Brady's Bunch

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When I lunched with Mary Lou Quinlan, former CEO of N.W. Ayer & Partners and today running an operation called Just Ask A Woman, she was wearing red boots. So I did, I asked a woman: Why the red boots? "Because they make me happy," said Mary Lou. And how does her garden grow? Clients of her outfit (they market "with women," not, "to women") include Bristol-Myers Squibb, GM, Hearst Magazines, Time Inc. Toys `R' Us, Saks Fifth Ave., Lifetime, Citigroup and more. She and her staff are involved in major positioning/brand building. They don't do (ugh!) focus groups but talk with women in a TV talk-show setting, no anchor desk, just Mary Lou wandering up and down aisles with the mike, doing two-hour conversations about their needs, wants, gripes, suggestions for the product or services sponsoring. The client gets a report, a tape, plus follow-up. Do some big outfits hire her just as window-dressing, to get feminists or other critics off their backs? "Not at the prices we charge," says sassy, smart, successful Quinlan.

Bea Arthur opens her one-woman show on Broadway Feb. 17 at the Booth. Previews start Jan. 29.

The Four Seasons Restaurant in Manhattan transforms itself into "a small village in Bordeaux" for one night only, Jan. 25, for a tasting of the `99 vintages. They claim "France's five most talented winemakers" will provide samples. If only I were drinking these days!

Donovan McNabb's a great NFL player and I'm sure Campbell's Chunky soup is very tasty, but those commercials of his "mom" (portrayed by actress Marcella Lowery) have the "mother" behaving like a crude, rude pest. Don't mess with Marcella, however. She plays tough Manhattan High principal in NBC-TV's "City Guys."

I realize the president is on the wagon, which is fine. But you can't just sit there watching the playoffs and gorging on the pretzels without at least a Coors Light to wash the damned things down. After all, Mr. Bush, Cheney's got a bum ticker, Strom's about a hundred by now. Who's next in line of succession? Kenneth Lay?

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