Ordinarily, Movie Madness, the video rental store on Southeast Belmont, is packed on a weekend Ñ lines winding back past the special gay and lesbian section almost to new foreign releases. Saturday afternoon, the place was almost empty. É 'Everybody's home watching the war,' said Spencer Howell, working behind the counter. É Either that or the NCAA basketball tournament, I guess. Or why not turn to Channel 6, where CBS is carrying the entire tournament from start to finish, and watch them both? É Of course you might get a case of whiplash, what with a somber Dan Rather ('When news breaks out, we break in') cutting in every now and then Ñ but as Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman once said, war is difficult on all concerned. I forget the exact quote.

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Meanwhile, on the home front, Frank Nudo is still chortling over the plug he got from famous actor Benicio Del Toro on national TV. É In an interview aimed at pumping up interest for 'The Hunted,' Del Toro, bless his heart, named Nick's Famous Coney Island as one of his two favorite restaurants in P-town Ñ the other being Saucebox, the chichi eatery on Southwest Broadway. É 'I'm surprised he didn't throw Bluehour in there, too,' says Frank most generously. É Local best-selling author Chuck ('Fight Club') Palahniuk's latest book isn't a novel at all, but what industry sources who've seen the manuscript describe as a 'guidebook to Portland's seamier side' Ñ including visits to the city's strip clubs, lingerie modeling establishments and, of course, the Ace of Hearts, the sex club on Southeast 39th. É 'The chamber of commerce won't be pleased,' Palahniuk figures. É Can't wait to see it, myself.

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More proof the world is coming to an end: According to City Hall sources, management contracts for the city-owned Smart Park lots are actually going out for bids this time. É For the last decade or so, they've been a cash cow of the Portland Business Alliance and its forerunners. É Grocery guru Brian Rohter, of the burgeoning New Seasons grocery store chain, insists he's not targeting his old outfit, Nature's. But you couldn't prove it by the location of his latest, scheduled to open next year at 20th and Division Ñ just 10 blocks west of you'll-never-guess-who. É Next time, maybe they'll remember to get a noncompete clause.

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Boats Johnson advises that there's no truth whatsoever to the rumor that the Grand Ronde tribe, which offered to finance a baseball stadium in the Portland area, got turned down because they insisted that the team be called the Caucasians. É Personally, I think he's making the whole thing up. É Spotted in the rear window of a white Jeep, written in type so small it couldn't be seen from more than a few feet away: 'The world's worst drivers closely follow me.' É You probably had to be there to appreciate it. É And finally, will someone please tell Art Kaplan to quit malingering and check himself out of St. Vincent's? The octogenarian, who had a quadruple bypass last week, was an eager young prosecutor back in vice scandal days of 1957, afterward going on to work for Bobby Kennedy. He was also a great help to me on my Portland Confidential series, and I'm counting on him to help me finish the book. C'mon, Art.

Contact Phil Stanford by phone at 503-546-5166 or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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