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Gosh! Can't wait for that ol' Pro Bowl coming up, can you?

Steve Nicoll has a nice sense of timing, stepping down into retirement as VP-advertising and promotion at Forbes magazine just as they announced yet another big ad year, with 4,540 ad pages sold last year, highest-ever total in the mag's 78 years. The year Steve became ad director, 1972, they ran 1,100 pages of ads.

Debbie Cryer joined the Home Group of Hachette Filipacchi Magazines as manager of sales development, says Group Publisher John J. Miller II.

"Red Sox in '96" reads the New Year's card of the ever-hopeful Jim Powers of USA Weekend.

Loved the year-ending Richard Sandomir column in The New York Times re 1995's worst commercials, those starring Jerry Jones and Deion Sanders, which "make Gordon Gekko look like Desmond Tutu."

In another year-ender, Milt Lieberman reports, "not only did 1995 represent Parade's fifth consecutive year of leading all magazines in ad dollars, but [it] became the first publication ever to surpass the $500 million ad revenue mark." So there.

Enormous doings Friday eve ning at the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach where they were raising money for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International with a dinner dance. Tix were $500 and a thou and with a pricey raffle as well, reports James Sheeran's Palm Beach Society shiny-sheet magazine. Gay & Stanley Gaines were honored. Previous such events raised as much as $200,000.

Looking for a crack editor? Bill Gubbins, most recently exec VP-development for Channel One/K-III Communications and previously a senior exec for Whittle Communications, says "for the right deal" he'll consider leaving Knoxville for a mag or media development post. Reach him at 615-694-8255.

The Palm, that famed Second Ave steak house in Manhattan, has its first-ever waitress. Patricia is from Ireland, lovely, blonde and highly competent. Credit owner Bruce Bozzi for an historic cultural breakthrough.

My Christmas card from Martha Stewart arrived, postmarked Jan. 5 and getting to me Jan. 10. Listen, she's not only gracious; she's busy.

A.H. Rosenfeld sends along two clips from the same day's (Dec. 26) Wall Street Journal about the Canadian economy. One reports Canada's economy has "improved significantly." The other, same day, says it is "showing further signs of weakening." "O Canada," groans exasperated reader Rosenfeld.

Linda Vaughan reports Soap Opera Digest got off to a good new year start with ad pages for January up 18% over the month a year earlier.

Longtime Bloomingdale's sales promotion biggie Gordon Cooke is new president and CEO of DM Management Co. of Hingham, Mass., a direct marketer of women's wear and accessories. He'd been most recently prez of Time Warner Interactive Merchandising.

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