Player: Dan Gross

When Dan Gross took over Stu Bykofsky's Daily News gossip column last month, his promotion — from part-time clerk to sole author of the paper's marquee column — was as drastic as a batting-practice pitcher being tapped for the starting rotation. Five years ago, Gross was a Temple student publishing his own zine, trying to interview non-stars like ex-Brat Pack actor Anthony Michael Hall; when Hall demanded payment, Gross published a transcript of their argument instead. (Gross put out his first zine while at Lower Merion High School.)

Gross, 25, joined the Daily News four years ago and impressed Bykofsky by breaking stories about Cecily Tynan's marital problems and a wrongful-termination lawsuit filed against the Capital Grille following allegations of girl-on-girl spanking in the Center City restaurant's coatroom. Last June, Gross was made an official member of the “Byko!” team and impressed its namesake by requesting a “Stu Bykofsky & Dan Gross” byline. “I thought, ‘Kid's got moxie. He wants the ampersand,'” Bykofsky recalls.

Gross is likely to maintain much of his predecessor's sensibility — but in a different vernacular. He promises to banish Bykoisms like “blondiful” and “Noo Yawk.” And then there will be no more “Byko's Birthday Book.” (“Bronson Pinchot goofs 43.”) “I really don't want to do anything that looks like a total imitation of what Stu did,” Gross says. He will, however, hold on to the most valuable Bykofsky resource: the columnist's Rolodex. “He will inherit