High-flying Hollywood film producer Jerry Weintraub apparently has declared bankruptcy. Weintraub Entertainment filed for protection from its creditors under Chapter 11 yesterday, according to a close associate. The company has had a string of box office flops during the past few years, including "My Stepmother Is an Alien," with Dan Aykroyd and Kim Basinger, and "Fresh Horses," with Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy, and at one point sought to restructure itself with the help of former junk bond king Michael Milken. The company reportedly does not want to sell off its assets, but rather wants to see through a number of projects in the pipeline, including two Peter Pan movies. According to the source, company officials are optimistic, but "complicating the picture is the fact that the economy has completely fallen apart," which might be news to Weintraub's good friend George Bush.

The Quayles, Back to the Rafts

Vice President Dan Quayle and family are heading to West Virginia this weekend for another round of white-water rafting. Their last water ride, in Arizona, ended with Marilyn in the drink. Perhaps the Eastern waters will be less treacherous.

Dead Poetry in Society

Samuel F. Pickering Jr., an English professor at the University of Connecticut, said last week at a gathering of English teachers in Pittsburgh that he didn't think teaching poetry is very practical in today's world. In fact, he said, "I don't even think college is practical... . I don't think it makes any difference." The comments were a bit unusual coming from the man who inspired the film "Dead Poets Society." The writer of the film's screenplay, Tom Schulman, was a student of Pickering's 25 years ago and modeled the character of teacher John Keating, played by Robin Williams, after his former teacher. Pickering, an essayist, said that though he quotes "a lot of poetry -- if I can remember it," he finds more inspiration in ordinary events.

The PETA Party

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the sometimes controversial animal rights group, will be holding its 10th anniversary bash at the Willard Hotel tonight, handing out Humanitarian Awards to a list of like-minded celebrities. Scheduled to attend are actresses Brenda Vaccaro, Winona Ryder and Sabrina LeBeauf, actors Elliott Gould, Johnny Depp and River Phoenix, rock singer Chris Hynde and country singer k.d. lang.

The executive chef of the Willard, Peter Schaffrath, is said to have created a "cruelty-free" menu for the gala, "without using any animal-derived products."

Sen. Bono?

Palm Springs, Calif., mayor Sonny Bono, Cher's ex, wants to continue in public service. How does "Sen. Bono" sound? The former singer, TV star and restaurateur said this week, "If I made a move, I would decide for the Senate," and he admitted to being less than enthusiastic about being mayor for four more years.

Jackson's Sneaker Slump

And how about Michael Jackson's line of studded leather high-top sneakers, put out by L.A. Gear? "We haven't sold a single pair," said Keith Ellison, owner of a Los Angeles shoe store. The fancy footwear has been bought by some foreign tourists, but not by the coveted market of fashion-conscious back-to-school kids, according to one shoe chain. Jackson has been guaranteed $9 million over two years for promoting the shoes.

Burt Lancaster's Bride

It's wedding bells for Burt Lancaster. The 76-year-old actor has married actress Susan Scherer, a woman half his age, according to columnist Liz Smith. "The age difference doesn't mean anything to them. In fact, Burt says Susan has given him a new lease on life," said one intimate. This is Lancaster's third marriage; the groom's five children are said to be pleased with their new step-mom.