Kucinich Contingent, Not Going Away Quietly

As everything at the Democratic National Convention in Boston proceeds per script -- we're pretty sure the Kerry-Edwards ticket has locked up the nomination -- one source of tension remains: the Dennis Kucinich factor.

The liberal congressman from Ohio has fallen in line behind the party standard-bearer, but there's talk here that many of his 67 delegates will go off-message in a symbolic floor protest.

"I am voting for Dennis Kucinich because I want people to know where I stand. I want that vote to go down in history," declared Charlene Coates, 33, a Cleveland poet who wants to pull U.S. troops from Iraq. "Our vote will just say 'present' because his name is not on the ballot."

While playing down reports that the antiwar activists were "in revolt" against Kerry, fellow Kucinich delegate Jessica Beckett, 19, a Seattle student, reminded us: "We're Democrats. We don't march in lockstep." (How refreshing!)

A couple hundred activists roared approval yesterday inside sweltering St. Paul's Cathedral as the Rev. Jesse Jackson took the pulpit to support the man he called "Brother Dennis." Said Jackson: "It's time to bring the troops home and send George Bush home!"

Afterward, Kucinich told us, "I respect my delegates" for wanting to lodge protest votes. But, sounding very on-message, he predicted: "We are all going to leave this convention united for John Kerry."

Darn. Thought for a minute there we had a story.

Sharpton, Getting This Party Started Right

* "We're gonna rock this country like it's never been rocked before," Al Sharpton declared to the beer-soaked multitudes at Boston's Avalon dance club Sunday night, but his stage moves were more funk-inspired than anything else. Biz Markie, who has become something of a Democratic house DJ, spun James Brown's "The Payback" for Sharpton's grand entrance. The preacher-politician won raves as he broke into a bumping, arm-flinging dance.

"He looks as good as he did on 'Saturday Night Live,' when he was doing James Brown," marveled Carrie Hyun, who handled communications for Clinton transportation secretary Rodney Slater and now runs her own PR shop. Mostly young Dems lined up by the hundreds to squeeze into the cavernous club's "Rock the Vote" party for a celebration with political stars (John Conyers, Howard Dean, Terry McAuliffe, Cate Edwards, Vanessa and Alexandra Kerry) and celebrity boosters. On the red carpet: Amber Tamblyn of the TV series "Joan of Arcadia," film actress Natalie Portman ("Star Wars," etc.) and World Wrestling Entertainment performers Mick ("Mankind") Foley and Ivory.

Sets by the X-Ecutioners, a turntable act, and the proto-punk band Mission of Burma, a Boston favorite, pumped the masses, but hip-hopper Lauryn Hill, who played briefly around 2 a.m., left fans grousing for more. Then again, it's going to be a long few days of serious partying between all those displays of on-message unity. As the Rev. Al exhorted: "Have fun tonight, but get ready for the battle of all times!"

SQUIBS

* Annals of objective journalism: Ben Affleck swoons over the Kerry daughters, Alexandra and Vanessa, as he interviews them for the September Harper's Bazaar. The Bostonian movie star jokes with Alex: "Which one of you did I have an affair with?" She replies (in jest, of course): "I think it was Vanessa. Yes, it was. You and Vanessa had a long and passionate affair." Stumped, Affleck writes: "This still doesn't ring a bell, so I ask for details: 'Was I a good boyfriend?' I can hear Alex smile over the phone." She dodges: "I don't know -- you'll have to ask Vanessa." (He adds that he found the tabloid rumor to be "libelous -- to her.") And Alex Kerry's infamous voyage down the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival in May came up. "Yeah, the dress was completely see-through. Not intentionally, mind you. I wore a very conservative dress that did not withstand the impact of 3,500 flashbulbs. . . . Because of the dark world of the Internet, I'm told there are now entire Web pages dedicated to my breasts. So that was cool," she quipped. "You gotta love the Internet."

* We're not suggesting the Redskins need all the help they can get, but at least in the new season they'll have an updated recording of their fight song. "Hail to the Redskins" will be recorded tonight by some of the region's best singers and musicians, who are donating their time and talents. Backing the home team are the Washington Men's Camerata, the Washington Symphonic Brass and National Symphony Orchestra conductor Leonard Slatkin, who will lead the groups. The CD is scheduled to be released in early fall.

* After six weeks, the brunette half of the Olsen twins, Mary-Kate, is now free to rejoin her sister's side and prep for her freshman year at New York University. She was released from rehab Friday night, her rep happily confirmed yesterday. Publicists remain tight-lipped about MK's condition, saying only that she entered a treatment facility to "seek professional help for a health-related issue." Us Weekly said the 18-year-old multi-millionairess was suffering from anorexia.

With Anne Schroeder