When you're an arbiter of fun and leisure, people react to your decrees in two stages. First comes "angry denial," in which the instructee lamely tries to fend off your piercing analysis with a counterthrust. A recent example: I'm at a small affair thrown by Hostess X, and I notice that she's placed the keg in her apartment's only bathroom -- an obvious setup for guest gridlock. But when I take her aside to point this out, floating a paternal arm around her neck and kicking off with a friendly "Listen, keed," she spews irrelevant verbiage -- something about how she doesn't know me, I wasn't invited and would I "please leave -- NOW!!" . . . What's that? Yes, I know she was rude. Still, try to sympathize with her. It's not easy facing the righteous serenity of a bodhisattva. But face it she must, for that is the beginning of stage two -- "calm acceptance" of my teachings.

Occasionally people accuse me of social Louis the Fourteenth-ism, and I wonder: Am I becoming a party despot, an obnoxious shrieker of "La~ fete, c'est moi!"? Yeah, probably. On the other hand, I'm always right. Like, I've spent the past month warning people to stay away from those perky holiday parties that downplay beer, liquor and serious grub and emphasize cakes, spangled cookies, punch and dessert wines -- the dreaded Four Horsemen of the Sugar Headache. The people who listened are now calling to thank me. The people who didn't are still cradling their skulls and saying "Ouch." So, yes, I do have something to contribute. Therefore, I'll go ahead and deliver my New Year's Eve lecture, though many may find it controversial. My only hope is that you'll take my advice the night before, instead of wishing you had the moanin' after.

The current major problem with the Eve is summed up in the following speech, of which you'll be hearing many versions this week: "Aw, New Year's Eve is amateur night. You won't catch me doing a lot of dumb boozing. I'm just planning to {spend a quiet evening at home watching Dick Clark with some friends/have a nice dinner with my spouse, do some dancing and bring in the New Year right for a change/play Monopoly with my family and then at midnight we'll beat some pans}. It'll be fun." Forget for a moment that these are wussy approaches, and consider the common assertion running through them: There will be no heavy drinking for me. Which in turn means: No pre-boozing precautions will be necessary. Which works just fine if all the people who say they won't be drinking on New Year's Eve actually don't. But as we all know, things happen. (And don't bother denying it!) A persuasive friend wearing a festooned cone hat appears at your door, blows a projectile noisemaker in your face, and you're off on an all-night slurpfest. Or you decide that you're "burning off all the alcohol" by dancing, so what will it hurt to have another sloe gin- and-cranberry juice the size of a 7-Eleven Big Gulp? Or you "reason" that the eggnog you were sipping when the kids were still up "coated your stomach," so taking a few gargles of straight Virginia Gentleman shouldn't be any "prollem," right? No, by my estimate, the percentage of people who stick with their New Year's Eve "sobriety plan" is about .01. Them we needn't worry about. But everyone else is asking for a severe case of what the Norwegians call "carpenters in the head."

The irony is that the pain could be warded off so easily. Science-men now know a great deal about the biochemistry of hangover avoidance, and yet, the average reveler can't even tell you how alcohol works its evil in his body. Here's all you need to know. When alcohol hits your liver, an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase converts it to a more toxic substance called acetaldehyde -- the prime mover in the next-day Narcissus- at-the-toilet scene. Luckily, the liver also employs a second enzyme, aldehydedehydrogenase, to convert the acetaldehyde to harmless acetate, and another compound, nicotonic acid derivative, helps burn away both alcohol and acetaldehyde. Unluckily, the average body can keep up with only about one ounce of 80-proof liquor per hour, and of course, everybody drinks more than that. In addition, most beer and booze contains poisonous impurities called cogeners that your already overworked bod must eliminate. Meanwhile, your depressant- soaked brain cells adapt by becoming hypersensitive, and they stay hypersensitive the next morning -- this is why your hair hurts. Also, alcohol is a dehydrator and diuretic that washes away important helpers such as calcium, potassium and vitamins B1, B6 and C. Finally, perhaps most painful of all, booze makes you smell so bad the next morning that nobody will want to "be your bes' frien' " when you need him most.

All this is outlined in David Outerbridge's The Hangover Handbook, which I highly recommend. Oddly, though he argues that eating the right foods and vitamins before and during drinking can ward off hangovers altogether, Outerbridge dismisses prevention as being "impractical" and focuses on cures. Fortunately for you, I'm an old prevention hand, and below you'll find a practical, hour-to-hour New Year's Eve schedule that incorporates my folk knowledge and Outerbridge's sciencey facts. Obey. Excuse me, I meant: Enjoy.

New Year's Eve, 2 p.m.: Get up. Eat a breakfast consisting of pancakes, bacon-wrapped calf's liver, honey- glopped grapefruit, orange juice and a vitamin and mineral package including: A, B1, B6, C, calcium, magnesium and potassium chloride.

4 p.m.: Turn on "Gimme a Break!" rerun and nap.

8 p.m.: Up and at 'em, because it's dinner time. Note: no Ethiopian restaurants! Spicy foods may "angry up the blood," but they do not have hangover ward-off value and they do promote burping in people's faces. Instead consume: a large pasta pile (starch absorbs alcohol in the stomach), an oily fish (coats stomach; okay to substitute one cup of olive oil or whale blubber, where available), a charcoal tablet (charcoal absorbs acetaldehyde) and a Slim Jim (I don't know why, but these have always brought me good luck).

11 p.m.: After some aerobic dancing (oxygen speeds up metabolism of alcohol) to the tune of Rick James' "Give It to Me Baby," shower, dress and pack a party tote containing 1) top-quality vodka (vodka contains no cogeners), 2) a second vitamin and mineral dosage, 3) a hand-held oxygen canister, 4) a cabbage and 5) a hand mirror. Go to party. Drink moderately, dance, and at midnight, DON'T kiss anybody -- who knows what's been sloshing through his mouth?

2 a.m. Consume vitamins, take eight snorts of oxygen and put on some water for your cabbage -- the best acetaldehyde absorber in the vegetable world. Before chopping cabbage (IMPORTANT!), take out hand mirror, look at self and say, "WHAT am I DOING?" Then discard cabbage and . . .

Hey, look, I'm a dictator, not a fascist. But back to the schedule --

. . . resume drinking, as much as you want, making sure to eat a charcoal pill before passing out or, if that's not available, a barbecue briquette. If something goes wrong after that and you wake up with your lips quivering like hummingbird wings, see Outerbridge, Chapter 4, Page 66: "Hair of the Dog." ::