THE RELIABLE SOURCE
By Lloyd Grove
Texas newspaper columnist Molly Ivins has been shooting a fusillade of funny words at Gov. George W. Bush, even coining the nickname "Shrub" for President Bush's eldest boy. But now this die-hard Democrat finds herself rooting for Dubya in the presidential sweepstakes. That's because "Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush"--a seriocomic treatise she wrote with Texas Observer editor Lou Dubose--is just out. "If Bush loses in South Carolina on Saturday, he could be out of the race, and then people will never buy our book," Ivins told us yesterday.
She and Dubose spent five months whipping "Shrub" into shape, covering his record on religion, crime, education, the environment, and his life in the Texas National Guard and the Texas Rangers baseball organization. "He and I know know each other on a very superficial level," Ivins said. "We have a pleasant, joshing relationship. The last time I saw him--at the governor's mansion during the Texas Book Fair--some people said we hugged, but actually we were digging our elbows into each other's ribs."
The 55-year-old Ivins, who had inflammatory breast cancer diagnosed in early December as "Shrub" was being finished, told us she's feeling "semi-fine," in the middle of the third of four chemotherapy rounds before scheduled surgery in March. "Maybe I'm in denial--I'm famously out of touch with my feelings--but as far as I can tell I'm coming through this with a distinct amount of phlegm. As in 'phlegmatic'--meaning calm, mundane, quotidian and corporeal."
Ivins will be honored tomorrow night at a book party in Washington.
Tipgate: 'Follow the Money . . .'
In a startling development in the Tipgate scandal, a Mystery Woman appeared yesterday at the Village House Restaurant and deposited some cash at the Albion, N.Y., eatery where Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton ate a free breakfast last week and then didn't tip her waitress.
"The woman said she has traveled with Mrs. Clinton and she left a $20 bill and her card to give to Trish," owner Alex Mitrousis told us, referring to waitress Tricia "Trish" Trupo, a 31-year-old single mother who earns $2.90 per hour.
Mitrousis sounded rattled by the media feeding frenzy. "Enough is enough. Everybody is calling. They want to talk to Trish. They're asking to leave a message. I can't be bothered by that. We've gotten some prank calls, too. It's disrupting my business over here." He went on: "I don't know why people are making such a big deal. When Mrs. Clinton left, she said, 'Is everything taken care of?' It was my treat. We told her she didn't have to pay anything." The next day, after the scandal erupted, Clinton phoned to apologize. "I said, 'Apologize for what? There's nothing to apologize for.' She said she's going to come back and order fish fries and that she wants Trish to wait on her."
Trupo didn't return our call and, before we learned about yesterday's potentially significant cash payoff, the candidate's spokesman Howard Wolfson said he didn't know if Clinton's check was in the mail.
THIS JUST IN . . .
* CBS anchor Dan Rather testified in federal court here yesterday in support of former hostage Terry Anderson's $100 million lawsuit against Iran. The Post's Bill Miller reports that Rather discussed the chilling effect of the former Associated Press correspondent's 1985 kidnapping by Iran-influenced terrorists in Beirut. "I don't know anybody in journalism who wasn't in one way or another intimidated," Gunga Dan said.
* Score one for Newsweek's Michael Isikoff in his dispute with "A Vast Conspiracy" author Jeffrey Toobin over the bestseller's account of Isikoff's conduct during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Yesterday Toobin acknowledged that he's addressing one complaint by deleting an accusation from the paperback edition that Isikoff was "protecting" independent counsel Ken Starr's investigation. "It's one sentence," said Toobin, who had agreed to debate Isikoff on Geraldo Rivera's CNBC show last night but then backed out. "We've only just begun," Isikoff told us.
* America Online President Bob Pittman has won back a valuable canvas by Austrian painter Siegfried Anzinger from ex-wife Sandy Pittman. "Under their divorce agreement, this was a piece of property that he was supposed to get," Pittman's attorney, David Aronson, told us yesterday. Sandy had claimed that her ex didn't deserve the painting because he'd defaulted on their 1997 divorce pact, the New York Daily News reports. Bob now lives in Great Falls with new wife Veronique.
* They're rich and famous, but actor Danny Glover, former prosecutor Chris Darden and Hootie & the Blowfish singer Darius Rucker tell ABC's "20/20" that they still suffer racism. Glover complains he can't get a cab, Darden says he was dissed at a Jaguar dealership, and Rucker says he was the only member of the band stopped by security during a 1997 inaugural ball.
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