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West Coast Dickens seeks serial killer

CHRISTOPHER Isherwood called him the Dickens of America's West Coast: his gently spicy chronicles of the liberated life in San Francisco have fans across the world. Now, rather pleasingly, it has fallen to our very own Channel 4 to produce the first television adaptation of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. Maupin is pleased, according to the series' producer, Antony Root, who is in San Francisco working on scripts with Richard Kramer, one of the writers of thirtysomething. 'He was always keen that the stories should be passed through British sensibilities. They have a very British irony.' They also have an element that apparently is still unacceptable on the American networks: homosexuality. As you would expect from a chronicle of San Francisco, which Maupin has described as 'the city where the love that dares not speak its name almost never shuts up', gay life provides a large part, though by no means all, of the stories' subject matter. Even now, Channel 4 has yet to find an American co-producer for the series, although it is confident that the initial six one-hour shows, due to be shot in San Francisco in March next year, will get an airing in the States. It's a familiar syndrome for Armistead Maupin. He was once well advanced with plans for an adaptation with the film studio Warner when it was suggested that a central character who was gay and a gynaecologist should also be a serial killer.

DOES each day seem much like the one before to a Today reader? Perusing Penny 'Astrologer to Princess Diana' Thornton's column yesterday, you found that the stars promised pretty much what they promised on Tuesday. In fact, on closer inspection, they promised exactly what they promised on Tuesday. Still, it must be tough predicting tomorrow today for tomorrow's Today. Or whatever.

Burial service

MORE information emerges about the arcane working practices of the House Un-Conservative Activities Committee, or Tory whips' office. One of the strong-arm men, David 'The Enforcer' Davis, MP for Boothferry, arrived late for his colleague Greg Knight's wedding in the Commons' crypt last week. As he slipped into his seat, the chief whip, Richard Ryder, turned around and said, 'What are you doing here? You're in charge of burials.'

RIVER PHOENIX, the American actor, outlines his parent's innovative approach to Christian names in this week's NME: 'My name used to be Rio and my middle name is Jude, from the Beatles song. Rain's name is shortened from Rainbow and she has the middle name Joan of Arc. Leaf has now changed his name to Joaquin and Liberty has the middle name Mariposa, while the baby of the family, at 14, is called Summer.'

Revealing source

THE FEW Labourites left at Westminster will gather tonight to say au revoir to Matthew Hooberman, Gerald Kaufman's right-hand man for the past five years and one of this diary's valued sources. Thus, the least we can do is tell you he's useful, bright, attractive and prepared to consider offers of gainful employment from anyone, anywhere. Incidentally, it was only a few months ago that the MP George Robertson had to give Kaufman some disturbing news: it was, without a shadow of a doubt, Hooberman who had passed on an exchange between Robertson and William Waldegrave to this column. Mr Kaufman received this information with interest. 'Aha]' he said in the tones of a man who has at last solved a troublesome conundrum, 'so that's how things get into diaries]'

NOT content with rearranging the countryside, the Department of Transport is now rewriting the dictionary. According to the signs flagging road-widening work on the A11 in Norfolk, the DoT is undertaking a 'dualling' operation.

GOOD Morning Television, which takes over TV-am's franchise next year, has a pretty shrewd idea what its viewers won't stomach over their Honey Nut Loops. A question on its job application form asks candidates whether they have suffered from dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, acne or dry skin. Is this what the ITC meant by the 'quality threshold'?


23 July 596 Pope Gregory writes to the mission he sent to England under St Augustine to inspire its reluctant members: 'It is better never to undertake any high enterprise than to abandon it when once begun. So with the help of God you must carry out this holy task. Be constant and zealous . . . and be assured that the greater the labour, the greater will be the glory of your eternal reward. When Augustine your leader returns, whom We have appointed your abbot, obey him humbly in all things, remembering that whatever he directs you to do will always be for the good of your souls. May Almighty God protect you with his Grace, and grant me to see the result of your labours in our heavenly home. And although my office prevents me from working at your side, yet because I long to do so, I hope to share your joyful reward.'