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Alain Ducasse's Monaco muster of master chefs

It was a gathering of unparalleled culinary star power - 300 of the Michelin kind, in fact, and three of Australia's best - to mark the 25th anniversary of one of the world's most famous restaurants, the ornate Louis XV in the tiny principality of Monaco, writes Joanna Savill. Run by the man many people think is the most successful chef of his era, Alain Ducasse, the Louis XV was the first hotel restaurant to win three Michelin stars. But such is the universal respect for Ducasse - who now holds 21 Michelin stars from 27 restaurants - that 240 of his colleagues agreed to interrupt their busy schedules for a weekend of celebrations. Among them were three Australian chefs chosen, Ducasse said, for their individual contributions to Australian and global gastronomy. ''Alain's team sent me a 'save the date' earlier this year,'' Tetsuya Wakuda said, ''so of course I was going to come. I wouldn't have missed it.'' Wakuda was joined by Serge Dansereau of Bathers' Pavilion, and Guillaume Brahimi of Guillaume at Bennelong (along with Geoff Scott of Auckland's Vinnies) for a weekend of lavish receptions, dinners and an extraordinary 'pop-up' Mediterranean market featuring superb local produce cooked by leading chefs from New York to Lima, Beijing to Beirut. The Monaco royals, Prince Albert and Princess Charlene, were also there. ''There's no one else who could do this,'' said Denmark's Rene Redzepi of Noma, top of the world's 50 best restaurants list. ''If Alain Ducasse asks, no one says no.''

Joanna Savill was a guest of Alain Ducasse and Monaco Tourism.

Hillary hairdo is built to last

She's one of the world's best known politicians, someone to whom presidents, prime ministers and royalty listen and a potential candidate to one day run the most powerful country on earth, but when Hillary Rodham Clinton, 67th United States Secretary of State visited Australia last week, one local had her undivided attention - a Perth hairdresser. Despite all the high-profile meetings Clinton had in Australia, one of the first to be organised by the US embassy was with stylist Daniel Hemsleyto ensure the secretarial locks were under control. Clinton's hair has apparently become American gossip magazine fodder since last year's ''Scrunchiegate'' scandal (we're not kidding) when a staffer accidentally revealed Clinton's handlers were desperate to stop her using elastic hair ties. So Hemsley was recruited to make Clinton camera ready. ''She stipulated that she wanted it to last several days, because obviously she was moving on to Adelaide, so I was a bit under pressure to make sure that the hair [was right] for her,'' Hemsley said.

Staying in tune

The usually demure cast of Seven's top-rating drama Winners and Losers turned from lace to leather as they channelled their inner rock chicks at the Starry Starry Night Rocks ball on Saturday night at Melbourne's Crown's Palladium. Virginia Gay,Melanie VallejoZoe Tuckwell-Smith and Melissa Bergland (pictured below) donned fake tattoos and bandannas to burst into a rendition of the Guns N' Roses classic Welcome to the Jungle. The quartet set the scene for the 15th annual fund-raiser with the theme this year of keeping children safe from violence and preventing cyber bullying. Opening the night was Australia's Got Talent drummer boy Jagger playing The Who's classic Won't Get Fooled AgainMel Doyle and Kochie sangSatisfactionMasterChef'sAdam Liaw swapped his kitchen whites for denim as he duo-ed with fellow chef Dani Venn to INXS hit Original Sin. Hosts Andrew O'Keefe and Kerri-Anne Kennerley also sang, as did Anthony Callea and Tim Campbell.

A right shower

It's not quite a total eclipse, but the heavens have one more trick in store for us this week - the annual Leonid meteor shower. If the skies clear, look up from about 3am on Tuesday for a display astronomers say could be particularly good given the new moon. ''With the thin moon bringing dark skies we could see up to 20 or 30 meteors per hour,'' Jeff Portelli from Sydney Observatory said. The shower, which started in the early hours of Sunday, is caused by the Earth's path through debris left behind by the comet Tempel-Tuttle which hits our atmosphere at up to 258,000km/h - 72.5 kilometres a second. But don't worry, the meteors are tiny - with the largest piece of debris about the size of a pea - and all are expected to vaporise before they hit the ground.

Joining the club

David Williamson relishes the memory of Ron Haddrick playing the scoundrel Jock in the 1977 production of his play The Club. ''He had the audience so convulsed with laughter during the pot-smoking scene he had to find ways of sustaining the action until the laughter died down enough for the next line to be heard … It's still one of my great career memories.'' Haddrick, now 83, will take another bow in an illustrious 65-year career on Monday night but this time the audience will be made up entirely of acting colleagues and friends when he receives Actors Equity's Lifetime Achievement Award, voted by his peers. ''Ron was chosen for two reasons,'' Williamson told Alex Speed. ''He's a great actor, definitely one of the greatest of his generation, and also a great human being who has enriched the lives of countless Australians through his acting.'' Haddrick has performed in more than 40 productions for the Old Tote Theatre Company, plus hundreds of radio, film and TV appearances including Cop ShopMother and SonUnderbellyWater Rats and Home and Away. Most recently he was the melodic narrator in the television adaptation of Tim Winton's novel Cloudstreet. ''Mine has been a life of highs and lows, and there have been plenty of both,'' Haddrick says. ''But fortunately I think more highs than lows.''


Stay in touch ...

with the Return of the Jedi, Luke and Leia

Last week Carrie Fisher joked that if she was called upon to take part in the recently confirmed new Star Wars film, she'd be delighted. She'd play an ''old Mrs Solo'', she joked, someone who'd had an affair with an admiral and generally caused chaos. She might have to stop joking now after it was confirmed the new owners of the franchise, Disney, do indeed have plans to bring back Princess Leia for the film due for release in 2015. The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed Toy Story 3 writer Michael Arndt will work on the script, which will, ''focus on a new generation of heroes and would feature appearances by Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher in older incarnations of their beloved characters from the original Star Wars trilogy.'' Sources close to the Disney production unit set to work on the new films hinted other characters may also appear - including some that died in the original six films. ''Even the dead Jedis, who have a habit of showing up in spirit form,'' the magazine said. No details of the story have leaked, but Arndt is believed to have completed a 40-50 page treatment of the ''Episode VII'' story which will wrap up plot lines centred around the Skywalker family (Anakin/Darth Vader, Luke and Leia), allowing a fresh start. Arndt won an Oscar for his script for Little Miss Sunshine and was nominated for Toy Story 3. 

with red-hot passion

These days, sending saucy messages to someone else's wife is likely to get you into all sorts of trouble, as the former CIA boss, David Petraeus, has learnt. But earlier this century it was a ticket to artistic greatness, apparently. In the summer of 1917, when a married man of 63 met a married woman of 25 and became besotted, it was hardly newsworthy, but over the next 11 years, the composer Leos Janacek based three operatic heroines on his muse Kamila Stosslova, and bombarded her with more than 700 love letters. Their love was unconsummated but their correspondence heaves with desire: "Oh Kamila, it is hard to calm myself. But the fire that you've set alight in me is necessary. Let it burn, let it flame, the desire of having you, of having you." Basically the pre-SMS version of: "UR2 hot. CU 2mozX." And why are we revisiting these saucy letters? Because Janacek's last work, String Quartet No. 2, "Intimate Letters", will be performed by a quartet of Australian Chamber Orchestra musicians at Pier 2/3, Walsh Bay, on Saturday. Bell Shakespeare actors William Zappa and Andrea Demetriades will bring the letters to life between musical interludes.

with the end of twinkies

They're a sticky, sugar-rich processed food and an American cultural icon, but it appears Twinkies are dead, killed by industrial action. The artificial cream-filled cake has been hugely popular in the US since World War II, with tens of millions of packets sold every year. The company that makes them, Hostess, has filed for bankruptcy, will lay off more than 18,500 staff and stop production after a prolonged strike. The announcement has sparked a Twinkies' stampede, with shelves emptied by frenzied fans. On Sunday The Washington Post published an obituary for Twinkies, asking mourners to remember their passing with a charitable donation. ''Consider the American Diabetes Association,'' the obituary concluded.

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