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Converse, the sneaker folks, has signed Dennis Rodman to endorse and promote two new lines of shoes, the first in the industry to feature an industrial-strength steel toe cap. Nike execs are said to be furious Converse got there first.

Popular Science has a new publisher, John Crawley, succeeding Ron Bernstein who's leaving the company. In another shift, Fred Abatemarco is the mag's new president.

You think the Balkans have been a global hot spot? Playboy has just launched a Croatian-language edition with local publisher Europapress Holding.

An NFL embarrassment waiting to happen? Mike Ditka, known to win or lose hefty sums gambling and, for two years, on the payroll of a Louisiana casino, is now the head coach of the New Orleans Saints. But we sure will miss Mike's eloquence on NBC's pre-game show.

Alphabet City Records in N.Y., owned by Ken Dichter and Jesse Itzler, is out with a novel idea. They create their own sports niche CDs by mixing arena sounds and music with original cuts by athletes. Discs featuring the Knicks and Chicago Bulls are in the stores and selling, while a Yankees disc is due to ship in spring and, speaking of timely! a Green Bay Packers CD this month.

Chris Lambiase reports that SmartMoney will celebrate five years in business this April. They claim already to be No. 2 (to Money) in the personal finance field with more than 26% of the market (to 31-plus). In addition, last year the book got three National Magazine Award nominations. Good for them!

Andrea Kaplan says in her new PR role at Conde Nast she'll be working with Self, Details, Conde Nast Traveler, Bride's. They're beefing up the department, hiring Robyn Mait and bringing over Susan Soriano.

Internet World named Gus Venditto editor in chief.

That exciting new People spinoff, People en Espanol, named as editor Angelo Figueroa. He comes from the San Jose Mercury News.

Dan Klores PR in N.Y. just opened a West Coast office in L.A. headed by Hayley Sumner at 9100 Wilshire.

At Financial World, President & Publisher Seth Hoyt hired Dan Dorfman as columnist with his first wisdom due in the Feb. 18 issue. Dan's had a rocky year; it's good to see him back in action.

Jay Burzon, never one to hide his light under bushels or anywhere else, says Individual Investor circulation rose from 170,000 last July to 425,000 last month. He claims these are full price subs in 58% of sales.

American Health for Women Publisher Susan Buckley was out power-walking on Park Ave. and got hit by a car. Home from the hospital, she'll be out three months.

David Carey says it's the first time Conde Nast ever increased the rate base for a mag after just five issues, which he says they're now doing at House & Garden, up to 450,000. To those who mutter the reborn monthly is experiencing teething problems, David says 253 advertisers say differently.

We all know CBS wants Diane Sawyer back. Did you know they've got a full court

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