THE OMENS are not good for President Bill Clinton after Sunday night's debate at the Hay Literary Festival. Robert Bennett, Clinton's silver- tongued American lawyer in the Zippergate investigations, was teamed with the brilliant Stephen Fry and writer Adam Gopnik from The New Yorker to argue for the motion: "The private life of a public figure should remain private."
Opposed were former Times editor Simon Jenkins, investigative journalist Tom Bower (currently finishing his book on Mohamed Al Fayed) and authoress Gita Sereny, who wrote the recent controversial study of Mary Bell.
In the end, the Bennett/Fry/Gopnik team lost by an overwhelming margin, despite winner Sereny having received boos at one point. This came after Bennett's rather wan argument that "Privacy is the most valued aspect of any civilized society."
Oh well, at least Bennett gave Welsh tourism a modest boost, saying: "I'm very glad to be here in Hay, otherwise I might have to be in Little Rock" - the appalling capital of Clinton's home state Arkansas.
THIS GOVERNMENT'S iron pager discipline may have succeeded in marginalising the influence of most left-wing MPs in the chamber, but New Labour is still not taking its dominance for granted.
When word passed round recently that Tony Benn was scheduled for a tour of the party's Millbank Tower headquarters, it sparked some frenetic spring cleaning.
Suddenly, the desks piled high with paper in Labour's engine room were cleared of any signs of rightist revisionism and the computer screens refreshed with innocuous images to welcome working-class hero Benn on his walkabout.
DIRECTOR Terry Gilliam was in a mellow mood in the Groucho Club on Thursday evening. Just back from the Cannes screening of his latest film, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the ex-Python was unruffled by the shocked reaction to some of his "gonzo" drug scenes from an audience that had included a large number of bourgeois French and politically correct Americans. The film doesn't romanticise drugs, Gilliam pointed out to Pandora, but shows "what happens when you take a large quantity of powerful drugs
He had made the journey into Soho from his Highgate home to attend a very private concert at Planet Hollywood. The big draw was Bruce Willis (whom Gilliam directed in Twelve Monkeys) and his rock band.
Pandora hears that Willis's yawn-inducing gig was so "exclusive" that Gilliam was one of the few genuine British celebrities to bother attending, along with Elizabeth Murdoch, the lovely friend of Matthew Freud, who does PR for the themed burger restaurant.
Rose is a rose
THE MOST POIGNANT Viagra story to date should have a pleasing side- effect on one part of the population.
When 70-year-old American millionaire Frank Bernardo left his common- law-wife, Roberta Burke, 61, the day after Viagra enabled him to make love for the first time in four years, he didn't go for a nubile young bimbo, he flew into the arms of an older woman. Her name is Rose Garafola, 65, of Edison, New Jersey.
Though Rose is reportedly having second thoughts about the media attention, all ladies of a certain age should take heart and recall those Viagra- evocative lines from Shakespeare's first sonnet: "From fairest creatures we desire increase,/ That thereby beauty's rose might never die."