"Once upon a midnight dreary/ while I pondered weak and weary/ over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore . . . Eagerly I wished the morrow/ vainly I had sought to borrow/from my books, surcease of sorrow. . ."
February, a time to mull and ponder, and to elicit pleasure from the most meager of sources. And to grasp eagerly at really good news in a slim season. And so, pondering weak and weary over many a quaint and curious news item, herewith a bag of delicious oddments, trivia and curiosa, to brighten February:
Clay Felker is back precisely where he belongs at New York as an editorial consultant.
The president's good and close friend and sometime adviser, Dick Morris, raised the possibility in a television interview that the first lady might be a lesbian.
Steinbrenner named an office boy GM of the Yankees.
Two guys named Emil played the finals of the Australian Open while the rich and famous like Sampras and Agassi went home early.
Charlie Trie was arrested.
Consideration is being given to a "Titanic" sequel.
This new movie version of "Great Expectations" turns "Pip" into a New York artist who has "wild sex" with "Estella."
Leading Manhattan barman Pat Ford returned very suntanned from helping Smith & Wollensky open a new joint in South Beach. During the shakedown cruise, all alone tending the busy outdoor bar, Pat shoved a bucket into the hands of a "busboy" with orders to fetch some ice. "But I'm a customer," protested the fellow, "I don't do ice." "You will if you want it in your next drink," responded Pat. The guy got the ice.
The annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue party is tomorrow evening in Manhattan at the Metropolitan Pavilion.
George Stephanopoulos says he met Monica Lewinsky only once. At a Starbuck's.
Donald Trump's current date is a Romanian chess player named Annie Ilie, according to the brand new gossip column of The New York Times. That, and Stephanopoulos and Monica at Starbuck's, is about as racy as it gets.
Calvin Klein's new ads show handsome, buffed-bod, clean-skinned models who aren't dying of anything or didn't sleep in your doorway last night.
But the really heartwarming news is that Mike Tyson is broke. And suspects Don King.
Now I don't want to gloat over the misfortunes of others, and certainly don't doubt the bona fides of Mr. King, the Father Flanagan of the boxing ring, but how can you resist this marvelous exclusive in the New York Post by Wallace Matthews. Demanding "Show me the money!" reporter Matthews reveals that while Iron Mike earned purses of $112 million in six fights since getting out of prison, he's stoney. Down to 150 grand in walking around money and some houses and real estate. And, at the same time, he owes $7 million in back taxes.
Matthews wrote that Tyson's wife, Dr. Monica Turner, has been after Mike to demand an accounting. After all, while Mike was in durance vile, didn't his earlier fortune also somehow mysteriously vanish, at a time when he wasn't buying Bentleys or ladling out the cash to lap dancers at Score's. There was allegedly an ugly scene outside the Bel Air in L.A. the other night:
"The skirmish, witnessed by dozens of onlookers, apparently broke out when King, in an attempt to calm an agitated Tyson, put an arm around the fighter's shoulder. Tyson reportedly slapped King, shoved him and was ushered into a waiting car. King, desperate to hold on to the last salable commodity in his crumbling fight empire, followed Tyson to the car and opened the door -- only to be greeted with several kicks to the face."
Well, how's that for Damon & Pythias time, eh?
When Rupert Murdoch had his HQ at 730 Third Avenue in Manhattan, Don King used to be in the neighborhood. He and sports editor Jerry Lisker and Ferdie Pacheco, "the fight doctor," would tuck into the steaks at The Palm and you could drop by and listen to King yarn and admire his hair. Then one day when I was headed into Murdoch's office, Don King was just leaving. What's that about? I inquired.
What it was, said Rupert, was that King wanted Murdoch to buy for $10 million the world rights to Muhammad Ali's next championship fight. I forget now whether it was the "Thrilla in Manila" or the "Rumble in the Jungle." In any event, when Rupert had checked his notes, he realized the tab was now eleven mil and not ten. Mr. King smiled in benign explanation, "Oh, that additional million is for me off the top for bringing you this fine offer."
Mr. Murdoch passed on what turned out to be a terrific fight. And now, in an unhappy coda, Mr. King goes to trial St. Patrick's Day on government mail fraud charges.