THE SOURCE'S EXCITING LOVE CONNECTION
Here's how Labor Sec- retary Alexis Herman celebrated Valentine's Day, two days after her wedding to Silver Spring physician Charles Franklin Jr.: "I'm spending it with the Teamsters," Herman told us yesterday from Atlantic City, where she addressed union members gathered at the Tropicana Hotel. "We're going to take a real honeymoon in March."
The 52-year-old first-time bride was reveling in her marriage to the 53-year-old family practitioner, the father of three from two previous unions. "Now I'll be known both as 'Secretary Herman' and 'Mrs. Charles Franklin,' " she said. The ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral and the reception at Alma Brown's house was attended by President Clinton, among many others. "Chuck is such a special human being. He makes me laugh. He's intelligent. He's a sensitive man and I'm crazy about him. What can I say?"
Franklin told us: "Alexis is an extremely wonderful person. She might be secretary of labor, but she has everything in a woman that a man could want. She lacks for nothing in that department." And he doesn't mean the labor department.
Polish refugee Gerda Weissmann and American GI Kurt Klein met on May 7, 1945, outside an abandoned bicycle factory in Czechoslovakia and fell head over heels. She had just marched 350 miles after spending three years in a German slave-labor camp. He was the army lieutenant who rescued her on Liberation Day. Today, their just-published book of correspondence--"The Hours After: Letters of Love and Longing in War's Aftermath"--is being celebrated at a Washington lunch honoring these heroes of love and war.
"It was a day before my 21st birthday. I weighed 68 pounds and my hair had gone white," Gerda Klein told us. "I was in rags, obviously, and here was this dashing young American . . . like a prince coming and freeing me from the oppression of slavery."
The German-born Kurt Klein, who was 24 and had fled the Nazis as a teenager, told us: "I saw these skeleton-like figures walking across the factory yard, and I decided to go up to her. Gerda identified herself as being Jewish. I said, 'So am I.' And then, she quoted Goethe: 'Noble be man, merciful and good.' That left quite an impact on me."
Near death, Gerda spent the summer recovering in a field hospital, and Kurt visited her often. They became engaged that fall and Kurt returned to Buffalo, thinking his bride-to-be would soon join him. Instead, red tape delayed their reunion until the following June, when they wed in Paris. They settled in Buffalo and raised three children while she wrote a newspaper column and he ran a printing business.
Gerda's story became the subject of the 1995 documentary "One Survivor Remembers," which won an Academy Award. Now retired in Scottsdale, Ariz., the couple discovered their love letters a few years ago in their garage. "To our surprise, we found a lot of things in there with a great deal of meaning," Gerda Klein said. "I was crying. My husband was smiling."
"I don't like any female comedians. . . . A woman doing comedy doesn't offend me, but sets me back a bit. I, as a viewer, have trouble with it. I think of her as a producing machine that brings babies in the world."
-- French Legion of Honor member Jerry Lewis, caught red-handed by the Glenwood (Colo.) Post as he mused stupidly during a Saturday panel discussion at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen.
THIS JUST IN . . .
* In the Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows department, Cause Celeb Victoria Rowell, a Democrat, is an admirer of House Majority Whip Tom DeLay. Rowell, a regular on CBS's "Diagnosis Murder" and a returning character on "The Young and the Restless," is one of six children raised by foster parents when their mother couldn't care for them. She'll be a star attraction at DeLay's child welfare summit in Houston on Feb. 24. "He may be called Tom 'The Hammer,' " she told us yesterday, "but to me he is a champion of children." She praised the Texas Republican for his role in raising the emancipation age of foster children from 18 to 21.
* Former GOP vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp narrowly escaped becoming a juror in a murder-robbery trial yesterday at Montgomery County Circuit Court, The Post's Steven Gray reports. After making it to the second round of jury selection, Kemp was dismissed when he told the judge he was just too busy to spend two weeks on the case.
* Can't Bill Bradley get away from it all? "I am just trying to take a two-hour break from the campaign," the exhausted-looking presidential contender told The Post's Hamil Harris at Sunday's NBA All-Star Game, which he attended in Oakland with wife Ernestine, supporter Michael Jordan and Washington Wizards investor Ted Leonsis. But then L.A. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, a Bradley partisan, got nailed by Vice President Gore's campaign police for sporting a Bradley lapel pin on national television. "The Gore people ran in from somewhere and told me to take it off," said Jackson. He reluctantly complied.