School Boss's Fear: Failing Jeopardy!
When the dream invitation from host Alex Trebek's team came in last spring to play Celebrity Jeopardy! Education Secretary Margaret Spellings was wildly happy-and equally worried. What if she bombed? Worse: What if she failed against the Hollywood stars she'd face? Couldn't happen, she vowed, scrambling to set up Jeopardy! study halls and prepare notebooks the likes of which she hadn't seen since graduating from the University of Houston. Spellings's biggest concern? Music, movies, and TV. "I was a little worried about pop culture categories like TV and movies," she confides to Whispers. "Fortunately, I had two teenage daughters helping me do my homework-a nice change for them!" Good thing: In her taping this month for the show being broadcast in November, Elton John was one of the categories.
More help came from her staff, who looked up past categories for strategy and trivia tips. "We helped her on everything from Shakespeare to Broadway musicals," says one. The chatty Texan took care of the charm, gabbing with Trebek about their shared Ukrainian heritage. Now, Jeopardy!'s rules block us from revealing the results, but rest assured, her charity choice, ProLiteracy Worldwide, got a nice check. That's because she didn't get skunked. "She was happy she didn't come in last," says a pal. Or in Jeopardy! form: What is relief, Alex?
The Newtster's New Friends at 1600
The Newt Gingrich for president buzz is back, and we're hearing it from a rather odd corner of Washington: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Top Bushies tell us that they think the former disgraced House speaker would make a great president. Gingrich thinks big, they say, and represents the old Reagan-style of smaller-government conservatism. As for his past marital infidelity, they think it's a nothing-burger, especially if he faces Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose hubby had his own problems she'd rather forget.
Now Pinch-Hitting for...Paul Harvey
Add successful radio host-and Paul Harvey fill-in-to former Sen. Fred Thompson's leading roles. The Watergate investigator turned Hollywood star turned senator and now Law and Order prosecutor turned up on ABC Radio last week during the first of two weeks he's taking over for Harvey. We had to ask: Is it as easy as Harvey makes it sound? "No way," says the folksy Thompson, whose wife is about to deliver their second child, a son, any day now. "He's the master. It's like pinch-hitting for Babe Ruth." Naturally, the news and comments during his two shows daily are laced with politics. But the Tennessee conservative avoids partisanship. "It's not," he says, "like what I say when I go out to raise money for my Republican friends."
For the Record, Dean Hates Fox
Just in case you're wondering if Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean attended the Fox News Channel anniversary party last week, the answer is simple. No way, no how. "I happen to despise Fox News because I think they're nothing but the propaganda arm of the Republican Party," he tells us. But he doesn't hate everybody there, even the Fox News Sunday host who recently grilled Bill Clinton on Iraq. "Let me just go on the record as saying I happen to like Chris Wallace. Let me just do that," he says.