DOES DAVE WANT OUT?

David Letterman, 43, is branching out. It's believed that Letterman, now in his ninth season at NBC's Late Night with David Letterman, may be growing weary of the four-nights-a-week grind and may be considering bailing out after the 10th season.

Dave's production company has come up with its first project for NBC, a sitcom for comedian Jeff Altman, a longtime buddy of Letter-man's. Additionally, NBC wants Letterman to do a new Saturday morning version of the old Howdy Doody Show, with Letterman producing. A Letterman spokesman denies that Dave wants out of Late Night, but confirmed the Altman and Howdy Doody projects (though Letterman wouldn't be hosting the show, à la Buffalo Bob Smith).

As for the big screen, Dave signed a 1988 Disney deal to make at least three movies.

BEATTY HAS A NEW DATE

About that pink diamond ring actress Kelly (Twins) Preston, 26, continues to wear even though the man who gave it to her, actor Charlie Sheen, broke off their yearlong engagement—well, apparently she takes it off when she sees Warren Beatty, 53.

That's right, Hollywood's most famous ladies' man may be at it again. Sources say Beatty and Preston have spent a few evenings together in recent weeks. Spokespersons for both deny any romantic implications, saying it's "just business" between them. Yeah, sure.

MONEY FOR THE SOUL

A feeding frenzy by those who can make money at the expense of jailed singer James Brown has begun.

Brown, 61, had been an inmate at State Park Correctional Center, near Columbia, S.C., since 1988 for aggravated assault and failure to stop for a police officer. Last month he was transferred to the minimum security Lower Savannah Work Center in Aiken, S.C., so he could join a work-release program. Brown is now working for the Aiken/Barnwell Counties Community Action Commission, a nonprofit agency that serves the area's poor and elderly.

The agency's status, however, hasn't stopped its executive director, George Anderson, from asking reporters for money in the form of a contribution to the agency in exchange for arranging an interview with Brown.

Similarly, Thomas Hart, a lawyer whose Washington, D.C.-based company is co-producing a TV documentary on Brown, has offered up the singer to reporters in return for money that Hart says will go not to Brown or himself, but toward financing his documentary.

Francis X. Archibald, a spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Corrections, said he was "shocked" by Anderson and Hart's money requests. He called the requests "reprehensible" and said the department is "this close to ending [Brown's] work-release." The department had earlier cracked down on Community Action's plan to have Brown perform at a fund-raising concert.

ARSENIO HALL GETS BUSY
Talk show host Arsenio Hall was spotted getting off a hotel elevator holding hands with singer Janet Jackson during her recent concert stop in Los Angeles. Janet says there's "no romance" and that she's still true to her steady, creative consultant Rene Elizondo. Nonetheless, the next day Hall had a lunch date with Jackson. While they dined in the hotel's restaurant, their respective secretaries dined together at a nearby table. Appropriately enough, it was Secretaries' Week.