Jet-Setting for a Good Cause

Palm Beach philanthropist Lois Pope -- who blew into town this week on her Citation X jet at 672 miles an hour, her three yapping poodles in tow -- is the 69-year-old widow of legendary supermarket tabloid czar Generoso Pope. She's also the driving force behind the planned memorial in Washington to disabled American war veterans.

"I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial because I promised the mother of my cousin Ricky I would," Pope told us yesterday as she revved up for Sunday's Presidential Unsung Hero Award dinner at the Reagan Building. "Ricky enlisted at age 21 and was killed in Vietnam. I was standing at the wall in front of Ricky's name and there were people in wheelchairs on either side of me, obviously disabled. . . . That's when I realized there was no memorial to disabled veterans."

Pope has given $3 million of her own money toward the memorial, which is to be built near the Capitol and Botanic Garden. Meanwhile, she has been pursuing a number of other passions, including running marathons. "I've finished five New York City Marathons," she said. "My best time was 4 hours 52 minutes and 8 seconds. It would have been better if I didn't have to wait in line at the Jiffy Johns during the race and instead did what the gentlemen do."

She travels everywhere with her little dogs, Tosca, Romeo and Mini-Me. "They fly with me everywhere. They're wonderful fliers." We would be, too, if we had a private jet.

Despite a lifestyle that Republicans would envy, Pope said she's a staunch Democrat, and is "deeply concerned" about the election results. "But the Democrats have no one to blame but themselves," she said.


* So much for Scandinavian stoicism. Republican senator-elect Norm Coleman, who was the mayor of St. Paul when he spoke at a dinner organized by Garrison Keillor, must be wondering why he ever accepted the invitation. Yesterday in Salon, in a down-and-dirty attack on Walter Mondale's victorious opponent (so nasty it made even us gasp), Keillor dumped on Coleman for having the bad judgment to join him: "I once organized a dinner at the Minnesota Club to celebrate F. Scott Fitzgerald's birthday and Norm came, at the suggestion of his office, and spoke, at some length and with quite some fervor, about how much Fitzgerald means to all of us in St. Paul, and it was soon clear to anyone who has ever graded 9th grade book reports that the mayor had never read Fitzgerald." No response from Coleman.

* The last question at President Bush's news conference yesterday went to our old friend April Ryan of American Urban Radio Network. She asked about immigration policy and then, after Bush finished his answer and turned to leave, demanded to know what he had given Laura Bush for their silver wedding anniversary this week. In response, Bush stopped in the exit doorway and gave an apparently libidinous wink, provoking laughter from the assembled press corps. "It was," Ryan told us, "the wink of love."

* Hot Hollywood rumor du jour: Paramount Pictures chief Sherry Lansing is the top candidate to replace 81-year-old Jack Valenti when and if the bionic head of the Motion Picture Association of America decides to hang it up. But when we phoned them both yesterday, they were at pains to douse the fire with cold water and stomp on the ashes. "Absolutely not true," Lansing told us. "It's a great compliment, but no one has talked to me about it, and I'm very happy doing what I'm doing." Valenti, meanwhile, said: "The job's not open" -- the same answer he gave when Bill Clinton's name was being bandied about. But this time he added: "Sherry would undoubtedly raise the stature of the position."

* Department of Mighty Pens: Saddam Hussein biographer Andrew Cockburn, at yesterday's Community Lunch at Nathans restaurant, was asked if war on Iraq is imminent. "The news media will be so [ticked] off if we don't have a war," the Washington journalist replied, "George Bush can't afford not to have one."

"Give your husband my regards, and tell him I wish I always agreed with him."

-- 105-year-old Connecticut citizen Effie Hobby, going a tad off-message yesterday during a staged phone call placed by Laura Bush (and transcribed and released by the White House) to celebrate women's suffrage and Hobby's unbroken record of voting in every election since 1920