September 26, 2003 02:21 PM

PLIMPTON DIES: George Plimpton, the noted author (“Paper Lion”) and editor (“The Paris Review”), 76, died Thursday night at his Manhattan apartment, his friend of 40 years, Manhattan restaurateur Elaine Kaufman, tells the Associated Press. Praised as a “central figure in American letters” when inducted in 2002 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Plimpton also enjoyed a lifetime of making literature out of nonliterary pursuits. He was a Bedouin extra in “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), a bit player in Frank Sinatra‘s “The Detective” (1968), and the character Bill Ford in “Paper Lion” (1968), a film based on his own account of his brief football career (Alan Alda played Plimpton). He even appeared in an episode of “The Simpsons,” playing a professor who runs a spelling bee, AP reports.

EMMY FAVES: Though the TV Academy on Sunday gave the lion’s share of its Emmys to “The Sopranos” — including wins for leads James Gandolfini and Edie Falco — the HBO Mob hit still didn’t claim the top prize, for outstanding dramatic series. It went instead to NBC’s “The West Wing.” Meanwhile, the evening’s most-nominated show, HBO’s “Six Feet Under,” went home empty-handed. The popular CBS sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” won for comedy series, as well as for supporting players Doris Roberts and Brad Garrett and for comedy series writing.

ARNOLD’S OFFER: The candidates came out slugging at Wednesday night’s 90-minute debate featuring California’s gubernatorial hopefuls, including Arnold Schwarzenegger. Columnist Arianna Huffington, an independent, came at Schwarzenegger, a Republican, about his links to business interests, Reuters reports. Firing back at her about her personal tax return, Schwarzenegger huffed, “Your personal income tax had the biggest loophole. I could drive my Hummer through it.”

MEGAN MARRIES: “Will & Grace”‘s Megan Mullally took a husband last weekend, TV’s “Entertainment Tonight” reported. In a private ceremony Saturday night at the couple’s Los Angeles home, Mullally, 44 (who plays Karen on the sitcom), surprised guests by marrying fiance Nick Offerman, 32. “We had our family and closest friends fly out, and told people we were having an Emmy party,” Mullally told “E.T.” “When they arrived, we said, ‘Welcome to our wedding!'”

MEL’S MOVE: Mel Gibson — still embroiled in the controversy swirling around his film about the crucifixion of Jesus, “The Passion” — is negotiating with Warner Bros. to produce (and likely star in) a movie based on William Queen’s upcoming book “Under and Alone,” said the Hollywood Reporter. The non-fiction title, to be published next June, tells how Queen (for three years an undercover cop in Southern California’s office of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) infiltrated the Mongols motorcycle gang. He then entered the federal witness protection program.

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