ROLLIN', ROLLIN', ROLLIN'...
"The western has been pronounced dead so many times for so many years, and I imagine it will be pronounced dead another 20 times before the century is over," says Clint Eastwood, 62, whose latest movie, Unforgiven, is, yup, a western. Eastwood believes there's life in the horse operas yet (a notion borne out by the film's $15 million business at the box office on its opening weekend), recalling that after he shot A Fistful of Dollars in Italy in 1963, everyone stateside told him oaters were over the hill. "Then there was a little article in Daily Variety saying that the western was dead but there was this little film in Italy. Per an Pugno di Dollari, that was doing really well. I didn't think much of it. The film I made [originally had another title], and [Variety] didn't say who was in it," says Eastwood. "A week later there's another story on Pugno di Dollari and how fantastic it's doing. I just looked at it with mild curiosity. Then in another week there was another thing talking about Pugno di Dollari 'with Clint Eastwood,' and I said, 'Wait a second! What am I doing in this?' Then I realized that they changed the title."

THE PARTY LINE
Stand-up comic Paula Poundstone, who served as The Tonight Show's political correspondent during the Democratic Convention last month, has been cramming to prepare for the same job at this week's COP gathering in Houston. "My manager got me a subscription to The New York Times a month ago, and I believe I'm now 29 days behind in reading it," says Poundstone, 32. "But I watch MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, C-Span and Washington Week in Review. I want to be able to drop an occasional intellectual political phrase into my conversation, but I don't want to have a thorough understanding of any of the ideas."And Poundstone. a Democrat who spoke earlier this year at a rally on behalf of Bill Clinton, has a personal agenda for the Republican Convention. "My goal is to meet Mark Shields, one of the political analysts on MacNeil/Lehrer. He's very intellectual, he's from Massachusetts [where Poundstone was raised], and he's also very cuddly looking. It's a combination he is probably not aware of."

NO LOVE GAME
Battle lines are being drawn as tennis titans Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova gear up for their $500,000 winner-take-all, two-out-of-three sets Battle of the Sexes showdown on Sept. 25 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas (and available on pay-per-view). "It's gonna be a war," promises Connors, who turns 40 on Sept. 2. "I've always said I hate to lose more than I like to win, and this is probably more important than earning my own banner. Everyone wants to see if women can compete against men. When Billie Jean king [beat] Bobby Riggs [in 1973], it was difficult to take. But let's set the record straight here." Connors will be playing with two handicaps: He gets only one serve to the 35-year-old Navratilova's two, and he has to cover half the width of the doubles lanes while she covers only the regulation singles court. "I was the best in the men's game for eight years or so," says Connors, undaunted. "My goal now is to be the unofficial women's champion."