The Real Candidates

Kerry-Cruise '04? If they ever make a movie of the campaign, perky TV host Kelly Ripa is already working on her dream ticket: Tom Cruise should play the Democratic veep candidate, Ripa suggested to Sen. John "Pepsodent" Edwards yesterday during his appearance on "Live with Regis and Kelly."

And who better to portray that lovable Dick Cheney than that lovable Jack Nicholson, Edwards suggested. Without missing a beat, Kerry's right-hand man cast his opponent in the memorable scene from the 1992 courtroom drama "A Few Good Men," in which Cruise plays a young Navy lawyer up against Nicholson's old-guard colonel.

"Can't you see it now?" Edwards joked. "Cheney saying, 'You need me on that wall! You need me on that wall!' And me saying, "You can't handle the truth!"

We assume Will Ferrell has a lock on the Bush role, but who could play Kerry now that Fred Gwynne and Ted ("Lurch") Cassidy have passed on?

The Lullaby Network?

Is Aaron Brown trying to put his viewers to sleep?

Television insiders had a few snickers yesterday when they learned that CNN had signed a sponsorship deal with the sleeping pill Ambien for its late-night show "Newsnight With Aaron Brown."

Coincidence?

CNN spokesman Matt Furman told us: "We're always glad to have an advertiser. In this case, we just hope they don't use the product during the show."

"Newsnight" reaches about 868,000 viewers a night.

Meanwhile, those wags at CNN's "Crossfire," Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson, invigorated their crowd at Washington University in St. Louis by yesterday going crowd-surfing at the end of the show. That'll keep the crowd awake! We just hope nothing happened to Carlson's bow tie or Begala's cowboy boots.

Elton John Turns 'Cranky'

Madonna pal Rupert Everett has come to the conclusion that our favorite he-va, Elton John, is just in a general snit. The Brit actor came to the defense of Her Madgesty -- also his co-star from the flop "The Next Best Thing" -- after Sir Elton bad-mouthed Madge earlier in the week for lip-syncing. "Madonna sings everything she can sing but, if she goes into a dance routine, she's got to dance; you can't breathe and dance and sing at the same time," Everett said. (Well, there goes our theory about Britney Spears.) John is "very bossy these days, I think. I mean he's lovely, but he's a bit bossy and he does seem a bit cranky." Yeah, that's one word for it.

Noted . . .

Hometown honey and R&B star Mya Harrison will turn 26 Sunday -- according to our records, anyway. Word on the street is that Harrison, who made it big on the music scene thanks to a remake of "Lady Marmalade" and her hit "My Love Is Like . . . Wo," plans to celebrate Saturday night at Republic Gardens on U Street NW. Don't forget to abide by the restaurant rules: "Please dress to impress" . . . Whether it's his rock-hard abs or his talent, there's a reason Ladies Love Cool James. Luckily for LL Cool J wannabees, the rapper-actor-husband-father offers this sound advice regarding one of the two aforementioned traits (given to radio DJ Vic Latino earlier this week, says the New York Daily News): "In order to get rid of that keg and get a six-pack, you gotta stop drinkin' beer."

. . . and Quoted

"When you don't have Botox, you can actually move your face."

-- Jay Leno's explanation to Laura Bush Wednesday night about the president's facial expressions during last week's debate.

-- Compiled by Anne Schroeder

from staff and wire reports