Zig Ziglar, The Superstar of Salesmanship'" was up there on the red-white-and-blue draped stage in front of 6,600 people, telling them what a miserable failure he'd been. As a spotlight followed him around, he told them how he hadn't even had enough money to pay the $64 for his first child's delivery, how he'd had his furniture repossessed, and how he'd been fat and wanted to look like the men in jockey short ads.

Microphone in hand, he ran around the runway of the T-shaped stage as he told them how he learned to jog, he punched the air with his fists when he told them things like "Fear is nothing but False Evidence Appearing Real." He squatted, he jumped, he told jokes ("I saw a fella with his wedding ring on the wrong hand . . . "Yeah", he said, 'I married the wrong woman!'"), he ran forward and he ran backward. And when he finished, he got an ovation. Zig Ziglar is a SUCCESS!

The people who half-filled the 11,000 seat Richmond Coliseum were not necessarily as successful as Zig Ziglar. America's Blue Ribbon Salesman, but they apparently wanted to be. That's why they paid between $10 and $20 to sit for nine hours before a 20x30 foot American flag to "get their PMA in order."

PMA is "positive mental attitude." PMA is what Thursday's "Success Unlimited Rally" was all about. "Success Unlimited Rallies are created with the purpose of making the world a better place for this and future generations," said the program, based on the "original writings of W. Clement Stone and Napoleon Hill." PMA inspires fresh hope and determination and helps each listenr to aspire to and achieve new goals through specific planning."

And so these people - the 40 real estate salesmen from Newport News, the Charlottesville oral surgeon's wife and her teen-age son, the busload of Mary Kay cosmetics saleswomen from D.C. and Maryland, the Menonites from Harrisonburg, the AMWAY salesmen from Fairfax, the handicapped people in wheelchairs - gathered to hear a welcome from Gov. John N. Dalton and the words of Norman Vincent Peale, Paul Harvey, Jesse Owens, and NFL referee and a local athletic.

Stone, who coined the phrase "positive mental attitude," has had other plans for bettering the world, one of which involved giving Richard Nixon more than $5 million for his presidential campaigns. Stone, whose promotional material says he has assets reaching $770 million, is chairman of Success Unlimited. The company's president is Dwight Chapin, who was Richard Nixon's White House appointments secretary, and who later served an eight-month prison term for perjury. Three other former Nixon administration staffers also work for the organization.

In the last 18 months Stone has staged 13 rallies, including the one in Richmond. Over 17,000 people showed up at the largest one, which was held in Minneapolis in April. The enterprise has also produced a rival splinter, "Humaneering, Inc." which is being sued by Stone for a least $14 million.

The rallies are a hybrid of endurance test (the speeches are long) and pep rally, with echoes of chautauqua tent entertainment oratory. They grew out of sales seminars designed to motivate people onto bigger and better profits, with doses of patriotism and religion thrown in.

In addition to Stone's altrulstic goals, the venture is designed to be profitable. "Under the American concept of the free enterprises system you operate a business for a profit," Stone said, although a Stone spokesman declined to be specific.

Elizabeth Sage is an "administrative secretary" at Western Electric in Richmond. A few weeks ago she was driving to work when she heard one of the hundreds of radio ads Success Unlimited ran for the rally. She pulled right over to the side of the road and wrote down the number to call for tickets.

Sage took the afternoon off from work to attend the rally. She came by herself, carrying a gray notebook in which she wrote down some of the things the speakers said. When Norman Vincent Peale said "A positive thinker thinks positively," she wrote that down.

She came to the rally mainly to hear Peale, and because she'd read Napoleon Hill's book several years ago and it helped her. "My mother had gone into a deep depression," she said. "I went down to Florida to help her. She cried for about three months without stopping. She thought she had cancer, although she didn't. It was some sort of chemical imbalance, so they were giving her these pills that sedated her a lot.

"So every morning I'd massage her legs and we'd repeat these things I'd read in the book ("Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude"): "I'm healthy, I'm terrific . . ." She still gets up every day and repeats these things. I think it really helped."

Elizabeth Sage was here, she said, because she needs self-confidence. She wants to be a supervisor at Western Electric, not just a secretary. "The field is opening up for women," she said. "I know I can do it, but I need confidence. I was raised that a woman should only stay home and take care of the children and not work . . ."

Sage is now 43. Her son is 20 and her daughter is 19. She and her husband , who is retired from the Navy, live in a mobile home community in Sandston, a suburb of Richmond. They used to sell mobile homes.

Before she moved to Richmond five years ago to marry Mr. Sage, she had never been out of her home town of Key West, Fla.She was one of eight children, including her twin sister, with a Cuban mother and an American father. The farthest away she'd ever been was the next town.

"I was so homesick when I first came here," she said, shaking her head with a smile. "My whole life I had seen my parents every day . . . One day I was at Thalheimer's (a local department store) and suddenly I just sat down on a bench outside the store and started to cry. This woman came up to me and said 'What's wrong?' and I said 'I'm homesick.'

"And she said, honey, there's no pill to cure homesickness. What you have to do is go out and get a job."

And she did.

Not that she hadn't worked before; in Florida, after she and her first husband split up, she had to support her two children and keep up the payments on their house. "The only thing high school had prepared me to do was play in the band," she said. "But I knew I needed a real job."

The job she applied for was as a clerk typist with the Navy. "I didn't know how to type, but I went and took the test. I took it six times. I'd go home and practice typing, and then I'd take the test again. Finally the woman giving the test said, 'Liz, this is it, you've got to pass it this time.'"

Here is Parul Harvey's prescription for a Successful life; as described to the ralliers:

"When you get up in the morning, do at least 20 push-ups, even you ladies. Smile at yourself in the shaving mirror . . . wear a bright tie, or if you're a woman who has to wear a navy or gray dress, wear a bright scarf. Have bran or oatmeal cereal for breakfast . . . Great your co-workers nicely . . . Schedule scripture reading and prayer, preferable with your spouce. And don't leave all your pep at the office. Play tennis, swim or jog. If you jog, jog not less tha one mile every other day. Avoid downers. Forget the 10 o'clock news, forget the newspaper. Just listen to Paul Harvey . . . Before you go to bed read some of Dr. Peale's great works or read some Erma Bombeck . . ."

Many of the people who attended the rally said they came to hear Harvey, whose radio voice is so familiar that all he had to say was his trademark opening "Good Evening, Americans," to get a laugh."

Harvey flew in on his private Lear jet, was chauffeured to the Coliseum, and spoke for about 45 minutes. For this he was paid about $8,000, according to a Success Unlimited official.

His speech, which was interrupted frequently by applause, was a vitriolic barrage of scorn at the excesses of some of the unemployed and in the women's movement, not to mention "professional baby makers" on welfare, overzealous types in HEW, "goofoff students defaulting on loans and using food stamps to pay for booze and drugs," rabid conservationists and some Americans who are "generally lazy, greedy and lethargic."

But he noted, "how frequently a healthy outlook begets a healthy body . . . if you can keep a cheerful, optimistic outlook, your body is not likely to turn sour."

About half the crowd was female, and nearly everyone was well dressed in neat wrinkle-proof outfits, and coiffed in blow-dried hairdos that stayed in place. Many people took notes or tape-recorded the speeches and sat rather studiously throughout the event. Most appeared to be between 20 and 40 years old. There were several large groups of blacks in the crowd.

Former Olympic star Jesse Owens was the only black speaker. Several women interviewed in the audience noted that there were no women on the program - other than three young singers in skin-tight blue jumpsuits. Rally officials said that women who have been on the program in the past have not been well-received, but added they were looking for dynamic, successful women to speak.

Liz Sage has worked at Western Electric for only four months, but she figures if she really works hard and has a "good attitude" she'll get promoted. She now earns about $9,000 a year; if she were a supervisor she says she could more than double that.

"It'll take me a few years, I know," she said. That's why she's taking night classes at a local high school. First she took a course in personnel management, and now she's taking "grammar and creative writing." She also takes belly dancing; when she goes to her 25th high school reunion in a few weeks, she hopes to perform a belly dance for her old classmates. "I think it'd be appropriate," she said. "I was named Best Dancer when I was in high school.

"It's so exciting to me that things are opening up for women," she said. "I never thought I'd be doing some of these things. But there are some things I don't understand. Like a few weeks ago the Chamber of Commerce had this big picnic, and the company decided who was going to go. They didn't ask any of the women. So I asked the assistant manager, 'Why didn't you ask any women?' And he said, 'We just didn't think of it.' I bet they ask them next year."

Doing better at her work isn't the only reason Liz is interested in PMA. "I get jealous and angry when I don't need to," she said a little shyly. "I get these angry feelings and I find if I just say to myself the words in the book - 'I'm great, I'm terrific,' it helps. It makes me feel better."

When she first went to work at Western Electric, she was told to handle paperwork relating to employe benefits "I dedicate at least two days a week to benefits," she said. "The company hasn't been here very long, about five years, so they said as the years go on there will be more and more work with benefits an I should learn that well."

A week ago she found out that in about a year most of the work relating to benefits will be computerized, and the department will be cut back to one person. She was told that person would probably not be she.

"At first I thought I would just quit. Then I thought, I should have a positive mental attitude. That's really why I'm here, to get my self-confidence up. I'm going to go back and learn benefits so well they'll have to consider me for that job . . ."

Highly motivated salesmen manned booths in and around the Coliseum floor selling such things as an "inspiration pack" for $23 or a "deluxe rally kit" for $65 (on sale from $108). The deluxe kit includes 12 cassette tapes of the speakers like Peale and Stone, plus Hill's "Laws of Success," a SUCCESS RALLIES tote bag and coffee mug and an "I'm headed for success" button. Sales appeared to be brisk.

The price of the ticket included a subscription to the "Success Unlimited" magazine, which features Jesse Jackson on this month's cover, Stone founded the magazine 24 years ago but its circulation has increased from 180,000 to 250,000 since he started the rallies, a rally official said.

The chase for the almighty dollar was a key point in most speakers' remarks. As Ziglar said, "Some of my Christian brothers say to me, 'Zig, how do you reconcile all that talk about Christianity with talking about money?' And I said, 'it's easy . . .'

"The best way to help the poor is not to be one of them," Ziglar said, "I think God made diamonds for his crowd, not for Satan's . . . Moses was a millionaire."

"We're not wealthy or nothing," John Handick said of himself and his business partner, Sam Cooper, who together run Humaneering, Inc., Success Unlimited's biggest competition in the positive thinking business. To hear them tell it, they had the idea for the first positive thinking rally, and when W. Clement Stone found out about it, he approached them and a partnership was formed. When the first rally was a success, more rallies were planned, and they also succeeded.

Cooper, who is 31, said he and Handick, 33, were wary of Stone and his organization from the beginning. "We were afraid of being gobbled up. And after three or four months, the two men decided they didn't like the direction the rallies were taking. "It had become a toy to promote W. Clement Stone, we felt," Handick said. "The rallies were bging used as an ego thing for Stone," Cooper said. And they felt the emphasis of the rallies was too much on success, financial success, and not enough on "positive living," on "honesty, dignity, reselling the people on themselves and the country, making them more aware of the positive side."

After eight rallies, they asked to get out and formed their own company.

Since then, Stone's Success Unlimited has filed several suits against Handick and Cooper, the latest suit for $14 million, according to Cooper. "The whole purpose is to hassle us," Cooper said.

Stone said Cooper and Handick approached him with the rally idea and that they left because, "they felt they could perhaps do better without us." Stone said there is a lawsuit pending, but declined to talk about it. "I'd rather not say anything negative about them," Stone said. Later he said that the Humaneering people have gone into towns where Success Unlimited has advertised a rally and scheduled a rally of their own, "and we don't think that's quite fair." Cooper denied that.

Humaneering and Success Unlimited use some of the same speakers for their rallies, and Handick said that Stone has put pressure on some to speak only for him. Handick said that Stone has put pressure on some to speak only for him. Handick said Norman Vincent Peale has stopped speaking for Humaneering, but Peale denied this at the rally Thursday.

Couldn't PMA solve some of these problems faster than the courts?

A belly laugh from Handick. "I knew you were going to ask something like that," he said.

W. Clement Stone sat in his hotel room after his speech, waiting for Paul Harvey to give him a lift back to Chicago. His double-breasted cream-colored coat was off and he was smoking a cigar.

Stone would like to see Richard Nixon working for Success Unlimited someday, as an inspirational speaker at a rally. Nixon told him once that PMA helped him on his political comeback after he lost the California governor's race. Stone said Thursday that he thinks PMA has helped Nixon fight off the depressions he felt after he resigned the presidency.

"I don't think there's any doubt that Richard Nixon would draw a tremendous crowd" at a PMA rally, Stone said, and added, "I think if we invited him, he'd come."

Zig Ziglar returned after the dinner break to wind up the rally, as promised with his "pump story." Aided by a shiny old-fashioned water pump as a prop, the indefatigable Ziglar wove his themes of optimism and hard work into a lengthy tale about two fellows who needed a drink of water.

He'd grab the pump handle and pump it up and down, faster and faster. "There's no way you can look at that pump and say 'Just two more (before the water comes out)'," he said. "Keep a little easy, steady, pressure . . ." Pump, Pump, Pump. "This has nothing to do with whether you're black or white, or Jewish or Protestant, or fat or thin, or introvert or extrovert. It has to do with your God-given rights as free people to work as long and as hard as you want.