Peri Picks

Celebrities never learn. Dennis flopped, Arsenio's fading and Whoopi is on the ropes. Still, even more celebs are determined to host their own talk shows. PERI surveys the latest pretenders: ...

The Bushes Will Build In Texas

George Bush may be a transplanted Texan, but he's still a New Englander at heart--or at least at pocketbook. After Barbara Bush inspected 21 houses in the fashionable Tanglewood section of Houston, she and the president decided to build a retirement home on the tiny lot they own in the community. The reason: the Bushes don't want to shell out the $800,000 to $900,000 asking price for houses in the area. "This is a Yankee former president," says a friend. The Bushes are also planning to buy 4,320 square feet of land adjoining the 5,280-square-foot lot they now own. Until the new house is ready, the Bushes will rent two doors down from the building site. They're expected to split their time between Houston and their house in Maine.

That's The Last Straw

The citizens of Slidell, La., hardly made a peep when local cops were charged in recent years with abusing public funds and fixing tickets. But then came Garthgate. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a handful of Slidell police officers recently broke up a large crowd waiting to buy Garth Brooks tickets at a local Ticketmaster. Can't wait overnight on private property, the cops explained. But when the fans left, several Slidell officers took their places in line and eventually bought tickets to the concert, which sold out in 15 minutes. The next morning, police were overwhelmed by complaints from furious Garth fans. One cop has been suspended; others have been forced to give their tickets to charity.

Colorado Is Talking ...

About the pope and the prairie dogs. When Pope John Paul II visits the state in August, he is tentatively scheduled to conduct a mass at Cherry Creek State Park. But environmentalists say a large mass would destroy an area populated by prairie dogs. Event officials proposed to suck the prairie dogs out of their holes humanely with vacuums and deposit them elsewhere. But the plan was scrapped when a mysterious "plague" began killing the varmints. Despite suspicions by animal-rights activists, state officials say there is no evidence of foul play.

Arkansas Argot

Goodbye preppyisms and bad syntax. Now that Bill Clinton is headed for the White House, America should brace for some of his singularly Arkansan expressions: Any idiot could figure that out.Used to ridicule complaints by political opponents.Derivation is unclear even to Clinton staffers; used when things go down to the finish line. This issue is simple.

Pass the Plate, Early and Often

When the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops met behind closed doors last week, the talk wasn't about women's ordination or pedophile priests: it was about money. With the Vatican projecting a record $91.7 million deficit for 1993, officials of the Holy See are pressuring American Catholics to help bail them out, according to sources who attended the meeting. The Vatican's chief financial officer, former Detroit archbishop Edmund Szoka, is asking the U.S. bishops to increase their annual contribution to the Vatican to $20 million from $13.9 million. American Catholics are already the largest contributors to the Vatican, kicking in one quarter of its annual $178 million budget. Since many U.S. dioceses are in the red, the bishops weren't too happy about being squeezed by Szoka, the sources say. The Vatican s debt is projected to soar next year because it's providing a new employee pension fund.

How Soon They Forget

Joe Biden is going courting. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who ran last year's Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings, wants to add at least one of the four newly elected women senators to his all-male panel. He campaigned for the election of all four. Since Nov. 3, he's called on each one and "let his hopefulness be known," says a Judiciary staffer. Biden even sent California's Barbara Boxer a dozen roses after her victory. So far, all four women are playing hard to get. California's Dianne Feinstein, who's pushing a crime bill as one of her legislative priorities, is considered most likely to join the panel. "To say that I'm not interested is not correct," she says. Washington's Patty Murray wants Appropriations, Commerce or Labor and Human Resources--"assignments that would most benefit the state," says a spokeswoman. Illinois's Carol Moseley Braun wasn't available for comment. Boxer isn't talking.

Rice Futures

Former secretary of state James Baker has promised his official papers to Rice University. Now comes word that Rice wants Baker on campus, too. Texas sources say high-level university officials made an unpublicized trip to Washington last week to meet with Baker. Rice president George Rupp plans to retire next year, and there are rumors that school officials are considering Baker as his successor. Other sources say the university would like Baker to join the faculty. Baker and his family have longstanding ties to the university, and school officials may name a public-policy institute after him. Baker's office didn't return repeated phone calls.

Jell-O Murder

Who laced Richard Alfredo's Jell-O? In 1990, the Westport, Mass., man died of a heart attack after eating the wiggly dessert served by his girlfriend Christina Martin. There was no autopsy. But after hearing reports that Martin had talked to drug dealers about killing her lover, police exhumed Alfredo's body-and found huge doses of LSD in his blood. Then Martin's daughter Teasha said she--not her mother--poisoned Alfredo because he had sexually abused her. But Mom was found guilty of "The Jell-O Murder" anyway.

Jetty, Anyone?

for political reasons? Consider the Bush administration's recent decision to issue permits for the construction of jetties in North Carolina's Outer Banks. In July, Dare County GOP chairman Dan Gray wrote to Bush that he could not "deliver the votes this fall" unless the permits were approved. On Oct. 29, five days before the election, Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan issued conditional permits. Environmentalists, who fear the jetties will harm the coastline, promptly sued. A Lujan spokesman said Gray's letter didn't affect Lujan's decision. Dare County, like most of North Carolina, went for Bush.

A Governor's Free Ride?

Did a Mexican newspaper spike a controversial news story last month shortly before a key election? The story, based in part on a secret U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration report, linked the then education minister, Manuel Bartlett Diaz-elected governor of Puebla state this month-to the 1984 killing of a Mexican journalist. It also said Bartlett's name had come up in connection with the 1985 killing of DEA agent Enrique Camarena. The journalist and Camarena were investigating Bartlett's alleged ties to drug lords. ...

Buzzwords

Teenager lingo changes as quickly as the hairstyles at your local high school. PERI offers the latest in teenspeak: The half-dozen sculpted stomach muscles on a cute guy.A number of individuals. Usage: "I'm bringing six heads to your kegger."Sex.Someone who's bad at basketball.Students who try hard in school.Bad, not hip, uncool. Usage: "Man, those Hush Puppies are punk." Also, "wack."Very cool, hip.I'm leaving. Very drunk.

California Scheming

Once they leave the Arkansas governor's mansion, Bill and Hillary Clinton will be homeless-except, of course, for the White House. Friend and major Democratic fundraiser Larry Lawrence has urged them to buy in southern California. Hollywood pals Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason last week purchased a beachfront estate in Summerland near Santa Barbara for the Clintons to use as an occasional getaway. Now, even the president-elect's top political advisers are California scheming. They're pushing Clinton to establish a pied-a-terre there as a base for the '96 election. He'd still be an Arkansan, they say-with a California connection.

Food Fight

Chicago's swanky Le Francais restaurant was once again rated one of the city's very best restaurants by Zagat's and the Chicago Tribune. So why was it missing from Chicago magazine's vaunted "top 25" list? Some restaurateurs say it's because of a major conflict of interest at the glossy monthly: Le Francais has never hired restaurant consultant Allen Kelson, who happens to be married to restaurants of uncertain distinction; others that have never hired him fell off the list, along with stars they had previously earned. Meanwhile, the magazine printed Allen's interview with a chef who has been one of his clients-without noting the conflict. Both Kelsons deny any impropriety They say that because Allen works with fancy restaurants it's not surprising that some appear in the top 25. And Carla calls Le Francais's fare "egregiously oversalted."

Berkeley Is Talking ...

About "The Naked Guy," otherwise known as Cal-Berkeley sophomore Andrew Martinez. The young man routinely walks through campus and attends classes stark naked, except for a peace sign around his neck, sandals, a backpack-and, on chilly days, a strategically placed bandanna. The Naked Guy-that's what everyone calls him-says he's showing how sexually repressive society is. Students have been fairly nonchalant about their profoundly uninhibited classmate. Still, startled Cal-Berkeley officials quickly drew up an "anti-nudity" policy and placed him under "interim suspension" while his case is decided by student-conduct officials. If allowed back, The Naked Guy has no plans to dress up.

No 'Special Rights' for Gays

At the Book Garden, a women's bookstore in downtown Denver, it began with a series of anonymous phone threats. "You queer dyke bitches!" one caller screamed. At a bookstore across town, another angry voice called in a bomb threat: "You got too many fags and queers working there." And when a staffer picked up the phone at the Denver Gay and Lesbian Community Center, she heard: "We're going to blow up your f---- building." ...

Tables And Chairs For The Fuhrer

Most Germans would like to forget the Nazi past. But, for some, images of the Third Reich still fascinate. A new book, "Design der Macht" ("D sign for Power"), by decorative arts historian Sonja Gunther, provides the first comprehensive look at the official Nazi interior decor-tables, chairs, wallpaper and other furnishings designed for the likes of Adolf Hitler, Eva Braun and Joachim von Ribbentrop. "The esthetic attitudes of the Nazi leaders show a terrifying will to grandeur and an urge for luxury, side by side with cheap bourgeois imitations of styles from other epochs," writes Gunther. Hitler demanded high-back yet folksy chairs, she says, while Braun's furniture was a "helpless muddle of styles."

Fighting Right

Republicans are squaring off for the coming struggle to control the party in the aftermath of George Bush's defeat. A group of conservatives and moderates, including departing New Hampshire Sen. Warren Rudman, is organizing a Republican Majority Coalition to fight the growing influence of Pat Robertson and the religious right. Meanwhile, HUD Secretary Jack Kemp and former drug czar Bill Bennett are hunting seed money for a foundation to support mainstream conservative goals. And Pat Buchanan and his sister Bay Buchanan are also forming a foundation for their brand of conservatism.

Musical Chair

It'll be quits a few weeks before Bill Clinton moves into the White House. But already a fight has broken out over who'll succeed him as governor of Arkansas. The dispute is between Lt. Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and Attorney General Winston Bryant, both of whom want the job. Bryant, a Democrat, maintains that the state constitution requires a special election to determine Clinton's successor. Tucker, also a Democrat, says the post is rightfully his. An Arkansas court ruled last week that Tucker should succeed. Not so fast. Republican Party chair Asa Hutchinson said at the weekend that the GOP will appeal the ruling. The case is likely to go to the state Supreme Court.

A Role For Baker?

Is there a role for James Baker in a Clinton administration? A Clinton foreign-policy adviser, writing anonymously in the Washington journal Middle East Insight, urges the president-elect to name Baker as a special Mideast envoy. It would be a "spectacular political move fraught with risks, yet... clearly presents the best chance for continuity for American policy in the peace talks," he writes. Both Arabs and Israelis favor the move, the adviser told NEWSWEEK. But the idea is being resisted by some Clinton advisers, who want to run the peace process themselves. Other Clintonites, angry over the nasty campaign Baker ran against their man, also object. As for Baker, "I think he'd find it hard to say no," said an aide. "But I cant imagine he'll be asked."

Peri Picks

Anyone who remembers Rick Barry and Marvin (Bad News) Barnes knows the NBA has always had its share of head cases. But as this season tips off, we may have the largest contingent of egomaniacs and malcontents ever: Unlikable lug started anti-Magic backlash. But gets credit for honesty.Air-ogant star gambled with a criminal, then lied about it. Please, kids: don't always be like Mike.Whispers say the GQ model is too soft. But he's been playing well-and his hair looks great.Once spit on a little girl, but on best behavior these days. Give him a week.Wouldn't practice because of marital problems. Tends to break down and cry; somebody get this man a nanny. Has used crack, been shot and figured in UNLV scandals. But can he score!

Have A Cow, Man

Why own a schnauzer or gerbil when you can ow pet cow instead? That's the question these days in Italy, where farmers have been told to slaughter about 400,000 cows because of an EEC quota on milk production. Cow lovers had a better idea: put the beasts up for adoption. "They're great company," says cow-rights activist Paolo D'Arpini. Demand has been heavy but, alas, some callers seem more interested in dining than petting. Now they must contractually agree not to get out the knives when the cow comes home.

A CIA-BNL Link?

Investigators for the Senate intelligence Committee and the House Banking Committee are looking into the possibility that representatives of the U.S. government, perhaps CIA agents, helped set up and protect the Atlanta office of Italy's Banca Nazionale del Lavoro. BNL's Atlanta branch manager has been indicted for fraudulently funneling $4 billion in loans to Iraq. Questions about the U.S. ties of several BNL officials, including a former State Department employee, were first raised in an Italian Senate report last summer. The CIA has generally denied involvement. But a dispute has erupted with the Justice Department over whether the agency has cooperated fully with Justice's investigation of the BNL case. The CIA "refuses to get into a cat fight" with Justice, said spokesman Peter Earnest. "We won't discuss our intelligence sources in public or to Congress." CIA chief Robert Gates plans to retire in January. Earnest said the decision was not connected to BNL.

The Devil Made Him Do It

Exorcisms are serious business in Italy. But now the country's Satan-chasing priests are bickering over a new book featuring bizarre photographs of people purportedly under the Devil's spell. Father Pellegrino Arnetti says his hot-selling book, "The Catechesis of Satan," is meant to show nonbelievers that the Prince of Darkness is real. But other Italian exorcists say the shots invade the privacy of the bedeviled. Father Arnetti, who is sanctioned by the Vatican, says his spiritually impaired subjects agreed to the photos. And, he adds darkly, "I have taped the Devil's cavernous voice, too."

At Sixes and Sevens

The Dearborn, Mich., Police Department, for disciplining an officer because he writes the number seven with a line through it, European style. Last week Cpl. Brian Yinger was suspended and ordered to see a psychiatrist because he inadvertently defied a department order for him to write sevens in the usual manner. "The way he was writing them was confusing for the typist," complained Chief Robert Deziel, unconvincingly. "He defied the order to stop. He was told he would face disciplinary action." Corporal Yinger, who's been crossing his sevens for 30 years, is considering legal action against the department.

Moscow Rules

Now we know for sure that Russia has gone capitalist: Moscow recently held its first golf tournament. The sport is still a bit rudimentary there. The country's only course, built on the site of Moscow's former garbage dump, is a mere nine holes. But with 300 regular golfers and hundreds more expected, Russia will soon open a second course in St. Petersburg. Next year Moscow's Tumba Golf Club plans to hold an international tournament. As the country-club business goes, Tumba has learned quickly from the West. The club's initiation fee is $1,300--a monstrous sum for the average Russian--plus annual dues of about $130.

Feel the Burn

It's so unlike Hollywood producers to be insensitive to human suffering. Yet that appears to be the case in Oakland, Calif, site of last year's blaze that left 25 people dead and 5,000 homeless. Residents are outraged that an ABC made-for-TV movie called "Firestorm" will be filmed in the area starting this week. It's a docu-drama about how the fire devastated the expensive homes high in the Oakland Hills. To dramatize the disaster, ABC is constructing fake houses, which will appear to be burned down in plain sight of the locals. At least one unknowing Oakland resident cheered when she saw that homes were finally being rebuilt--only to be told later that they were just flimsy props. Still, film-industry callousness does have its benefits: the city of Oakland stands to earn $1.5 million from the filming.

No Excuses Edition

By the time most of you get this, the election will be over and the CW will have no excuses for all its mistakes this year. But then, neither do these characters. PLAYERS Conventional Wisdom Bush (-) New Weinberger note says "VP favored" arms for hostages deal. Message: you lied. Perot (-) Charges without proof? Forget Carolyn's wedding-you disrupted own campaign. Clinton (+/-) Draft fudge. Maybe if you'd served, you'd have learned to shoot straight. Stempel (-) After Smith started GM downhill, you couldn't find reverse. Tartikoff (+/-) Daughter story poignant. But you forgot to mention tiff with your Paramount boss. Voters (+) Tuesday is CW holiday. It's up to you to decide which way the real arrows go.

Guns 'R' Us

Only the National Rifle Association could defend the right of children to pack heat. After a recent spate of gang violence, Phoenix and several other Arizona cities passed ordinances prohibiting minors from carrying guns without written parental permission. But despite the popularity of the regulations, the NRA sponsored a lawsuit to overturn them, arguing that the restrictions violate state law. The gun lobby also contends that innocent teenage gun owners end up suffering-and, we can assume, that guns don't kill people, kids do. Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson says he'll gladly fight it out in court, but no trial date has been set.

PERI PICKS

Fall is the best time to drop in on Chicago: it's too hot in the summer and way too cold in the winter. If you're just passing through O'Hare Airport, PERI offers some helpful travel tips for a quickie visit to the Paris of the Midwest: ...

Sub Contracting

Has Russia helped Iran gain a naval edge in the Persian Gulf? Yes, say Western military experts now that the first of two Kilo-class submarines Iran purchased from Russia has passed through the Suez Canal and into Iranian waters. The main threat, experts say, is that the subs will be able to cruise in the deep waters just outside the Strait of Hormuz and threaten the large volume of oil traffic using the narrow strait. The White House recently tried to block the $750 million sale, but Moscow-desperate for foreign currency-went ahead with the deal anyway. Several gulf countries are countering the threat by ordering new submarines and surface submarine hunter vessels, thus raising the arms race in the volatile gulf yet another notch.

Regarding Henri: The Model Is A Nun

Matisse lovers may recall the beautiful female figure in such portraits as "Monique," "L'Idole" and "Tabac Royal." Now it turns out the model for these sensual works is alive-and, if you can believe this, she's a nun. Sister Jacques-Marie (formerly Monique Bourgeois) was Matisse's nurse, model and muse from 1942 to 1944. She joined a Dominican convent shortly thereafter, much to the dismay of the temperamental artist. Then, last week, the French daily newspaper Le Figaro tracked her down: she heads an institute for the disabled near Biarritz on France's Atlantic coast. The sister, now 71, says Matisse pleaded for her to return, adding, "I'll give you lots of money!" But in response she made clear her belief that, "Outside the church, there can be no salvation."

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