BEAT THE PRESS: George Harrison, who produced the 1986 flop Shanghai Surprise starring Madonna and Sean Penn, says the couple worsened the film's problems by their surliness to the media. He says the Penns could have taken a lesson in public relations from his old group, the Beatles. "The Beatles always handled the press brilliantly, and we had far more press than any pop star today," Harrison boasted to Britain's Woman's Own magazine. "We also had a sense of humor about it.... If there are dogs barking at your heels, it's much better to throw them a bone to keep 'em happy than totally ignore them. You've got to keep your sense of humor. Madonna and Sean took it all too seriously."

HOCKEY SHTIK: As bad jokes go, did you hear the one about the attempt at stand-up comedy by the Philadelphia Flyers' Dave Brown? He's the hockey player who got a 15-game suspension for intentionally hitting New York Ranger Tomas Sandstrom in the head with his stick, causing a concussion. At Philly's Comedy Factory Outlet, Brown, wearing funny nose glasses, went onstage between regular acts. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that "lusty cheers" greeted him. His jokes, however, never seemed to find punch lines and "were received, for the most part, with respectful silence." Brown, who offered only a prepared statement after his Nov. 2 suspension, was able to skate over the icy reception by waving his hockey stick above his head shouting, "Hey, Sandstrom!" and later advising, "If someone is really giving you a bad time—high stick 'em." Class act.

THE TOMES, THEY ARE A-CHANGING: Count on front-running feminist Gloria Steinem to offer an interesting new way to measure progress in women's equality. Before an awards ceremony in New York, an acquaintance mentioned that he was reading a book about Clark Gable's women. Ms. Ms. magazine piped in, "Well, when they write a book about Steinem's men, then I'll know we've gotten somewhere." No word on the length of that volume.

GNAWING QUESTIONS: He's long had a reputation for sinking his teeth into politicians, but ABC's snappy White House correspondent Sam Donaldson has to grin and bear periodic reports that he bites women. The latest account, in the Washington Times last month, had Donaldson chomping on a White House secretary's hand. "It was a friendly nip," the woman said later. Two earlier reports had Donaldson biting an airline stewardess' bum in 1976 and ABC's Bettina Gregory's arm in 1980. "To my knowledge [the Gregory story] was the beginning of the Donaldson Bites Women stories," says Sam, who insists that he didn't bite her or anyone else. "I was known as the guy who bites women, not because you can find women who will testify I bit them, but because of that story and the fact I fueled the flames by going 'grrrr' and 'errrr.' " But such stories no longer amuse him, he says. "Can you imagine if I bit women on the rear end in public?" Not to beg a certain question, he adds, "There's no way I'm going to discuss what goes on in the privacy of my bedroom, but I don't do it there, I can tell you that."

LIP SERVICE: Margaret Whitton, the seductress who snatched Michael J. Fox's bathing suit in The Secret of My Success, has strict standards for her real-life beaux. "I don't trust men who don't dance, don't remember their dreams and don't have lips," says the actress, who next seduces the actor (Frank Whaley) playing the younger version of Jack Nicholson's character in his new film, Ironweed. So who makes the grade? Michael J. Fox, for one. "He definitely has lips. He's a great kisser," says Whitton. "But the best kisser is Raul Julia [Whitton's co-star onstage in, appropriately enough, Dracula]. As a public service they should put him on a street corner and let everybody kiss him." Guess who'll be first in line?