Digging the Moon

Hollywood A-lister Tom Hanks was in Washington yesterday for the world premiere of his latest project, the Imax film "Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D," which opens today at the National Air and Space Museum.

The 49-year-old actor seems to have quite a thing for space: Hanks is a member of the National Space Society and has starred in two space-centric works -- the movie "Apollo 13" and the TV series "From the Earth to the Moon."

Decked out in a simple black suit, with his hair slicked back, Hanks said it was hard to crunch four years' worth of work into a 40-minute movie, but he thought the result was "as realistic as possible."

As for his space-junkie status, Hanks said: "It's always a combination of physics and poetry that I find inspiring. It's hard to wrap your head around things like the Hubble scope."

Added wife Rita Wilson: "I'm excited about space through marriage to him."

Going, Going, Gone?

Is he or isn't he? The New York Observer is reporting in its Sept. 26 edition that New York Daily News gossip columnist (and The Post's former Reliable Source) Lloyd Grove may be on the way out.

The Observer's Gabriel Sherman cited "sources familiar with the circumstances of Mr. Grove's hiring" who say Grove has been writing his Lowdown column under a two-year contract, not a three-year contract as has been previously reported. Grove's two-year anniversary will be this month.

Sherman speculated that the Los Angeles Times does not have a gossip column and could offer "wide-open space to a cramped New York scribe." After all, according to Sherman, Grove used to have a girlfriend in L.A. and has made frequent trips to the city.

What does Grove have to say about all this? "It's not true," he told us yesterday. "That article had not one correct fact in it. They spelled my name right. Everything else about the article was wrong."

Sherman said he and his editors stand behind the article: "I think I reported what my sourcing showed, and Lloyd Grove declined to comment on the record."

Nothing like gossip on a gossip columnist to stir things up.

The Inimitable Ray Charles

A Braille copy of the February 2004 issue of Playboy magazine was among the Ray Charles memorabilia donated to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History yesterday.

"He really did read it for the articles," joked curator John Hasse of the photoless version of the adult entertainment magazine. Charles, who was blind by 7, died of liver disease June 10, 2004. He was 73.

Hasse was joined at the ceremony by former U.S. transportation secretary Rodney Slater, Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.), who sponsored a bill to have an L.A. post office renamed for the soul singer, and Charles's longtime friend and manager Joe Adams, reports The Post's J. Freedom Du Lac.

Also included in the collection were a Braille keyboard, three costumes, a chess set for the blind and a pair of Charles's signature Ray-Ban sunglasses perched on a white mannequin head.

Tuesday saw the release of a 75th-birthday tribute album to the star, "Genius and Friends," and "Pure Genius -- The Complete Atlantic Recordings (1952-1959)," a boxed set that features nine hours of Charles's work.

Select items from the donation will go on display at the museum Oct. 28.

-- Compiled by Korin Miller

from staff reports

Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, schmooze with Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden. Ray Charles's tuxedo jacket, Ray-Ban sunglasses and chess set for the blind.