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For Gawd's sake, why can't they just leave J.D. Salinger be?

Golly, what a surprise! Johnnie Cochran taking up the cause of Latrell Sprewell. Funniest line on all this comes from Peter Vecsey of the New York Post, best basketball writer in the business. If he had to guess, says Peter, Spree will end up on the Dolphins.

Author Martin Russ writes re my recent column and insists his name rhymes with "fuss" and not "loose." But then, what does he know? Anyway, read anything the guy writes. He's a great one.

Conde Nast Traveler Publisher Lisa Henriques is hopping mad. She phoned from London re my recent item on Ed Kelly's Travel & Leisure ad page count. Lisa says 246 of Ed's ad pages are so-called "PIB-measured affiliated pages" courtesy of the mag's parent, American Express, and shouldn't be counted as full price business. What say, Ed?

In Santa Monica the Track 16 gallery has a show on currently of Christmas art and lit featuring material from the collection of Short Hills, N.J., ad agency chief George Meredith, prez of Gianettino & Meredith.

Wonderful Edward Sorel piece on cartoonist Charles Saxon of The New Yorker in November's American Heritage mag, including lots of Saxon's great drawings.

Very refreshing remarks from NBC's Tim Russert as he signed new seven-year contract, brushing off other offers. "When I grew up, I expected players to play for the same team their whole life. I have no desire to be a free agent."

Mode, the magazine for women who wear size 12 and above (65 million of them in America, they say), goes monthly in February, a year ahead of plan. Founders Nancy LeWinter and Julie Lewit, both vets of mainstream mag publishing, launched just a year ago and may really have something going here.

Michael Kilian's latest book, "Major Washington," comes out Feb. 16 (not the 22nd?) from St. Martin's Press. Kilian is a Washington correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and one of the most prolific and clever writers around. This new one is an original take on what young Washington was really like (no cherry trees) and how he may have touched off the French & Indian Wars singlehandedly. Wonderful stuff about a time not yet worked to death.

Publisher Linda Mason of Details says that for all the sturm und drang, the monthly closed the year up 5% with 1,088 ad pages. She says the October issue, new editor Michael Caruso's second, sold 44,000 more copies on the stands, about 25% higher than the issue a year back.

Hilarious Ron Rosenbaum column in The New York Observer about the Harvard-Yale game. Ron, a Yalie, is still trashing the Harvards over the 1968 game when the Elis lost a 16-point lead in the last 2 minutes and The Harvard Crimson's headline chortled, "Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29!" Come back to us, Ron.

A Happy Christmas and splendid New Year to all and especial thanks to those who read my stuff and take the care to write in about it. You are the best, most

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