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Country Living's Publisher Jay McGill has a sense of humor. Reminding me of the old publishing saw that you might as well take credit for the good times because you'll surely be blamed for the bad, he reports first half ad pages were up to 622, a gain of 16% over the period a year ago. Circulation is also booming with the latest rate base established this past January at 1.8 million copies.

Janis Page of Sampler Publications in St. Charles, Ill., says they'll be changing the name of their bimonthly, Victorian Sampler, effective with the September issue, to Romantic Homes. She'll get no argument from me despite my links to Victoriana.

Cap & Jane Weinberger and those dashing Forbes boys are off to the Chateau Balleroy in Normandy Friday, June 16, for the annual hot air ballooning. Splendid adventures and a remarkable cast are assured.

Windows magazine will boost its guaranteed circulation in September to 700,000, after just three years of operation and 27% higher than the circ of a year ago. And they closed out this year's first quarter 14% ahead in ad pages.

At Glamour they promoted Michele Fleischer to assistant man-aging editor.

Are these truly our own "last days of Pompeii"? In The New York Times Bob Morris reports on a Cancer Research Institute benefit held recently at the exclusive Racquet Club on Park Ave. attended by, among others, a "drag queen" named Lypsinka. Mr. Morris admits there is no way of knowing if this was a "first" for the Club since it "doesn't make public its all-male membership or any historical information."

New York's Mayor Giuliani and his wife, Donna, host a reception Wednesday evening at Gracie Mansion in Manhattan for motion picture and TV production in the city.

Mel Gibson dropped by the US magazine offices in New York the other day for a sushi lunch hosted by Jann Wenner and attended by about two dozen staffers and guests. Mel, who was on a recent US cover, said he's itching to get back on a New York stage and chatted about maybe one day doing "Othello" in the villain's role as Iago.

Sterling Group in New York hired Debbie Millman as its senior VP-marketing & business development. She's been with the Schechter Group, an Omnicom division, and is credited for her creative work on the "Hot 97 Radio" account.

The University of Mississippi, which apparently has little else to do this summer, will host "the first-ever international conference on Elvis August 6-11." Scholars and music lovers, Ole Miss says, will be able to "seriously examine Elvis as a product of the South and the phenomenal impact his career had on American culture."

Nostalgia buffs ought to be delighted with the new batch of Syms (the big off-price clothing retailer) commercials using the old Connie Francis "Who's Sorry Now" in the campaign. ZAK at 900 Broadway in New York is the agency.

I freely acknowledge my sins as a freeloader. But this is ridiculous. The Swatch watch folks have a fine new stainless steel timepiece they call Irony. Which is quite OK. But the press release and an Irony watch arrived in a stainless steel box larger than a New York phone book and about as heavy. What a waste of good steel, money and, irony of ironies, time! How many journalists were on this PR list? For God's sake; send the damn release and enough already with the machine tools.

Mademoiselle's beefing up (well, perhaps a more felicitous figure of speech is called for) its ad sales staff with Amy Hocart the consumer products manager and Suzan Gursoy the fashion and retail manager, both being newly created posts.

Business news writer Greg Clarkin of the New York Post believes in going out on limbs. In a recent piece on various Time Warner shake-ups Clarkin says of Chairman Gerald Levin, "Levin's in trouble and he has six to nine months to prove himself."

Kobs & Draft Worldwide, the Chicago agency, and the Direct Marketing Association team up on a direct marketer of the year scholarship program. To qualify, you've got to be 30 or less and have three years of direct marketing experience. Deadline for nominations is June 23. Contact Sid Liebenson at K&D, 142 E. Ontario St., Chicago 60611-2818.

Good thing I had dinner down before I got a look at that Sports Illustrated cover show of Dennis Oddman.

New art director for GQ is John Korpics, who'd been with Premiere.

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