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The Washington Post and Ralph Lauren have somehow gotten Princess Di to be honorary chair of a Sept. 24 event in Washington raising money for breast cancer research at Georgetown U. Hospital in the name of Nina Hyde, late fashion ed. of the Post. This will be Di's first U.S. outing since the divorce.

Big doings tomorrow (Sept. 17) at Tiffany where Diane Sawyer and Babs herself (Barbara Walters) will be among those saluting Citymeals-on-Wheels. Tiffany Chairman Bill Chaney hosts the cocktail reception and show of fall table settings starting at 6:30.

En route to Washington to speak to the National Press Club this Wednesday, Cigar Aficionado's supremo Marvin Shanken, whose business is booming. The quarterly's fall issue (with Demi Moore as covergirl) ran 229 ad pages (up from 161 last fall). Traveling to D.C. with Marvin, the famous JFK humidor he bought at Jackie's auction last year for $574,500, at the specific request of the boys at the Press Club.

Christopher Allen says Cooking Light ups frequency from nine to 10 issues effective January.

Longtime Vogue Editor Grace Mirabella made her debut as a regular columnist for Chris Meigher's Quest magazine (September) with a blast. What's killed fashion, Grace writes, is not only high prices but "the glitz of the Reagans" and those "pouf " skirts of Christian Lacroix. "It got so you'd go to parties and couldn't get through the door for his poufs."

"Jobs for Youth" is the idea behind a silent auction, dinner and awards Oct. 10 at the NY Hilton chaired by Paul A. Allaire of Xerox, Douglas V. Holloway of USA Networks and Paula Sneed of Kraft Foods. For info call Liz Smith at 212-888- 7003.

Get Sandy Golinkin, publisher of Allure, to tell you about salmon fishing from canoes in Canada. And you thought I had all the fun...

In The New York Times Francis X. Clines mistakenly writes that the pejorative use of "Demo-crat" rather than "Democratic" as an adjective stems back to "Republican zealots" of "the Reagan era." Not so. I can hear Sen. Joe McCarthy's snarling, sneering voice now, talking of "the Democrat party" in the 1950s.

Nancy Isenberger reports that, yes, there is a "Dot Com" character coming to TV. "She is the lovable, wisecracking computer starring in `Call It Home,' a transactional sitcom debuting this fall on ABC and CBS O&Os."

"Operation Smile" has a very simple goal: raising bucks to pay for relatively minor 45-minute operations that transform kids' faces, repairing cleft lips and palates and the like, and in the process, changing lives for the better. This year's benefit evening is Oct. 23 at the Pierre in Manhattan, honoring Ralph Larsen of Johnson & Johnson. Some 5,000 children a year here and abroad benefit. For tix & info, call 212-921-9070 and ask for Linda Buckley or Kelley Moore.

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