Pandora's Box

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The Independent Online
KNIGHTSBRIDGE insiders predict that Mohamed al Fayed may once again defy conventionality if the Government refuses to give him a British passport. That is, he may go travelling and take a permanent holiday from the UK. There has already been press speculation about whether he could be tempted to sell Harrods. Surely there would be no lack of interested buyers. But where would al Fayed set up his new home? Paris once appeared to be the logical destination; he owns the Duke of Windsor's house and could keep closer tabs on the Ritz. But that was before the French judge brusquely summoned him to appear in Paris today in order to expand on his conspiracy theories. Last week the New York Post speculated that al Fayed might move to the Big Apple. Our sources point out that Mohamed used to own a lease on part of Rockefeller Center and keeps a permanent suite at the Pierre Hotel. His brother Ali has just opened a sleek branch of Turnbull & Asser in midtown Manhattan and lives in a sprawling waterfront estate in Connecticut, complete with all the rich man's toys, including a new private yacht and jet. Could Mohamed adjust his Park Lane lifestyle to NYC's rough and tumble, hard-living fast lane? Does a bagel have a hole in the middle?

HERE IS AN IDEA whose time has definitely arrived: charging PR firms for the press releases they bung through our fax machines. The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post news service has announced that it now bins any and all unsolicited PR fax messages. If you wish to avoid this fate, they've established a pay telephone line which charges "$2 for the first minute, $1 for each additional minute" and is connected to a fax machine. Which UK newspaper will be the first to introduce this wonderful innovation?

AS THE FEUD continues between the Rugby Football Union and its member clubs, word has reached Pandora of the ultimate in sporting insults. Cliff Brittle, millionaire chairman of the RFU, is a dapper man who has never made much fuss about his achievements as a rugby player at Stoke on Trent. Now the word circulating around the clubs is that "Brittle was the only player in the history of rugby to comb his hair at half-time".

AN AMERICAN air hostess named Diana Benson has been blabbing on the Internet about the celebrity passengers she served when she worked for the now defunct MGM Grand airlines. Back in the decadent Eighties, opulent MGM Grand was the only way to fly, darling, on the "milk run" from LA to NY and back. Julia Roberts, OJ Simpson, Eddie Murphy: Diana has a tale to tell about them all.

She is particularly rude about Lauren Bacall, accusing her of hogging the caviar and of being keen to receive celebrity homage from the young hostesses. "Do you know who I am? I am Lauren Bacall," the actress is quoted as saying. "The Lauren Bacall. I was married to Humphrey Bogart. The Humphrey Bogart." Oh, that Humprhey Bogart.

WHAT DOES Piers Pottinger look like? Since he became Mohamed al Fayed's replacement for departed Harrods PR flak Michael Cole, Pottinger has been dodging the news cameras. Whenever the PR man's name appears in print, it carries adjectives like "self- effacing" or "unseen".

Not long ago, The Times was forced to ask its readers if they could supply a photo-graph of Potty, who is Sir Tim Bell's partner. Ever willing to oblige, Pandora is happy to share the accompanying snap with anyone who might be interested.