BRANDY’S PAINFUL CAT-THARSIS

When R&B chanteuse Brandy abruptly split from New York Knick Quentin Richardson last month, the former Moesha star wasted no time blotting out memories of her ex-fiancé. The heartbroken 26-year-old singer/actress even had the tattoo of Richardson’s face on her back hastily transformed into a cat.

A source close to Brandy—who has a three-year-old daughter with former crypto-husband Robert Smith (more on that later)—says she originally got the police-sketch-style tat as a symbol of her undying love for the Knick guard after he gave her a $1 million, 11.5-carat diamond engagement ring in 2004.

“Her family begged her not to get that tattoo, especially after her relationship with [Smith] ended so horribly,” says the source. “But she got it anyway and then had to endure the pain of getting it covered up after he asked for his ring back.”

One would think Brandy’s tendency to hook up with the wrong guy would have made her wary of expressing her affections in permanent ink. Prior to meeting Richardson, the singer briefly dated sleeze-baller Kobe Bryant before moving on to Smith, who played the part of devoted husband while her childbirth was filmed for MTV’s Diary Presents: Brandy—Special Delivery, then slinked off and told a New York disk jockey that their marriage was never official. (For the record, it wasn’t: Brandy herself reportedly described the relationship as a non-legally binding “spiritual union.”)

A spokesman for the singer, who has reportedly just signed with the WB network to star in a new, unnamed series, did not return calls for comment.

NO QUORUM FOR SANTORUM

Poor Rick Santorum. A few months ago, he was being hailed by his GOP brethren as a leading White House contender. Now it looks like the gay-bashing golden boy, who is running for a third term in Pennsylvania, may not even make it back to the Senate. According to a poll published yesterday in The Hill, the devoutly Catholic candidate is now trailing Democrat Bob Casey by 16 points. But as Santorum’s campaign has lost steam, Capital Hill sources say his support from RNC heavies has also evaporated. The blow-dried bible-thumper, who launched his campaign with a giant war chest, is also being deserted by the party’s major moneymen, who are focusing their largesse on more competitive candidates.

“This is how the Republicans operate,” sighs a veteran GOP campaign manager close to Santorum. “Even if you  agree with their agenda, they’ll abandon you if you’re behind in the polls and move on to the next-most important race.”

Increasingly dubious about Santorum’s chances, Capitol Hill sources report GOP powerbrokers have refocused their attentions—and dollars—on Doug Forrester, a little-known party hack who’s currently embroiled in a dead heat race with multi-millionaire Democrat Jon Corzine for New Jersey’s governorship.

“The party is pouring millions of dollars in PAC money into Forrester’s coffers, but most of that money was previously earmarked for Rick,” reports a well-placed Republican senate staffer. “It’s disgusting. Rick used to be Bush’s biggest booster on issues like stem-cell research, Social Security, and the Iraq war. Now the White House won’t even take his phone calls.”