March 09, 2005 08:50 AM

REASSURED: Former President Bill Clinton, who will undergo a low-risk medical procedure on Thursday to remove fluid and scar tissue from the left side of his chest, told reporters in Washington on Tuesday: “It’ll knock me out of commission for a week or two, and then I’ll be back to normal. I’m not in too bad a shape,” he added. “I feel good.” The procedure, to take place at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, comes six months after he underwent quadruple bypass surgery. Clinton, 58, will remain hospitalized for three to 10 days and is expected to make a “full functional recovery,” doctors said.

FILED: A Toronto-area woman who failed in her attempt to bring a criminal case against Bill Cosby filed a civil lawsuit on Tuesday against the entertainer, accusing him of battery, assault, infliction of emotional distress, defamation and invasion of privacy. Last month, Montgomery County declined to press criminal charges, citing insufficient evidence of the woman’s claims. Her complaint, filed in Philadelphia, alleges Cosby, 67, gave her pills when she told him she was suffering from stress and then groped her. Cosby’s lawyer has not seen the suit and isn’t commenting, according to reports.

WHUPPED: The new Sylvester Stallone and Mark Burnett NBC reality show, The Contender, took a beating in the ratings when it debuted Monday night. The boxing show was KO’d by competition from CBS’s Two and a Half Men and CSI: Miami, which attracted nearly 20 million viewers, compared to Contender‘s 8.1 million, according to Nielsen Media Research. Still, the new show fared well among men 18-34, who tuned in instead of watching ABC’s reality combo of Boss Swap and Supernanny. Meanwhile, the debut of Kirstie Alley’s new Showtime comedy Fat Actress fared much better, drawing 1 million viewers Monday night, making it the cable network’s highest-rated series premiere in five years, the New York Post reports.

RELEASED: Former Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon went home from the hospital Tuesday after being treated for injuries from a fall at his Beverly Hills home, his publicist tells the Associated Press. McMahon, who spent his 82nd birthday in the hospital Sunday, received several stitches for a gash in his forehead and suffered a mild concussion when he tripped and fell Friday afternoon. “I feel great and now I’m going to celebrate my 82nd birthday properly,” McMahon said in a statement.

SUBBED: Bound by a gag order not to talk about the Michael Jackson trial, because he has been subpoenaed as a potential witness, Tonight Show host Jay Leno, 53, is relying on comic guests to deliver his jokes. So far he’s had Brad Garrett, and, more recently, Dennis Miller. Still, on Monday Leno let slip how he imagined a phone conversation between Jackson and Martha Stewart. “He wanted to know what it was like to be a white woman in prison,” said Leno, before putting his hands over his mouth. An NBC source tells The New York Times that the network believes Leno isn’t gagged against telling jokes, because he is a “public personality.”

PREPARED: Dan Rather, 73, is due to bid farewell to CBS Evening News Wednesday night – the 24th anniversary of his taking over for Walter Cronkite. Rather’s 24 years in the position gave him the longest-running continuous tenure in the anchor chair for a network newscaster. He will become a full-time reporter for CBS’s 60 Minutes franchise. On his final broadcast, Rather is expected to reflect upon some of the biggest stories he’s covered and deliver a personal message to viewers.

SPLIT: Model and aspiring actress April Florio, 22, who was very briefly blamed for helping break up the Jennifer Aniston-Brad Pitt marriage (though it turned out she only ever spoke to Pitt for a few minutes years ago), is separating from her husband, Florida fireman Thomas Bieler, she tells New York’s Daily News. “My attention was toward the whole Brad Pitt thing,” she says, “so I’m sure that had something to do with it. Tom’s an insecure guy and needs a lot of attention.” Bieler, 23, tells the paper he hopes to patch things up.

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