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Here's a heads-up for theater lovers. The PlayMakers Rep in Chapel Hill, N.C., one of those super regional theaters that consistently break ground and make news, scored a coup. Feb. 3 is opening night of a new play by the great Horton Foote, "The Death of Papa," starring (get this!) Matthew Broderick, Hallie Foote and Ellen Burstyn. It runs through March 2 and you can be sure Broadway will be watching. For info, media and all you potential angels, call Pam O'Connor at the U. of North Carolina, (919) 962-2487.

It had to come. Now "King" Richard Petty has his own stock car magazine. It debuts Jan. 28 as a quarterly with a newsstand cover price of $4.99.

Live! the Ticketmaster mag has made it through its first year thanks to editor Annie Gilbar and crew. The February anniversary issue cover girl will be Bette Midler.

Mark your dance cards for Jan. 29. That's when Michael Ovitz, Brendan Gill, Arie Kopelman of Chanel and Duane Hampton host the awarding of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis medal to Margot Gayle and Bobby de Niro. The Municipal Art Society (NY) benefits. For info call (212) 685-1095.

Mecklermedia, the Internet media outfit, promoted Christopher S. Cardell to exec VP and COO.

National Geographic closed the year with its best-ever ad sales performance as pages rose 7% over those of 1995 to 406. And it promoted Andrea Rene Vaughan to national sales manager.

PC World hired investigative reporter Charles Piller as its exec news editor. Tribune Entertainment promoted William Allmendinger to Midwest regional sales manager.

Gruner & Jahr USA Publishing has a new director of corporate sales. He's Robert Marold, who moves over from Meredith.

Christina M. Frohock joined Walker Communications (NY) as VP. They're consultants to the mag biz, and Chris is a former Ad Age exec, most recently at Conde Nast.

Can it be 25 years? The Family Circle magazine annual tennis tournament marks its silver anniversary this year, April 3-6 at Hilton Head, S.C. This year Group Publisher James W. McEwen has some great names from the past invited, from first champ Rosie Casals to eight-time winner Chris Evert and like that.

Jack Limpert sent along the December issue of Washingtonian with its take (by Nick Kotz) on the last days and death of Admiral Boorda. Gripping read. And not for the first time you wonder how any president can name a guy who's never seen combat to a job commanding a branch of the fighting forces. Not fair to him; not

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