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All this cancer breakthrough news is stunning, thrilling. Remembering all those who've gone you wonder, what if. . . . And you read ailing N.Y. columnist Mike McAlary's heartbreaking appeal in the Daily News for a cure while he still has time, and you just hope to God he gets it. And, not for the first time, you realize research on lab animals is at the essential core of the scientific effort.

Outside can do no wrong. Or so it seems in the wake of their third consecutive National Magazine general excellence award. Publisher Scott Parmelee reports year to date ad pages are running 16% ahead of last year (which for the entire year was its best ever with 1,226 pages).

Tip your hat as well to Bob Guccione Jr. who came up with the inspired idea of interviewing Hugh Hefner for his (Bob's) premiere issue of Gear.

Meredith named a new publisher for two magazines, Country Home and Country Gardens. She is Robin Domeniconi, who'd been running Golf for Women, also a Meredith title.

Radcliffe College (and it doesn't get cooler than that) and Women's Political Caucus joined to salute Ladies' Home Journal for its November piece, "The best cities for women." Reaction was so good, they'll do it annually.

Evening on the town? The great Steve Ross is playing the Firebird Cafe (through June 20), 363 W. 46th in Manhattan. It's Steve's brilliant homage to Cole Porter.

Golf claims new PIB figures will show it as the category leader in ad pages with 538 pages through April. Do I hear anyone demanding to "play through"?

NYU's center for graphic communications hands over its Prism Award to Conde Nast's Steve Florio at a luncheon in the Plaza in Manhattan June 9. Janet Robinson, president of The New York Times, will chair and also present the Prism.

More awards. Avon and the Small Business Administration join to salute six "women of enterprise" June 11 over lunch at the Waldorf in N.Y. Katie Couric of the "Today" show speaks and the city's first lady Donna Hanover does the opening remarks.

Novel idea on the part of Golf Digest. The category powerhouse's (circ: 1.55 million) June issue, dramatizing its design makeover (by the usual suspects Milton Glaser, Walter Bernard and Nancy Eising), runs two front covers: the new one and the old.

Back on the job after her maternity leave (her son was born in January) is Rolling Stone's zesty promoter Cathy O'Brien.

Playboy unveils (so to speak) its "playmate of the year" Thursday evening at the China Club in Manhattan. Winner gets 100 grand and a sports car.

Mademoiselle has a new promotion art director, Emily Mayers Klima.

The Paper, a lifestyle monthly in Houston, goes farther afield Sept. 1 with a PaperCity magazine in Dallas. The Houston publication, if you haven't seen it, is the size of a New York Times on better stock, much like the old format of John Fairchild's W. Jim Kastleman's the publisher.

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