Pandora's Box

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The Independent Online
HALLELUJAH, the Millennium Dome is going to be the envy of the ... advertising world. It appears our Millennium festivities, described last week by the Prime Minister in lush tones of portentous religiosity, will cross every frontier in the history of commercial hucksterism. If you thought the Dome's theme-park contents were crass, its list of influence- hungry corporate sponsors obvious, brace yourself for much, much worse. For starters, check out the Dome's "Body Zone", whose focal point is a giant androgynous figure accompanied by a huge nappy-wearing baby. Forget about the debate about whether the baby wears a "natural" or a disposable nappy. A spokesman for the New Millennium Experience Company confirmed to Pandora that the nappy will in fact be sold as a giant advertisement. "It's a play-off between Huggies and Pampers," said Jez Agar of the NMEC, his excitement at the sales potential outdistancing any actual deal. His company will presumably be flogging ad space on every statue, wall, chair and toilet-roll holder throughout the vast exhibition. The promo literature for the Dome's "Body Zone" claims that it "is designed to amaze, with the world's biggest physical representation of the human form, a rich and intellectually accessible exploration". Shouldn't that last word read "exploitation"?

BY COMPARISON, the $500m theme park which Michael Jackson is planning to build in Warsaw, Poland, may turn out to be a triumph of good taste and idealism. Yes, Jacko Land is going to be "a world of childhood". Will it feature huge statues of androgynous youths in Calvin-sponsored underpants - or does the crutch-clutching singer have better taste?

THE LATEST word is that Titanic has just become the first film to gross over $1bn. Amazing, really, with an ending that sends millions of people away shaking their heads at the absurdity of its final scene, in which a "priceless" necklace called the "Coeur de la Mer" is deliberately tossed into the ocean on a sentimental whim. In reality, that necklace was made of something called cubic zirconium by Asprey's of Bond Street. Now they have gone back to the workroom and produced a $3.5m version of the piece that includes a 170-carat Ceylon sapphire and 30 carats of diamonds.

It will be auctioned in Beverly Hills on 21 March to raise funds for The Princess Diana, Princess of Wales Fund.

YESTERDAY the hacks who comprise the NUJ's Parliamentary branch met in a room deep in the Commons and passed a motion condemning Ken Livingstone. This was in response to Ken's tabling of a Commons motion attacking the strikers at the 'Morning Star', which made him the first Labour MP since the last election to attack an "official" labour dispute. If you don't understand all the ramifications of this heated Left v Left media battle, then you're in the same boat as Pandora.

MEANWHILE Matt Drudge, the fearless "cyber outlaw" gossip columnist who broke the Monica Lewinsky story on his Internet web site, has signed a deal with Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Network. Is this the first cyber sell- out? Drudge, who sports thick dreadlocks and even thicker nerdy glasses, will be presenting a weekly half-hour chat show.

This follows his appearance on NBC's "Meet The Press" several weeks back when he waved a copy of Murdoch's NY Post at the camera, praising its coverage of Clinton. Apparently Drudge is also being pursued by an American publisher, Judith Regan of Regan Books, an imprint of Murdoch's Harper Collins, to write an anti-establishment media book. But don't expect any scoops about China at www.drudgereport.com in the near future.

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