KKK pulls an irksome road duty

Welcome to Irony Central, also known as Jefferson City, Mo. Sometimes all the greasy sleight of hand that’s so practiced by politicians works in the name of good. That’s what will happen next Tuesday when Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan signs legislation to create Rosa Parks Highway, a portion of Interstate 55 near downtown St. Louis.

The irony comes in when the Ku Klux Klan puts on the white gloves to pick up the trash from the side of the road. The white supremacy group had won the right to join the state’s Adopt-A-Highway cleanup program in December and was assigned that highway stretch. Civil rights activists and the KKK almost busted a gut one from laughing, one from being mighty irked when a St. Louis senator, Democrat Bill Clay Jr., immediately filed legislation to rename that cleanup area after the pioneer who refused to give up her Montgomery, Ala., bus seat in 1955.

“I think the governor appreciates the irony of the KKK picking up trash along the Rosa Parks Highway,” spokesman Jerry Nachtigal said Monday. “But regardless of how it’s done, honoring Rosa Parks is a very noble thing to do.” Parks in a statement said she appreciates the tribute and that “too many have suffered at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan.” The 87-year-old Detroit resident added that while she wasn’t sure about the Klan’s purpose in adopting the interstate for cleanup, “I hope some good will come out of it.”

Meanwhile Thomas Robb, national director of the Ku Klux Klan in Harrison, Ark., huffed that the governor’s decision was a “betrayal of white Christians.” Now, do those hoods come with orange reflective striping so that cars can see them when they pick up the litter?

SWEEPS, ER, SWEEP HIM OFF HIS FEET: Lots of trendy television shows have a gay character, but romance on shows like “Will & Grace” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” has been mostly affirming hugs. So now, small screen primetime grows up with The WB teen soap opera, “Dawson’s Creek,” when Jack (Kerr Smith) puckers up with Ethan (Adam Kaufman). Executive producer Greg Berlanti said that the kiss is, ahem, not a ratings ploy. “Jack has been developing this friendship with Ethan since the midpoint of this year,” he explains. “This culminates where Jack is in a place where he can kiss Ethan. He’s ready to identify himself as gay and take it to the physical level.”

Scott Seomin of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation heralds this as a landmark move. “This is the first romantic kiss between two gay men on prime-time network TV,” he says. “And it took a network like The WB, which is still new and not afraid to take chances, to make it happen.” Now if we can just stop Scully and Mulder from lip locking, we’ll all be fine.

TURNER AND COUNTING: Dolly Parton hopes her “9 to 5” co-star Jane Fonda will get back into acting now that she “doesn’t have to answer to Ted Turner anymore.” She told TV Guide, “I think people would love to see us do another movie together.”

Parton also relates how inexperienced she was when she was filming her feature debut. “I had never seen a movie made, and I didn’t know they were shot out of sequence I thought it was like a play, so I memorized every word of the script. To this day, Jane thinks that’s one of the funniest things she’s ever heard.”

Fonda, who in January separated with Turner after eight years of marriage, has expressed no plans to return to acting, although many, including her brother, Peter Fonda, have publicly urged for her return. Her other “9 to 5” co-star, Lily Tomlin, has added to the chorus: “I’d work with Jane again in a minute.”

In the meantime, 61-year-old Turner has joined the mad rush to the cradle, dating 28-year-old Karen Rosenfeld, an adjunct professor at Marymount Manhattan College. The New York Daily News called up the twenty-something, who confirmed the pairing but said “I don’t feel comfortable talking to you, so I’m hanging up.” Rosenfeld, working on a doctoral degree at Columbia University, also declined to discuss her dissertation by calling it “too boring.” Considering that she’s dating the founder of CNN and vice chairman of Time Warner, she might want to milk that “boring” topic as a polite way to stave off the gossipmongers.

Today’s People Column was compiled by Vera H-C Chan from staff and wire reports. Comments? Write to us c/o the Times, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099. Or call 925-943-8262, fax 925-943-8362, or e-mail


Saturday salute: To Charles Schultz. Cartoonists will honor the late “Peanuts” creator in Saturday strips, on the same day that the National Cartoonists Society presents his widow, Jean, with the organization’s lifetime achievement award in New York.

Birthdays: Lyricist Hal David (79), actress Jeanne Crain (75), author Robert Ludlum (73), former opera singer Beverly Sills (71), former White House news secretary Ron Nessen (66), country singer-songwriter Tom T. Hall (64), actor Ian McKellen (61), actress Dixie Carter (61), country singer Jessi Colter (57), actress-singer Leslie Uggams (57), movie director and Muppeteer Frank Oz (56), actress Karen Valentine (53), rock singer Klaus Meine of The Scorpions (52), actress Patti D’Arbanville (49), actress Connie Sellecca (45), rock singer-musician Paul Weller (42), actor-comedian Mike Myers (37), actress Anne Heche (31), actor Jamie Kennedy (30), actor Justin Henry (29), singer Lauryn Hill (25), actor Corbin Allred (21).