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Jane and Ted: Back in the Saddle?

Brian Dunkleman, Jane Fonda, Ted Turner, Dan Quayle, Brian McNally, and more . . .

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Are Jane Fonda and Ted Turner rekindling their romance? A tipster tells us that friends and colleagues are buzzing that the two are dating again. They had been married for ten years when they split in 2001. Shortly afterward, the actress was quoted as saying, "Oddly enough, this is the most wonderful period of my life." Turner told reporters at the time that Fonda's newfound interest in Christianity came between them. (Clearly a problem for a man who has said that Christianity is "for losers" and once called a group of Catholic employees "Jesus freaks.") Since then, they've stayed close, but our tipster believes the friendship may have blossomed into something more as early as mid-summer. However, Fonda's rep says, "They're not back together, but they're very good friends."

Brian Dunkleman: Source of Idol Chatter

As reports come out that American Idol co-host Brian Dunkleman may get the boot from the hit TV show, we hear he was recently asked to leave the launch of the new three-day Las Vegas Comedy Festival as well. The trouble apparently started moments after Dunkleman arrived at the Wayne Newton Theater on September 7 and walked into the main-stage area, where Debbie Reynolds was holding a Q&A session with fans and the press. According to our source, Dunkleman was bitterly unhappy that no one recognized him. "He got very loud, rude, and disruptive in the middle of all these senior citizens," our source says. The final straw came when a blabbering Dunkleman tried to smuggle a cocktail backstage. He was told by organizers that hosts and performers were not allowed to drink before their gig. "He said, 'You don't know me very well, do you?' " our source reports. Less than an hour before he was slated to host a showcase of up-and-coming comics, Dunkleman was asked to leave by organizers. Luckily, local comedian Kathleen Dunbar was able to replace him at the last minute.

Dan Quayle: No Appetite for Politics

Former VP Dan Quayle must have TiVo. Quayle was spotted tucking into a meatloaf dinner at Gianfranco Sorrentino's Il Gattopardo on East 56th Street while President Bush was addressing the nation at 9 p.m. on September 11. Quayle apparently had no interest in current events that night. When a fellow diner came by to chat, one of Quayle's dinnermates was overheard telling her, "We're not talking politics tonight. We're here to eat dinner."

Brian McNally's Disappearing Act

Smith will survive. So says co-owner Maurice Bitton. The Lower East Side American bistro, which Bitton opened with Brian McNally to much hype last winter, came close to filing for bankruptcy recently, but Bitton claims he's attracted enough investors to pay off outstanding debts. There's still the McNally drama, however. He hasn't set foot in the place for four months, and Bitton says he's been trying to contact him about ending their partnership. When we reached McNally, he declined to talk about the bankruptcy proceedings or his financial stake in the restaurant. "I have nothing to do with it," he told us last week. "I have no control of what is happening at the moment." Bitton begs to differ, saying McNally is still a partner, albeit an unwanted one.

Verdi's New Opus

Robert Verdi, the gregarious, bald co-host of the Metro Channel's Full Frontal Fashion and of the Discovery Channel's new home-decorating show, Surprise by Design, is shopping around a TV talk show. Verdi, who is throwing a Fashion Week party on September 20 with disco maven Gloria Gaynor at Trust, told us last week he wants to have a "slap-happy, feel-good, fun entertainment program" that also includes some serious content: "Like Rosie did for children, my thing is going to be the elderly."

Family Ties

Ben Affleck has agreed to appear in an ad campaign featuring celebs and their gay relatives for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. He and a gay male cousin will appear in the ad with the tag line "Stay close." The Oscar winner was asked to be in the campaign by his aunt, and he's currently working on scheduling the photo shoot. Cyndi Lauper has already shot an ad with her lesbian sister. The campaign will launch sometime this fall.

Paper Trail

As if Martha Stewart doesn't have enough to worry about these days. It appears that Stewart's East Hampton house was recently toilet-papered. That's right: A spy reports seeing white toilet paper strewn through the hedges and around the front gate of her Lily Pond Lane estate on a recent Sunday morning: "It didn't look like one of her decorating projects."

With Catherine Townsend.


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