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The White Sox signed Albert Belle. And Chicago thought Mrs. O'Leary's cow was trouble.

During that recent New York "Magazine Day," I was seated for lunch between Rick Smith of Newsweek and Bill Kerr of Meredith. Rick already has about all the titles a man needs. And now Mr. Kerr has been elected CEO of giant Meredith. And it couldn't happen to a better man.

Business Week's Ed Sopko moves from Philadelphia to New York in his role as account manager.

Book party at Elaine's for GQ contributor James Ellroy whose latest, "My Dark Places," is just out from Knopf. Ellroy knows about crime and writes like a felon. Which is all to the good. Art Cooper of GQ and Sonny Mehta of Knopf hosted.

Publisher Margery Gladstone of Fitness, a Gruner & Jahr mag, says their January/February issue will be the biggest (in ad pages) they've ever put out, 81 pages, up from 61 pages the previous year. And they closed 1996 up 21% in ad pages over '95. Margery says they'll boost the rate base from 700,000 to 775,000 effective the first issue of the New Year. Very fit, indeed.

Back in New York, this time as president and U.S. bureau chief of Burda Media, is longtime editor and foreign correspondent Claus Preute. His offices are in suite 1918 at 1270 Ave. of the Americas, Rockefeller Center, N.Y. 10020.

Legendary (his term) promotion director Mike Rich of Money magazine will be off on a six- month sabbatical the first half of next year before taking up parttime creative chores for the mag. The great Rich has been with Time Inc. 15 years and at Money served four publishing administrations. Sort of like Chou En-lai in China: the Supremos come & go; Mike hangs in. He also writes books (three of them on sports), articles and letters to guys like me.

PR man Andy Plesser reports among his new accounts are Architectural Digest and PC Magazine.

Joan Glynn of Cairns PR reports over the weekend in Greenwich being stung by a wasp. Wasps in Greenwich? Seems appropriate.

Moving over from the "living" section of The New York Times to Martha Stewart Living is Trish Hall. She's the new exec editor of Martha's mag.

Former Newsweek Publisher Peter W. Eldredge joined Johnson Smith & Knisely at 100 Park Ave. in Manhattan as a partner. The firm does exec placement in media, entertainment and communications.

American Heritage magazine and Viking teamed to publish a "New History of the Civil War," written by the late Bruce Catton and edited by James McPherson, that wonderful Princeton U. scholar and best-selling author. This is an update of Catton's 1960 work with marvelous new artwork.

Good week for the good people: Mary Beth Wright was promoted to associate publisher for US.

The New York Auto Show hired Lori Rosen to do their PR.

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