THIS JUST IN . . .
* We hear that Fun Couple Newt Gingrich and Callista Bisek will dine tonight with confidant Joe Gaylord at the Inn at Little Washington, where the seven-course prix fixe runs $98 per person excluding tax, tip and wine. They'll miss a housewarming party in Arlington for ex-Wisconsin representative Steve Gunderson, Bisek's former boss, and Gunderson's partner, Rob Morris. Bisek "is such an incredible pianist, and she's played for groups over the years at our house. I thought, 'Oh gosh, this would be a perfect opportunity to see her again,' " Morris, an architect, told us yesterday. "But she said she can't, that they're going to the Inn at Little Washington." No comment from the Gingrich camp.
* Just call him "Sir." Sexy Scotsman Sean Connery is on the New Year's honors list to be knighted by the queen, Britain's Daily Mail reports.
* The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the odd little group that gives out the Golden Globe Awards, has had a sudden attack of ethics. President Helmut Voss tells Daily Variety that he ordered all 82 members to give back the Coach wristwatches that best actress nominee Sharon Stone sent them. "We were touched by her generosity"--the watches cost $295 to $395 each--"but this is definitely a no-no for a group like ours," Voss said.
Franken Sense and Mirth
* Six days ago, funnyman Al Franken was planning a quiet holiday with his wife and two children. But yesterday he phoned from Italy, where he's suddenly in the middle of Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen's Christmas tour, spreading good cheer to U.S. troops stationed in the Balkans. "I've always wanted to do this--support our troops," Franken told us, explaining why he leapt at the opportunity when he got the call. "Bob Hope would be here if he could. But he's 96."
Franken, who is traveling with his family aboard Cohen's militarized Boeing 747, has been performing for the troops along with video jock "Downtown" Julie Brown, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, model Christie Brinkley, singer Mary Chapin Carpenter and former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw. Today they're headed for Kosovo and Macedonia, and tomorrow they'll be in Bosnia.
"We just did a show in Naples," Franken said, just before performing at Aviano Air Base. "We had about 1,000 Marines and sailors aboard the USS Bataan--as in the Bataan Death March, which I've always associated with comedy." But won't our fighting men be frustrated, rather than entertained, by the tantalizing display of Brinkley, Brown and the cheerleaders? "I worry about that," Franken replied. "Somebody should do some research to see if there's any higher incidence of, you know, violent sexual crime after these shows come through." Always the comedian.
"I told them a Slobodan Milosevic joke," he went on, referring to the Serbian dictator who made mayhem in Kosovo. "Milosevic dies and he shows up at Saint Peter's Gate, and Saint Peter says, 'What are you doing here? Go down to the other place!' So he goes down to Hell, and the next day 400 demons show up at Saint Peter's Gate. And Saint Peter says, 'Who are you?' And someone answers, 'We're the first wave of refugees.' It's the kind of joke that gets a bigger laugh the closer you get to Kosovo."
Next: Clinton In Butter?
We've heard of generals done up as heroic marble statues--Washington is teeming with them. But Army four-star Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has broken the mold by displaying a life-size sculpture of himself in milk chocolate. We're not making this up.
Guests at the chairman's weekend Christmas party at his official residence, Quarters 6 at Fort Myer, were confronted by the 6-foot-5 chocolate Shelton on a Styrofoam pedestal in the living room. The awesome sculpture, a remarkable likeness, is the handiwork of Army Master Sgt. Mark Jones--the general's personal cook and a miracle worker in ice and chocolate--who persuaded his boss to let him try. Posed at parade rest and containing around 175 pounds of chocolate mixed with tallow and slathered on a Styrofoam frame, the statue is also the work of Senior Chief Petty Officer Mario Gorospe and Sgt. 1st Class Richard Lacuesta.
"It was my idea," said the 36-year-old Jones, a combat-ready Ranger who served in the Desert Storm and Haiti operations, and jumps out of airplanes when not whipping up seven-course French meals for Shelton's VIP guests. "When I first approached him about it, he got what I call his 'dog look,' and said, 'What are you talking about?' But he knows that I'm a pretty aggressive soldier, and that when I say I'm going to do something, I'm going to follow through. He didn't want to say no."