A New Voice in the Mix

Elizabeth Birch, former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, had a coming-out party last night -- for her new gig as a talk-show host. "Birch & Co." debuts tomorrow on here! TV, a new cable network for the gay community, and guests gathered at the Motion Picture Association of America headquarters for a sneak preview of chats with Rosie O'Donnell (Rosie on Tom Cruise: "Listen, I've been around the guy a lot, and I get absolutely zippo gay vibes from him. If he is gay, he's the best actor of the free world"), Pat Buchanan and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), reports The Post's Roxanne Roberts.

Birch has an A-list roster of upcoming guests: Former vice president Al Gore, singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), DNC Chairman Howard Dean and "Will & Grace" creator Max Mutchnick. "It's on our terms and on our turf," says Birch. "It's going at gay and other issues with a scalpel instead of an ax."

Homeboy Makes Good

Washington's new tourist guide features a local celebrity who refuses to ask for directions. Go figure.

Rockville resident and Food Network's "The Best Of" host Marc Silverstein (who says looking at maps isn't in his DNA) graces the cover of the Official Washington, D.C., Visitors Guide along with his wife and two children -- an honor he says he earned because "everybody else had left town for the summer."

Silverstein, who also hosts "Go Ahead Make My Dinner" on the Discovery Channel, says he has lived in the Washington area "on and off" for the past 25 years. His wife, Kathy Fowler, is a medical reporter for local ABC affiliate WJLA.

But this multi-show host isn't just a pretty face on the book's cover. Silverstein says he also offers valuable advice, such as "You bring kids to town: Stick them on the Metro, stay cool and you never have to leave the confines of the tunnel. Kids think it's great."

The American University graduate won an Emmy in 1996 but said the coveted statue pales in comparison with his latest accomplishment. "This is much better than winning an Emmy. It's only uphill from here."

Just don't ask him for directions: "There are maps in the book. That's the one thing I won't look at."

Best in Show of Support

Lights! Camera! What is he wearing? The Grammys are coming to Washington! Okay, not the ones given out at the red-carpeted, golden gramophoned gala, but the ones that honor supporting roles.

The fifth annual "Grammys on the Hill" will arrive Sept. 7 to honor a senator, a congressman and a singer who have worked to advance artists' rights.

This year's recipients are Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Grammy Award winner Gloria Estefan. "American Idol's" Randy Jackson and producer Desmond Child (the man behind Ricky Martin's "Livin' la Vida Loca") are expected to attend the ceremony at the Willard InterContinental Hotel.

The event will be coupled with Recording Arts Day, a blitz of meetings among members of the academy and lawmakers. Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said the academy, which gives out the awards, wants to bring as much attention to support for the creative process as it does the results. "The interests of the creative music community were worthy of more than just the one evening activity and would be very worthy of a full day's agenda," he said.

Hoyer released a statement yesterday that began, "I am honored to accept this award . . . ." See -- it's just like the real show!

End Note

* Kimora Lee Simmons will serve six months of probation for allegedly driving erratically and ignoring police cruisers that tried to pull her over in New Jersey last year. The former model and wife of music mogul Russell Simmons also faced drug possession charges after officers found a small amount of marijuana in her car. She was arrested outside the couple's estate. Prosecutors agreed to admit Simmons into a program for nonviolent, first-time offenders. Upon completing the program, all charges will be dropped.

-- Compiled by Korin Miller

from staff and wire reports

Elizabeth Birch will host a new talk show. "It's going at gay and other issues with a scalpel instead of an ax," she says.