THIS JUST IN . . .
* Miss Universe Mpule Kwelagobe, a 19-year-old engineering student from Botswana, visits the Capitol today to talk about the AIDS pandemic in Africa. "In my country, about 20 percent of the youth population--ages 19 to 30--is HIV-infected," Kwelagobe told us. She'll be joined by several African mayors.
* To allay fears of concerned citizens, we can report that the Boys and Girls Club really didn't pay presidential candidate Bill Bradley that $28,000 fee for the (we hope) inspirational talk he gave to the Long Beach, Calif., branch back in October 1997. Seems that corporate sponsors covered Bradley's fee and also paid for the private jet that whisked him there and back. Club volunteer Betty Eastman Todd told us Bradley was a last-minute replacement for Mario Cuomo, who fell ill just before the event.
* A Fauquier County judge has refused 11-year-old Jacqueline Kent Cooke's request to see paperwork related to half-brother John Kent Cooke's reportedly $20 million settlement with Jack Kent Cooke's widow, Marlene Kent Cooke. Jacqueline's lawyers plan to appeal and press her bid to get the bulk of her dad's approximately $1 billion estate.
* Not big on sour grapes, New York businessmen Howard and Edward Milstein--who lost their bid to buy the Redskins--are putting down $1 million to establish a nonprofit foundation to help D.C. charities that serve the disadvantaged.
* "I'm lucky that I can play all kinds of music, that it appeals to all of the generations," says Latin music legend Jose Feliciano, who was in town last night to perform alongside that other Latin superstar at the Larry King Cardiac Foundation fund-raiser.
The 54-year-old Feliciano--a six-time Grammy winner whose 31-year career has included such hits as "Feliz Navidad" and a remake of the Doors' "Light My Fire"--was one of the first Latin crossover artists. He was born blind in Lares, Puerto Rico, one of 11 boys, and moved to New York City at age 5. He took up the guitar when he was 9 and later learned the bass, drums and a little keyboard and synthesizer. "When I came on in '68"--in the midst of the British pop music invasion--"I was really the lone wolf," Feliciano says.
These days he's as busy as ever. He does about 100 concerts a year and is working on a new album (his 68th). He also hits the gym twice a week, riding a stationary bike and lifting weights. "I love it," says Feliciano, who lives in Connecticut with his wife, Susan, and their three young children. "I can eat anything I want," he claims. "I feel the best I've felt in a long time. Girls have been walking up to me of late and saying how good I look."
Al Gore, Working the Room
Soldiering on with his charm incursion, Vice President Gore broke bread Monday night with about 80 New York swells at the Sutton Place palace of Talk magazine doyenne Tina Brown and her multimedia spouse, Harry Evans. Accompanied by wife Tipper and daughter Karenna, as well as Karenna's physician husband, Drew Schiff, the veep stayed till 11:30 and hopped 14 tables set up in three rooms to feed, among others, Talk bankroller and Miramax czar Harvey Weinstein, television creatures Barbara Walters, Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw, bicoastal movie star Michael Douglas with main squeeze Catherine Zeta-Jones, and another Welsh person, Sony Corp. of America Chairman Howard Stringer.
The dinner was totally off the record--so of course we have details from various guests who blabbed. Kodak moments: (1) Nightclub siren Nell Campbell flashing her fishnetted gams at a hunky Secret Service agent and slipping her arm around Gore to admonish: "Ban guns! . . . Legalize marijuana! . . . And have a good night!" (2) Zeta-Jones (who was wearing a strapless red leather dress) and Weinstein (who thankfully was not) puffing away on cigarettes while Brokaw asked Gore why he hired media consultant Carter Eskew after Eskew made all those TV commercials for the tobacco industry. "I plead guilty," responded Gore, in maximum candor mode. "But he's my friend." (3) Gore, starting a postprandial Q&A in Tina and Harry's garden by instructing guests which way to turn their chairs. "That," he quipped, "is how alpha males behave."
Fun fact: To make room for the party, Brown and Evans had much of their furniture hoisted into a moving van, which cruised the streets while their distinguished guests reveled.
CAPTION: Miss Universe will speak about AIDS in Africa at the Capitol today.
CAPTION: Latin music legend Jose Feliciano, working on his 68th album and feelin' fine.
CAPTION: Al Gore was guest of honor at a swank New York party Monday night.
CAPTION: Hostess Tina Brown, and guests Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, below.