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This was at Michael's restaurant on West 55th not far from the Time & Life Building in Manhattan and I was lunching with Time magazine publisher Jack Haire who was telling me about all the big doings they're planning for 1998 and into '99.

From what publisher Haire tells me, they've got everything on the calendar but the pre-game show and a covered dish supper.

Two reasons: in March they'll be celebrating 75 years of Time (how well I recall that first, black & white cover, featuring curmudgeonly Speaker Cannon) and in April they'll mark the centenary of co-founder Henry Luce who, with partner Briton Hadden, forever changed journalism in this country and around the world (didn't old Jean Prouvost admit to everyone that his Paris Match was a direct lift from Life? And just where did Der Spiegel come from?).

Much of what Haire was telling me about was new but some I'd read about in Ad Age and elsewhere. But first I asked him for a brief overview of the newsmagazine business as of right now, where the three competing weeklies stand on ads and circulation. These are his figures: through October 13 Time ad pages are up 21 per cent over last year, 2040 pages compared to 1680. Newsweek is also ahead, up seven per cent through the same October date over 1996, with 1923 pages sold versus 1800 last year. As for US News & World Report, their ad pages were flat, off from 1550 last year in the period to 1538 this time.

On the circulation front, Time has a rate base of four million (in the U.S. only; their Canadian edition is counted separately) and claims to have delivered in the first half 4,150,000. Newsweek is also delivering a bonus, with a rate base of 3.1 million and a bonus over that of 176,000. So, too, US News, with its base of 2.15 million and delivery of 2,220,000.

So, as Rick Smith of Newsweek told the Chicago Tribune in September, the newsmagines are anything but "toast," and, as a category, are in fact thriving.

Here's what's on tap for Time to make that business picture even more appealing:

The 75th anniversary issue of March 9's Time (on sale March 2) will kick off 18 months of excitements.

A deal with CBS News to do six specials starting next March, will run in parallel with special issues of the magazine, the project coordinated by Time's M.E. Walter Isaacson and Andrew Heyward of CBS News. On an exclusive ad category basis, all six of the CBS specials have already sold out, to Chrysler, Lucent Technologies, State Farm, and the Discover card. That Chrysler got on board early should be no surprise in that Mr. Luce himself in the early years saluted Walter Chrysler as a tycoon of "prodigious" performance.

The National Postal Service will issue a Luce stamp next April 3, his 100th birthday.

Time Inc. will take over Radio City or Lincoln Center or some such site (a decision any day now) for a celebration which Diane Pearson promises "will top Luce's 40th anniversary party" at the Waldorf.

The 100 most important people of the 20th century will be chosen jointly by the magazine and by CBS. Ballots are now going out for the various categories: warriors & statesmen, entertainers & artists, builders & titans, and like that (all very Time-speak, no?).

And lots more. But for me, the fun and the thrill is remembering Luce and Hadden and how a couple of 25-year old Yalies with less than $100,000 in borrowed funds ever got the damned thing started and how quickly it plucked at and caught the American imagination. Sure, with Fortune and Life and Sports Illustrated and People, it all became vast and rich (did you know that in the late 20s the boys also created an advertising magazine called Tide which they soon sold off to Raymond Rubicam on grounds of a conflict of interest with Time?), but nothing could be as dramatic as its beginnings.

Thgrough prep school and Yale and as army second lieutenants in 1918, Hadden and Luce competed (the gregarious, baseball-loving Hadden usually edged out earnest, less genial Luce), a rivalry that continued after the launch of Time in 1923 (the original title was Facts). And it was Hadden who created the distinctive edit style ("backward reeled sentences until reeled the mind," as a hard-edged New Yorker parody had it), and Luce who went out and sold it. In ways, they inspired and needed each other, but there was even talk of splitting the company: let Luce have this new-fangled Fortune and Hadden keep Time. They were pals, they were rivals; an explosion was coming.

And then, in a scenario too outre to be credible, Hadden took a strep infection (today's pills would have cleared it up in a few days) and died. He was 31, having achieved his goal of being "a millionaire by thirty." And Luce was on his way. It's a great yarn and you can count on hearing more of it when Haire and Time president Bruce Hallett and the lads get cracking.

Luce liked to call this "the American Century." His magazine is out to make

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