Not That We're Worried Where His Next Meal Is Coming From

He may be the Wizards' new Merlin, but Michael Jordan still has to eat. So we asked some Washington restaurateurs to tell Mike, himself the part-owner of several restaurants, why he should dine with them. Their pitches:

* Jeffrey Pagnotta of the Palm: "When you're at a point in life, as Michael is, where you have great wealth, status and fame, what you need is power. We're the power place in Washington. . . . We might put his picture up on the wall if he's going to patronize us, but we're not going to put it up just to get him here. That feels cheesy. We don't whore ourselves like that."

* Franco Nuschese of Cafe Milano: "He has already been here several times. He's a great athlete with a great presence and this place is full of energy. We also offer some privacy. It's a place where any type of celebrity who comes, they do not get bothered."

* Charles Grazioli of Georgia Brown's: "He'd be very much at home here with all of his colleagues from professional basketball. We're a natural meeting place for them. It would just feel right."

* Todd Gray of Equinox: "Being a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, he needs to be dining at an American restaurant and have grilled New York strip steak with crispy fries . . . and after dinner, the finest Cuban cigar we can get our hands on."

* Carol Joynt of Nathans: "Absolutely he could smoke a cigar here. He could light up in the bar, in the dining room, anywhere. Believe me, if he asked me, he could probably do anything he wanted to--he's so gorgeous."

* Gus DiMillo of DC Coast: "Oh gosh, he's one of the big powers in Washington, and we have so many senators and congressmen that he probably already knows. . . . Uh, sorry, I misunderstood. I thought you were asking me about Vernon Jordan."

THIS JUST IN . . .

* Our friend Harold Ickes, who has been strutting around town with two black shiners, yesterday denied rumors that he picked up the raccoon eyes taking a header into a sidewalk. "It happened when I was playing golf, and a deer tick leapt out at me," claimed Hillary Clinton's consigliere, notorious for his inexplicable obsession with Lyme disease. "When I ducked the deer tick, a driver hit me right upside the head."

* Fashion victim at State? Here's only a part of what Madeleine Albright's flack, Jamie Rubin, wants Capital Style magazine to understand about his clotheshorse reputation: "Look, I'm not someone who's unaware of one's clothes. I'm not a mess. But I don't think I'm obsessive or compulsive about it. It's easy to overstate it in Washington where people are not particularly focused on their clothes, which is a well-established fact."

* More from Parkinson's sufferer Michael J. Fox, who is leaving "Spin City" at the end of the season: "It doesn't get any better, you know, but at the same time it hasn't debilitated me," Fox tells "Access Hollywood" about the disease. "I feel good and I'm happy and I have energy. . . . I don't curse the gods about this."

Shalala's Health Secrets Revealed!

* Flu epidemic? What flu epidemic? An outbreak of influenza may be sweeping the East Coast, including record numbers of emergency-room cases in the Washington area, but Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala feels as fit as a fiddle. "I feel like I can't get sick. I get a flu shot every October," the nation's top health officer told us over a lunch of pasta. "Maybe the flu has been more visible this year, but it hasn't been abnormal. We believe we have got to have seniors get flu shots. There are 20,000 deaths every year--and that's 20,000 too many as far as I'm concerned. You can't die from flu shots and you can't get the flu from flu shots."

As for the 58-year-old Shalala's own regimen, "I try to practice what I preach about eating fruits and vegetables, though I've been known to break down and eat at McDonald's," she said. "I try to get eight hours of sleep and integrate exercise into my life. I play tennis twice a week. I try to take up one new sport every year. My next challenge is going to be rollerblading."

"I think those questions are out of bounds. . . . Of course it's 'no.' "

--Fledgling New York Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday, answering Buffalo radio personality Tom Bauerle's twice-asked question: Did she ever sleep with deceased deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster?

CAPTION: Restaurateurs, jockeying for Jordan.

CAPTION: Rubin, the fashionable flack.

CAPTION: Michael J. Fox, still feeling good.

CAPTION: Candidate Clinton.