By BILL HOFFMANN
A former computer nerd who shies away from the limelight has been named the most sought-after party guest in America.
Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, were given the No. 1 spot on W magazine's list of the 40 most in-demand celebrities for high-society bashes.
The billionaire Microsoft chairman and his spouse "would be the ultimate trophy guests for any Park Avenue hostess. But the odds of getting them are equivalent to those of bagging Bigfoot," W says in its upcoming March issue.
That's because the world's richest man "has a congenital aversion to parties."
In fact, W noted, all those on its list "are hot for the oldest reason in the book: They're hard to get."
In the No. 2 position: Prince William, "the most eligible bachelor on the planet."
No. 3 was Madonna, who will "ruin any party she goes to -- all the other guests just stand around and gawk when they're not being shoved aside by security. "But scoring the big M is still a major coup. The inconveniences must be endured."
Brad Pitt won the No. 4 slot for his "personal charms," followed by Bill and Hillary Clinton. But if you get the prez and first lady to your do, "better make sure to have somebody from Hollywood at the table," W warns.
AOL kingpins Bob Pittman and Steve Case weigh in at No. 6, with Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg at No. 7.
At No. 8 was USA Network honcho Barry Diller.
Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of News Corp., which owns The Post, grabbed the No. 9 spot.
The choices for Nos. 10 through 20 were Vernon and Ann Jordan, Gianni and Marella Agnelli, Tom Ford, Anna Wintour, Oscar and Annette de la Renta, Matt Damon, Princess Marie-Chantal and Prince Pavlos of Greece, Barbara Walters, Francois Pinault, Bernard Arnault and David Geffen.