A sobering thought for Oscar fashion victim Madonna: Eighty-seven million Americans watched you on TV last night.

ABC calls the ratings "astonishing." (Armchair clothing critics were a little more, um, earthy in their assessment of Madonna's getup.)

The 70th edition of the Academy Awards--featuring Titanic's dominating, 11-win performance--boasted a whopping 34.9 rating, up 22 percent from 1997, the numbers-crunchers at A.C. Nielsen Co. say. (Each rating point represents 980,000 households.)

Even more impressive: In this 100-channel universe, 55 percent of all TVs in use during the Oscar telecast were tuned to (yes) the Oscar telecast.

Of course, considering that said Oscar telecast ran three hours and 47 minutes (a record), it's not surprising so many channel surfers bumped into the behemoth.

No matter, ratings-starved ABC will take it. The third-place network says the '98 Titanics, er, Oscars are the highest-rated since the '83 Gandhis.

And, since more Americans own more TV sets than 15 years ago, ABC figures the number of actual eyeballs watching Titanic captain James Cameron go "Woo, woo, woo!" sets an all-time viewership record.

As they are wont to be, TV critics were divided on the Billy Crystal-hosted event. The Washington Post found it "one of the most entertaining and painless Oscarfests in years"; the Dallas Morning News countered with "dignified and, yes, glacier-like."

Special Oscar recipient Stanley Donen, 73 years-young, outshone Crystal to get the best notices of the night--his song-and-dance number and sage-directing advice ("Keep the hell out of the way!") providing the show with its chief Big Moment.

In other Oscar news Tuesday: The National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board (the milk-mustache ad people) unveiled triple-winner James Cameron as its latest poster boy.

The writer/director/producer/editor debuted in a print ad campaign, featuring the tag line: "I Like to Float Big Chunks of Ice in Mine."

Mmmmm. Count us in the mood for a big, frothy glass.

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