Heart of Gould

"I'm not a poli- tician," Elliott Gould said yesterday, reflecting on today's American Cancer Society news conference here to support increased research funding, "but this is more important than politics. I'm happy to do it and face a great deal of cynicism on the part of a great many of your colleagues. I'm preparing myself to be attacked and hurt--not by you! My mother Lucille, who was 83, died in 1998 of terrible cancer. And the American Cancer Society has been in existence since before my father was born."

The 61-year-old quasi-star--known for such roles as Trapper John McIntyre in the 1970 movie "M*A*S*H," Philip Marlow in "The Long Goodbye" (1973), Harry Greenberg in "Bugsy" (1991) and the husband in Barbra Streisand's first marriage (1963-1971)--told us he still talks to his ex, the mother of their actor-son Jason. "We're family, so we stay in touch," Gould said. "I made the movie 'Capricorn One,' in which my character, an investigative reporter, saves the character played by James Brolin, who's a space man. O.J. Simpson was in that movie, too. We don't want to see that group together again." More on the subject of Barbra's latest husband: "He's a good guy. I'm pleased for them."

Planning to star opposite Jack Klugman later this year in an Australian production of Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys," Gould--who has been long separated from two-time wife Jennifer Bogart--said he's learning to live alone after breaking up with a longtime girlfriend. "This is the first time in my existence that I'm not involved with a woman and a woman is not involved with me. I am flying solo."

Lobbyists and Their Lucre

* The big news out of National Journal's report on salaries earned by Washington trade association chiefs--based on their 1998 filings to the IRS--is that Jack Valenti's slippage continued. The traditionally top-earning Valenti, who made $1,012,091 from the Motion Picture Association of America, is in fourth place--a drop from No. 2 on last year's list.

Eugene Upshaw Jr. of the NFL Players Association was No. 1 with a salary of $1,799,992. The Top 10 also included Frank G. Zarb of the National Association of Securities Dealers ($1,547,564), Ronald L. Ziegler of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores ($1,424,824), Robert E. Vagley of the American Insurance Association ($925,018), Carroll A. Campbell Jr. of the American Council of Life Insurance ($891,268), Jason S. Berman of the Recording Industry Association of America ($861,268), Patrick G. Hays of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association ($838,215), William L. Ball III of the National Soft Drink Association ($817,163) and Decker Anstrom of the National Cable Television Association ($812,595).

"Believe me, I have not kept track of this," said Upshaw, a former defensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders whose highest salary as a player was $200,000 in 1982. "It's not like a big deal for me. I do my job because I like it and because there's a purpose to what we're trying to accomplish." Ball, meanwhile, told us: "I guess it's better to be on the list than not on the list--but not by much."

THIS JUST IN . . .

* Former president Jimmy Carter, who headlined a National Geographic Society dinner last night to talk about challenges for the new millennium, was stunned to find his 24-year-old grandson Jason Carter in attendance. As a special surprise, the society flew in the younger Carter from South Africa, where he has been helping schoolchildren for the Peace Corps, and asked him to make after-dinner remarks about his two years in the field. "Predictably, my grandfather said, 'Why aren't you at work?' " Jason Carter told us. "I had to tell him we were on school break, and then it was okay."

* Our friend Soledad O'Brien, anchor of NBC's "Weekend Today" show and MSNBC's "Morning Blend," would seem to be the perfect moderator for Monday's "Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum" on the race issue, featuring Vice President Gore and former senator Bill Bradley. "I'm both black and Hispanic--and Australian and Irish," said O'Brien, the daughter of a Cuban mom and an Irish-Aussie dad. She'll share moderating duties with BET's Tavis Smiley.

"I was an intern for him in '60 and all we were asked to do was get coffee and do scut work. If he asked her and not me, I'm gonna be plenty burned up. I mean I was great-looking--especially compared to Lucianne."

--Slate magazine advice columnist Margo Howard, who was 20 when she volunteered in Hubert Humphrey's Washington office, reacting to our item about Lucianne Goldberg's supposed fling with Lyndon Johnson's vice president.

CAPTION: The very diverse Soledad O'Brien, set to moderate a forum on race.

CAPTION: The top five earners: Eugene Upshaw Jr., Frank G. Zarb, Ronald L. Ziegler, Jack Valenti and Robert E. Vagley.

CAPTION: Actor Elliott Gould, taking on a cause, not politics.

CAPTION: Lucianne Goldberg and Margo Howard.