed spectacular extramural success, but that might be because people were keen they should give up the day job. Or, perhaps it's because they went into politics, where the possession of "a hinterland" does excite admiration. Writing is commonplace, although that is not a description that applies to the oeuvre of, say, Sir Winston Churchill, Roy Jenkins, Ms Edwina Currie or Sir Norman Fowler, whose memoirs are generally regarded as the highest test of stamina.

Many a quiet tear, too, has been shed by listeners to Michael Ancram, especially when he is singing "The Streets of London" to his own guitar. Which brings us to the ex-lead singer of Ugly Rumours; but, as so often, he is an exception.

All a bit of a puzzle; still, I can't help thinking Ms Hazel Blears would get an easier ride if people knew she is an expert tap-dancer. It would certainly make an entrancing finale to the next Home Office statement on chain gangs.

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