THE BIG UNDERGRADUATE
It is the largest cap and gown in the history of academe, at least until Gheorghe Muresan gets his Ph.D. SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, 28, fulfilled a promise to his mother last Friday when he returned to Louisiana State University to accept his diploma, eight years after leaving school for the NBA. "I'm the first graduate of LSU in crayon biology," joked O'Neal, who actually earned a B.A. in general studies. Shaq cut things close, handing in a geology paper just a few days before the ceremony. Lakers coach Phil Jackson gave him an excused absence from Friday's game against Vancouver. "Here he is, almost 30, and he's graduating from college," said Jackson. "He's persevered to do it. We wish him well in his graduation. It's a wonderful thing to do." Added teammate Rick Fox: "It's good for him to go get that diploma; he might need it for a job application." Fox is dead now.
CHAT IN THE HAT
ROSIE O'DONNELL, whose ubiquity is surpassing Howie Long-Teri Hatcher levels, announced last week that she will step into the role of the Cat in the Hat in the struggling $10.5 million Broadway play Seussical: The Musical. "I really loved the show," O'Donnell told reporters, "and I thought the critics really did it a disservice with their reviews." In the week before O'Donnell's announcement, Seussical filled just 77% of seats at the Richard Rodgers Theater, and that's with New York City playing host to children-toting tourists from all over the world for the busy holiday season. Since the announcement, advance sales have doubled. O'Donnell, who made her Broadway debut in Grease, will fill in as the Cat for four weeks starting Jan. 16. She won't do weekend performances, though she has pledged to continue as host of her talk show, edit her magazine and annoy all from Monday to Friday.
DUDE, THESE GROUPIES ARE SO FREAKIN' HOT
In a bizarre exchange of identities, George W. Bush is President of the U.S., while AL GORE has launched his campaign for president of the DEKE house. After delivering his Wednesday-night concession speech, Gore threw back some beers and sweat through his shirt while dancing at an impromptu party at the Vice President's mansion that wound down around 3 a.m. Actually, the party was a bit of a downer until JON BON JOVI invited celebrity friends TOM PETTY, Stevie Wonder and others to swing by and jam. Aided by John Popper of Blues Traveler on harmonica and Tipper Gore on drums, the band played Beatles tunes while Al wore a rut in the dance floor with friends, aides and even model Naomi Campbell. Meanwhile, George W. Bush spent the night wondering where it all went wrong.