B.B.'s Soulful Bytes

We always knew that B.B. King--who'll be performing tonight at the White House for a taping of the WETA special "Legends of the Blues"--was a demon on his Gibson guitar, the one he calls Lucille. But until yesterday, we didn't know that he's a virtuoso on his laptop computer.

"I used to write by hand," the 73-year-old riff-master told us, taking a break from typing up new lyrics on his year-old Compaq Presario in his Washington hotel room. "But the computer is much faster, much easier. I can print as many copies as I want for my band." King said he's hooked on computing after taking it up seven years ago and usually carries up to 60 CD-ROMs on the road. He owns hundreds of them--everything from encyclopedias to do-it-yourself guides on landscaping--and he also likes to play computer chess and checkers.

"I only went through 10th grade," he explained. "There's been many times I've been ashamed to ask something. . . . I've found that by having my laptop with me I can buy software and find out what I want to find out about." He still does 240 concerts a year around the world, and the thrill is most definitely not gone. "I have fun doing what I do," he said. "I'll retire maybe five or 10 years after I'm dead."

Call Him Irresistible

* White House economics whiz Gene Sperling--all 5 feet 6 inches of him--has just been declared "one of the hottest catches on the Washington social scene" by W magazine. The headline on the article about the notoriously workaholic National Economic Council chairman goes even further: "Bachelor Number One--Smart and powerful (and sort of sexy, by Washington standards)." But, author Susan Watters writes, "the 40-year-old Sperling admits that he hasn't had much time to test-drive his late-blooming sex appeal. Last September, Mia Farrow told him at the end of the state dinner for Czech President Vaclav Havel that she'd like to get together sometime. Sperling was just too busy with the federal budget to follow up."

THIS JUST IN . . .

* The White House has announced the long-awaited New York component of the Clintons' vacation. From Aug. 30 to Sept. 3, they'll be staying at the magnificent Skaneateles, N.Y., estate of local builder Thomas McDonald.

* At Monday night's White House tribute to the National Symphony, Daniel Slatkin was introduced to the First Pooch by President Clinton. "I got to meet Buddy," the 5-year-old son of conductor Leonard Slatkin told The Post's Roxanne Roberts. "He stood there and I petted him."

* Ich bin ein Idiot? In yesterday's item poking fun at Vice President Gore and a New Hampshire podiatrist given to German phrases, we misspelled nearly every name. Let's try again: The hosts were Walter and Mary Ellen Hoerman, and the podiatrist was John Di Nella. At least we got "Gore" right.

* Who says President Clinton can't walk and read a Brazilian spiritual novel at the same time? The Post's Susan Biddle caught him yesterday in the White House driveway with a translation of "The Alchemist," a fable of a shepherd boy in search of treasure, originally written in Portuguese by Paulo Coelho (no relation to Tony).

MSNBC's Comedy Central

* Satire alert! If you happen to be browsing MSNBC.com, the Web site of the 24-hour cable network, don't be fooled by what appear to be verbatim transcripts of beleaguered producers and anchor-people mapping out their John F. Kennedy Jr. plane-crash coverage.

In one--posted on the Web site Monday--an unnamed on-air personality rants bitterly about being forced to read non-Kennedy news: "This is absurd! We're coming off some of my biggest ratings of my career with our coverage last week and you want me to read THIS? . . . 'The White House and Hill battle it out over tax cuts . . . ' 'New carnage in Kosovo' . . . 'New details about the slaughter of 14 Serbs' . . . Blah, blah, blah! . . . What happened to the hard news? Where is our Hyannisport live shot?"

That posting and two others are the fictional work of cable TV host Laura Ingraham, who decided to turn her gimlet eye on "Tragedy TV," as she calls it, after MSNBC pulled her daily "Watch It!" program last week in favor of all-Kennedy, all-the-time. Yesterday Ingraham stressed that she's mocking the media, not the Kennedys. "No one knew better than John Kennedy how much the media loves a circus, and at times he managed to find both humor and irritation in that situation." While MSNBC has taken its share of lumps from outsiders over alleged JFK Jr. excesses, spokeswoman Cameron Blanchard said Ingraham's posting "is a parody of the entire media industry and the issues and editorial decisions we all face when covering a major news story."