Newspapers Dish Up Mia, Marla, Mort

As dog days draw to a close, the Big Apple is astir with talk of Steinbrenner and other goings-on - a letter from New York City

IN the old days, writers often referred to late summer in New York as the unbearable "dog days." F. Scott Fitzgerald highlighted the city's heat and lassitude in the 1920s in "The Great Gatsby." Years later, filmgoers of the 1950s chuckled over the Big Apple summertime woes of Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch."

This was the season when New York's heat and humidity soared, and those who could fled to the country. Those who stayed behind were left to fan themselves by the window and read news stories that bordered on the "quirky." Air conditioning now makes city living more pleasant, but the news that makes New York papers in late summer hasn't changed much.

The Mets and Yankees are battling it out for last place in baseball's major leagues. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is expected to come back from exile soon to resume control - guaranteeing a few "hot" winter days as well.

The stock market, which often settles into a summer rut, has taken some deep dips due to a falling dollar.

The city is searching once again for a new police chief. And Mayor David Dinkins has voiced concern that city schools chancellor Joseph Fernandez might quit over disagreements with the city's board of education, which wants AIDS teaching to stress abstinence. The chancellor was involved in a similarly lively controversy last year over school distribution of condoms.

The major newspapers try to remain profitable. It seems like only yesterday that the New York Post was looking for - and found - a buyer. Now the Daily News is searching for one. Union leaders want Mortimer Zuckerman, publisher of US News & World Report. News officials are leaning toward Canadian Conrad Black.

Political life remains lively. Thanks to redistricting, Congressman Stephen Solarz, a liberal non-Hispanic incumbent, is running for a seat in a Hispanic district.

Former Congressman Mario Biaggi, a strong proponent of law and order, got an early health discharge from jail, where he was serving time on a political-corruption conviction. You guessed it: he is running for Congress again.

Finally, Geraldine Ferraro, front-runner in the Democratic Senate race, is trying to put down charges claiming she's linked to the mob.

New Yorkers love tabloids and scandal. The hottest local story, typical for New York, but one which made the covers of Time and Newsweek, is the child-custody dispute between actress Mia Farrow, mother of 11 children, and filmmaker Woody Allen, the city's most famous symbol of urbanity and alternative lifestyles. One big concern: Will New Yorkers ever laugh as heartily as they once did at Woody's future New York-based movies?

Donald Trump, the New Yorker who most closely fits the definition of tycoon, has been outspoken in defense of current lady friend Marla Maples. She recently took on the supporting lead in Broadway's "Will Rogers Follies," but her performance has not exactly taken the city's theater critics by storm. Mr. Trump blasted off a letter to New York magazine for critiquing the show without having gone to it, and for describing Marla as "short." (She's 5 ft., 9 in. tall).

Tourists, as usual, are taking in the sights, often now in red two-decker London-style buses. Though the Olympic Summer Games are over, New York peddlers, ever on the watch for new ways to profit, are hawking Olympic T-shirts in addition to the usual watches, jewelry, and scarves.

Though viewed by many outsiders as an impossible place to live, New York is still a magnet for newcomers.

As outgoing top cop Lee Brown, who is taking a university post in Texas after 17 years in law enforcement, says: "After all, when you leave as the police commissioner of New York, where else do you go?"

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