Peterson's Sentimental Sign-Off

WUSA veteran anchor Gordon Peterson kept it short and sweet last night as he signed off for the last time from Channel 9, where he has been a fixture for 35 years, reports The Post's John Maynard.

"I'm about to join a new team," Peterson said at the close of the 6 p.m. news broadcast, referring to his new gig at rival WJLA, Channel 7. "I'm looking forward to working with old friends and joining some new ones. But -- there's always a but -- it means I have to leave behind some great friends and colleagues here."

Peterson, 66, paid special tribute to behind-the-scenes staffers whom he referred to as "people who have made me look much better than I have any right to expect."

He did not specifically mention Channel 7, where he'll reunite with Maureen Bunyan to co-anchor the 6 p.m. news, but couldn't resist a little plug: "I'll see you soon from my new digs."

Channel 7 scooped up Peterson after Channel 9 management and the anchor failed to agree on a new contract. Tracey Neale, a former anchor at WTTG, Channel 5, and newcomer Todd McDermott, formerly of New York's WCBS, are the new lead co-anchors at Channel 9.

The station did not produce an elaborate farewell, at Peterson's request, but it did run a short video montage of Peterson with the song "Sentimental Journey" playing in the background.

Four More Beers!

Now we know this is going to come as a surprise, but Bush twins Jenna and Barbara were spotted celebrating the red victory at Smith Point on Thursday evening! Say it ain't so!

Yes, indeed, a group of the (now happily defunct) GOP campaign forces rented the popular G-town bar for the whale-pants set and danced to '70s and '80s tunes until the wee hours of the morning. Even Mary Cheney joined in on the fun.

"It was just a really good party -- super happy," owner Bo Blair told us yesterday. Sadly, no scuffles, compromising situations or entertaining moments (like falling off barstools) occurred, from what we're told. Then again, the Bushies' party theme may have said it best: There'll be "another four years" -- of possible late-night shenanigans? -- ". . . at Smith Point."

For Gridiron, Change Is in the Air

The prestigious (and stodgy) Gridiron Club is slowly but surely getting with the times. The exclusive 60-member crew of some of the most influential print journos in Washington allowed women into its ranks in 1975, so clearly it's not known for being quick on the uptake. However, we hear the Gridiron gang -- whose sole purpose is to perform a humorous skit once a year attended by the prez and his peeps -- voted yesterday (47-8) to finally let TV, radio and magazine reporters join the merriment.

Gridiron President Al Hunt, the Wall Street Journal columnist and CNN commentator, told Washington Whispers columnist Paul Bedard a few weeks back that "it took us a while to get into the 20th century -- now let's get to the 21st century."

We hear that some of the old guard can't fathom the idea that TV actually counts. So we asked Hunt whether the gang will accept the 21st century. "Oh, I'm not quite sure we'll go that far," he quipped. "That's a leap!"

Of course, since the vote to expand the club from 60 to 65 members failed by one vote, the new folks just may be waiting a while for openings. But Hunt tells us that vote could be revisited.

Noted . . .

Anyone calling Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.) press office, inquiring about a possible run for president in '08, might get transferred to the phone of Philippe Reines, one of her press aides. This is what they'll hear: "Hola, and thank you for calling Lauriol Plaza. We're so sorry we missed your call, but we encourage you to call our Margarita Hotline at [insert Reines's cell phone number here]." Props to the pranksters -- guess that office really likes Mexican food.

. . . and Quoted

"He has seven houses, is married to a billionaire and has French relatives."

-- former Clintonite-turned-ABC newsguy George Stephanopoulos, cracking on what might have kept John Kerry from connecting with your average red-state Joe, as reported by the New York Post

-- Compiled by Anne Schroeder

from staff and wire reports

Anchor Gordon Peterson left WUSA to join Maureen Bunyan on WJLA's 6 p.m. newscast.