After less than six months at Top 40 WRQX-FM (107.3), "Christian Paul" Gironda resigned last week, citing homesickness as a reason. However, sources close to Q-107 say the exceptionally creative half of the J.J. McKay-Christian Paul team, Washington radio's newest morning partnership, split after Gironda repeatedly arrived late for his 5:30 a.m. shift. On May 23, Gironda did not show up for work at all, and the following Saturday called in sick midway through the show.

The sources blamed alcohol abuse, but both Gironda and Chuck Morgan, the station's program director, who discovered the newly matched team at Boston's WZOU-FM last fall, denied that alcohol led to the announcer's departure.

"I have been engaged to marry and my fiance'e got a real good job in Boston," said Gironda, who will turn 28 tomorrow. "When you work a six-day week it's difficult to carry on a romance."

"I'm really sorry because I thought Christian and J.J. made a really good team," said a disappointed Morgan. "But Christian wanted to go back home."

The new team debuted at Q-107 in mid-December after Morgan conducted a grueling 5 1/2-month search for a morning team to replace Jim Elliott and Scott Woodside, who were split in late July when Elliott was fired, also for showing up late for work. McKay admitted that he and Gironda were not close, but refused to say if they bickered.

"That relationship hadn't developed," said McKay, 32, after the split. "It didn't have a chance to. I just met him in August." He said he knew Gironda was homesick but didn't realize the act was over until he arrived at the station Tuesday morning and "was surprised" when "it came down from Chuck. It is a little weird."

The ratings-troubled ABC-owned station had put a lot of stock in the team earlier this year when it spent thousands of dollars on a high profile television campaign. However, the station fell short of projected ratings and advertising goals. The team was signed to a multiyear contract, but only the first year is guaranteed.

"I sat down with {station general manager} Ernie {Fears Jr.} and Chuck, and they were nice enough to let me out of the contract. They released me from the contract but they didn't fire me," said Gironda, a dinner theater actor who began his radio career 2 1/2 years ago. "They simply allowed me to resign. I got a nice offer in Boston, but I'm not sure if I'm going to take it."

The Q-107 morning show, based on a fuzzy but friendlier blueprint of WAVA-FM's (105.1) successful "Morning Zoo," also features Celeste Clark, who reads weather and traffic, and newsman Paul Fuller, who specializes in an informative, straightforward delivery, a rarity in the Top 40 format. Recently Clark, a former actress, took a larger role in the show and began doing bits with Gironda. A comedic chemistry was developing that had some competitors on their guard. In fact, just prior to Gironda's departure, an executive at a competing station said he'd like to hire Clark and Gironda if they were available.

Morgan, who admitted he was back where he started six months ago, said McKay, Clark and Fuller will continue on the morning program while he looks for a partner for McKay or possibly another team. For now, the station will play more music in the mornings.

'The Fire Next Door' NBC Radio News reporters C.D. Jaco and Peter Laufer have assembled a terrific half-hour look at war-torn Nicaragua called "The Fire Next Door." It airs Sunday on WKYS-FM (93.9) at 8:30 a.m. and on WWRC-AM (980) at 7 p.m. At 7:30, partners Jaco and Laufer, who have won a slew of awards over the past several years for their investigative reporting, will take listeners' calls at WWRC-AM.

In early May, Jaco sneaked into Nicaragua via Honduras with U.S.-backed contras, while Laufer traveled to Managua. Their documentary slices through political complexities and exposes a very real and frightening war only five hours' flight from Washington.

Back to Talk? Speaking of big-band WWRC-AM, rumor again has it that the Greater Media-owned station will switch back to a news/talk format. Station General Manager Ted Dorf has scheduled a staff meeting for this morning "because there's been so many rumors and I want to tell them what is happening," he said yesterday.

Although Dorf refused to discuss a format change until the meeting, former WRC-AM talk stars Joel A. Spivak ("Speaking"), Mike Cuthbert and Ron Eisenberg have been cut loose from their talk jobs in other cities and have returned to Washington. Spivak and Cuthbert could not be reached yesterday, but Eisenberg, now senior vice president for public affairs at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, said, "I'm not in their plans and don't want to be in their plans."

Around the Dial On Friday, Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham will be the guest on the Cathy Hughes Morning Show on WOL-AM (1450) from 6:30 to 10 a.m.