Sylvester Stallone denies sex assault allegation

Sylvester StalloneImage copyright
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Stallone’s spokeswoman said the story was “categorically false”

Actor Sylvester Stallone has denied reports that he and a bodyguard sexually assaulted a 16-year-old fan in Las Vegas in the 1980s.

The Mail Online has published what it says is a police report dating from 1986, which detailed the allegations.

The young woman did not press charges, the report said, because she was “humiliated and ashamed”, as well as being “scared”. No action was taken.

The Rocky star’s spokeswoman said the story was “categorically false”.

Michelle Bega described the allegation as “ridiculous”, adding: “No one was ever aware of this story until it was published today, including Mr Stallone.

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“At no time was Mr Stallone ever contacted by any authorities or anyone else regarding this matter.”

The alleged victim said she became intimidated and frightened when the star’s bodyguard became involved in the incident in a hotel room, according to the 12-page police report.

The report says the girl alleged they met in July 1986 in what was then the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel when she got an autograph from Stallone, then 40.

She claimed a bodyguard gave her keys to a hotel room, where she later had sex with both men.

The officer wrote: “She said that after she got dressed, Stallone made the comment to her that they were both married men and that she could not tell anybody about the incident and if she did, that they would have to beat her head in.”

Case dropped

A separate report from the sexual assault unit stated the men then laughed, “and she took it as a joke also”, but after the alleged victim left the room she “became very distraught and frightened, and wasn’t sure that that threat had been a joke after all”.

It added that she said she was not physically forced to have intercourse but felt “intimidated”.

Stallone was in Las Vegas at the time making the film Over the Top. His bodyguard, Mike de Luca, was shot dead by police in California four years ago.

The allegations were previously published by the Baltimore Post-Examiner last February. Ms Bega declined to comment further when asked if Stallone was aware of them.

The Mail said retired Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department detective sergeant John Samolovitch vouched that “the copy of the police report is in fact a true copy of the original report”. The force is yet to comment.

Stallone’s denial comes in the wake of allegations made against key Hollywood figures including Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis CK.

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Noel Gallagher on ‘cosmic pop’, Liam and The Scissor Queen

Media captionNoel on cash, ‘cosmic pop’, Liam and ‘smashing it’ with U2

As the title of his incoming third solo album – Who Built The Moon? – suggests, all is not as it once appeared on planet Noel.

After nearly 25 years rattling out earth-friendly, chart-topping hits, suddenly the atmosphere has changed. The Noel-axis has tilted and the recording studio controls have been set for the heart of the sun.

A “spirit of adventure” (as the former Oasis guitarist puts it) imbued from inside the lair of Belfast producer David Holmes, races right through his first truly risky record and walks slowly down the hall of his Sour Mash Records office too.

Even the album’s press release is a right gas.

“Noel’s musical evolution has gone from upright but hairy ape-man to sonically advanced, electronic, space Jazz future-man with little shiny silver booties on,” it reads.

“Who built the moon? Noel Gallagher did, and everyone else can just reach for it.”

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the accompanying biography of “Noel Edward Montague Gallagher…the boy from Burnley”, signed “Sir Rupert Bashford-Tillermouth, 29 August 2019″ (all fictional, obviously), is that it arrives via email and not on the back of a techni-coloured unicorn.

“I love that press release!” laughs Noel, taking his seat in a deserted swanky Covent Garden, London restaurant.

What on earth is going on here? Is this the same bloke who wrote Wonderwall?

“I’d describe it as cosmic pop” he declares, proudly.

“It’s not really that far out, it’s just…it’s different. It’s just like me in more colourful clothes.

“Not like the clothes I’m wearing today, obviously,” jokes the 50-year-old, dressed head to toe in Johnny Cash black.

More like this…

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Noel Gallagher

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Noel: The “sonically-advanced, electronic, space Jazz future-man with little shiny silver booties on”

He goes on: “My last record [2015's Chasing Yesterday] – I wrote it, produced it and took it around the world. Did all the artwork.

“After doing that and being on the road with it for two years you have real definite sense of who you are as a musician and as a person and it was time to just put a full stop at that and say, ‘OK well that’s it now.’

“What on earth I’ve got left to prove by doing that? I don’t know.

“Then, by chance, I met David and he opened up a spirit of adventure in me and we went on a trip. It came out like this.”

Father of three Noel marked his 50th birthday this summer with a Narcos-themed, celebrity-packed shindig, in between “smashing it” on tour with U2 and re-opening the Manchester Arena – in the wake of the attack that resulted in Don’t Look Back In Anger becoming an “anthem for defiance”.

Now, like a musical Benjamin Button, the man who once said hip-hop had no place at Glastonbury seems more open to exploration and experimentation than ever before – give or take the odd cameo with The Chemical Brothers and a handful of psychedelic Oasis and solo tracks.

As well as writing in the studio for the first time, sampling tin whistles and singing in his highest register to date, the new record also sees Noel include (shock horror) girls in his band.

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Sharp contrast

The latest incarnation of his High Flying Birds includes “a French bird in a cape” Charlotte Marionneau, aka Le Volume Courbe. But you might know her better as “The Scissor Queen”.

The TV performance, which saw her standing behind Noel, using scissors as a percussion instrument, cut so sharply across social media that his estranged brother Liam mockingly called out for somebody to play a potato peeler at one of his gigs.

Image Copyright @liamgallagher

Twitter post by @liamgallagher: Im looking for somebody to peel some spuds live on stage tnight at this gig in Bethnal Green must have own peeler as you were LG xImage Copyright @liamgallagher

Naturally, somebody obliged.

New psych Noel, however, will not be moved.

“Charlotte is…” he declares, staring off into space for both thought and effect.

“She’s heroic. And she means it, and she brings to the band… cutting edge percussion.”

“I was in Manchester the other night,” he grins, “I’m going out with my friends and we’re in a car going up towards King Street and the car stops at the traffic lights.

“I was in the front seat and the car got surrounded by a load of geezers going [chants] ‘SCISSORS! SCISSORS!’

“So I don’t care about the reaction. She’s in the band and that’s the end of it.”

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Charlotte: The ‘Heroic’ Scissor Queen

Charlotte, however, doesn’t just play the scissors.

She also grabs a mega-phone to alert the listener (en Francais) to the fact that it’s NOT a Beautiful World, in the middle of Noel’s dreamy/satirical new single of the same name.

Or at least Noel thinks she does…

“I don’t speak French” he says, with a Gallic shrug. “The French gigs are gonna be amazing… and a couple in Canada. Apart from that everyone else will be baffled!”

Aside from the French psych-pop vibes of lead single Holy Mountain, Noel’s Moon is built using elements of electro, soul, rock ‘n’ roll and disco, plus imaginary film scores.

The whole structure stands on the foundations of the largely instrumental Kanye West/Chemical Brothers-inspired opener Fort Knox, which features ticking clocks and another French-speaking newcomer; Audrey Gbaguidi, who performs a spine-tingling improvised wordless chant. Like an afro-beat version of Clare Torry’s vocals on Pink Floyd’s Great Gig In The Sky.

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Noel Gallagher

The Blondie-influenced She Taught Me To Fly provides another highlight but anyone holding out for a melancholic minor chord acoustic ballad, copyrighted by Noel in the mid 90s, will have to wait until bonus track Dead In The Water.

Now with a live UK tour on the way next year, how exactly will Noel and his new gang – which includes former Oasis members Gem Archer and Chris Sharrock – give crowds the highly-produced Moon on a stick?

“You’re never going to get it to sound exactly like the record” he says. “You’re just trying to get a representation of it on the night,”

“But we’re very good at what we do. I can already tell they’re gonna come across great live.”

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Liam: It’s just rock ‘n’ rolllll… Noel: Is it though?

The only thing exciting Noel more than playing these ‘cosmic’ songs live is the “cosmic football” being played by his high flying football team Manchester City.

Fellow City fan Johnny Marr of Smiths fame plays guitar and harmonica on If Love is the Law, while Paul Weller jams along (pun intended) on the organ on the aforementioned Holy Mountain.

Another big Blue, Liam, scored a number one album himself earlier this season, though his match-winning effort is a good old-fashioned volley of rock ‘n’ roll.

“Is it?” snaps Noel, unsettled at the first mere mention of the L word.

“I guess I’m here doing my thing… I guess he’s out there [points out window] also doing my thing, and you know – never the twain shall meet.

“And he’s promoting my record… And I’m promoting my record, and I thank him for that. And you know, what can I say?”

Media captionNoel on Manchester City playing ‘Cosmic football’

Noel told Radio 4′s Front Row that he’ll “never walk the stage with Oasis again”, due to the behaviour of his brother and others on social media.

Gallagher Snr’s new direction will divide the fans and critics, who possess the power to send his album sales into orbit or not. Some will wanna be a spaceman with him more than others.

However in shooting for the moon, even if he misses, Noel is certain to land among the stars.

“There’s not a great deal that I strive for – except greatness, d’ya know what I mean?” he ponders.

“And not many of us get there. But the water’s good when you get there. It’s nice and warm.

“I take each day as it comes and live in the moment.

“But my story is only in the middle bit yet. Maybe when I get to the end I might walk around my shed in a smoking jacket dictating to my butler: ‘Tell them about the time I invented the Scissor Queen!’”

Who the built Moon is out on 24 November.

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Illustrator Chris Riddell accuses John Lewis over Christmas ad

John Lewis Christmas adImage copyright
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The ad features a monster called Moz and a boy named Joe

John Lewis has been accused of copying a 1986 book by former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell in its latest Christmas advert.

Writing on social media, the illustrator accused the retail giant of “helping themselves” to his book Mr Underbed in its festive campaign.

Both feature a small boy who discovers a giant cuddly monster under his bed.

John Lewis responded by insisting “the main thrust” of its advert’s story was “utterly different to Chris Riddell’s”.

It said: “The story of a big hairy monster under the bed which keeps a child from sleeping is a universal tale which has been told many times over many years.

“Ours is a Christmas story of friendship and fun between Joe and Moz the Monster, in which Joe receives a night light which helps him get a good night’s sleep.”

Riddell’s story features a small boy whose attempts to find another place for Mr Underbed to sleep lead to the discovery that he shares his bedroom with various other hidden creatures.

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Mr Underbed was originally published in 1986

Writing on Tumblr on Thursday, Riddell said it was “very generous of John Lewis to devote their Christmas advertising campaign to my 1986 picture book… in this age of shrinking publicity budgets”.

He followed it up with a video on Twitter in which he compared some scenes from the retail giant’s commercial with illustrations from his published work.

His accusations attracted support from fellow author Frank Cottrell-Boyce, who likened John Lewis to “grinches [that] nick something from under the spreading tree of other people’s creativity”.

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Riddell’s other books include the award-winning Goth Girl series

The John Lewis advert was created by advertising agency adameveDDB, is directed by Michel Gondry and features a cover version of The Beatles’ Golden Slumbers by Elbow.

Brighton-based Riddell was the ninth Children’s Laureate, holding the post between 2015 and 2017.

The 55-year-old is the author and illustrator of the award-winning Goth Girl novels, a three-time winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration and The Observer’s political cartoonist.

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When Lady Chatterley joined Tinder

Sean Bean and Joely Richardson in the BBC's Lady Chatterley in 1993

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Sean Bean and Joely Richardson starred in the BBC’s Lady Chatterley in 1993

When the passionate heroine of DH Lawrence’s infamous 1928 novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was looking for romance, she turned to her gamekeeper. Now, she’s joined dating app Tinder – with the help of artist Libby Heaney.

“There’s lots of good fish in the sea… maybe,” Lawrence wrote in Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

“But the vast masses seem to be mackerel or herring, and if you’re not mackerel or herring yourself you are likely to find very few good fish in the sea.”

If only Lady Chatterley, in her search for the perfect catch, had been on Tinder.

In the book, frustrated by her war-wounded, impotent husband Clifford, Connie Chatterley risked scandal by embarking on a steamy affair with their working class gamekeeper Oliver Mellors.

Now, 90 years after the book was written, Lady Chatterley has turned to Tinder and been flirting with modern men. Sort of.

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Libby Heaney

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Lady Chatterley’s Tinderbot conversed with real men, using only lines from the book

Lady Chatterley’s presence on Tinder has come courtesy of Libby Heaney, who has created a profile for the character and programmed a bot to chat with real men, using only lines from the book.

She also created profiles for Clifford and Mellors.

After around 800 conversations with real romance-seekers, the exchanges are part of an artwork called Lady Chatterley’s Tinderbot, which will be exhibited for the first time in the UK at the Lowry arts centre in Salford from Saturday.

Lady Chatterley’s lines are in blue:

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Libby Heaney

Heaney said she was interested in exploring “how Tinder changes how we interact with each other, and changes our views on dating and love and relationships and sex”.

Her bot automatically swiped left or right on a person’s profile and entered into conversations using the character’s original dialogue.

“If Lady Chatterley is repeating the same types of conversations, you will always get some people who just ask for sex, you’ll get some people who are really lonely, who seem nice, and some people who are really confused by the whole thing,” Heaney says.

A few Tinder users even worked out where the lines were from and replied using quotes themselves.

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Libby Heaney

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Libby Heaney

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Libby Heaney

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Libby Heaney

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Libby Heaney

Heaney used her own photo for Lady Chatterley’s profile picture, and her boyfriend’s photo for Clifford and Mellors.

The Tinderbots used an algorithm to analyse the human’s message and decide which quote to send in reply.

“If it sounds more positive, the bot will reply using a more positive message,” Heaney says. “And if it is more negative it will reply using a more negative message, but all still taken from the book.”

The book was notorious for its language and was banned in the UK until an obscenity trial cleared it for publication in 1960. Some of the chat-up lines used by the bots included the explicit language.

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The book was banned in the UK for more than 30 years

Heaney says there were other considerations. The bot only sent a maximum of three messages to any one person to avoid stringing them along.

“The person might keep replying after that. Some people replied 10 times after that. Obviously they really liked her or him.”

The artist says she wanted to think about whether it’s good that we’re automating parts of our lives – and whether that might extend to things we think are very personal, like falling in love.

“In terms of thinking to the future and how we’re automating different aspects of our lives, there’s really a strong sense that we’re going a bit too far, we’re trying to automate our love lives,” she says.

The software she used was available to anyone. “It does pose questions about how maybe we’ll all have a robot at some point to act on our behalf,” she says.

“So there might be a virtual Libby who goes on Tinder with a virtual someone else and eventually the bots fall in love – so you think, maybe I’ll chat to him in real life now.

“So it’s asking questions about how far digital automation comes into things that you think are very, very human.”

The conversations will be shown on a screen as part of the Humansbeingdigital exhibition at The Lowry from 18 November to 25 February 2018.

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‘Leonardo da Vinci artwork’ sells for record $450m

Media captionThe painting has been cleaned and restored from the image on the left to the one on the right

A 500-year-old painting of Christ believed to have been painted by Leonardo da Vinci has been sold in New York for a record $450m (£341m).

The painting is known as Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the World).

It is the highest auction price for any work of art and brought cheers and applause at the packed Christie’s auction room.

Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519 and there are fewer than 20 of his paintings in existence.

Salvator Mundi, believed to have been painted sometime after 1505, is the only work thought to be in private hands.

Bidding began at $100m and the final bid for the work was $400m, with fees bringing the full price up to $450.3m. The unidentified buyer was involved in a bidding contest, via telephone, that lasted nearly 20 minutes.

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Excitement in the auction room rose as the bids by telephone came in

The painting shows Christ with one hand raised, the other holding a glass sphere.

In 1958 it was sold at auction in London for a mere £45.

By then the painting was generally reckoned to be the work of a follower of Leonardo and not the work of Leonardo himself.

It apparently was part of King Charles I of England’s collection in the 1600s and got lost, but was “rediscovered” in 2005.

Analysis by Arts Editor Will Gompetz

$450m for Salvator Mundi is an astonishing price to have realised, given both its condition and authenticity have been questioned.

It shows that ultimately art comes down to belief.

And there were plenty of bidders last night who were suitably convinced by its Leonardo da Vinci attribution to drive the price up to such stratospheric heights.

As yet, the new owner is unknown.

Speculation will be rife. Which I will contribute to, by noting the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi will have a Leonardo shaped hole in its displays when the decade-long loan deal with the French museums comes to an end.

Wherever it ends up, you’ve got to hand it to Christie’s for its masterclass in the art of selling art.

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Art agents celebrated when the sale was completed

In a bold move, without a hint of irony, the painting was sold in its Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale alongside a Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol.

Why not in the Old Masters Sale? Because that’s not where the elephant bucks are.

The big money comes into the room nowadays when Pollocks and Twomblys are on the block, and promptly leaves when the Reynolds and Winterhalters arrive.

Read more of Will Gompertz’s blogs here.

Media captionSalvator Mundi was discovered hidden under layers of paint

Dr Tim Hunter, who is an expert in Old Master and 19th Century art, told the BBC the painting is “the most important discovery in the 21st Century”.

“It completely smashes the record for the last Old Masters painting to sell – Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in 1988. Records get broken from time to time but not in this way.

“Da Vinci painted less than 20 oil paintings and many are unfinished so it’s incredibly rare and we love that in art.”

Before the auction it was owned by Russian billionaire collector Dmitry E Rybolovlev, who is reported to have bought it in a private sale in May 2013 for $127.5m (£98m).

Is it authentic?

The painting has had major cosmetic surgery – its walnut panel base has been described as “worm-tunnelled” and at some point it seems to have been split in half – and efforts to restore it resulted in abrasions.

BBC arts correspondent Vincent Dowd said that even now attribution to Leonardo is not universally accepted.

One critic has described the surface of the painting to be “inert, varnished, lurid, scrubbed over and repainted so many times that it looks simultaneously new and old”.

“Any private collector who gets suckered into buying this picture and places it in their apartment or storage, it serves them right,” Jerry Saltz wrote on

Speculation over buyer

But Christie’s has insisted the painting is authentic and billed it as “the greatest artistic rediscovery of the 20th Century”.

Georgina Adam, who is an Art Market specialist, told the BBC the price of the piece is “fuelled by the sheer amount of money that billionaires have.”

“This is the last Leonardo painting you can buy. This isn’t as a store of value, it’s the ultimate trophy – only one person in the world can own this.

“If you think of the wealth of some billionaires, Bill Gates is worth 87 billion, and I’m not saying it’s him, but near to half a billion would not be a colossal chunk out of his income for example.”

The auction house has not revealed who purchased the picture, but Hunter speculates it could be a buyer from Asia or even be on the way to the new Louvre in Abu Dhabi.

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Could the painting be headed for Abu Dhabi’s new Louvre Museum?

“It’s the sort of painting you can imagine as a star piece in a private collection and as billionaire collectors like to set up their own museums, it could be a good piece for them,” Hunter said.

Adam also thinks the piece could have gone to an Asian market.

“We don’t know who bought it, I went to the Louvre in Abu Dhabi and I did wonder whether the Gulf could be responsible.

“People are thinking the Far East, the picture was taken to Hong Kong before it was put up for sale to show to possible buyers there so that is possible. “

Other high-priced paintings

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Paul Gauguin’s ‘When Will You marry?’ broke price records in 2015

1. Interchange by Willem de Kooning – $300m (£230m)

The 79 x 69 inch (2 x 1.75m) expressionist piece was painted in 1955. It was sold to hedge-fund founder Kenneth C Griffin, who spent about $500m in total in 2016 on a Pollock piece too.

2. Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) by Paul Gauguin – $300m (£230m)

His post-impressionist painting of Tahiti women was sold in February 2015 to a mystery buyer, rumoured to be a Qatari museum, and is thought to share the top spot with a piece by William de Kooning.

3. The Card Players by Paul Cézanne – $250m (£190m)

This sale to Qatar broke records in 2011. The piece was painted at the end of the 19th Century and was part of a five-part series. The others in the series are at some of the world’s most prestigious art museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

4. Number 17A by Jackson Pollock – $200m (£150m)

This abstract expressionist piece was also sold in 2016 to Kenneth C Griffin from American businessman David Geffen.

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Mr Griffin, 49, founded global investment firm Citadel and is considered one of the world’s most active art buyers

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Old Vic lists 20 allegations against Kevin Spacey

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Spacey said he is now seeking treatment

The Old Vic theatre said it has received 20 personal testimonies of alleged inappropriate behaviour by Kevin Spacey during his 11-year tenure as artistic director.

Those affected said they “felt unable to raise concerns” adding he “operated without sufficient accountability”.

The acclaimed London theatre said it “truly apologises for not creating an environment or culture where people felt able to speak freely.

It will “commit to a new way forward.”

The Old Vic’s announcement follows recent allegations of sexual harassment and predatory behaviour made against the double Oscar winner and former House of Cards actor.

Spacey has not responded to them.

The theatre’s investigation found that “his stardom and status at The Old Vic may have prevented people, and in particular junior staff or young actors, from feeling that they could speak up or raise a hand for help”.

The investigation is continuing so more people may come forward if they wish to.

With the exception of one of the claims, none of the reported incidents was raised formally or informally with management.

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Spacey has previously described the Old Vic as a “national treasure”

Three people told the Old Vic they have contacted the police. All except two of the testimonies predate 2009 and all of them are alleged to have taken place between 1995 to 2013.

Spacey’s behaviour is alleged to have ranged from making people feel uncomfortable to sexually inappropriate behaviour. No one alleged rape.

There are 20 individual allegations and 16 are former staff, all of whom are men.

Lewis Silkin, the external law firm engaged by the theatre to conduct the investigation, said there was not widespread knowledge of the allegations.

Spacey was invited to participate in the investigation but the Old Vic said he did not respond.

The BBC has contacted his legal representatives for comment.

Current artistic director Matthew Warchus said he had “genuine and deep sympathy for all those who have come forward and said they were hurt in some way by my predecessor’s actions.

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“Everyone is entitled to work in an environment free from harassment and intimidation. The Old Vic is now actively engaged in the process of healing and the process of prevention.”

‘Unfair to say everybody knew’

He described the allegations as “a shock and a disturbing surprise to many of us”.

“It is incorrect, unfair and irresponsible to say that everybody knew. But as a result of the investigation, what we have learnt is how better to call out this behaviour in future.”

He added that he findings would help “our industry as a whole, as together we rapidly evolve an intelligent new standard of protection and support in and around the workplace”.

The theatre’s executive director Kate Varah added that they did not want to “just rush out a statement”, saying: “We have not slept since this came out because we have been doing it in a robust, careful way.”

On 31 October, the Old Vic set up a confidential complaints process for people involved with the theatre.

On 3 November police in the UK confirmed they were investigating an alleged assault on a man from 2008.

Former television news anchor Heather Unruh told a press conference in Boston that her son had been sexually assaulted by Mr Spacey, at the age of 18 in a bar in Nantucket, Massachusetts, in July 2016.

She said a criminal investigation was now under way.

Spacey replaced in upcoming film

Spacey’s career has been affected by the allegations, with US network Netflix ending further production of House of Cards, while the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced it will no longer give the actor a special Emmy award. His agent and publicist has also dropped him as a client.

He was also been removed from upcoming film, All the Money in the World, which has already been shot. He will be replaced by Christopher Plummer in the role of late oil tycoon John Paul Getty.

Spacey said on 2 November he was seeking treatment, in the wake of the allegations.

A representative for the actor said he “is taking the time necessary to seek evaluation and treatment”.

They did not give any information about what kind of treatment he wanted.

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Keith Barron: Duty Free actor dies aged 83

Keith Barron

UK actor Keith Barron, who starred in sitcom Duty Free, has died aged 83 after a short illness.

Barron, who was from South Yorkshire, rose to fame in the 1960s as Detective Sergeant Swift in The Odd Man.

He also appeared in Coronation Street, Doctor Who, Benidorm and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased).

Barron is best-remembered for his role in Yorkshire Television sitcom, Duty Free, where he played David Pearce.

A statement from his agent said Barron enjoyed “a long and varied career, of which he was immensely proud.

“He is survived by his wife Mary to whom he was married for 58 years and his son, Jamie, also an actor.”

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Duty Free saw Keith Barron star alongside Neil Stacy, Carlos Douglas, Gwen Taylor, and Joanna Van Gyseghem

Set in Spain, Duty Free ran for three series from 1984 until 1986 with Barron starring as a lead character.

The show was about two couples – David and Amy Pearce and Robert and Linda Cochran, who meet on holiday in the same hotel in Marbella.

Much of the show’s humour came from David and Linda’s attempts to conceal their affair.

Barron learnt his craft at the former Sheffield Playhouse, where he also met his wife, stage designer Mary Pickard.

In a long career, he starred in Hollywood film The Land That Time Forgot and had a number of appearances in landmark British shows including Doctors, A Touch of Frost, Doctor Who and Casualty.

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Taylor Swift sells 1m albums in four days

Taylor SwiftImage copyright
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Since 2012, only Swift and Adele have sold a million copies of an album in a single week

After just four days, Taylor Swift has sold more albums in the US than any other artist this year.

The star’s sixth album, Reputation, has sold 1.04 million copies in the US since Friday, says Billboard magazine.

That puts her ahead of 2017′s previous biggest-seller, Ed Sheeran’s ÷, which has shifted 919,000 copies to date.

Reputation also becomes Swift’s fourth album to sell a million copies in the space of a week, following 1989, Red and Speak Now.

In fact, only she and Adele have sold a million copies of any album in a seven-day frame since 2012.

  • Review: Taylor Swift’s Reputation ★★★☆☆
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Notably, both artists withheld their records from streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music – a move which drives committed fans to buy or download the album.

It has been rumoured that Reputation will be made available on those services later this week.

Media captionFirst impressions of Taylor Swift’s new album

Reputation, which sees the star delve deeper than ever before into the realms of pop and hip-hop, has received largely positive reviews from critics.

The Telegraph called it “a big, brash, all-guns-blazing blast of weaponised pop that grapples with the vulnerability of the human heart as it is pummelled by 21st-century fame.

NPR’s critic Ann Powers noted that Swift’s lyrics had matured, describing the stand-out track Getaway Car as: “A sure-footed step forward into the vagaries of grown up life.”

BBC Music’s Mark Savage said it was “her most sonically adventurous album yet”, while noting that moments where she lashes out at her detractors “don’t really lend themselves to big, singalong choruses”.

However, the New York Times’ writer Jon Caramanica questioned whether Swift had diluted her appeal by borrowing so heavily from other genres.

“In making her most modern album – one in which she steadily visits hostile territory and comes out largely unscathed – Ms Swift has actually delivered a brainteaser: If you’re using other people’s parts, can you ever really recreate your self?”

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Atlantic Records / Greg Williams

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Ed Sheeran is on course to have the year’s biggest-selling album in the UK

Reputation is set to debut at number one in the UK, after selling 65,437 copies over the weekend. However, she is unlikely to beat Sheeran in his home territory.

Divide sold 672,000 copies in its first week this March – making it the third-fastest seller in chart history, behind Adele’s 25 (800,000 sales) and Oasis’ Be Here Now (696,000).

Sheeran’s album, of course, was available on streaming services – which accounted for 12% of its sales.

Earlier this week, Spotify’s Troy Carter criticised Swift’s decision to hold her album back, saying it would encourage piracy.

“It kind of sets the industry back a little bit,” he said, while adding: “Taylor is super smart. We are not mad at her for the decision she made.”

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What it’s like to be a Weakest Link contestant

Anne Robinson/CIN Weakest Link

The Weakest Link is returning for a one-off special this Friday. The BBC’s Lauren Turner went to the dress rehearsal to speak to Anne Robinson (and have a go at being a contestant herself).

Anne Robinson has a problem with being back on The Weakest Link set.

It’s not that she’s unhappy about hosting a one-off special for Children in Need this Friday – nor that a new series is being considered for next year.

“The problem is,” she explains in that no-nonsense, clipped tone. “We’ve borrowed the French set.

“It’s incredibly high. Much higher than ours was. I’ve got six-inch heels on so it’s bit of a climbing job getting on and off.

“I’ve got to get the floor manager to hold me because I’m so terrified, in high heels, of slipping. I think the French presenter always wore flat shoes.”

So why has she said “yes” to a celebrity special, starring the likes of Cannonball host Maya Jama, Cold Feet’s John Thomson, presenter and writer Giles Coren, This Morning presenter Rylan Clarke-Neal and Love Island’s Kem Cetinay?

“Because they asked me,” she smiles.

“We’ve all got a great nostalgia for this show. Almost everyone working on it was working on it through the years. I think everyone was really keen to come back and give it another go.”

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The Weakest Link’s Children In Need special airs this Friday

Everything she says seems slightly tongue-in-cheek, and with a glint in her eye. The whole pantomime villain persona is definitely an act – but it’s done with humour and wit, rather than genuine meanness.

“You don’t want to drown kittens,” she explains. “What you’re always looking for is someone you can play with. You want someone who comes back to you.

“So it’s not really a question of being mean, it’s a question of having a laugh.

What’s it like to be a contestant?

Watching The Weakest Link from the comfort of your sofa, you might think it’s all a bit, well… easy.

The questions aren’t exactly University Challenge-level and that whole Anne Robinson “queen of mean” persona is just an act, right?

Er, wrong.

Just try telling yourself that when you’re standing at a podium under the blazing studio lights on the receiving end of a withering glare. Your mouth goes dry, your palms get sweaty, and it really doesn’t help matters if you’re wearing a pair of flashing Pudsey ears.

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(That’s Lauren on the far right)

Luckily, the special edition of the show I was part of wasn’t going to be televised. Instead, it was me against four fellow journalists – “just for fun” – ahead of the celeb special for Children in Need this Friday.

Once stationed at our podiums, we practice our introductions (I really should have paid attention at this point) and are introduced to Brian, whose job, wonderfully, includes making sure our boards are the right way up when we flip them to reveal who we think should be voted off as the weakest link.

Before we know it, Anne walks up to us and filming begins.

She chides us for being on a “jolly” and squeezes in a few journalism jokes (yes they exist, honest) before getting down to business. I’m glad not to be first up but even so, when my question is asked, I start to panic – before realising it’s easier than I thought.

‘It’s a conspiracy!’

“In musical terms, a low note is known as what…?” she starts, as my mind goes blank. “Deep or shallow?”

Okay phew, I can do that one. My next question is about which show Paul O’Grady hosts, and I’m about to butt in with Blankety Blank before she adds “formerly presented by Cilla Black” and I answer Blind Date, relieved – as I can see there’s not much time left this round.

The clock stops and we’ve done amazingly well, with 12 answers correct in a row – but as someone banked early, twice, we actually haven’t reached the jackpot.

It’s harder than you think to choose someone to eliminate when no one has got a question wrong. I literally go for the first name I can see from where I’m standing (having also been advised it’s bad form to vote for the person next to you, as it doesn’t do much for neighbourly relationships!).

I realise I’ve made a mistake when I sneak a glimpse at the board next to me. Of course, I should have voted for the person who banked prematurely. Whoops!

Brian comes to check our boards are the right way up so the names don’t appear upside down when we reveal them, and then Anne returns. I’m more relieved than I should probably admit to see no one’s put my name down.

The person who, earlier, affixed my microphone pack is the first out, having garnered two votes for no apparent reason other than we had to choose someone.

We’re brought new boards (I totally thought they were wiped clean each round) and we’re back in action.

In the next round, we manage to bank precisely zero pounds, which Anne isn’t very happy about. Good job we’re not playing for real money.

The person I’d chosen in the first round actually gets two questions wrong this time so, even though I feel bad, I write her name down again. I’m actually horrified to see my name written down by my podium neighbour and try reminding myself that it’s just a game.

It’s not long before I find myself in her shoes, however, as I turn out to be the third person to leave – despite not getting a question wrong (it’s a conspiracy!).

I have a rather baffling conversation with Anne in which she quizzes me about Twitter etiquette, of all things, before I’m given those famous words – “Lauren, you are the weakest link, goodbye.”

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Maya Jama and Rylan Clarke-Neal will appear on the one-off special

Asked how she would react to people crying on The Weakest Link, Anne says: “I’d get very irritated I think. I don’t want anyone crying. When I was on Fleet Street girls never cried. It’s not that sort of game.

“I always think crying is very suspect. Particularly among girls. Because some of them learn very young that if you cry, when you’re criticised, everyone says: ‘Don’t cry!’ and they forget what they were about to criticise them for.

“I think some people cry very easily and some don’t cry easily. So I’m not much taken with tears – they waste time.”

That said, who would she most like to appear on the show, if it does return?

“I’d quite like the Duke of Edinburgh, Donald Trump, the Prime Minister. Anyone funny really.”

(And unlikely to burst into tears, she might have added.)

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Which of these men is the UK’s favourite breakfast TV star?

Clockwise from top left: Johnny Vaughan, Eamonn Holmes, Piers Morgan, Bill Turnbull, Dan WalkerImage copyright
BBC/Getty Images/PA

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Holmes topped the poll ahead of (clockwise from top left) Vaughan, Morgan, Turnbull and Walker

If the results of a new poll are to be believed, the UK’s TV watchers prefer waking up with a man than with a woman.

In a Radio Times list of the 20 best UK breakfast television presenters “of all time”, the top five have one thing in common – they’re all blokes.

TV veteran Eamonn Holmes comes out on top, ahead of Johnny Vaughan, Piers Morgan, Dan Walker and Bill Turnbull.

Good Morning Britain’s Susanna Reid is the highest ranked female presenter, coming in at number six.

Holmes, the highest ranked male, received more than seven times more votes than Reid.

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Susanna Reid received 1,551 of the more than 33,000 votes cast

And Reid, who has been a breakfast television presenter since 2004, received 582 fewer votes than Morgan, her contentious co-host on the ITV flagship show.

Morgan, speaking on Tuesday’s Good Morning Britain, took the opportunity to swipe at BBC rival Walker.

“Dan somebody on the BBC [is] trailing below me, he only just beat the bloke who’s been retired from BBC Breakfast for a while (Turnbull).

“Thank you Radio Times readers, it’s really gratifying that you think I’m the most popular and beloved of current breakfast presenters… my deepest sympathies to Danny Walker in his bright jackets and ill-suited ties over on the rival show.”

It spilled over into a Twitter spat, with Walker tweeting his congratulations to Holmes for his number one spot:

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Holmes fronted GMTV from 1993 to 2005 and Sky’s Sunrise from 2005 to 2016

Morgan responded by pointing out he was the number one current breakfast presenter in the poll.

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Chris Evans, the BBC’s highest-paid broadcaster, is ranked ninth for his work on Channel 4′s The Big Breakfast in the early 1990s.

Despite no female presenters appearing in the top five slots, they fare better numerically in the poll overall occupying 12 of the 20 places on offer.

The 19th of these is taken by the BBC’s Jill Dando, who was fatally shot on her doorstep in 1999.

More than 33,000 votes were cast in the online poll, which saw 10 current or former BBC Breakfast presenters recognised.

Tim Glanfield, editor of, welcomed Holmes’s triumph, calling him “a breakfast television institution and a master of live television”.

Holmes said in a statement: “Well, I’m the longest serving breakfast TV presenter of all time so I’d like to think that in some way you’re not only just the longest or hanging in there but it also equates to being quite good at it.”

The 57-year-old thanked those who voted “for remembering that I was there in good days and bad days, when the weather was good, when the weather was bad, when the news was good, when the news was bad.”

Holmes also had good things to say about Morgan, telling the Radio Times: “You love him or loathe him, but you can’t ignore him.

“Breakfast TV is dying because people’s tastes and habits are changing. But Piers has said we’re going to go out kicking and screaming on this one and I think that’s interesting.”

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