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Calendars start the new year on Jan. 1, but intuition—and life's very rhythms—places it at the dawn of September. Vivaldi certainly understood; entering the third of his Four Seasons, the tempo shifts from the soothing cadences of summer into the pulse-quickening pace of autumn. Fall demands almost too much. There are careers to resume, crops to gather, schools to restart. Yet there are all those issues to track and diversions to sample: long-awaited TV series; key elections and fads du jour; Broadway smashes and Hollywood gambles; feats of athleticism and feet of cashmere. The irony of it all is that even as the days grow short—and dwindle down to a precious few—the choices, which PEOPLE previews herein, continue to multiply.

For one who professes anxieties over live gigs, Olivia Newton-John seems awfully laid-back. Actually, Livvy's just kicking off a 50-concert swing, her first in five years. Not only will she be spotlighting her arresting new 45, Heart Attack, but the tour will yield a fall TV special. And later this year Newton-John begins a comeback film (remember Xanadu?), a romantic comedy opposite another whose career could use a Grease job: John Travolta (remember Blow Out?).

September

Billy Joel, recovered from the hand injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash early this year, has cut his first studio LP in two years. The Nylon Curtain is addressed not to teenyboppers but to maturing baby-boomers; the stripped-down rock sound of his 1980 Glass Houses has mellowed into such works as a string-textured ballad called Pressure. And if doctors give Joel, 33, the okay on his keyboard bashers, he'll also take his act on the road this fall.

Harlequin cotton knee-highs, black lace nylon tights, the cable-knitted leg warmers that are riding Donna (Knots Landing) Mills' ankles—yes, with miniskirts resurgent, the $5.5 billion sock, stocking and hose industry is doing its darndest to sheathe all those exposed gams. Hot Sox sparked the trend by walking off with a 1981 Coty Award; now designer leggings even come in cash-mere ($100 a pair). Other Seventh Avenue biggies who are now touching their toes: Geoffrey Beene, Perry Ellis and Diane von Furstenberg.

Once she taught music in a Cincinnati elementary school, but now the 30ish Kathleen Battle has blossomed into one of the busiest—and bobbingest—sopranos of American opera. Last year at New York's Met she alternated four major roles. This month it's San Francisco's turn: She'll sing with the opera, the symphony and give a solo recital too. How does she recharge? After performances Kathleen puts her feet up and lets "the blood rush to my vocal cords."

A leather jacket, a raffish cap, a damsel in distress, a steamy jungle crawling with Axis spies: Is it Lost Ark II or is it ABC's new Tales of the Gold Monkey? The series stars Stephen (Star Trek) Collins as a South Seas adventurer. Not to be outcloned, CBS has its very own Raiders of Last Year's Hit Movie: It's Bring 'Em Back Alive, with Bruce (TRON) Boxleitner.

What if they had a pro football season and nobody played? Under Executive Director Ed Garvey, the NFL Players' Association threatens to take off the pads unless there's a new contract. They want a future ban on artificial turf (allegedly more injury-producing) and 55 percent of all gross NFL revenues, including the league's new $2 billion TV package. Some owners consider this last demand somehow socialistic. A strike, alas, carries no benefit other than silencing Howard Cosell on Monday nights.

Add to the six-pack culture flip-top wine. Geyser Peak is one California winery now marketing nonvintage red, white and rosé; its Summit goes for about 75¢ per 6.3-oz. can (roughly one glass worth). Will oenophiles think it sour grapes?

The 17th-century painter who made Toledo (Spain) famous—El Greco—is being given a belated fete by Toledo (Ohio). The occasion: the first major international exhibition, comprising some 60 canvases, devoted to the great Mannerist. The show has already wowed 'em in Madrid and Washington. After giving good weight in Toledo, it moves on to Dallas in December.

October

Fresh from stealing this year's Oscarcast, Bette Midler, 37, is blowing smoke again in Jinxed, her first romantic comedy. Not that there was any love lost making it. Bette reportedly wanted James Caan to co-star but instead got Ken (Fort Apache: The Bronx) Wahl; whereupon Wahl claimed that he could get through the smooch scenes only by thinking of his pooch, Dopey. Producer Herb Jaffe is calling his $13 million project "the Jewish Heaven's Gate."

Just another slab of teen beefcake until his Tex, Matt Dillon could score again in The Outsiders (with C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Maccio). Cast as a greaser at war with preppies, Dillon respected director Francis Coppola enough to start another Coppola film, Rumble Fish. All three works are based on the novels of Oklahoman S.E. Hinton. "I read all her books when I was a kid," raves Matt, 18. "The Outsiders is my life."

Highest Fiver Michael Jackson, 24, will be busy launching himself Off the Wall—and right out of this world. There's the LP Thriller, his first solo collection since 1979. Produced by Quincy Jones, it features a thumpy duet, The Girl Is Mine, with Paul McCartney. Then he crosses the Atlantic to finish a couple of tracks on Paul's forthcoming LP. By then yet another Jackson work will be out; with a song co-composed with Quincy and his own narration, it's nothing less than the storybook record of E.T.

The film that Robert Redford crafted was the icing on Judith Guest's first novel; now her second book is finished. Though Second Heaven (Viking) concerns a troubled teenager and adults who help him, she vows, "It's not Son of Ordinary People."

Those screening Luciano Pavarotti's Yes. Giorgio surmise his first feature film, with Kathryn Harrold, might also be his last. Fortunately, Pavarotti has, well, an okay singing voice to fall back on. After opening the San Francisco Opera in September, he'll join Kiri Te Kanawa in New York in the Met's Der Rosenkavalier, which PBS airs Oct. 7.

With a cast of 25 hoofers, including Cynthia Onrubia, it may sound like A Morris Line. But in fact Cats, already Broadway's hottest ticket, is a musical based on T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has said, "Eliot wasn't writing about cats, but about people." Improbable? Well, Webber's already scored with musicals about Jesus Christ and Evita Perón.

Can it be a quarter of a century since man first breached outer space? Yes; it was on Oct. 4, 1957 that the U.S.S.R. launched Sputnik I, a 184-pound satellite that made 96-minute orbits for three months. And 20 years ago on Oct. 1, NBC launched Johnny Carson on the Tonight show. The 170-pound host is still flying high, but then, he's down to 60-minute whirls, four nights a week.

Ending her year-long mourning, Jehan Sadat (with granddaughter Jehan, 5) is expected to visit the United States sometime after Oct. 6—the anniversary of the Egyptian leader's assassination. Mrs. Sadat has been invited to meet with American cultural and civic organizations. She may also carry out a more personal mission: conferring with editors from Harper & Row, which will publish posthumously her husband Anwar's memoirs, My Testament.

November

Of all acts legal and illegal committed in the privacy of home, where does videotaping stand? That's one issue to be argued before the Supreme Court. In 1976 Universal, flush from Jaws, joined Walt Disney Productions to sue Sony, claiming Betamaxes aid the infringement of copyright laws. An appellate court agreed. With some 3.5 million decks in use, the home video industry fears unless the Supreme Court reverses that decision, profits will suffer a Bruce-size bite.

A verdict on the Reagan Presidency will be delivered on Nov. 2 along with the results of Utah's U.S. Senate race. GOP ultra-right-winger Orrin Hatch, 48, must defend his seat against Salt Lake City Mayor Ted Wilson, 43. One-term Senator Hatch boasts, "The President will be happy to go to Utah for me." That Reagan probably will means he's all too aware of his supporter's continuing vulnerability.

How will the Di be cast (not to mention Charles) in the inevitable televersions of the royal couple? CBS hopes Catherine Oxen-berg and Christopher Baines (right) won't turn into prime-time pumpkins. ABC's Di-namic duo is Caroline Bliss and David Robb. Given the mentality of network programmers (are we ready for ABC's new black Odd Couple?), it may be just a matter of time before the knotted Windsors are played by Ray Charles and Diana Ross.

Move over, all you cuddly Other Worlders. The Dark Crystal, from Muppetmasters Jim Henson and Frank Oz, introduces film audiences to Jen and Kira, "Gelflings" traveling through a world "where mountains talk and rivers sing." Aided by fantasy artist Brian (Faeries) Froud, the dummies are said to be the most sophisticated yet. And we thought Miss Piggy was perfect...

The White Chess Queen is now 83, but Eva Le Gallienne insists she'll make the same flying entrance in Alice in Wonderland as she did when she previously starred on Broadway in the Lewis Carroll fable in 1932 (above) and 1947. La Le G. feels a new Alice will attract not only the kiddies: "Grown-ups love the crazy mathematics, the chopped-up logic and the sanity of the nonsense."

"We'll be kind a head to head, but I'm sure he's not worried about my book," drawls Hamilton Jordan, 37, Jimmy Carter's former chief of staff. Ham's Crisis: The Last Year of the Carter Presidency (Putnam) will hit stores at about the same time as his ex-boss's Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President (Bantam). Says Carter: "I always thought being President was the most difficult job until I started writing. I really have put my heart in that book. I typed every word of it myself on my word processor." Ditto Jordan, who claims he got a computer first and then plugged Jimmy in: "But his was free, and I had to pay for mine. As someone once said, 'Many things in life are not fair.' "

What's blue and gray and red all over?

a) A whale with a sunburn.
b) Wall Street.
c) CBS' $20 million, eight-hour Civil War miniseries The Blue and the Gray, which may do for Bruce Catton what Roots did for Alex Haley. It stars Gregory Peck, Stacy Keach, Lloyd Bridges (center), 4,500 extras and several vats of fake blood.

1980's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy miniseries, starring Alec Guinness as novelist John Le Carre's counterespionage ace George Smiley, doubled PBS' usual ratings. This year Smiley's People will be the sequel that came in from the cold (of public TV); Guinness' stout spy goes commercial on a syndication network.

December

Jackie Gleason is this Southern sugar daddy, see, and he'll buy his 11-year-old son anything—even another human being. The kid's choice? Richard Pryor, an out-of-work journalist. But pity not poor Richard. His take for the 12 weeks it took to complete the title role of The Toy: $3 million.

Pro scouts will need saliva tests on Dec. 11, when two of college basketball's most gifted centers ever face off for the first time. Virginia's 7'4" senior Ralph Sampson has led his Cavaliers into the NCAAs the last two years, but never past the semis; he spurned the pros to try again. Georgetown's 7' soph Pat Ewing, though, led his Hoyas to the finals his first try. Each school gets a tidy $250,000 for playing on national cable (Ted Turner's WTBS). The game is for the two players: If one dominates, he may have the edge in a rematch—A which could occur only in next spring's national championships.

Were it scheduled for Thanksgiving, it might've been titled Hedda Gobbler. Instead, the video arcade boom's reigning superstars are headlining ABC's The Pac-Man Christmas Special. Which means Packy, Ms. Pac and Pac Jr. will grace your own screen, with nary a cartridge to buy nor a quarter to drop.

In Sidney Lumet's The Verdict, Paul Newman takes his best shot at an Oscar since the days of Hud and The Hustler. His character is an alcoholic lawyer trying to regain his dignity by fighting a hospital negligence case. Playing opposite Charlotte Rampling, Newman allows the camera to show how handsomely 57 years have creased those chiseled features. Yet some things remain unchanged—like those ever-babyish blues.

After Farrah, Dolly and Loni, what superblonde hasn't Burt Reynolds paired off with? Goldie Hawn, for one. In Best Friends, they're a screen-writing team who become blocked after the plot veers toward marriage. Diner director Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin, co-star of ABC's 9 to 5, wrote the quasi-autobiographical script. Question is: Will Burt and Goldie ever make us forget Gable and Lombard?

Good news from Phyllis George: "I loved every minute of being pregnant." The bad news: "I gained 50 pounds, and one month after giving birth to the baby [Lincoln Tyler] I had to go back on CBS." The solution: the Miss America turned First Lady of Kentucky teamed with Bill (coauthor of The I Love New York Diet) Adler to cook up The I Love America Diet (Morrow). The new regimen, culled from federal dietary advice, allows bagels, potatoes, pizza, even booze—as long as it's in moderation. So, though hubby John Y. Brown's Jr.'s a Democrat, it sounds like Phyllis is into Reaganesque belt tightening.

A major tour by The Who is easily rockdom's biggest What! Beginning in September, on the heels of their feisty new LP, it's Hard, Roger Daltrey, Peter Townshend (above) & Co. will climax their two-part, 10-week barnstorm in Toronto in late December, a farewell hyped as their "last." Still, the warhorse British quartet has survived drugs, Keith Moon's death and the 1979 Cincinnati tragedy, not to mention their 21 quarrelsome years together.

You were expecting maybe that someone else would rule this Yule's Santa lists? (This $3.99 plastic doll from LJN Toys has an extendable neck.) You were expecting maybe we'd mention his name again? Well, we won't. But here's a dime and there's the booth...