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December 18, 1987|BOB BAKER | From staff and wire reports

Had this problem? You're getting ready to go to a fancy dinner and you look down the arm of your Christian Dior dress and--yuck!--there's that simple, stainless steel Medic Alert bracelet that you always wear to provide vital medical information in case of illness. You can't take it off, but you cringe at the clash in styles.

Cringe no more. On Thursday in the Royal Suite of the Beverly Hilton, the Medic Alert Foundation, a national network, unveiled a 14-karat designer line of bracelets and neckwear running from $239 to $299, depending on how you mix and match various chains and emblems. There were teardrop designs, raised letters, recessed letters--about 10 different styles to choose from.

Christmas was in full swing Thursday. The California Highway Patrol distributed toys to kids at the City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte. Disc jockeys from KIIS handed out candy to the kids at the MacLaren Children's Center in El Monte. And members of a Police Explorer post began a drive to provide food for 500 needy families in northeastern Los Angeles.

But nothing matched what happened in Temple City.

At a K mart store, Bubbles the Chimp, one of the most popular animals in that wide-ranging collection that resides at singer Michael Jackson's Encino home, showed up to unveil a new line of 11 stuffed animals modeled after Michael's own.

Jackson's licensing agent had been planning this marketing coup for years but waited until the singer's new "Bad" album came out. Shoppers can cuddle creatures like Bubbles, Louie the llama, Jeannine the ostrich and, of course, Muscles the snake.

If ever an exhibit deserved to be launched, it's the one the Santa Monica Heritage Museum put on display Thursday night. It is devoted to toy boats, some of them as old as a century. About 60 submarines, battleships, warships and smaller craft have been collected, according to Tobi Smith, the curator.

The models, including one with an engine that runs on steam, are displayed on dry land. Smith knew that would trigger a few sighs of angst from visitors who'd want to go to sea with the toys, so she's brought in a big old-fashioned bathtub, the kind with claw feet, filled it with water and loaded it with contemporary toy boats.

"I did it so that frustrated children of any age who can't play with the expensive boats can take their frustrations out," she said.

It's only fitting that Fred Warner Neal is the first American to win Yugoslavia's highest civilian decoration.

Neal, professor emeritus of international relations at the Claremont Graduate School, has written numerous articles and three books about Yugoslavia. He launched the work of the American Universities field staff in Yugoslavia in 1954 during one of several of his extended stays in the country. He helped initiate the Fulbright Exchange Program with Yugoslavia. And he has served as a State Department consultant on U.S.-Yugoslav relations.

Beyond that, the citizens of Skoplje, the capital city of Macedonia, named an elementary school for Neal's son, Alexander, who was killed in a 1963 diving accident.

And so at the Yugoslav Embassy in Washington on Thursday, Zivorad Kovacevic, ambassador to the United States, presented Neal the Yugoslav Flag with Golden Wreath.

Every basketball coach has wanted another Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Now there are 100 of them. They're 3-foot-high bronze statues created by sculptor John Petek. One is destined for the National Basketball Assn. Hall of Fame. Another will rest in the sports hall of fame at Abdul-Jabbar's alma mater, UCLA. The others will be put up for sale.

While driving in the rain in Azusa early Thursday morning, a motorist passing the Rain Bird sprinkler manufacturing facility on Sierra Madre Boulevard noted that the lawn sprinklers were going full force.

Perhaps a little friendly competition with Mother Nature?

More likely a result of automation.

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