Is King Kong bound for the Palace roof?

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The Independent Online
THE NEWS that Buckingham Palace is thinking of hiring Brian Cartmell, the PR agent who steered Evel Knievel's car-jumping career and who once hung a giant King Kong from the top of Blackpool Tower, can only be good. Or at any rate, it must be an improvement on the present Palace PR effort, which often looks like a republican plot with Gerald Ratner as marketing consultant. Last week's announcement that the Princess of Wales was giving up her pounds 72,000 Mercedes 'because she is tightening her belt like anybody else' was guaranteed to draw howls of rage from every breakfast table in the country and was an open invitation to the tabloids to do what they promptly did - list a million other ways in which she could save money, starting with cutting down on her staff, her homes, her other cars, her clothes, her pounds 750 membership of the Vanderbilt Club, her San Lorenzo lunches, her astrologers, acupuncturists, masseurs, and finishing inevitably with her phone bill.

In any case, as Ross Benson of the Express confirmed on Thursday, Mercedes never charged the Princess the pounds 1,500 a month car rental because they regarded it as terrific free publicity. Presumably she gave up the car as a general goodwill gesture and it should have been welcomed as such - and would have been, were it not for the disastrous Palace comment which turned a PR plus into a minus. If I were the Princess I'd grab that Mercedes back and use it to run over the spokesman's foot. Anyway, I look forward to seeing King Kong on the Palace roof.

IN MY NEW effort to get out of a rut and generally be a more interesting person, I have been madly going to every party I'm invited to. On Wednesday this took me to the Saudi Arabian embassy in Curzon Street to celebrate the kingdom's 60th anniversary - not hitherto a big date in my calendar but as I say I am trying to change. Do you remember those Sixties films where the hero would enter an ordinary terraced house and find inside an amazing futuristic command module with Dr Big lurking behind a push-button map of the world? Not that the Saudi Arabian embassy is really like that - but it is a tremendous shock when you go in. From the outside it looks like the sort of perfect Georgian villa normally described as a 'gem'. But inside is a glittering fantasy of marble floors and gilt fretwork which any health spa would give its eye teeth for, presided over (presumably for the party only) by a 15ft ice sculpture of the Saudi national emblem complete with palm tree and crossed swords. Underneath the icy palm was a throng of about 600 men and only half a dozen women, of whom I may well have been the youngest. Also, despite the vast array of delicious food, there was no alcohol whatsoever, which is not my idea of a party. So I reeled soberly out of there feeling rather disconsolate and then remembered that Naim Attallah had invited me to a book launch at the Museum of the Moving Image.

Naim's parties are always good fun so I hared across to the South Bank where Naim immediately led me to an extremely old lady sitting in a chair. 'Now I will see how you do interviews,' he said, indicating to other party guests that they should cluster round and watch this interesting encounter. Aagh] Just as actors have nightmares of finding themselves on stage with no idea of what play they are in, so I have nightmares of interviewing someone without having a clue who they are. If only I had remembered the invitation] While Naim arranged the chairs, I studied my new subject for clues. Good legs, good bone structure, definitely a former beauty, apparently foreign. Ergo, probably an old film star of Marlene Dietrich or Greta Garbo ilk, but with the important difference of being alive. I started with a safe question, 'Are the publicity people working you very hard?' which, disconcertingly, she got someone to translate into German, before answering in perfectly good English that, yes, she was doing interviews all week. So a big star then, and German, but who? By now there was quite an audience hanging on our every word. Another desperate trawl: 'Do you know what you are doing for your next project?' 'Anozzer film.' 'Oh really? What about?' 'Dying, you know. Always I am dying. Eighteen years now.' I struggled on: 'Oh, er, and how do you convey this in your film?' 'Wiz many fishes, sting-rays, octupuses.' Give up. Suicide time. All I could do was gawp. Eventually the translator kindly explained that Leni Riefenstahl (for it was she) was a keen diver and was making an underwater film. But I could face no more and slunk away into the night, my interviewing reputation in tatters. So much for trying to add excitement to my life.

THE CURSE of Hello] strikes again, but in an interesting new form. A few weeks ago the magazine featured Michael Douglas and his wife Diandra showing off their holiday house in Majorca. In fact they showed off the house so much it looked like an estate agent's ad, and I wondered in my cynical way if the couple were splitting and selling up. Sure enough, the Sun revealed this week that Michael Douglas is 'being treated in a clinic for sex addiction after his wife caught him in bed with one of her best friends'. A clinic for sex addiction] Whatever next? It is called the Sierra Tucson Centre in Arizona and officially Douglas is in there for drink and drug problems but really he is being treated for 'sex addiction'. However, a psychiatric counsellor gave a different explanation: 'It offers a second chance to people who never grew up.' This sounds like an absolute winner to me: I can think of at least a dozen potential patients right away, and I predict that we will be hearing a lot more of the Sierra Tucson Centre.