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Bada Bing

“Strip clubs” and “organized crime” are not phrases usually associated with Leon Wieseltier, the vaunted literary editor of The New Republic, who seems perfectly cast for the part of hobnobbing in a Georgetown salon with Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.).

But Wieseltier did a star turn on Sunday night’s episode of “The Sopranos,” the runaway hit on HBO, which also featured cameos from former NFL great Lawrence Taylor and rock star David Lee Roth.

“It beats ‘Crossfire,’” Wieseltier told HOH. “Every once in a while God sends me some icing for my cake. This is some icing.”

Wieseltier played the role of a rich guest dancing away at the wedding of a relative in New Jersey. He freaks out after learning that mobsters have beaten up the valets and stolen all of the luxury cars — including Wieseltier’s Mercedes SL 500 convertible — during the party.

“It was a big candy store — it was an all-night shoot at the New Jersey Botanical Gardens,” recalled Wieseltier, who drives an Acura in real life.

“I drive an intellectual’s car — with a baby seat in the back,” said the proud father who, along with wife Jennifer Bradley, has a 22-month-old son named Matthew.

All in the Family. Actor Joe Pantoliano, who got whacked from his role on “The Sopranos” last season, thinks he may have what it takes to replace Jack Valenti as Hollywood’s top lobbyist.

“I think I would be a great candidate,” Pantoliano, a news junkie who was watching the 9/11 commission hearings during a telephone interview last week, told HOH. “But I’d have to take a pay cut.”

Pantoliano’s interest in the job, however, brightened a bit when he heard that the post pays about $1.3 million a year.

“It does? Is there a per diem?” asked Pantoliano, who was only half-joking. “Tell ’em to give me a call — my career is in the toilet anyway.”

Pantoliano is one of the hosts of tonight’s 2004 Capitol Hill Spotlight Awards and First Annual Gift Bag Spree Benefit Gala, sponsored by The Creative Coalition at B&B Italia in Georgetown. Gift bags have become all the rage at Hollywood confabs, and the invite is promising that guests will be able to “choose — based on your ticket level — the most deluxe and state-of-the-art merchandise” from the worlds of fashion, beauty, entertainment, electronics and travel.

Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke will be presenting the spotlight award to her son, Sean Astin, of “Lord of the Rings” fame. Others receiving awards will be Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews — as well as Rep. Mary Bono (R-Calif.), whose name has also come up for the presidency at the Motion Picture Association of America from time to time.

Pantoliano actually thinks that if he can’t grab the MPAA’s millions, the job should go to ex-Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.). The duo co-starred in the 1994 flick “Baby’s Day Out.”

“I just think he’s a bright, charming, caring individual,” said Pantoliano. “I think Fred Thompson is the obvious guy — he’s a former Senator and he’s been in the business. I’ll stick my neck out a bit for him.”

As for the presidential race, Pantoliano calls himself a “Democrat who’s on the fence” and has not been swayed by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) just yet.

“Al Sharpton was my favorite,” he said. “He’s so spontaneous and such a bright man.”

As for Kerry’s VP choice, the actor added, “I’d like to him pick — what’s his name, the Republican, McCain!”

C-SPAN-ers Unite. Late-night talk show host Jon Stewart stole the show at Saturday night’s gala dinner celebrating the 25th anniversary of C-SPAN, a staff reunion that drew former network employees from as far away as China.

In true C-SPAN fashion, low-key network founder Brian Lamb made sure that the focus was on company employees — so he didn’t invite lawmakers or other Washington VIPs.

But C-SPAN did show a video that featured Stewart revealing that he “downed my entire hotel mini-bar to the last drop” one night while he watched the following scene.

Then the camera panned to a shot of C-SPAN2, with the reading clerk droning on through a roll call of, “Mrs. Boxer … Mr. Breaux … Mr. Brownback …”

Stewart also poked fun at Lamb, host of the “Booknotes” program, saying he once featured a tome that chronicled the “history of vulcanized rubber” on the show.

The more than 900 guests in attendance signed a big poster that was presented to Lamb.

King of the Hill? Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is firing back at for suggesting that his political stock is plummeting in the wake of controversial comments he has made about Muslims in connection with the rollout of his new novel about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The influential Web site, which is obsessively checked by New York politicos, declared that King “prides himself on being the defender of all things Catholic” and thus is falling in the site’s latest stock index.

“So it came as a surprise when King foolishly remarked that 85 percent of the nations [sic] mosques have ‘extremist leadership,’” said the site. “How would King react if a self-proclaimed leader said 85 percent of priests in Catholic parishes were child molesters? Too often Congressman King forgets to think before he opens his mouth.”

King told HOH that the site is a “Democratic rag” that is “six weeks behind the news” about his novel.

“I’m doing fine,” said King. “Based on my mail, I’m definitely on the winning side and I’m on the right side. I stand behind everything — politically, morally, every which way.”

Roving Protest. One day after getting under the skin of White House aide Karl Rove by staging a dramatic protest outside his Washington home, the National People’s Action took its traveling road show to Capitol Hill on Monday.

The Chicago-based group spent Sunday protesting outside the homes of Rove and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao to bring attention to administration policy on immigration and labor issues. The noisy protesters, who pulled up outside Rove’s house in yellow school buses, sparked calls to the Secret Service to restore order.

“Yeah, we had 800 people on Karl Rove’s lawn,” boasted NPA spokeswoman Tracy Van Slyke.

That sparked some concern when the group pulled up outside the Russell Senate Office Building on Monday in their signature school buses. But Capitol Police officers were pleasantly surprised to learn that the guests had merely arrived to attend an issues briefing with Hill staffers. They entered the building without incident.

Flack Final Four. House Democratic press secretaries are duking it out in an NCAA pool that’s coming down to the wire, with Brendan Daly of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (Calif.) office among those in the hunt for the big prize.

Only pride — not money — is on the line, so nobody is running afoul of any gambling laws. And Pelosi aide Stacy Kerr has been keeping everyone in the loop on the standings with regular limericks, including this one that went out by e-mail Monday:

“Brendan Daly picked Duke to go all the way

With 69 points, Monday could be his day. 

And LaDedra Drummond with Jackson-Lee picked OK State as the winner

If they pull it out, she could have a victory dinner!

Our friend Lars Anderson got lucky and is on the rise

He’s finally saved himself from true demise. 

For Matthew Beck with Rep. Baird has taken over for last

His picks toward the end caused him to fall fast.

Now the games are winding down, only two left to go

The madness soon over, some will feel low.” 

Zach Miller contributed to this report.

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