A June 21 Names & Faces item in Style incorrectly placed a Hardee's restaurant in Hanover, Va. It is in Hanover, Md. (Published 6/22/05)

Squirting the Issue

The four British pranksters who water-gunned Tom Cruise at a "War of the Worlds" premiere in London on Sunday aren't off the hook yet.

The apparently un-punkable 42-year-old actor was giving interviews outside a movie theater in Leicester Square when a man pretending to be a reporter squirted him in the face with a water pistol disguised as a microphone. (Genius!) According to journalists standing nearby (and a video of the aftermath), Cruise tried to keep his composure but said, "I'm here giving you an interview, answering your questions and you do something really nasty. You're a jerk."

Police arrested the man and his film crew and released them on bail a few hours later. A Scotland Yard spokesman said the group could be charged with assault if Cruise decides to pursue the incident. The actor's sister-spokeswoman, Lee Anne DeVette, told the Times of London that her brother "is not just going to forget it."

A spokesman from Channel 4, which airs a celebrity prank show, apologized: "The stunt was intended to be lighthearted rather than malicious, and we would apologize to Mr. Cruise for any offense caused."

'Greatest American' Shortlist

Discovery Channel viewers have less than a week to determine who will be the "Greatest American." The big relief? It's not going to be a celebrity. The viewer vote-in show's host, Matt Lauer, announced the top five candidates for the series on Sunday: Benjamin Franklin, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and George Washington. Nominations began in January; the winner will at last be revealed Sunday.

Executive producer Mark Finkelpearl told The Post he has no idea who will win the contest: "Literally, it's anybody's guess."

The top 25 list puts such modern luminaries as President Bush (No. 6) and Oprah Winfrey (9) ahead of historical giants Albert Einstein (14) and Thomas Jefferson (12). "I think to a certain extent this list reflects the here and now, and [the viewers] had all the votes," Finkelpearl said. "There's not much else you can say about it."

Then we won't.

Human See, Human Buy

A chimpanzee's paintings outsold Renoir and Andy Warhol at an art auction Monday in London. A group of three abstract tempera paintings by Congo sold for $26,352, surpassing the $1,000 to $1,500 auctioneers at Bonhams in London hoped they would bring. American bidder Howard Hong, who described himself as an "enthusiast of modern and contemporary painting," purchased Congo's work.

"We had no idea what these things were worth," said Howard Rutkowski, director of modern and contemporary art at Bonhams. "We just put them in for our own amusement."

Congo, born in 1954, produced about 400 drawings and paintings between ages 2 and 4. He died in 1964 of tuberculosis. He wasn't exactly an unknown talent, and his work brought the usual scorn from art critics. Pablo Picasso is believed to have received an original Congo as a gift; he reportedly hung it in his studio.

End Note

The controversial Carl's Jr. ad that titillated the West Coast, with Paris Hilton eating a burger and washing a Bentley, will start airing in the Midwest and Southeast in late June. The ad will be tweaked for Hardee's, owned by Carl's Jr.'s parent company, CKE Restaurants.

Paris-phobic burger eaters in Washington can relax: The ad won't run here, even though there are a few locations nearby, if you feel like driving to Hanover, Va., or Manassas Park. Hardee's spokesman Jeff Mochal tells The Post the reason we get no Paris is simple: "We don't have a big enough market there."

-- Compiled by Korin Miller

from staff and wire reports

Tom Cruise dries off after being squirted at the "War of the Worlds" premiere.