So whatever happened to Paul Burrell?

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The Independent Online
With a new reality television show a week planned for 2005 featuring subjects as diverse as masked celebrity wrestling to rearing a plastic baby, soon almost everyone in the UK will have had the opportunity to appear on camera having a colonic irrigation, doing the washing-

up or failing at a new skill like bricklaying or golf. Before long, we'll all have had our moment of fame, and be boasting at dinner parties that we've actually met a family who have set a new trend by refusing to swap homes with a bunch of illegal Latvian immigrants for a BBC2 series on life in a fish-processing plant in Scotland.

The brilliant thing about the instant celebrity that these programmes bring the participants is that fame quickly turns to instant oblivion. Does anyone know what Paul Burrell has actually been doing since he came out of the jungle? We realise the pounds 4.5m he made from the revelations in his Diana book was enough to buy him a luxury house in Florida - so we can assume he's been wowing the blue rinse brigade in Palm Beach with musical turns, cooking "skills" and tales of Mother Teresa. Fran Cosgrave - I didn't know who he was before I spent 17 nights sleeping next to him in a rainforest, and I still have very little idea. I recall he thought nothing of spending pounds 50 on a pair of Dolce and Gabbana trainers for the toddler he fathered with a female pop star, but other than that he remains an enigma. Jeff Brazier, the hunk whose sperm produced Jade Goody's offspring, is another person famous by default - but at least he's undeniably gorgeous, if a bit lacking in the brain department.

Aggie the cleaner could serve me tea and biscuits in Betty's in Harrogate and I still wouldn't recognise the woman, even though she's cleaned more U-bends on prime-time television than I ever will. Bez, a man who can put up with the grimness of living in Manchester (he's so out of it he doesn't realise it's his home town), has also disappeared without trace since his unexpected Big Brother victory. Unlike Pete Doherty, whose whole life is lived as a set of tabloid headlines and is currently enjoying a mini-break this weekend in Pentonville, Bez has vanished in a cloud of wacky baccy. He may have started work on a new reality series in a Carthusian monastery, but somehow I doubt it.

What's needed is a new version of Who's Who to keep crumblies like me totally au fait with the latest stars of popular culture, names we can drop at social gatherings and in front of the young and look reasonably up to the minute. The equivalent of phrases techies use like "I've downloaded iTunes, created a playlist and burnt a disc". When I trotted that out the other day, there was a hushed, impressed silence. Trouble is, all the current versions of Who's Who are virtually useless, compiled years in advance and far too snooty to include the roster of B-, C- and D-list celebs that fill our gossip magazines and brighten up our humdrum lives.

There's Debrett's grandly titled People of Today - I was in it once but as I never bought a copy, I've probably been axed. I removed one husband and a couple of jobs from my entry as too many marriages seem to over shadow my career, and running L!ve TV seemed a bit of a naff claim to fame. Then there's the International Who's Who, the International Who's Who of Women, and so on; the list is endless, but they are all dull and dreary. The other day I was thrilled to receive a letter from the grandly named American Biographical Institute, offering me a seat on its board of advisers. I tossed it in the shredder. Another missive followed, headlined REPLY REQUESTED. It seems I have been nominated for the prestigious title Woman of the Year 2005, by the ABI, based in Raleigh, North Carolina. If I accept my nomination, and send a cheque for $295, I will receive a "Decree custom laminated on to Finland birch wood... a beautiful reminder of the occasion". Chateau Street-Porter will have to manage without the added prestige of a laminated plaque bearing my name, as the whole enterprise is clearly a marketing ploy where names are culled from every other list of the famous.

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Next month the fourth edition of the Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Women's Biography appears in paperback. Newly included are Tracey Emin, Cindy Sherman, Lucille Ball, Meera Syal and Jenny Eclair because she won an award, whereas Victoria Wood, whose Acorn Antiques musical opens this week, is not. A pathetic male gossip columnist on The Sunday Times wrote a rampantly sexist piece last week entitled "is this the best you can do girls?" because Yoko Ono is listed as an artist in her own right, and somehow this Baudelaire of bitchery doesn't consider Nigella Lawson worthy of inclusion.

Of course any list will be quirky - why does Rebekah Wade feature, for example - but I'm not going to quibble. Any serious attempt to list women of achievement both living and dead is a cause for celebration. After the Dior men's fashion show where Ono was the star of the front row, I sat opposite Yoko at dinner in Paris last Monday. By anyone's standards she's a major conceptual artist, an interesting musician (with a recent hit) and do you know many women in their 70s who have that energy? She's an icon and The Sunday Times should be ashamed of itself for printing such bilge.

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Last Thursday was stylishly German, with the opening at Tate Modern of an exhibition of the work of seminal conceptual artist Joseph Beuys. I followed that with the mind-blowing thrash metal band Rammstein at Brixton Academy. Dressed in a combination of spoof Third Reich militaria, bondage gear, corsets and gauntlets, this band puts on a show you'll never forget, with flame throwers, pyrotechnics and a cooking pot on wheels from which the keyboard player emerges covered in fake blood.

They've taken kitsch to the extreme, selling 10 million albums worldwide. If you can, see them in Manchester tonight or Nottingham tomorrow. You won't be disappointed. Rammstein make Queen look like the Teletubbies. The night ended with smoked sausages and sauerkraut. And now the place for a stylish weekend break must be at the breathtaking new InterContinental hotel on the site of Hitler's mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden, Germany. Now everyone can enjoy the view - as long as you can afford it.

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