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Time's Man of the Year Surprises 'Experts'

December 26, 1996|PAUL D. COLFORD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As its Man of the Year, Time has named Dr. David D. Ho, scientific director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York.

Time's choice, which makes sense in light of the dramatic changes that Ho's "cocktail" of anti-viral drugs has made in the prospects of AIDS patients, still caught most so-called media experts by surprise. None of the 115 entrants in Media Industry Newsletter's seventh annual name-the-man contest guessed Ho. So the winner of the weekly publication's $300 prize is Linda Ausman, of Disney Publishing in Chicago, who came closest by predicting "the containment of AIDS" would make Time's year-ending cover.

The Man of the Year may be the best-known magazine issue published this week, but it isn't the only one offering looks back at '96 and ahead to '97.

Sports Illustrated names Tiger Woods its Sportsman of the Year, saying the golfer "was raised to believe that his destiny is not only to be the greatest golfer ever but also to change the world."

The list of "The 96 Really Big Stories of 1996," according to US magazine, begins with the announcement of the pending birth of Michael Jackson's child and ends with the death of Timothy Leary.

Entertainment Weekly's "Best of 1996" double-issue proclaims Rosie O'Donnell as Entertainer of the Year by stating: "In a year when just plain folks were a precious commodity . . . it's no surprise that at the top of our list reigns the most regular gal of all." O'Donnell is followed by Mel Gibson and Alanis Morissette, the angry young woman of rock.

O'Donnell also is among the "Most Fascinating Women of 1996," according to the January issue of Ladies' Home Journal. She's praised for carving "a nice niche amid the rubble of TV trash." But cover girl Oprah Winfrey tops LHJ's list. Also named: Dana Reeve, the wife of Christopher Reeve, and the newlywed Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, of whom the mag says: "She played hard to get, which is to say she played by 'The Rules'--and won."

People's year-end double-issue features its 25 Most Intriguing People of 1996. There's O'Donnell again; ditto Woods, Morissette and Bessette-Kennedy, along with Conan O'Brien, Chelsea Clinton and two McCarthys--congresswoman-elect Carolyn and MTV's Jenny.

Among the stories and trends reviewed in Newsweek's new double issue are these conversation pieces: Comeback of the Year, computer guru Steve Jobs; Employee of the Year, exiting Disney President Michael Ovitz; Dead White Male of the Year, William Shakespeare, whom Hollywood has rediscovered in a big way.

Rolling Stone's farewell to '96, featuring a cover of Pamela Anderson Lee playing Santa to Beavis and Butt-head, not only reviews the highs and lows of the year in rock 'n' roll but also highlights the best music books. Among "the most notable entries" in what the magazine considers an increasingly stagnant genre are Waylon Jennings' "Waylon: An Autobiography" (Warner), B. B. King's "Blues All Around Me" (Avon), Robert Greenfield's "Dark Star: An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia" (Morrow) and Patti Smith's "The Coral Sea" (Norton), the singer's tribute to a soul mate, the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

Editor in Chief James Fallows continues to reshape U. S. News & World Report by questioning the long-established methods of the news business. In an introduction to "Outlook '97: 20 Ways to Save the World," the cover story in Fallows' first year-end double issue, he writes that if the press got out of the expose business, the public "would miss the revelations and the chastening effect that fear of exposure has on the powerful." At the same time, Fallows has the magazine use "the same journalistic tools, ingenuity and toughness of mind we routinely apply to failure" to size up what he calls "ideas with the potential to cut through difficult problems."

It's a refreshing idea. Among the 20 "silver bullets" fired by U. S. News are bonds to help pay college tuition, tolls imposed on peak-hour drivers to reduce traffic, needle exchanges to slow the spread of AIDS and "How to reduce deaths from tobacco? Duh. Take the toxic stuff out of cigarettes."

*

No Dummies There: IDG Books became successful by not underestimating the ignorance of its readers and their hunger to know the basics. Starting with "DOS for Dummies" five years ago, the company has followed with dozens of other primers, such as "Sex for Dummies" and "Personal Finance for Dummies" (a big hit), as well as "White Wine for Dummies" and, yes, "Red Wine for Dummies." Revenue totaled $50 million last year.

IDG Books has nothing to do with "Life for Real Dummies," a parody written in the series' matter-of-fact mode by Rick Wolff, an editor at Warner Books, and Richard Sandomir, a New York Times sports columnist.

IDG's chief executive officer, John Kilcullen, says he's impressed that a big New York publisher, HarperPerennial, is mimicking his own company's humble efforts out of Foster City, Calif. "We've got 30 million readers in over 32 languages in five years," he said. "Since we're a start-up, to parody us is to validate our success in creating a global brand."

"Life for Real Dummies," subtitled "A Reference for the Totally Clueless," is an equal-opportunity offender. Under "How to Choose Your Religion," the authors write: "There are four things to consider . . . the leader, the hat, the book and the holidays."

* Paul D. Colford is a columnist for Newsday. His column is published Thursdays.

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