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Steak 'n Shake scared up a big star with its new ad campaign. The female lead of "The Blair Witch Project," Heather Donahue, turns up in new work for the 300-unit burger chain from agency Young & Laramore, Indianapolis. The first of 15 TV spots featuring the actress started airing Aug. 19 in 15 markets. The spots were filmed in May, just before the premiere of the hugely popular indie thriller; between takes, the actress told execs she had just starred in a little film they might like if it ever came to Indianapolis.

Dell narrows field in CMO search

Dell Computer's search for a chief marketing officer, a quest it's been on for more than a year, is accelerating as the Atlanta office of executive recruiter Spencer Stewart is said to have presented top dog Michael Dell with a shortlist of candidates. Officials with the recruiter, which has had the assignment for only a couple of months, declined comment on the progress of the search or candidates. But one candidate who was approached as part of a pre-screening for the job tells Adages she was taken out of the running because of a lack of advertising experience and is, instead, being considered for a special projects marketing assignment reporting directly to Dell.

Natural born french fry thief

McDonald's discovered french fries and violence are a volatile mix in Hong Kong, where a TV ad from Leo Burnett Hong Kong cooked up controversy for featuring a young woman slapping a guy friend for swiping her final fry. The perp hits him hard enough on the thigh with a heavy bag to make him sink to his knees in pain -- a la a groin hit. After 12 complaints in 10 days, the territory's censorship board ruled the spot could have a negative influence on young people. Eddie Booth, Burnett exec CD, said the spot returned to the air after the agency snipped any allusion of a groin hit and toned down the sound of the slap.

Jeffrey & Jeffrey get hitched online

Jeffrey L. Newman and Jeffrey W. Parker tie the knot Oct. 16 in what Out.com, the new Web site of Out magazine, is calling the first first-ever Internet broadcast of a gay wedding. Newman, 31, is prez-CEO of Out.com; Parker, also 31, is a men's accessories designer. Fittingly, the couple met online. In addition to the nuptials, Out.com will host a chat auditorium where people can discuss, and learn more about, the social implications of same-sex marital unions.

Spelling lessons . . . toilet training

Online textbook site Big Words (see related story on Page 16) has a problem with some big words. "The last semester of the millenium!" the site, bigwords.com, trumpets on its home page. Note to students: Two "n's." . . . Steve Hayden, impresario of IBM adv. at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, is so jammed with work that the only time he has to check voicemail is while at the loo. "I think it's kinda sick," laments Hayden, "and probably so do the people at Ogilvy who see me walking into the men's room with a cell phone stuck to my ear, frying my brain."

Got an Adage? Tell Julie by phone, (312) 649-5396; fax, (312) 649-5331; or e-

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