THE astronaut Buzz Aldrin has stepped onto the moon and moonwalked on Dancing With The Stars. But it was his minders who made one giant leap - to stop an interloper - at his Sydney media conference yesterday. All had been going well at the Sofitel Wentworth before his appearance as guest of honour at the Australian Geographic Society Awards tonight until a bloke down the front in a fedora asked a question. It was the space conspiracy theorist Jarrah White, who quizzed Aldrin on whether he knowingly gave a piece of petrified wood - which until last year was thought to be moon rock - to the former Dutch Prime Minister Willem Drees shortly after the Apollo 11 voyage in 1969. ''Petrified wood? Well, that doesn't sound like it came from the moon,'' Aldrin responded, before suggesting the sample was switched sometime after 1969. ''What happens to that display once it is presented to somebody isn't the responsibility of the United States, and it certainly isn't the responsibility of the crew that gave it to them.'' That's that then. Or, it was for the rest of the conference. All further questions - on the greatest feats of the 20th century, on his heroes - were gently put to Aldrin by people associated with the society. ''You accepted my planned question very well,'' Aldrin joked in response to one. But the octogenarian, who later dismissed White to Diary as an attention seeker, has proved adept at handling his kind before - punching the amateur space hoax filmmaker Bart Sibrel in the face for ambushing him and calling him ''a coward, and a liar, and a thief'' in 2002. And while on the topic of space hoaxes, Aldrin had some revelations about Michael Jackson's famous dance move. ''That's not the way you're going to walk around the moon - backwards,'' he said.A LICENCE TO THRILL
FOR decades the ghosts of Picton have been rattling doors and windows, appearing in unexpected places and spooking visitors who come to town for its famous ghost tour. But now the tour's future is in doubt because of human misbehaviour. Local residents have complained to the council that ''yahoos'' have begun hanging around the disused train tunnel that is the favourite haunt of Picton's most famous ghost, that of a woman crushed there by a train in 1916. As a consequence council staff have recommended the tour operator's licence not be renewed. The mayor of Wollondilly, Michael Banasik, says some local residents believe the ghost tour heightens the profile of Picton's most ghoulish spots, encouraging morbid troublemakers to hang around them at night, where they make enough noise to wake the dead (pun intended). The tour operator John Vincent, who took over the business after the death of his beloved wife Liz, a local historian and ghost enthusiast, says the tour should not be blamed for the actions of a rogue few. The council is expected to make its final decision next month. Until then, the ghost tour has had its licence extended.KEEP ABREAST OF NEWS
ONE of the more disturbing magazine titles to cross Diary's desk in recent times is Younger You, a rag that bills itself as ''Your trusted anti-ageing source''. Its premiere issue features the anti-ageing poster girl Demi Moore on its cover, looking suitably youthful. Somewhere in Moore's attic there must be a painting of her looking haggard, fat and awfully wrinkly, because, as the magazine puff states, in photographs she appears to be 47 going on 27. Younger You assesses the ''work'' various celebrities have had done, and suggests surgical and non-surgical treatments you can have to emulate them. It features a lot of advertising from cosmetic surgeons. It also spruiks a story with the cover line ''Hot summer boobs. Bigger or smaller? We have the answer''. We'll save you the $9.95 cover price: the overall message seems to be that bigger is better. But to learn the best ways to ''fix'' your breasts, you will have to buy the magazine. We bet you didn't even know they were broken.NSW'S GOT TALENT
SHE may be reluctant to speak about inviting her playwright friend Kosta Nikas into senior government meetings, but the NSW Arts Minister, Virginia Judge, is less reluctant to talk about her Bollywood acting gig than it first appeared. Judge spoke all about her role in We Are Family at a music charity event at Parliament House on September 22. She then donated her $725.22 pay cheque to Support Act, a benevolent fund for Australian musicians. Judge told Diary her film experience was ''wonderfully uplifting''.
STAY IN TOUCH ...
WITH VENETIAN PRIDE
FOR decades tourists to Venice have paid big bucks to be serenaded by gondoliers as they are taken around the city's canals. But the song requests the tourists make - O Sole Mio and That's Amore are favourites - are ''culturally deficient'', a Venetian councillor, Alberto Mazzonetto, has said. ''They [the gondoliers] are ignoring the Venetian identity in a way that is detrimental to tourism. They're offering a distorted image of Venice as a sort of cultural Disneyland which has little to do with local traditions,'' he was quoted by Britain's Daily Telegraph as saying. The gondoliers should sing songs with a stronger cultural connection to Venice, particularly as the city's Gondola Authority receives €600,000 ($850,000) in funding, Mazzonetto said. ''The authority can sanction gondoliers if, for example, they wear tennis shoes instead of approved footwear. It has a code of discipline but it has never tried to influence the gondoliers' repertoire.'' Singers from the south of Italy responded by saying that their ballads are popular because they are catchy. ''O Sole Mio is known and loved throughout the world. It is no longer tied to one region,'' said one of the best known pop and folk singers of Naples, Nino D'Angelo. ''Nobody has forced the gondoliers to sing it.'' So does this mean requesting Shaddap Your Face is not acceptable?
WITH NAKED COWBOYS
THE ambitions of one candidate for the 2012 US presidential race have been revealed to be, well, more naked than most. The New York busker Robert John Burck, better known as the Naked Cowboy, has announced on his website his intention to run for his country's highest office. "America needs a president who believes in America,'' the online statement reads. ''America needs a president who will stand up for America and protect its language, its borders, and most importantly, its culture.'' Burck did not elaborate on whether his plan to improve America's defences would require him to start wearing more than underpants, boots and a hat, but he did note that his platform would be to achieve a ''much smaller, fiscally responsible, decentralised federal government''. This is not first time he has saddled up as a political candidate. AFP notes that Burck stood for New York mayor - unsuccessfully - last year. In the months since, however, his targets have been performers rather than politicians. Burck threatened to sue Sandra Brodsky, a singing busker called Naked Cowgirl, in July , claiming that Times Square wasn't big enough for the both of them and that Brodsky was damaging his brand.
HEALTH and child protection types in West Australia are outraged that a prominent burger outlet is offering a ''Junior Bourbon Burger'' to its kiddie customers. But it's not like the youngsters get two fingers of Jim Beam with their soft drink or anything. It's simply that the burger's sauce that is bourbon-flavoured. The fast food outlet says the burger is named after New Orleans' famous Bourbon Street but West Australia's Commissioner for Children and Young People, Michelle Scott, says it promotes alcohol consumption among young people, The West Australian reports. Scott also says the burger contains 25 per cent more calories and sugar, a third more fat and double the salt of the other ''junior'' burger marketed by the company. She says this like it's a bad thing.
Matt Buchanan is on leave.
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