Jack Anderson's Wonderful Whirl

It's a sad day for the Fourth Estate. Famed columnist Jack Anderson is immediately ending his 57-year stint with "Washington Merry-Go-Round," the longest-running syndicated newspaper column, because of his Parkinson's disease.

Anderson jumped on the "Merry-Go-Round" in 1947, when he was hired to assist muckraker Drew Pearson. He took over in 1969 after Pearson's death.

During his reign, he covered scandal upon scandal -- Watergate, Mafia wars, CIA illegalities, the Iran-contra arms-for-hostages affair. He irked the government so much with his exposes that he became the subject of 11 investigations, then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover declared him "lower than the regurgitated filth of vultures" and, perhaps most notably, Richard Nixon put him first on his infamous "enemies list." In 1972 he won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing the Nixon administration's tilt toward Pakistan in its war with India.

"Jack Anderson is an American legend, and this is truly the end of an era," says Lisa Klem Wilson, senior vice president and general manager of United Media, which syndicates his column.

The 81-year-old Anderson has fought the debilitating disease since 1986. "Any shaking that you may detect up here has nothing to do with the audience. . . . The doctors tell me it's Parkinson's," Anderson said during a speech in 1999. "I suspect that 52 years in Washington caused it." No question that his words will be sorely missed.

The Riverses, Called Off the Carpet

The folks at E! Entertainment Television may have lost two of their big personalities, Joan and Melissa Rivers, to a rumored $6 million to $8 million contract with the TV Guide Channel, but they're getting a good chuckle out of the fact that the mother-daughter duo's prime mission -- the Emmy Awards red carpet coverage -- is a no-go for their new employer. It seems that E! has exclusive rights to the carpet show before the Sept. 19 Emmy telecast.

That means television stars get a one-night-only pass to stroll the red carpet without being pounced on by the two sharp-tongued fashion police (one of whom routinely botches stars' names). E!'s coverage contract runs through 2005, which leaves TV Guide and Joan and Melissa out of luck but not hope. "We'd absolutely like to be covering the Emmys, and we'll continue to explore all of our options," says Chris Levesque, spokeswoman for Gemstar-TV Guide International, which owns the TV Guide Channel.

Gasp! A red carpet without Joan and Melissa Rivers?! That's like Siegfried without Roy or peanut butter without jelly! Okay, that's pushing it, but you get what we're saying.

Kirstie Alley, Having It Her Weigh

Proving that she either has a great sense of humor or faces reality particularly well, Kirstie Alley has a new Showtime comedy series in the works called "Fat Actress." Take that, skin-and-bones-obsessed Hollywood!

The 53-year-old actress proposed the idea for a "sendup of her own image as well as Hollywood's obsession with weight and beauty," says Robert Greenblatt, entertainment president for Showtime Networks.

Her motivation is certainly understandable. Since her days on "Cheers" and in movies such as "Look Who's Talking," Alley has taken a beating in the tabloids for her ballooning figure -- at one point she was reported to be 275 pounds.

Noted . . .

Well, fellas, now's your chance: Paris Hilton, that risque hotel heiress who loves parties and skimpy outfits (not to mention videotapes), is no longer dating Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, reports People mag, meaning she's available! (Now that's one we didn't see coming.) And what does Carter have to say about the end of their rocky seven-month romance? "This is the time of my life," he insists.

. . . and Quoted

"I had never even met him. It was a little strange. I did decline but, hey, the way my love life is I took it as a great compliment."

-- Nicole Kidman, confirming during a radio interview in Australia that Michael Jackson did call her for a date, as reported by London's Daily Mirror.

-- Compiled by Anne Schroeder

from staff and wire reports

The Emmy Awards red carpet has been pulled out from under Melissa, left, and Joan Rivers.