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Tammy Faye puts on a happy face; Leary, celebs set to face-off

THE EYES HAVE IT "One of the boys brought me this," confided Tammy Faye Messner, clutching a can of Tab. "It was like God whispering in my ear . . . I love Tab." Leave it to Tammy Faye's boys, her young male admirers, to know what the televangelist-turned-icon to gays likes to drink. At Club Cafe to sign copies of her latest book, "I Will Survive . . . And So Will You!" Tammy Faye was greeted with gleeful reverence, a heavily made-up messiah to her acolytes. (On her last visit to Boston, we were told, the clouds actually parted when she took the stage at a gay pride celebration.) Part of Tammy Faye's appeal, of course, is her look, which might be described as a cross between Emmett Kelly and Mrs. Roper. But there's a message, too, which resonates with her boys. "I just love everyone," she explained, "even the person no one else likes." (An ardent Republican, Tammy Faye was quick to note she "likes" Hillary Rodham Clinton, but no way would she vote for her.) Nearby, her manager Joe Spotts marveled at Tammy Faye's energy as she bounced up from her seat to plant another rouge smooch on an adoring fan. So, he was asked, how old is she? "She'll never tell," he said. "Older than her hair, but younger than her teeth."FIRST CLASS The first African-American woman to graduate from Harvard Business School is returning to Cambridge to accept the school's highest honor. Lillian Lincoln Lambert, who grew up on a farm without indoor plumbing and went on to found a company that racked up annual revenues of $20 million, will receive the business school's Alumni Achievement Award Thursday. Lambert, who got her MBA in 1969, was founder of the Harvard Business School's African-American Student Union and later started Centennial One Inc., a building-maintenance company that employed 1,200 people. Also being honored with the award are James E. Burke, ex-chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, and Charles Rossotti, former head of the Internal Revenue Service.THE KING OF LOWELL His wife still loves him and hates him in the same sentence, and his father-in-law still lives in the basement of his Queens, N.Y., home. Things on the set of "The King of Queens" have settled in for comic actor Kevin James and his character, Doug Heffernan. The show will open its sixth season Wednesday, and James will be performing stand-up at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium tonight for a show at 8. "I look forward to coming to Boston; always, always a fun crowd," James said the other day, before news leaked out that he was now engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Steffiana De La Cruz. Six years ago, in the days before his series launched, James, a lifelong Mets fan, wanted to visit Fenway Park but was worried he wasn't known well enough to get in before the game. "I'm still treated the same way, but not because they don't know me -- they know I'm a Mets fan." We begged him not to say it: "1986," he said of the best memories he has of Fenway Park. "Although I probably shouldn't say that just as I'm about to head up there." As for what this fall might bring: "On the show, I think we'll see more of the same. We've found a comfortable yet funny groove."

DENIS ANSWERS In the current issue of Sports Illustrated, Denis Leary talks about this Sunday's FleetCenter hockey fund-raiser to benefit the Leary Firefighters Foundation and programs for fire departments and their families in Worcester and New York. Leary, who this week signed a deal with the FX network to produce a pilot for a one-hour drama to be called "Rescue Me," had a couple of opinions: the best Hollywood hockey player (Kiefer Sutherland) and his greatest moment on ice (a New York Rangers charity game a few years ago). As for Senator John Kerry, who is slated to play in the game, Leary tells SI that he would provide skates to any other presidential candidate (or anyone running for governor in California) who demands equal ice time. But he's a lot less polite to filmmaker Spike Lee, who used the Q+A space last week to wish for another New York Knicks championship and that the Red Sox never win another title.BAT ON THE MENU His new record, released this week, was supposed to be his last. But Meatloaf said his longtime collaborator, Jim Steinman, made him an offer he couldn't refuse. "Jim called and said, `Let's make Bat III.' " It was a no-brainer, considering that "Bat Out of Hell" has sold more than 32 million copies since its release in 1977 and that "Bat Out of Hell II" also was a big hit. Meatloaf, in town to play a private show at Faneuil Hall this week for 200 listeners of Mix 98.5, said the album could be in stores by next year.JUST A REGULAR JOE? Actress Samantha Harris, 29, whose family owns King Richard's Faire, will be the host of Fox's "The Next Joe Millionaire: An International Affair." Harris ("Drop Dead Gorgeous" and "George of the Jungle") is the daughter of and assistant to Bonnie Harris Shapiro, owner-producer of the fair. Although she's gearing up for the new "Joe Millionaire," Harris will appear next week on ABC's "The View," which has been trawling for a replacement host since Lisa Ling left the show. Harris will get her replacement tryout Wednesday and Thursday. And she will be in Carver over the weekend -- at the fair, which is open every weekend through Oct. 19.

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* James Taylor, who is gearing up to tour the West Coast, joined Sir Paul McCartney to perform at a fund-raiser at the Beverly Hilton hotel for the Adopt-A-Minefield organization. The Tuesday night gala was hosted by McCartney and his wife, Heather, with music by McCartney and Taylor. The event also honored Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who have raised for the organization nearly $480,000, which de-mined 373 square miles in Afghanistan. In his new role as a UN ambassador for peace, Douglas said he was "very disappointed" by America's stance on the issue. Other celebrities to lend their support included fellow actors Pierce Brosnan and Leonardo DiCaprio.* She rarely consents to interviews, but Barbra Streisand opens up in the October issue of Reader's Digest -- hardly a hotbed of celeb gossip -- about her legendary stage fright, why she gave up concerts, and life with her husband, James Brolin. Of course, this didn't come without some prodding; Streisand releases her 58th album next month. On keeping her music fresh and why she gave up concerts: "I haven't listened to my records for maybe 10 years. . . . It's boring to sing your own songs. That's why I gave up concerts -- in addition to having stage fright and the exertion of singing 30 songs a night."* The opera "La Juive" ("The Jewess") may have been banned by Adolf Hitler and was last performed here in 1935, but the 19th-century work by French composer Jacques Halevy will get a US run on Nov. 6 at the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Post reported yesterday.

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