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Pam's prescription

Remember Pamela Stephenson? She came to the UK from New Zealand via Australia, starred in the hit TV sketch show Not The Nine O'Clock News and later married Billy Connolly. More recently, she's been a celebrity psychologist and sex therapist, and she apparently reckons some women cut their hair short to deliberately make themselves unattractive. This is according to the Daily Mail, which notes that Victoria "Posh" Beckham has short hair - and Stephenson herself does not.

Alive and kicking

Patrick Swayze is rightly annoyed about media reports concerning his health. Here's what he says:

"They're reporting that I'm on my last legs and saying goodbye to my tearful family! ... It's upsetting that the shoddy and reckless reporting from these publications cast a negative shadow on the positive and good fight I'm fighting."

The big question is: Even if the reporters and editors involved believed it to be true that he was dying imminently, should they have published it?

Give Nicole a go

I happen to think that Nicole Kidman is overrated. But then, just about everybody in Hollywood is. I haven't seen Baz Luhrmann's Australia, but some friends have, and their verdict is that it's not as bad as many of the critics are saying. That's the problem with some critics: a film (or play or other work of art) that doesn't push their buttons suddenly descends from being average to awful, and the tale gets worse in the writing of the review. It's more fun to do a demolition job than to be fair and balanced. Enter the voice of reason, the Courier-Mail's Des Partridge, who diagnoses a case of Tall Poppy Syndrome and writes, in part:

You don't have to love her, but you don't have to hate her, either. And it's not compulsory to buy a ticket to Australia. But you'll be missing a very entertaining movie if you decide not to go.

I don't think I will be going to see it - the 2 hour 45 minute running time's a big turn off for me. But if I do go and I don't like the film, I won't be making a personal attack on Kidman.

Sergeant resigns his commission

It may just be a welcome distraction from the economic woes, but the biggest issue in the UK right now concerns former political journalist John Sergeant, who has quit the show Strictly Come Dancing (similar to the Australian show Dancing with the Stars). Sergeant's deliberately bad performances have endeared him to viewers but angered judges who haven't been able to vote him off because his high public vote has made him immune from eviction. The latest is that the BBC will now have to refund viewers who paid to vote for Sergeant after his decision to leave. Angry viewers have said the popular 64 year old was hounded out by the judges, and have threatened a boycott of the show. The bigger issue, of course, concerns all "reality" shows and the uneasy relationship between viewers' votes and the opinions of an "expert" panel. If people pay a premium to phone in and have their say, who are the judges to try to overturn their verdict? And, as Sergeant himself said, the show is about providing entertainment, not who is the best dancer.
PS: Older celebrities, including Cilla Black, have signalled their support for Sergeant. Even a Cabinet minister, Lord Mandelson, has weighed in to the debate, saying "John Sergeant should not bow out. He has become the people's John Travolta. He should be a fighter, not a quitter."

Farewell, Reg Varney

I have fond memories of Reg Varney as Jack Butler in On The Buses, and for his variety performances that were screened on TV when I was a kid. But I didn't know that Varney - who has died at the age of 92 - was the first person to use an ATM. According to this report, he used a cash machine at Barclays bank in Enfield, North London, in 1967. How come, then, when I first came to the UK 20 years later, ATMs were still as scarce as the proverbial hen's teeth?
PS: The same article reveals that Stephen Lewis, who played the apparently ancient Inspector Cyril "Blakey" Blake, is now just 72 - meaning he was only in his mid-thirties when On The Buses was in its hey-day. Amazing.

Missing the point

The world economy is in deep recession, war reigns in the Middle East and there is widespread human tragedy in Africa, but the Daily Mail is weighing more important matters: Where has Christina Aguilera's cleavage gone?

Beam him up

George "Mr Sulu" Takei is to join the latest series of I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here, the British "reality" series that's filmed in the Australian bush (but not too far from comfy resorts for the convenience of the hosts and selected crew). According to The Sun, the other contestants are former Metropolitan Police deputy chief Brian Paddick, tennis legend Martina Navratilova, footballer's girlfriend Carly Zucker, onetime EastEnders star Joe Swash, former Blue singer Simon Webbe, TV host Dani Behr, 1980s British television stalwart Esther Rantzen and "glamour girl" Nicola McLean. The show begins screening here in the UK on Sunday.

Bond on Bond

Roger Moore, the underrated star of seven James Bond films, says he is sad that the franchise has become so violent. I haven't seen Quantum of Solace yet but, in general, I'm with him. Bring back the humour - and the amazing gadgets - and leave the ultraviolence to Hollywood.

Bert's Wizard role

Bert Newton has been confirmed as the new Wizard in the Australian version of the hit musical Wicked, now playing in Melbourne. Newton, of course, played the same character in the touring version of The Wizard of Oz a few years back. The role in Wicked became vacant after the untimely death of Rob Guest. Newton says:

"The Wizard is a complex challenging role. He’s a charismatic, seductive man who says he just wants to make people happy. He may even believe it, but the truth is much darker. I feel privileged to take this role, one Rob Guest memorably created for the Australian production of Wicked. Rob was a close mate, we played opposite each other in The Sound of Music, and we had a lot of fun together. I’m looking forward to joining a terrific cast in the musical of the decade."

Good luck to him. In my experience, he's one of the nicest blokes in the biz.
PS: It's also been announced that Buddy: The Buddy Holly story will play the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane from May 2. Details here.

Panto pandemonium

Its rituals may be something of a mystery to Australian audiences, but the pantomime is alive and well in Britain. Every regional city has at least one panto happening this Christmas, and they all have one thing in common - B and C-list celebs, plus the occasional faded -lister, in starring roles. In Liverpool, it's Cilla Black as the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella; in Bath it's former Doctor Who Colin Baker as Fleshcreep, the Giant's henchman, in Jack and the Beanstalk; in Bristol it's Mickey Rooney (yes, the Mickey Rooney) as Baron Hardup in another Cinderella; Christopher Ellison (Frank Burnside from The Bill) is in Alladin at Tunbridge Wells; and in Bromley, Kent, it's Police Academy star Steve Guttenberg in yet another Cinderella. In London, Britt Ekland is at the Shaw Theatre in (you guessed it) Cinderella. If you're a Neighbours fan, past or present, it's your annual chance to catch your favourite Aussie heartthrob on stage, with Alan Fletcher (Dr Karl) in Peter Pan at Aberdeen; Mark Little in Snow White at Worthing; Craig McLachlan in, yet again, Cinderella at Southampton; and Caitlin Stasey in Snow White at Norwich. There's more here.
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