The politically well-connected Deborah Gore Dean, the embattled former Housing and Urban Development assistant secretary for community planning and development, is now running a Georgetown shop specializing in American antiques. Still embroiled in the ongoing investigation of the HUD scandals, she opened the Proud American in May.

Dean pointed out that she still has her lobbying firm, Dean and Associates, and keeps her hand in the governmental affairs business. She described her lobbying firm as "breathing shallow ... just a blip on the screen," but said she keeps it going because it is something she has done all her life. It's now three years since she took the HUD post that many say made her the main string-puller at the agency. She is part of an investigation into the estimated millions of dollars earmarked for housing the poor that allegedly ended up in the pockets of well-heeled Republican consultants, some with questionable housing projects. Out and About There was a time when rock star Madonna couldn't get anywhere near the New Republic magazine unless she bought one at the corner newsstand. In the upcoming issue she's on the cover, albeit in an unflattering graphic. The article observes, "Madonna, then, is a bad actress, a barely adequate singer, a graceless dancer, a boring interview subject, a workmanlike but uninspired (co)songwriter, and a dynamo of hard work and ferocious ambition." As a matter of fact, that sentence could fit a lot of Washington political figures ...

Lucky for Garry Trudeau that his "Doonesbury" comic strip isn't seeking federal funding. He has a character in next week's strips wearing nothing but a rope around her body and a bucket over her head, giving her rendition of performance art. It's an obvious reference to the ongoing federal arts funding controversy, in which conservatives like Sen. Jesse Helms have tried to block government money going to artwork they deem obscene and which has caused some performance artists to be denied grants. Jack Morrissey, an associate editor at Universal Press Syndicate, which handles Doonesbury, said that despite a lot of attention already focused on the upcoming strip, there is no indication that any papers won't run it. "The way I read it," he said, "it's an attempt to show the lengths that the art community will go to thumb their noses at government grants" ...

Footnote: Rock star Bruce Springsteen and backup singer and main lady Patti Scialfa have named their week-old son Evan James Springsteen ...

There are people who would say that the obviously ambitious "Today" show co-anchor Deborah Norville had a lot to answer for, but she told USA Today that it made her cry to read that someone had been "Norvilled" out of a job. It's the kind of word that could make the dictionary some day ...

William Shatner, who has been known for so long as Capt. Kirk of the starship Enterprise, now finds that being the host of the television show "Rescue 911" also causes identity problems for him. He said on "The Joan Rivers Show" that one rainy day in Los Angeles he saw a woman on the side of the road with a broken-down car and a newborn baby in her arms. He quickly went to a phone and called 911. When he gave his name, he was told, "Will you stop kidding around?" ...

Talk about understatement: An article in the August issue of Dossier profiling the capital's ambassadors wound up its item on Iraq's Mohamed Sadiq Al-Mashat with the note that Congress had been considering sanctions against Iraq. It concluded: "Amid all this, Iraq's man in Washington says his priority is reversing a tide of unflattering press reports about his country" ...