News Item: Controversy rages over impact and ethics of Reagan camp acquiring Carter game plan before 1980 presidential debate. (Around town people are wincing at the inevitable name: Debategate.)

Okay, this looks bad.

Okay, worse than bad. Looks sleazy.

But according to a new book, such legendary historical figures as King David, Christopher Columbus, the Wright Brothers and the multitalented Loni Anderson were all secretly leaked vital information that enabled them to ensure their coveted places in world history.

The book, "Bad Stuff About Famous People," by Sascha Shapootnik, a Phil Donahue Scholar at Southeastern Delaware State College, alleges that without such strategic leaks some of the greatest events and discoveries in history would not have happened.

"David was such a prohibitive underdog going into the Goliath bout that the local bookies refused to take any bets," Shapootnik writes. "The promoter, a camel shearer, tried to hype the fight by printing up posters: 'See the Boy Destroy the Goy.' But in training camp David was a dead lox; he didn't figure to last even a round with the big guy. Then, a few days before the fight, someone in David's entourage received Goliath's fight plan and handed it over to David's trainer: Rather than rush out and pound David into sand, Goliath planned to preen for a while after the bell--pull an Elvis--let the crowd adore him for the first few minutes of the fight. Goliath would therefore be vulnerable to a quick attack. David's chief of staff, who had a Toys R Us franchise in the Negev, suggested the slingshot, and the rest, of course, is history.

"In his youth Columbus was considered a joke as a sailor; they called him Full-Speed-Astern Chris. Everyone in Europe rated Vittorio Ragusa as the world's best navigator," Shapootnik writes. "As late as two weeks before Columbus was to sail out of Spain he was still insisting that the best tea and spices were to be found in Sweden, and he was going to sail north to get them. Then, a few days before embarkation, Columbus' baker obtained a secret copy of the Ragusa Expedition's sailing logs and showed the voluminous sheafs of paper to his assistant, Gergio. They convinced Columbus to use Ragusa's route and sail west to India. That led to the discovery of the New World. Without his logs, Ragusa wound up beached in Iran, and that's why we don't celebrate Ragusa Day each October.

"The Wright Brothers never intended to invent the airplane. They went to Kitty Hawk because it was on the coast, and they needed to be near the ocean for the invention they were really working on, freeze-dried carp," Shapootnik writes. "The Wrights were bicycle enthusiasts; they were looking to produce a snack food that would travel well on long bicycle rides. They were sharing a beach house with some divinity students, and one of them, named Stocking, came to them with plans that he'd acquired for a motor-driven flying machine. It was out of the Wrights' line, but together with Stocking they built the prototype and took off into the wild blue yonder. The Wrights never asked how the plans were acquired, and Stocking never said. But within a year Orville and Wilbur were in the airline business and Stocking was named chief accountant.

"Everyone considers Loni Anderson to be America's preeminent actress now, but how she came to be so is an amazing tale," Shapootnik writes. "She was born Pedro Hernandez, the first son of Maria and Luis Hernandez of Tijuana, Mexico. She played soccer in high school and was named all-Baja in her senior year. She went to Mexico City A&M on a full scholarship and was studying to become a dry cleaner, but deep in her heart she longed to be an actress. During summers she often performed in local theatrical productions. Her roles included Iago, Nathan Detroit and Captain Ahab. But she had all but given up her dream of Hollywood when a mysterious benefactor, a burro breeder travelling under the code letters KC, leaked her a shooting script from the pilot of the television show "WKRP." She read the script and decided she was born to play the role of Jennifer, the sultry receptionist. She took the first plane to Marrakech and had a sex-change operation, dyed her hair blond, capped her teeth, prayed to the patron saint of drugstore cowgirls, Lana Turner, and unveiled her legendary talent for all the world to see by purring the now famous words, 'Good morning, Mr. Carlson.' "

With Carter's pilfered playbook so much in the news lately, Shapootnik's book on leaks figures to be a blockbuster. He is already hard at work on a sequel, to be called "More Bad Stuff About Famous People." In it, Shapootnik reveals that Nikita Khrushchev's famous "We will bury you" speech was completely misinterpreted due to an error in translation. "In fact," Shapootnik writes, "the Soviet premier was leaving politics to open up a harbor taxi service with his wife, Nina, and his actual line to the American people was, 'We will ferry you.' "