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Thursday, Aug. 12, 2004 05:31 am

Vanity fare

A new glossy lifestyles magazine that aims to peek behind the plush velvet curtains of Springfield's upper crust and swinging social set will hit newsstands this fall. Springfield Scene is the brainchild of media veteran Don Hickman, who recently retired as anchor and news director at WICS after 29 years.

"I had no inclination to actually retire," says Hickman, 67, the magazine's president and publisher.

Springfield Scene will be published every two months beginning Nov. 1. Some 10,000 copies are planned for the first printing, he says, one-third of which will be sent to area households that have been carefully handpicked.

"We're targeting people with above-average incomes," says Hickman, who plans to circulate the first three editions for free before charging a $12 annual subscription rate.

The magazine will highlight exclusive social galas and charity balls, profile the local power elite, and feature lavish homes and luxurious living.

"People are going to want to know who's in it, what were they wearing, what cause were they supporting," says William Stokes, the magazine's accountant and business manager.

But recent financial hardships faced by similar local publications lead some to question whether Springfield Scene will be able to survive.

Abe, a full-color bimonthly magazine launched last November, has since laid off several employees and cancelled its last issue due to plummeting advertising revenues.

Illinois Magazine, a glossy lifestyles periodical based in Springfield, went belly-up last year after its owners filed for bankruptcy.

"It's going to be a challenge," says Patrick Anderson, president and creative director for Springfield-based advertising agency Anderson G M & Associates. "Central Illinois has had a hard time sustaining a periodical publication of any kind."

As for a magazine that toasts the goings-on of Springfield's well-to-do, Anderson is particularly skeptical.

"It seems to target a very small segment of the Springfield population," he says. "I don't know whether advertisers would get behind a publication like this."

But Stokes contends he has studied the failings of IllinoisMagazine, which unsuccessfully sought to merge periodicals from Springfield, Bloomington-Normal, and Peoria into a single publication. Springfield Scene instead will have a singular focus.

"We will make it as relevant to this community as possible," says Stokes.

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