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EDEN CONFIDENTIAL: Strictly cursed! Claudia Winkleman sorry for affair claim

Strictly’s Claudia Winkleman is used to disarming even the biggest prima donnas with her ditzy charm, but she’s struggling to placate Kristina Rihanoff, a former dancer on the show.

That’s because the Strictly co-host has enraged Rihanoff by publicly claiming that she and England rugby star Ben Cohen became romantically involved while they were partnered on the show in 2013.

‘The couple I knew had got together were Ben and Kristina,’ she declared on stage at Television Centre in West London.

Strictly’s Claudia Winkleman is used to disarming even the biggest prima donnas with her ditzy charm, but she’s struggling to placate Kristina Rihanoff, a former dancer on the show

She made the comment on Monday while recording tonight’s edition of The Lateish Show with Mo Gilligan on Channel 4, on which she’s a guest.

Rihanoff, 44, who was born in Vladivostok, Russia, and Cohen, 43, have always insisted that their affair did not begin until the year after he took part in Strictly.

The World Cup winner had been married to his wife Abby for 11 years. The couple, who have twin teenage girls, divorced in 2016. Rihanoff and Cohen have since had a daughter together.

After Rihanoff learned of what she described as Winkleman’s ‘lies’ on the Channel 4 show, she threatened to take legal action and contacted the 50-year-old presenter.

Rihanoff, 44, who was born in Vladivostok, Russia, and Cohen, 43, have always insisted that their affair did not begin until the year after he took part in Strictly

Rihanoff, 44, who was born in Vladivostok, Russia, and Cohen, 43, have always insisted that their affair did not begin until the year after he took part in Strictly

As a result, Winkleman made a grovelling apology to her and Cohen, telling them: ‘[I] am so, so sorry.’ In a message seen by this column, she explained: ‘I thought the question was about who has found long-time love [via Strictly].

‘I said, ‘Ben and Kristina’, excitedly, and then I said Stacey and Kevin [referring to TV presenter Stacey Dooley and former Strictly pro Kevin Clifton, who have been dating since 2019, after being paired together on the show in 2018].’

She continued: ‘So sorry, I’m a moron. It was a two-second moment.’

A Channel 4 spokesman failed to respond to requests for comment, so it will be fascinating to see whether Winkleman’s remarks are cut from tonight’s show.

Ricky Gervais’s long-term girlfriend, the writer Jane Fallon, is fed up with being asked the same thing about him over and over again. ‘They always say, ‘Does he make you laugh?’

‘And I imagine me just sitting here stony-faced while he’s saying funny things.’

Joanna steals the show at Lady Liza’s memorial

Royalty — and Fergie — came in droves to yesterday’s memorial service for the Queen’s beloved cousin, Lady Elizabeth Anson.

The Countess of Wessex represented the Queen and was joined by Prince and Princess Michael of Kent and their children, Lord Freddie and Lady Ella Windsor, at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster. But all were upstaged by a Dame — Joanna Lumley.

She recalled how Lady Liza, who arranged parties for everyone from Sir Mick Jagger to Baroness Thatcher, would periodically urge her to come because ‘some of the guests might be a bit dull and you could cheer them up’.

The parties, added Lumley, were ‘enchanting’. But she did have ‘niggling doubts’ when instructed to ‘dress up as Patsy’, her alter ego in Absolutely Fabulous, for a ‘special’ bash at Claridge’s — for Donald Trump. Lady Liza insisted that ‘The Donald’ would recognise Patsy and be transfixed by her likeness to his wife, Ivana.

‘I was halfway across the room,’ recalled Dame Joanna, ‘when I realised that on Donald Trump’s arm was his [new] wife — Marla Maples.’

Children’s TV legend Floella Benjamin, 72, recalls how she once turned down the amorous advances of David Bowie after dancing with him at his Christmas party. ‘My friend was one of Bowie’s backing singers and she invited me to his house,’ Baroness Benjamin says. ‘It was surreal. Mick Jagger calling me ‘Princess’; dancing with David Bowie. Bowie did invite me upstairs, but I politely declined. Keith [Taylor, her future husband] rescued me in our Hillman Imp and took me home.’ 

They say sex sells, and it certainly does for Fifty Shades Of Grey author E. L. James, who continues to earn staggering sums from her saucy novel, published 11 years ago, and the subsequent film series.

Newly published accounts reveal that her fortune rose to £67.2 million after her publishing business made a profit of £3.6 million in the year to the end of September 2021.

It meant the novelist, 59, whose real name is Erika Mitchell, could pay herself £2.46 million from her company, Fifty Shades Ltd. It is actually the author’s lowest return for the past five years, in which she has taken £20.74 million in dividends.

Natalie and Sophie are dress twins

It can be the cause of social mortification but, happily, this wasn’t the case when Lady Frederick Windsor and Natalie Rushdie wore the same dress to the launch party for Talulah Riley’s book The Quickening.

‘There’s no one else I’d rather twin with,’ says 35-year-old jazz singer Natalie (far left), who’s married to author Sir Salman Rushdie’s son Zafar. She describes Beulah London’s £620 Eliza Strawberry dress as ‘perfect for a balmy evening’.

Actress Sophie, 41, is the wife of Prince Michael of Kent’s son, Lord Frederick Windsor.

Lady Frederick Windsor (right) and Natalie Rushdie wore the same dress to the launch party for Talulah Riley’s book The Quickening

Lady Frederick Windsor (right) and Natalie Rushdie wore the same dress to the launch party for Talulah Riley’s book The Quickening

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