Who Said It's Going to Be Pretty?

* Cantankerous shock-jock Don Imus hates the idea of even attending a Washington roast, never mind being the target of one at an intolerably long dinner in a stuffy hotel ballroom where celebrities on the dais make jokes at his expense. "I never agree to do it because I think it's silly, the charities are bogus and I'm just not interested in people saying bad things about me," he told us yesterday. "I get enough of that already on my own program."

But the I-Guy is making an exception Oct. 26 by showing up for a roasting at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, where organizers hope to raise more than $200,000 for the Spina Bifida Association of America. Why? "I like Judy Woodruff enormously," Imus explained, mentioning the CNN anchor who is a prime mover of the annual event along with her husband, Wall Street Journal columnist Al Hunt. Their teenage son, Jeffrey, suffers from the disease, a congenital defect of the spinal cord.

"Usually I don't go anywhere," Imus said, adding that he's not worried about anything anybody could say about him, given that his many flaws are already fair game on his radio show. His roasters will be Democratic talking head Paul Begala and Sens. Pete Domenici (R-N. M.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). "People who do these things know not to be vicious. I mean, what is John McCain gonna say about me? But if people turn nasty, I will be on the radio the next day." He added: "I have an infant's attention span and am easily angered, so it could get ugly."

One King Sees 'Three Kings'

Jordan's King Abdullah, back in town this week for a heavy schedule of power-chatting, including meetings with President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, took in three movies over the weekend at the Cineplex Odeon Wisconsin Avenue. Accompanied by his security detail and his glam wife, Queen Rania, the king paid for 50-odd tickets to see "The Sixth Sense," "Three Kings" and "Double Jeopardy."

"Looks like the king is catching up on his movies. He's been here three out of the last four nights," a ticket-taker told our friend Kitty Thuermer, who ran into Abdullah, nattily dressed in a business suit, as he exited a Sunday matinee showing of "Double Jeopardy." Theater manager Rick Melendez told us the king is a frequent customer during Washington visits. "I don't know why he comes here. We never talk to him. He comes in and goes straight to the theater."

We'd wanted to publish "King Abdullah's Movie Guide," especially his rating of "Three Kings"--a Gulf War drama in which the anti-Arab epithet "towel-head" figures prominently--but a royal spokesman told us His Majesty would have no comment.


* Our friends at MSNBC alerted us yesterday to the terrifying dangers of licorice. Yep. It seems that three Italian medical researchers--Decio Armanini and Guglielmo Bonanni of the University of Padua and Mario Palermo of the University of Sassari--"evaluated the effect of licorice on gonadal function in seven normal men, 22 to 24 years of age," as they wrote in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine. Result: Their sex drives took a header. "The amounts of licorice given to these men are eaten by many people. Thus, men with decreased libido and sexual dysfunction . . . should be questioned about licorice ingestion." In a panic we phoned Ed Silva, quality control manager of the American Licorice Co., which produces 80 tons of the stuff daily. "Seven guys? And no placebo study? I don't know," Silva scoffed, noting that to equal the amount of licorice administered by the Italians, you'd have to consume 28 servings of black licorice daily. Easy for him to say. "I don't eat licorice," Silva told us.

* Cause Celebs Rene Russo and Chris Burke are in town today. Russo testifies on behalf of autism research before the House Commerce Committee and Burke, a Down syndrome-afflicted actor who starred in the television series "Life Goes On," speaks on developmental disability at Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax.

* Republican presidential candidate John McCain has sold his memoirs to the movies. Barry Diller's USA Films paid an undisclosed amount for "Faith of My Fathers." Sen. McCain told Fox News Sunday that while he wants to be played by Tom Cruise, "my wife thinks it should be Danny DeVito."

CAPTION: Who dares cast the first jest? Don Imus, who's agreed to be raked over the coals for charity.

CAPTION: King Abdullah's weekend movie binge included "Three Kings," right.

CAPTION: Licorice: Friend or foe?