IF YOU WANT your daughter to be named Miss New Jersey, there's one clear path to success: Name her some variation of Ashley.
Ashley Shaffer, 22, of Millstone Township, won the title Saturday night at the Ocean City Music Pier.
First runner-up was Ashleigh Udalovas, 21, of Millville.
Last year's winner was Ashley Fairfield, of Egg Harbor.
Ashley S. will now compete in the Miss America Pageant, scheduled for Jan. 30 in Las Vegas, something so sacrilegious to Atlantic City that New Jersey shouldn't even send a contestant in protest.
For the talent portion of Miss New Jersey, Ashley S. performed an aria from Puccini's "Turandot." No judge asked her for her views on gay
"I have no idea what's going on right now," she said, shaking. "I'm going to Miss America! I can't believe it!"
Mercy travels fast
Madonna's new daughter has left Malawi.
An anonymous airport employee said Saturday that 3-year-old Chifundo "Mercy" James left late Friday on a private jet to London, with a stop in South Africa. The girl, the second child that Madonna has adopted from Malawi, was reportedly accompanied on the flight by a nanny, a child nurse and a third aide.
Hmmm . . . sounds like one person didn't make the trip - Mom!
Malawi's highest court had granted the adoption June 12, overturning a lower court ruling that Madonna had not spent enough time in Malawi to be given (don't they mean sold?) a child.
The high court said that the first judge had imposed too narrow a definition of residency.
With this new broader definition, "residency" now means "occasionally visiting with a fat checkbook."
* After over 16 years of marriage, Bradley Whitford ("The West Wing") and Jane Kaczmarek ("Malcolm in the Middle") are divorcing.
They have three children.
The announcement did not cite "irreconcilable differences" but it's still early.
* Dennis Quaid and his wife have agreed to a $500,000 settlement with L.A.'s Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where their newborn twins nearly died in 2007 from an overdose of blood thinner.
According to court documents first reported by TMZ.com, the settlement will be divided evenly between the twins, Zoe Grace and Thomas Boone.
That's a nice college fund. But given what higher education is going to cost in 2025, it may get them through freshman year.
* As if the news from the news business isn't depressing enough, legendary anchorman Walter Cronkite seems not to be doing too well.
The 92-year-old former anchor of "The CBS Evening News," who has been ailing for some time, has reportedly taken a turn for the worse, according to TVNewser and other online sites.
CBS News has so far refused to comment, but "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer said, "All of us are praying for the best, and our thoughts are with Walter's family."
* When RadarOnline.com reported a few weeks ago that superdupermodel Gisele Bundchen was pregnant, hubby Tom Brady denied it.
Now People.com is reporting it.
Tom, you and Gisele may want to talk about this.
Brady has a son, Jack, with Bridget Moynahan, whose pregnancy also surprised him.
* In Thursday's Tattle, we mentioned that Allentown native/model Chanel Ryan was slated to appear at this weekend's Wizard World convention in Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, both her flight and re-scheduled flight from L.A. were canceled.
"Am really bummed," she wrote. "Sorry for any inconvenience this has caused. Please feel free to file a complaint with United Airlines!"
* According to TMZ.com, Ryan Seacrest has been speaking with Lindsay Lohan about a reality TV show dealing with second chances.
In Ryan's alleged idea, $1 million will be given to people who've screwed up and are looking for a second chance.
While Lindsay should be a winner, Ryan reportedly wants her to be one of the judges.
* No actor wants to be typecast, but Jonah Falcon couldn't even land a role in the new HBO series, "Hung," about a man who's well . . . you know.
Wireless Flash reports that Falcon is, at 13.3 inches, well . . . you know.
Although countless Web sites and numerous male porn stars might argue, Wireless Flash says that Falcon's talon is the largest in the world.
But it's hard to find serious acting work when your codpiece enters a scene before you do.
Falcon says that he's never done porn and doesn't want to. He does, however, dream of one day pitching a series in which he plays an ex-porn star who teaches the ropes to a protege.
If he's pitching, Tattle's not sure who's going to want to be catching. *
Daily News wire services contributed to this report.