Our man sets the world to rhyme

Diary from New York
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The Independent Online
SIR JOHN Weston will have to keep his diplomatic antennae well tuned to the very end. Formally, he leaves his post as British ambassador at the United Nations and retires from the Diplomatic Service this Tuesday - at about the same time as the whistle blows to end the England-Argentina game in the World Cup. Tuesday is also visiting day to the UN for a delegation from the Falkland Islands Council. No word yet whether Sir John, in recognition of the new detente with Buenos Aires, will watch the match with his Argentine counterpart. It is uncertain how much Sir John will be missed in New York. Unlike his American counterpart, Bill Richardson, who will shortly also be leaving town for a post in the Clinton cabinet, he is not exactly of the back-slapping sort. Is it possible, though, that some may miss his sense of poetry? When Kofi Annan gave him a farewell dinner a few nights ago, Sir John recalled the Secretary General once noting that being top dog at the UN was the "job from hell". In a toast, Sir John offered him this dubious ditty:

"Said a princely achiever from Ghana,

The world cannot wait for manana,

Now I head the UN,

I do not preten'

It's the nearest I've come to

Nirvana."

Perhaps not. Sir John is bound for non-executive directorships at British Telecom and Rolls-Royce Aerospace. He may find time on the flight back to think of suitable limericks for each of them.

IS THERE any one left in New York City who has not been exasperated by our smash-and-grab mayor, Rudolph Giuliani? Bent on restoring civility and "quality of life" to the place, he has recently targeted taxi drivers, jay-walkers, sex-shop owners and street vendors. The hot-dog sellers' crime is that they impede pedestrian traffic. They will have to go. Or most of them. No wonder the insults about Rudy are flying. On a jolly night of revues and sketches at the state legislature in Albany recently, there was a reference to that "mean old mayor down the road who got the trains to run on time". Shades of Mussolini? Last week, the Daily News ran a cartoon lampooning a Rudy plan to spend $15m on a super-secure control bunker for himself and his staff for use in the event of some unforeseen civic disaster. "Uh Rudy," read the caption, "there's an Eva Braun to see you." Says Giuliani of the slurs: "I've gotten used to it."

YOU would expect gays to be angry too. The mayor's crackdown on the sex industry and night-life in general has got many activists gagging. But last week the City Council passed a new law giving gay couples equal rights with heterosexual couples. Equal visitation rights to city jails and hospital, equal employment opportunities and equal succession rights in the city's public housing, that sort of thing. Rudy then announced that last Monday was "Out in Government Day", declaring: "Someone's sexual orientation is a private matter, and that should not be the basis on which someone is hired or fired by government." What next? Joining the annual Gay Pride March as it swarms down Fifth Avenue this morning? Actually, yes, he will almost certainly be there; sans rainbow flag, of course.

SAY what you like about Rudy - bonkers, fascist, whatever - nothing he does seems to cause him much damage. Polls show most New Yorkers approve of his bully-boy measures. Which explains the other buzz in the city - that the mayor has his eye on higher, national office. In recent months he has traversed the nation raising funds for Republican candidates and saying nice things about them. Giuliani, Republican candidate for President in 2000? Most pundits think that plain barmy. But if we are really to take Dan Quayle seriously again (yes, he says he will try one more time), why not our mayor?

MANY thanks to the New York Post's gossip team for scooping this memo from the Hollywood director Scott Rudin to Allison Jackson, vice president of special projects for Paramount here in New York. Evidently, he was miffed over the guest list for the premiere of his latest film, The Truman Show. Herewith a few extracts: "Be aware that the only thing separating my hands from your neck is the fact that there are 3,000 miles between us. Be aware that in 15 years of producing movies and running companies, I have never been treated so disrespectfully, rudely, insolently or been dismissed ... by any low-level flunky as I have by you this afternoon. Be aware that this is the last movie of mine you will have anything to do with because the prospect of having to go through another one of these events with you makes my skin crawl." The missive ends: "You are a hostess, nothing more; you create nothing of value except hors-d'oeuvres and guest lists. You are not even smart enough to know who not to offend". Temper, temper.

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