We're Ready for Our Close-Up, Mr. Russell

* Director David O. Russell--whose latest movie, "Three Kings," opens tomorrow--proved he's no glad-hander at Tuesday's Washington premiere. As guests arrived at the Cineplex Odeon Wisconsin Avenue, and throughout the post-screening party at Maggiano's restaurant in Chevy Chase, he insisted on videotaping all of his social interactions with a small Sony digital camera.

"He was kind of holding the camera at his side," NBC News correspondent Lisa Myers said after saying hi to Russell and then watching his Gulf War political thriller starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube. "I figure that anyone who is talented or artistic enough to be a director is entitled to whatever eccentricities that come with it. But given that this was a Washington event, and the crowd was probably mostly journalists and political people, this may be the most boring half-hour of videotape he's ever shot."

Actually, it was a whole hour of tape, the 41-year-old auteur told us yesterday, featuring the likes of Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Frank Loy and presidential adviser Sidney Blumenthal. "About 18 months ago," Russell said, "I started taping everything that had to do with the movie, even the times I first met Clooney and Wahlberg, from the moment they walked in and started the meeting." Russell said he has been taping "strictly for personal reasons, just to have a record. If I was ever going to do anything more, I'd have to get releases from every single person."

Can You Say Acid Reflux?

At last Friday's White House picnic for the press, President Clinton was primed to make nice to the folks who've made his life hell while they gobbled Cajun delicacies. But the party left a bitter taste in Clinton's mouth. As recounted in yesterday's Drudge Report, the president was greeting journalists in a South Lawn rope line when he was ambushed by the Washington bureau chief of Investor's Business Daily. "When are you going to have your next formal press conference, Mr. President?" demanded Paul Sperry, of the Los Angeles-based financial sheet.

"I don't know. I'll have one," Clinton replied, according to the partial transcript in Drudge.

"When?" Sperry persisted.

"Why?" Clinton countered.

"The American people have a lot of unanswered questions."

"Like what?"

"Questions about illegal money from China and campaign-finance scandal."

That got the president really mad. "I don't like your accusatory tone," he raged. "I've been all around this country, and you are the first person to ask me about it. Not one person has brought that up. . . . You want to know the only person who has been linked to money from China? Haley Barbour and the RNC, that's who!"

Sperry didn't return our phone calls yesterday, but his boss, Editor in Chief Wesley F. Mann, said he condones Sperry's conduct. White House press secretary Joe Lockhart told us Sperry was "badgering" Clinton at an "off-the-record" party. "He can cover this building, but he shouldn't expect to be invited to any more parties here."


* Renegade pollster Patrick Caddell apparently was dissatisfied with yesterday's item about his comings and goings in Hollywood. Better make that: unhappy. Better make that: in a total rage. He left this message on our voice mail: "Do me a favor: I don't ever want to hear from you or the Style section ever again in my life. . . . I don't care, for a thousand years. Got it?" Caddell later tried to draw blood on "Watch It!," Laura Ingraham's MSNBC show: "If you're a gossip columnist in The Washington Post and you're a male, you can't be very high up on the food chain." Pat, we are crushed.

* Speaking of Pat, political activist Barbra Streisand yesterday threw her support, sort of, to his favorite hypothetical candidate, Warren Beatty. "As an actor running for president, he'd do a hell of a lot better than Ronald Reagan," she told "Access Hollywood," adding that she'd vote for him--that is, if he were the Democratic nominee facing George W. Bush.

* We hear that leveraged media commodity Jonathan Alter, of Newsweek and NBC News, has turned down an offer to replace the late John F. Kennedy Jr. as editor in chief of George magazine.

* The Irish and the British ambassadors are teaming up Tuesday night to raise $100,000 for the Northern Ireland Voluntary Trust, a community group doing good deeds in the strife-ridden province. "It's certainly a groundbreaking event for our two embassies to be cooperating in this way," British Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer told us. Meyer will display photos of Northern Ireland by Ellen Bennett, wife of super-lawyer Bob, and host a reception at his residence on Massachusetts Avenue. Then Irish Ambassador Sean O'Huiginn will follow with a $1,000-a-plate supper at his place on S Street. "This is a group that has been doing heroic work for many, many years now in a relatively unsung way," O'Huiginn said.