EDWARD FIGHTS BACK

Fleet Street is at it again, successfully goading Britain's Prince Edward into loudly proclaiming, "I am not gay." Edward's denial of long-standing rumors of homosexuality came a week after an innuendo-filled item about the "touching friendship" between Edward, 26, and Michael Ball, 27, an actor, ran in Nigel Dempster's gossip column in the British Mail on Sunday. Ball had been in the London stage production of Aspects of Love, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Edward works as a production assistant for Lloyd Webber's Really Useful theatrical company (he's listed in the programs as Edward Windsor).

Edward's denial was his response to a direct question from a reporter for London's Daily Mirror at the Broadway opening night party last week for Aspects of Love. (Ball is in the show's New York City cast, and Edward came to Manhattan for the opening.) Breaking with the royal tradition of never discussing one's personal life—and certainly never one's sex life—Prince Edward said, "It's just outrageous to suggest this sort of thing. It's so unfair to me and my family. How would you feel if someone said you were gay? The rumors are preposterous." The Prince has since denied speaking to the Mirror.

As for Ball, he said he had spoken to the prince only a half dozen times, adding, "I don't know how people dream these things up." Buckingham Palace, not unexpectedly, had no comment.

FOLLOW THE RIVERS

In July 1988, Christi Rivers filed assault and battery charges against her husband of six years, '60s singer Johnny ("Secret Agent Man") Rivers, alleging in court documents that he gave her a black eye, chipped her tooth and broke her wrist in full view of their then 5-year-old daughter and twin 2-year-old sons. Four weeks later she dropped the charges in favor of a quick divorce, custody of the children and a $150,000 cash settlement to be paid out over a five-year period.

Regarding the money, she says now, "I was a jerk. Johnny was worth at least $10 million. But I wanted peace and freedom."

Since then Christi, 32, says she has had anything but peace and freedom. She says that Rivers, 47, can discontinue payments if she remarries or cohabits with anyone for 30 days during any 90-day period. This has not been easy on her new relationship with Todd Fisher, 32, a television commercial director and the son of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. "Johnny is an obsessive person, hounding us at every turn," says Christi. "He has had detectives following us. It's amazing Todd puts up with this."

Equally amazing is why she puts up with it. "I do it because I need the money," she says. "I'm in the hole for $50,000 in attorney's fees, which Johnny promised to pay but hasn't."

Johnny Rivers, through his attorney, denies his ex-wife's allegations and says any further comment would be "irresponsible and potentially harmful for the children."

NIELSEN-GASTINEAU SPLIT

In other news of battling couples, Brigitte Nielsen, 26, and Mark Gastineau, 33, are no longer a twosome. She has fled to Europe with the couple's 4-month-old baby, Marcus Gastineau Jr. "They are not getting along," says Joel Brokaw, Nielsen's publicist. A year ago Nielsen left the former New York Jet amid reports that he had beaten her, but they soon reconciled and announced she was pregnant. A source close to Nielsen says, "Mark is not beating her this time."

Mark is, however, beating a punching bag, since he is secretly training in Phoenix for a new career as a heavyweight boxer under the eye of Jimmy Glenn, a former cornerman for Floyd Patterson. Glenn says Gastineau will be ready to make his professional ring debut in several months but has yet to hook up with a promoter. Are you listening, Don King?