The dates of the World Professional Figure Skating Championships at MCI Center were reported incorrectly in yesterday's Reliable Source column. The correct dates are Dec. 10 and 11. (Published 11/25/99)

Bill Buckley's Exit 'Line'

* When William F. Buckley Jr. tapes his last "Firing Line" three weeks from now, he won't worry that anybody soon will rob him of his title as Longest-Serving Television Host. "Actually, it's the longest show in the history of television with the same host," Buckley, who turns 74 today, told us. "It would be 34 years old if I did it into April."

But what a party it has been! In the 1,461 weekly shows he has hosted since April 1966 (on public television since 1971), Buckley has traded barbs and insights with nearly every major figure on the planet--from Muhammad Ali to Margaret Thatcher--while becoming a pop-culture icon himself. "So that it wouldn't be too painful, I thought: How about 11 minutes of selections culled by the Museum of Radio and Television on the second-to-last show, with nine of the minutes consisting of imitations of me?" said Buckley, who, besides being the founder of National Review magazine and thus of modern American conservatism, is famous for his eccentric renderings of $64 words in a quasi-English accent, his deceptively lazy slouch and his lizardlike, darting tongue.

"I was unusual. For a long time, I was the only conservative anybody ever saw," said Buckley, who hopes stations carrying "Firing Line" will replace it with "Uncommon Knowledge," hosted by former Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson. In recent years, "Firing Line" went from an hour to 30 minutes and the show became positively polite. "It was more or less correlative to the slowdown of polemics, which were a lot louder in the '60s than in the '70s or the '80s. Now the exchanges are more informative."

Buckley, who said he feels "both a little wistful and relieved," plans to continue sailing, writing books and producing his syndicated newspaper column. "I don't want to die onstage," he said. "So why not end the television show now and give the next millennium a chance?"

The Ice Girl Cometh

She's a big celeb earning serious money on the pro skating circuit--including the World Professional Figure Skating Championship, Dec. 11 and 12 at MCI Center--but Olympic gold-medalist Tara Lipinski is still only 17. "I guess my parents really keep me down-to-earth," the 5-foot-1 phenom told us yesterday, referring to Jack and Pat Lipinski back in Sugarland, Tex. "When I'm at home, I'm their daughter. I don't have, like, specific chores, but I do help my mom."

Since turning pro after her 1998 triumph at the Nagano Olympics, Lipinski has found time to go shopping, hang out with best friend Erin Elbe and dip her twinkly toes into Hollywood. She has a recurring role on "The Young and the Restless" as a main character's confidante, will be featured in the upcoming Fox TV movie "Ice Angel," and, exploring her hidden sinister side, plays an "evil" girl, she told us, in Nickelodeon's "Are You Afraid of the Dark?"

And boys? "I think I've been kind of busy," Lipinski giggled. "It's not like it's on hold. It's just not my first priority." C'mon, no main man? "You're not giving me a break on this." And the future? "I want to keep skating professionally for a while and acting. And I'm hoping I'll do the normal thing and get married and have kids sometime. But that seems so far off."


* At yesterday's divorce hearing attended by Newt Gingrich's estranged wife, Marianne, D.C. Superior Court Judge Brook Hedge ordered Newt's girlfriend, Callista Bisek, to come up with phone records, love letters, bank statements, travel receipts and other documents shedding light on their six-year affair. "This has been a very painful process," Marianne Gingrich told us after her small victory.

* Ex-hizzoner Marion Barry briefly reentered government service yesterday. "Just doing my civic duty," the former mayor-for-life told us, calling from the jurors' waiting room at D.C. Superior Court. "I'd like to be on a panel. I've been in three jury pools now, and every time the prosecutor knocked me off." Barry, who is trying his hand at investment banking when not being targeted by FBI stings--"Some folks are obsessed with getting me, you know. Sometimes people just get obsessed"--was ultimately sent home without getting a trial. "I'm not 'itching' to get back into public life," he said. "But I miss it sometimes."

* Erstwhile GOP presidential candidate Elizabeth Dole is actively considering going on "Saturday Night Live." "When she dropped out, we wanted her to come on with Norm Macdonald, who used to do Bob Dole," SNL producer Lorne Michaels told us yesterday. "Right now there's nothing already written, but if she says she'll do it, that would generate ideas."

* We hear that Tina Brown has signed Arianna Huffington to write a monthly political column for Talk magazine during the presidential campaign season. Huffington told us that her first installment, for the February issue, will be a meditation on Gary Hart.