Sit. Stay. Good Co-Host!

Doesn't "Rover" mean anything to anyone anymore?

If yesterday's Susans and Debbies have been supplanted by Tiffanys and Briannas, don't think Tiffany's best friend gets off Scottie free. Whither Fido, you ask? Probably to his reward. The new breed answers to Humbert Humbert, Queen Latifah II and King Louis.

"King Louis is named after, I guess, an ottoman, some kind of furniture," muses Ed Krasnick. "I think as the millennium approaches, a lot of the animals are going to start taking more regal names. Like, Napoleon was in this morning. Also we had Pharaoh."

Since Pharaoh lives in L.A., he's shilling for TV work, natch. And because Pharaoh is Pharaoh, he just might get it.

"We're approaching Passover," producer Krasnick says, "so Passover sweeps is coming up."

It's a jungle out there, there being the Burbank studios of the Animal Planet channel's "The Pet Shop With Andy Kindler." Talk-show host Kindler, who interviews celebrities with their much shorter charges, would be very happy to read here that he's the David Letterman of the pet set. (You can thank us later.) Under the circumstances, he needs a Paul Shaffer to call his own--only Kindler's probably needs a couple of extra feet.

To that end, 32 dogs, two cats, one bird and a fish--several with head shots and resumes--have answered Animal Planet's cattle call for sidekick auditions. And the tension is thick. As we arrive, Krasnick describes the scene:

"There's a lot of breathing going on. A lot of barking scales, neck rolls, what have you. Mainly there's a lot of reading, because they will be asked to read from some of the classic plays, mostly Paddy Chayefsky. A lot of these dogs are going to be mad as hell, and they won't be able to take it anymore at the end of the audition process."

Producers are also looking for a pet who's into kissing Kindler when appropriate. "Hopefully not running," Krasnick adds. "No pouncing. No peeing. No eliminating, as we like to call it in the business."

Speaking of which, the Pet Shoppers have thoughtfully lined the hall to the audition room with newspaper in case any auditioners care to eliminate.

We follow the newspapers to find Dakota sitting on our face, in a manner of speaking. We briskly inform his dad, actor Mike Blackburn, that his springer spaniel is having his way with our column.

Blackburn is humble in the face of this righteous criticism. "He wanted to read it, but he was being pressured into the interview."

Stage owners.

Just before the auditions start, we discover that the fix is in. It's a dog's world.

"My fear is a cat would be too not into the show," Kindler confides. "I'm afraid it wouldn't be sycophantic enough. I want that sycophantic Kevin Eubanks quality."

Outside the audition room, Eddie, a.k.a. Eduardo, is the first hot dog to be grilled by Krasnick.

"Does he have any stage training?" he asks Eddie's owner, Joanna Stein.

"No."

"Paper training?"

"Yes."

Inside, Kindler reads Eddie the ground rules:

"You can be funny and entertaining, but please do not be funnier and more entertaining than me. Chewing, scratching or in any way altering the couch is forbidden. If Eddie should have the job, I want him to be clean and to smell good, but I do not want him to smell better than me."

See for yourself when "The Pet Shop" airs the auditions and callbacks in April. Also coming up is an interview with Slash and a few of his 300 reptiles.

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In Boxer's Corner: Don't feel bad. We weren't invited either. Neither were Roseanne and Oliver Stone, for that matter, but that didn't stop them from crashing last weekend's Democratic fund-raiser with headliner President Clinton.

"When Roseanne comes or Oliver Stone shows up, you don't say, 'You can't come in,' " says someone who was there.

The bash to help bankroll the reelection of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer was held on the tennis court of Green Acres Estate, the palatial Beverly Hills home of Clinton pal and supermarket magnate Ron Burkle. The party, which raised $800,000, was co-hosted by real estate investor Sim Farar, Boxer's national chairman and a member of Clinton's Advisory Committee on the Arts.

Romance was in the air--the romance between the Democrats and Hollywood, which turned out in force: Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, Sherry Lansing, Rob Reiner, Bud Yorkin, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, Christine Lahti, and Whoopi Goldberg and Frank Langella.

There was also the kiss-and-show romance between Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche, who impressed onlookers as a "very, very romantic couple. I've never seen anybody that hot for one another, despite rumors of their breakup," says our spy.

And a good time was had by Clinton, despite recent reports from Washington that he's seething with rage at independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr. "The guy was having a wonderful time and was very sociable."

In fact, Clinton tarried at the ball. He was due back in Deer Valley, Utah, by midnight, but he didn't get there until 3 in the morning. The Clintons were vacationing at Jeffrey Katzenberg's estate in honor of daughter Chelsea's 18th birthday.

"He doesn't ski, but all he could talk about was Hillary and Chelsea skiing," our informant says. "He stays in the house and reads books."

*

Tiger Burning Brightly: One minute Tiger Woods was coming off a crushing defeat to Billy Mayfair in the Nissan Open. The next, the golf great was graciously thanking his parents at a benefit honoring him as a Magic Johnson Sports Achievement Award winner. American Golf Corp. CEO David G. Price was another winner, scoring the Jerry Buss Humanitarian Award at the Century Plaza Hotel fete benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Assn.

Woods' romance with the spotlight hasn't always been so smooth, but he seems to have rebounded nicely. As paparazzi popped his son, Woods' mentor, Earl, reflected on his son's unseen challenges.

"It is hard. Try not sleeping in your bed for four months on the road, nobody out there your age, your race, your culture."

Beyond that, he said, people haven't always cut his son enough slack while he grapples with the extra difficulty of growing up in the public eye.

"Can you imagine for one second Tiger's impact on the PGA tour if he was a black McEnroe, with his conduct and his mouth? People would crucify him. They have their expectations of Tiger and Tiger has his own expectations, which fortunately far exceed those that anyone else has of him."

But if Tiger Woods' off-and-on romance with the press is back on, the champ wasn't taking any chances. He brought half a dozen bodyguards, who formed a cone of silence around him and Johnson while KCAL-TV (Channel 9) news anchor Pat Harvey interviewed them before the dinner.

"They were like 'Men in Black' with their [dark] glasses," said one observer. "It's a bit excessive, don't you think? Like, who's going to attack him at a muscular dystrophy dinner?"

*

Starring the Producer: Julia Phillips may not be eating lunch in this town, but the mouthy producer was certainly eating dinner--ballroom chicken breast with carrots and roasted potatoes, to be specific. Also on the menu were the Producers Guild of America's ninth annual Golden Laurel Awards, which honored a bevy of filmmakers, among them Warner Bros. honchos Bob Daly and Terry Semel, Garry Marshall, Clint Eastwood, Uberto Pasolini of "The Full Monty," and South Parkers Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Veteran Phillips--along with her ex, Michael Phillips, and Tony Bill--was inducted into the guild's Hall of Fame for "The Sting." As she peered into the jaws of eternity, Phillips took a moment to reflect on developments over the past quarter-century.

"The 'sting' has come to mean a whole other thing from what it started out meaning," she said. "It just used to mean when a fool was parted from his money. Now it's government operations, with that woman being tripped up by a female impersonator who calls herself Linda."

Meanwhile, the Beverly Hilton Hotel was crawling with the new guard as well as the old. "Titanic" parent James Cameron surfed his winning streak by picking up a nifty Darryl Zanuck Theatrical Producer of the Year knickknack for his mantelpiece.

But if the multiple Oscar nominee is being drowned by praise, he's smart enough to come up for air every now and then. While his disaster film breaks records, he noted that the titanic moneymaker remains "Gone With the Wind."

"If you present-valued 'Gone With the Wind' based on admissions, it's a billion-dollar movie. A lot of people forget that.

"There are certain universal things that audiences care about, and every once in a while they come back to those bases and they want character. They want story. They don't want hyperkinetic editing and visual gimmickry. These things are very cyclical, and we just happen to be doing the right thing at the right time."

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