December 25, 1978 12:00 PM

It Is the American way to believe that defeat is transitory and reversible. This year’s turkey can become tomorrow’s eagle by, variously, Dressing for Success, telling all to Merv Griffin, undergoing plastic surgery in Rio, enduring a weekend of est or retaining Gerald Rafshoon. So, to counsel and help repackage some of 1978’s unfortunates, PEOPLE commissioned Dick Tuck, 54, a political expert, best known perhaps for the campaign pranks he pulled on Richard Nixon. Tuck personally learned the only way to lose: grudgingly. In his run for the California State Senate in 1966, Tuck no sooner saw that he was whooped than he strode to the TV cameras and declared: “The people have spoken—the bastards!”

Instead of sailing as expected into a third term in the Senate, Republican Ed Brooke was sunk by the Massachusetts voters. The trouble started during his divorce when his wife of 31 years and his eldest daughter cited fishy financial statements. Politics has ruined a lot of families; this may be the first time a family did in a politician. The result: severe hectoring by the Senate Ethics Committee and an accusation of “careless bookkeeping” by a judge. Now he needs a job. How about this: Everybody send in your checkbooks for Ed to balance.

When the proposed Equal Rights Amendment got an extension from Congress, it was bad news for Phyllis Schlafly, the national Stop ERA chairwoman. The Illinois mother of six insists that the amendment will lead to homosexual marriages, women combat troops, unisex bathrooms and other disasters. Her other cause this year: backing the New York Yankees’ unsuccessful fight to bar women reporters from the locker room. Phyllis needs a change. She should give up her aspirations to become a lawyer, quit running for Congress (three losses so far), fire her maid, tend to husband Fred and maybe even bake a pie. The lady should lead by example.

After ABC abruptly canceled his series and his first feature movie in eight years was released, it became apparent that Lee Majors was not worth the $6 million sum of his parts. The flick, The Norseman, was one of the meatballs of the year; and, meanwhile, he suffered the malicious gossip about being aced out for the affections of wife Farrah by Vince Van Patten, a tennis pro 17 years his junior. But Majors is a still incredible hulk, so my suggestion is for him to position himself as the heir to John Wayne. It won’t be easy; Duke Majors sounds like a group of Southern undergraduates.

Though he lost his world chess championship challenge to fellow Russian Anatoly Karpov, defector Viktor Korchnoi has a shot at the ultimate end game: pretending that it never happened. Does anybody really care that Viktor was vanquished? Defeat came after 93 numbing days of play, 1,526 moves, endless complaints about psyching out opponents with sunglasses and a hypnotist, coverage on the obit page (where was Bobby Fischer when we needed him?) and all of it happening a million miles away on a mountaintop in the Philippines during the World Series. As Dorothy Parker said upon hearing that Calvin Coolidge had died: “How can they tell?”

After winning the heavyweight boxing crown in February, Leon Spinks lost a front tooth in training, his Cadillac to thieves and (seven months later) the title back to Muhammad Ali. On the road he has had more troubles than a Pinto: four run-ins with the cops and two fender-benders. Obviously, Spinks doesn’t bob and weave in the ring any better than he does in traffic. He needs to get out of the fast lane for a while. The William Morris agency, which made Mark Spitz what he is today, should land him a cushy TV deal as spokesman for Greyhound.

It seems that Bill Buckley invested in a chain of faltering Texas drive-in theaters, then dodged bankruptcy by selling them to one of his companies. When the Wall Street Journal reported that the SEC was investigating him for civil fraud, the superintellect pleaded ignorance (“I can spot a solecism in Webster’s Dictionary, but I am no good with figures”). If Bill wants to repackage himself, he should dump those Brooks Brothers suits for some Woody Allen castoffs (and have wife Pat dress like Annie Hall). This is also the perfect time to renounce his association with the CIA and disclose the name of his contact. That should lead him into court and, who knows, maybe to jail. Then he purges himself with an interview by Mike Wallace and—voila!—thorn again.

Firestone Chairman Richard Riley is more famous than even Howard Cosell for his “total recall.” The Department of Transportation ordered Riley’s company to call back 7.5 million Firestone radial 500s at a cost of $230 million, making it the largest exchange in retailing history. (It is not true that Sen. S. I. Hayakawa, when asked about the Firestone 500, said, “They should all go free.”) What Dick Riley must do now is market the rejects as backyard swings. If he’s good at wheeling and dealing, he’ll convince Neiman-Marcus to carry the line and double the price.

Distance swimmer Diana Nyad shouldn’t feel so bad about failing in her bid to swim from Cuba to Florida, or in seeing her record for circling Manhattan beaten by a 21-year-old law student. Diana is 29 now, and after 17 years of training could, if she’s not careful, become the Bobby Riggs or Harold Stassen of swimming. Like Suzy Chaffee, she’s got to find a gimmick. Getting herself caught by the paparazzi with Teddy Kennedy isn’t the answer anymore. But endorsing a product? No, not lip balm. Marathon swimmers’ oil? That’s it! Introducing…Diana Dipstick.

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