She's Braver Than Us

* CBS correspondent Rita Braver, wife of Clinton family lawyer Robert Barnett, wanted to know if Haiti was any better off after five years and $2 billion of President Clinton's military occupation policy. Last Thursday, while doing some on-camera narration in Port-au-Prince for "CBS News Sunday Morning," she got a sharper answer than she bargained for.

"I was scared," Braver told us yesterday, recounting an incident in which "two thugs" interrupted her stand-up, emerging from a crowd of angry slum-dwellers and confiscating two videocassettes after threatening producer James Houtrides, photographer Mario DeCarvalho and sound technician Manny Garcia with a chrome-plated Colt .45. "The U.S. permanent support mission in Haiti is coming to an end next Monday, so we decided to find out how the country was doing. People are very angry at Americans. They were shouting at us to go home. It's so poor and the conditions are so depressing. They thought the U.S. presence would mean their lives would really change."

But it turns out that the country is "in a shambles," with a powerless police force and no sitting parliament, said the just-returned Braver. She said DeCarvalho shut off his camera and gave them the tapes after the tough-looking guys flashed the gun. Later that day, an expedition back to the slum to retrieve the tapes failed, but Braver & Co. returned with enough for her Sunday report. As for her husband, Braver said: "From his reaction, I'm glad I didn't tell him about this until after I got back."

Not to Split Hairs, but 'Duh!'

It took Yale University psychology professor Marianne LaFrance and her team of researchers three months of arduous interviews and experiments with 120 Yalies--a study paid for by shampoo giant Procter & Gamble--to reach the startling conclusion that " 'bad hair' negatively influences self-esteem, brings out social insecurities, and causes people to concentrate on the negative aspects of themselves." LaFrance's just-released report, titled "The Psychological, Interpersonal and Social Effects of Bad Hair," further reveals that " 'bad hair' is hair that Sticks-out, Needs Cutting, is Frizzy, Damaged, Poufy, Fly-Away, Wild, was Badly Cut, or is Bushy and Greasy."

"Until now, there was no good empirical research. There was lots of mythology but no data," LaFrance, who runs Yale's Gender Communication Laboratory, told us yesterday. "I'm particularly interested in women's and gender issues as well as the general field of bodily communication, such as nonverbal communication through facial expressions, stature and posture. . . . This study fit squarely into the work I'm currently doing."

The 52-year-old Canadian wouldn't tell us how much P&G paid for her services, but she said she paid $10 to each randomly selected subject who agreed to sit in a bare room and recount deeply traumatic personal hair episodes while being videotaped by hidden cameras. "My hair is short and naturally curly, what you might describe as spiky, brown with some white sneaking through," LaFrance confided. "There certainly have been times when I've had bad hair, when I've had a bad haircut. In the summer it gets very curly, and I think, why do I have to look like Shirley Temple?"

THIS JUST IN . . .

* Can you blame the e-commerce company YouNetwork for trying to squeeze some free advertising out of 6-year-old motherless Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez? We think so. "We are delighted to offer young Master Elian Gonzalez 100 shares of YouNetwork stock," company President Kyle Taylor chirped yesterday in a press release. "We look forward to his enjoying the dividends . . . whether in the United States or in Cuba."

* The weather outside was frightful and the Georgetown streets were barely navigable, but that didn't stop Washington real estate mogul Joe Robert from hosting a dinner for Colombian President Andres Pastrana Tuesday night. AOL Foundation Chairman Jim Kimsey also attended at the otherwise empty Cafe Milano. No word on the tip.

* George magazine has invited every man named Smith in the Manchester, N.H., phone book--there are about 300--to a screening this Sunday of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" at that city's Palace Theater. Audience members will be asked to mark a questionnaire indicating which presidential candidate "best reflects the values . . . portrayed by Jimmy Stewart." So far no word on whether any of them will be attending.

* Talking head Juan Williams today replaces PBS correspondent Ray Suarez as host of National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation," reports The Post's Frank Ahrens.

* The American Ostrich Association is offering quintuple-bypass patient David Letterman a year's supply of low-fat ostrich meat--along with cooking lessons--on the theory that it will help his recovery. No response from Dave. Maybe we shouldn't be so tough on YouNetwork.

CAPTION: Calling his broker? Elian Gonzalez.

CAPTION: An offering for Letterman's recovery: ostrich meat.

CAPTION: The valiant Rita Braver reporting from troubled Hati.

CAPTION: Yale's LaFrance: A comb, the key to happiness.