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COMEDIAN TAKES ON HULKSTER

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Actor Dustin Hoffman and his wife, Lisa, celebrate the new year in New York. Hoffman wears the beard he grew for his Broadway role of Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice."

World Wrestling Federation champ Hulk Hogan, 307 pounds, squares off against comedian Richard Belzer, 150 pounds dripping wet, in a $5 million lawsuit scheduled to go to trial Tuesday in New York.The opponents meet in Manhattan state Supreme Court, the state's trial-level court, in a rematch of their March 27, 1985, fracas on a cable television show with Belzer as host. Jury selection was to start Tuesday.

Belzer was rendered unconscious in that get-together and took nine stitches in his head. He then sued the Hulkster, tag-team partner Mr. T, World Wrestling Federation impresario Vince McMahon and McMahon's Titan Sports Inc.

"We see the suit as a publicity ploy, pure and simple," said WWF attorney Ted Dinsmoor. "He asked the Hulkster to demonstrate a wrestling move, and he was accidentally injured."

The comedian is expected to testify. Norman Roy Grutman, Belzer's attorney, has challenged Hogan and Mr. T to do the same, although Dinsmoor said it is unlikely either will appear.

"I am flinging down the gauntlet. If they don't show up in the ring of the courtroom, they are cowards," Grutman said.