Bow Out? Not Bauer!

* Gary Bauer put on a brave face as he braced himself for last night's Iowa caucuses. "I'm excited, as you can imagine," the little-noticed Republican presidential candidate told us yesterday from Des Moines before going on to finish fourth. "I feel like I've already accomplished something remarkable. There are only six of us left, and some real big names are long gone."

We haven't heard much from Ronald Reagan's former adviser--a staunch religious conservative--since he called a news conference last fall to deny rumors that he was having an extramarital affair with a campaign aide. "That was very disappointing, just a sad sort of thing, that with no factual evidence, an attack was made on me and my family," Bauer said. "I still trace it back to a particular campaign"--meaning that of rival Republican Steve Forbes--"and that really is a disgusting side of politics. . . . I think anybody who gets into this learns that they're either tough or they're not. And I've been pleased by my mental toughness. Also, I'm basically a shy guy, but on Sunday night, I walked into a restaurant full of 400 guys in fatigues. It was Best Buck Night, and they all had their racks on the table from the bucks they'd killed. And I found myself jumping on a chair and giving a speech. No way I could have done that a year ago." Never mind the naysayers; Bauer vows that he'll be there till the end. "I'm going all the way."

Northern Virginia's Golden Boy

Falls Church native Bruce Cohen was last (and we mean the very last) on Sunday night's Golden Globe Awards show, where he picked up the Best Drama statuette for his movie "American Beauty." But he is first in the hearts of his friends and neighbors. The 38-year-old producer--whose company, Jinks-Cohen, made the $15 million film that so far has grossed $73 million in the United States--grew up on Lake Barcroft with his lawyer-dad, George, and artist mom, Phyllis. He competed in the backstroke and butterfly on the J.E.B. Stuart High School swim team, played clarinet in the band and sang in the concert choir, while palling around with fellow students and future film folk Tom Shadyac and Julianne Moore. He's still a rabid fan of the Redskins.

"It was a good place to grow up, and as a kid I was exposed to so much," Cohen told us yesterday as he basked in the afterglow. "My parents were always taking me to the Smithsonian and let me stay home from school to watch the Watergate hearings. I had a larger general awareness of things, which gave me the idea to go into film and see if I couldn't tell stories."

After majoring in film at Yale and pursuing his studies at New York University, Cohen snagged a clerical job at Warner Bros., which resulted in a Directors Guild apprenticeship on Steven Spielberg's "The Color Purple." The director ended up giving him a real job and 15 years later, Spielberg's DreamWorks SKG backed "American Beauty," the first project of the independent outfit that Cohen formed two years ago with partner Dan Jinks. "I'm overwhelmed and just completely thrilled," Cohen told us from his Hollywood home. "When you wake up the next day, you think, did I dream this or did it really happen?" Not to worry. It did.

THIS JUST IN . . .

* Joe Califano's cross-dressing has finally caught up with him. Califano, once a high-powered Washington lawyer and a member of Jimmy Carter's Cabinet, moved away to Gotham years ago and apparently started living la vida loca. A couple of weeks ago, the 68-year-old power broker got up onstage at Broadway's Booth Theatre and donned a purple dress, a mouse-brown wig and a wide-brimmed hat to impersonate the Queen Mother. "I was picked out of the audience to perform at the Dame Edna show," Califano reluctantly told us yesterday. "A Polaroid was taken, but you can't have it." Wife Hilary Califano said: "The Queen Mum looks better."

* Cause Celeb Gail Devers, who has won three Olympic gold medals and is training hard for Sydney, testifies today before a Senate committee on the need for federal standards to protect patients from medical errors. The sprinter--now 33 and 120 pounds of pure muscle--had dropped to 89 pounds a dozen years ago and was suffering from fatigue, depression and a racing heartbeat. "I thought my career was over," she told us yesterday. "I went undiagnosed for 2 1/2 years." Doctors eventually figured out that she had Graves' disease and put her on the proper medication.

* Did Elizabeth Hurley dump a glass of wine on a drunken fan who groped her at Talk magazine's Golden Globes party in Hollywood, as claimed by Britain's Daily Record? And did panicked boyfriend Hugh Grant scream into his cell phone for help? Hogwash, says Grant's publicist, Leslee Dart. "In true British tabloid fashion, this is a distortion to the point of no longer even resembling the truth," she told us, adding that the fan bumped into Hurley, causing her to spill her drink. Grant wasn't even with her and didn't hear about it till much later.