New York

WORDS IN PRINT have a way of taking on a validity beyond themselves, so that a well-published lie not only is received as truth, it actually can become a kind of truth. In this case the story begins at a recent press party for a new magazine. Working Woman. Alice Allen Donald was talking to Carol Rinzler. Donald is a free-lance publicist and public relations expert; Rinzler is a soon-to-be-published novelist, author also of Nobody Said You Had to Eat Off the Floor , future attorney (she enters Yale Law School in the fall), and woman-about-town. They were talking, and today neither remembers who came up with the idea first, but the conversation went like this:

Alice or Carol: Working Woman, New Woman, Executive Woman . . . what this country needs is a magazine called Scarlet Woman.

Carol or Alice: No, Fallen Woman.

Both: Yeah!

So they told everybody at the party that they were going to publish a magazine called Fallen Woman, and everybody laughed. Next the two decided to carry the joke one step further. They rounded up a crew of media women to be their "masthead," had a few merry lunches and got a scarlet letterhead printed up. They announced the publication of the magazine. It was all tongue-in-cheek and very funny. But now it was printed joke, and suddenly people were taking it seriously, Rinzler and Donald, editors-in-chief, found themselves deluged with offers of real money to make Fallen Woman a real book. A monthly. An annual. A one shot, Byron Dobell wanted to spin it off inside Esquire. Somebody else wanted to print it as a paperback. An emergency meeting of the "editors" was called to decide whether to take the joke into the real world of money - no laughing matter.