What? Him worry? Is nothing sacred?

For the first time in MAD magazine's 26-year history, mascot Alfred E. Neuman has sweat pouring off his usually glib mug.

The cause of this angst is the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor, which is depicted with cracked heating towers behind Neuman's terror-torn countenance.

"We felt we had to take a stand on this," says MAD editor Nick Meglin. "It's self-explanatory. A worry is a worry is a worry."

This 210th issue of MAD, dated October but on sale today, displays a return to some of the screwy sophomoric humor lacking lately in the once-great satire vehicle.

An unusual study conducted by "Passages" author Gail Sheehy indicates that women who wait until they are at least 28 to have their first child tend to lead the happiest lives.

Rebook printed Sheehy's 70-question form in its July 1978 issue. A surprising 52,000 of the magazine's 4 to 5 million readers answered (versus 2,000 answering a male form in Esquire). The respondents had an average age of 31. Seventy-five percent attended college, 69 percent were married and 52 percent had full-time jobs outside the home. The results are in the July and August issues of Redbook.

The survey also indicates that women hit a happiness peak at 21, and then slump until mid-40s (as opposed to the Esquire men, who tend to vacillate every five years). The most satisfied women have almost all been through rough unhappy periods, usually in childhood.

We've all had bosses who drive us up the wall, and some are less endearing at it than others. Imagine having been J. Edgar Hoover's chauffeur, forbidden to make left turns because once the FBI director's car was struck while executing such an un-American maneuver.

No less than the stately Harvard Business Review examines "managers who can drive their subordinates mad" in its July-August issue. Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries, a Canadian student of psychoanalysis, suggests that over-demanding bosses at their worst turn into J. Edgar Hoovers, Hitlers and Jim Joneses.

The big problem, De Vries writes, is when the underlings start buying the boss' craziness. In the '20s, Henry Ford fired employes who suggested that his Model T needed improvement, keeping his supporters. The company subsequently lost its marketing advantage to General Motors, which finally forced the introduction of the Ford Model A in 1927.

Some bosses are more prone to this than others:

"Managers likely to initiate this type of behavior," says De Vries, "usually show specific personality characteristics. For example, they may seem to possess a lot of personal charm and seductiveness...A closer look, however, will reveal that this behavior is often a cover-up for attitudes of conceit, arrogance, demonstrative self-sufficiency and self-righteousness."

That's about all we can write here on this topic or the editors will refuse to print it on grounds that it's too self-revealing of writers.

Last fall, Playboy's "Girls of the NFL" became the magazine's only issue of 1978 to sell out. Last week brought September's "Girls of the Ivy League" to newsstands, and the responses appear to be unprecedented. One vendor claims that "carloads" of people are driving up to his kiosk, with first-day sales of the issue up from 50 to 350.

Vicki McCarty is the first Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude centerfold to appear in the magazine. She also is the least physically endowed playmate in memory, and it becomes oddly disorienting to page through the magazine and find women in typical Playboy poses who hope to become lawyers, doctors, solar energy consultants and foreign correspondents instead of singers and movie stars.

The magazine's spread dutifully records the cries of sexism raised raised by many of the college newspapers when the photo sessions were held, but a perusal of the text and photos begs the question of whom the joke was really on.

An unusual ruling in Small Claims Court here last month may have a profound impact on journalistic ethics, particularly the work of free-lance writers.

Judge W. Byron Sorrell of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ruled that an author may prevent the false identification of articles, regardless of who holds the copyright to that material.

Washington writer Gigi Pickford sued Baltimore magazine in May, claiming that an article in its April issue on where to make new friends essentially duplicated a piece she had written for The Washingtonian in 1976. At issue was an odd quirk: Baltimore magazines owns Washingtonian, and thus might have some legal right to use the material in any manner since it owned the copyright on Pickford's work.

Pickford initially asked for $1,500 damages and a printed correction; Baltimore publisher Phillip Merrill says the amount was more than the magazine has ever paid anyone, and let the matter go to court.

"We were both victims together," Merrill says. "Obviously the woman who wrote the article (another freelance author) for Baltimore used Pickford's story, but we had no idea of it." Merrill says the magazine offered to correct the mistake from the outset; Pickford says Baltimore never made that offer.

Judge Sorrell ruled that Baltimore must pay Pickford $100 and print a correction. The magazine has requested an appeal.

"We were not at fault," says Baltimore editor Stan Heuisler. "We're merely victims, just as Miss Pickford was."

Stay tuned.

Three new ones:

NEXT, yet another foray into the future with lively articles that lie somewhere within the reams of Omni, Scientific American and the defunct New Times. The premier issue includes a fascinating glimpse at a new cam-activated bicycle mechanism, claims that the Chevy Caprice is the safest car you can drive, examines the future of sex roles (currently "men are less likely to ask directions when lost; little girls don't like milk, little boys don't like carrots"), and ponders the possibility of a Jewish president.Six issues are $9.99 from Box 536, Oradell, N.J. 07649

Attenzione, a fat, slick successor to the defunct I AM, is simiarly aimed at Italian Americans. This one may well succeed, largely because of the megabuck backing of Jeno Paulucci, the fast-food king. It's $16 annually from Box 943, Farmingdale, N.Y. 11737.

New Virginia Review, a surprisingly plump annual that Tom Wolfe calls "the most promising new literary magazine of the past two decades" - maybe because Wolfe is from Virginia. Anyway, there's poetry and fiction and art from W. D. Snodgrass, David Hockney, Robert Mapplethorpe, George Garrett and many others; $9 from Box 415, Norfolk, Va. 23501.

Magazine ad revenues were up 14 percent over last year for the first five months of 1979, bringing in more than $1 billion. Canadian whiskies were the biggest spenders.

New West contributing editor Kenny Turan is skulking about Washington today on a hot assignment.

And, we are happy to note, the journal of the American Society of Association Executives arrived this month with an article on "How to Squeeze the Most Out of Your Postal Dollar."

Unfortunately, the magazine was so damaged in the mails that the piece was illegible. CAPTION: Picture 1, MAD'S Alfred E. Neuman; Picture 2, August cover of Redbook