Jealous of Gene?

* "Let the hazing begin!" White House Chief of Staff John Podesta declared at yesterday's 7:30 a.m. senior staff meeting. Thus economic whiz Gene Sperling started his day. The 40-year-old National Economic Council chairman was mercilessly teased after we revealed that W magazine has named him Washington's "Bachelor Number One." Introducing Sperling at an afternoon briefing, White House press secretary Joe Lockhart piped the theme from "The Dating Game" into the briefing room. "He loves tennis, rapid GDP growth and romantic midnight walks on West Executive Drive!" Lockhart crooned. "Bring out the man Wall Street calls 'the sexiest deficit hawk in all of Washington!' " Sperling took it with good cheer.

Battling Birthdays

* Bill Bradley and Elizabeth Dole are marking their birthdays on the fly. He turned 56 yesterday, and she's 63 today. She's a Republican, and he's a Democrat. Both want to be president. Phoning in from Iowa, Bradley professed ignorance about this coincidence. "You mean she's a Leo, too?" he asked. "On the campaign trail, you learn something new every day!" Dole, of course, was thoroughly briefed. "We're trying to reach him right now," she said from North Carolina. "If I can find him on the road, I can wish him Happy Birthday personally." When we asked about birthday wishes, Bradley gave one of his trademark non-answers. "Maybe you can guess it, maybe you can't. I mean to be sufficiently mysterious here." Dole said: "You probably know, when I blow the candles out, what my wish will be."


* Two weeks after being fired as George W. Bush's presidential campaign press spokesman, a traumatized David Beckwith is packing up his Austin rental house and moving back to Bethesda this weekend with his wife, Susan, and their two teenage daughters, Fleur and Valeah. Beckwith--who's exploring business opportunities in Washington and Texas--was reportedly dismissed for deliberately understating Bush's fund-raising success, but other theories abound. In one version, the candidate was uncomfortable with Beckwith's penchant for glibness. In another, communications director Karen Hughes, a tight-lipped Bush confidant, felt threatened by Beckwith's close contacts in the national media. Beckwith remains baffled: "If you find out, let me know." Asked if Bush had talked to him about his departure, he just laughed.

* Washington filmmakers Hal and Marilyn Weiner yesterday optioned the life story of legendary feminist Betty Friedan. The deal, brokered by Friedan's agent Ron Goldfarb, gives the Weiners six months to obtain financing for a three-part, $2 million television documentary on the women's movement and Friedan's central role.

* In the over-50 crowd, Mick Jagger, 56, has admitted fathering Brazilian model Luciana Morad's baby son Lucas Jagger, and accident victim Stephen King, 51, is writing again.

* The Peace Corps holds a farewell party today for 42-year-old director Mark Gearan, who's leaving to become president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y. "Yes, there is snow," Gearan told us. "But thankfully I grew up in Gardner, Massachusetts, which has the same climate."

Her Majesty's Memoirs

After turning down countless publishing offers over the past decade, Queen Noor, the glamorous American-born widow of Jordan's King Hussein, has decided to write an autobiography. The book, planned for a Y2K release, will chronicle a "remarkable life bridging two cultures," a source told us yesterday. The 47-year-old former Lisa Halaby, the daughter of retired Pan Am chairman Najeeb Halaby, married the king in 1978 after a whirlwind courtship. She'll describe her involvement in the Middle East peace process and her activism in women's empowerment and the development of democracy. But no word yet on whether she'll hire a ghostwriter or give her side of the palace intrigue surrounding her husband's death from cancer last February.

"She is a woman of amazing resilience whom I admire greatly," said Washington lawyer Robert Barnett, who is shopping the book around to major publishers. "I believe there will be an enormous amount of interest in her personal story, her public activities and the causes that she has and will promote in the future." Proceeds from Noor's book will benefit the King Hussein Foundation.