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October 18, 2002 -- WE speak now of British director Guy Ritchie's American wife. We speak now of her new movie (which he directed) "Swept Away," which the critics have not just swept away - they've blown it away. Thrown it away. Moaned it away.

It's not been an easy time. She'd lobbied for the "Chicago" film, but the role went to the younger Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas. This past season, on the boards in London's West End, Mrs. Ritchie's reviews weren't stellar either. Her last hit on the silver screen was the long-ago "Evita" but don't cry for her, Argentina. Never sucked under by a tidal wave, Madonna will again reinvent herself.

She's secretly shopping. Not for another child. She has those. Not for another house. She has those. Not even - yet - for another husband. For a Broadway show. Her years ago David Mamet outing was a successful one. And, since she isn't lucky movie-wise, the coming campaign is to star on Broadway. She's even talked with Andrew Lloyd Webber.

But, failing some dynamic script that miraculously appears from that Great Workshop in the Sky, she'll consider mounting a one-woman job. Limited run. She'll tour it. Go on the road, where they'll clamor for it. Hope to out-Stritch Elaine, who copped a one-woman-show Tony for it. Madonna already has an apartment here with plenty of shelves available for that statuette.

Trust mother.

SEEMS "Sweet Charity," due to be reborn on B'way with Jenna Elfman in the role that immortalized Shirley MacLaine, is now about to be re-reborn. Seems Jenna decided to travel onward. Seems next up to possibly fill those dancing shoes could be Marisa Tomei. Seems . . . Anjelica Huston left off filming HBO's "Iron Jawed Angel" in Virginia to come here and catch "The Emperor's Club" and love it. Does she also love Virginia? "I love its ham sandwiches," she says . . . Dr. Jane Goodall: "Animals are dying, fish are decaying, forests are going, deserts are spreading, famine is creeping, and America is still eager to face a third World War?! Gandhi once said: 'All evils are eventually overcome by good.' " And what you make from that is yours to make from that.

WINONA Ryder, when the judge wanted to postpone her trial until December, pleaded financial hardship, saying: "But, Your Honor, December is the busiest shoplifting season of the year!"

WEDNESDAY night. Sotheby's dinner honoring the foundation of Kartika Sukarno, daughter of Indonesia's first president, sister of Indonesia's current president. Kartika's foundation helps the children of Indonesia. On the tragedy in Bali, her country's ambassador, posted here before 9/11, said: "We are no longer safe anywhere."

We discussed that I was to have been in Jakarta next month. I'd been invited to speak and early December, following Ramadan, was President Megawati's preferred date.

The archipelago consists of 10,000 islands. I'd heard of terrorist rumblings in Sumatra. Indonesians, planning my trip around Java and Bali, downgraded my concerns and guaranteed no threat. Our Jakarta embassy sent word I'd be perfectly safe. However, six weeks ago the State Department told me: "Do not go. We do not advise even low-profile Americans to go. As Sukarno's official biographer (I'd written his as-told-to-me autobio years back), you are not low profile in Indonesia." I canceled my speaking engagement.

I clearly recalled my days in the midst of anti-American riots in Jakarta. Learning of a plot to kill me, our then Ambassador Howard Palfry Jones spirited me out of the country at 5 a.m. I remember distinctly being rescued from the midst of an angry surging street mob that had halted my car and was rocking it side to side.

Indonesians could, of course, never have anticipated such horror in Bali, but the State Department did have blips somewhere somehow someplace on their radar in Washington.

WORDSMITH Dr. Tom Haggai, chairman of IGA, on spelled alike different sounding English words: "For instance, 'the bandage was wound around the wound . . . the farm was used to produce produce . . . polish the Polish furniture . . . I object to the object . . . subject the subject to a test . . . the insurance was invalid for the invalid . . . It's too close to close it . . . time has come to present the present.' "

MAYBE because it's coming up Halloween, this is going the rounds on Third Avenue: A skeleton walks into a bar. He says to the barkeep, "I'll have a beer and a mop."

Only in New York, kids, only in New York.

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