Sister Still Reaps Relative Fame

The monetary payoff hasn't been much--artist Grant Wood received only $300 for his painting "American Gothic" in a contest sponsored by the Art Institute of Chicago--but his sister, who modeled for the rendering of a stoical farm couple, says the celebrity stirred by the work lasts to this day. "The painting has become my entire life," said the Menlo Park, Calif., resident, who was feted with hymns and songs at a party honoring her 90th birthday. And Nan Graham Wood did some posing once again, as photographers snapped away at the nonagenarian celebration at the convalescent hospital where the one-time painter's model lives. Graham and the family dentist were recorded in their ramrod pose in 1930 for her brother's attempt at showing a farm couple enduring the harsh rural life in Iowa.

--A puppet beat out the President of the United States among future voters asked to select a leader. Their age could have had something to do with it, as the survey of 200 preschoolers found a resounding 53% preferred Big Bird to George Bush as their teacher next year. Bush did have some supporters, including one child who said he voted for the President because "he looks like he has money." The unscientific survey by Playskool Inc., which polled 100 boys and 100 girls in New York, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Charleston, S.C., and Tulsa, Okla., also discerned that students believed their schools could be best improved if they could turn their teachers into toads. They also advocated making "the hard stuff easier" and asked for seat belts on their school buses. More than 70% said they know their parents send them to school to learn, and one 4-year-old girl from Oklahoma elaborated that she goes to school "to learn what to do in a tornado." But leave it to a New York boy to find the bottom line; he said he goes to school "because it's the law."

--Could it be called a case of the body politic? The staff at Playgirl magazine gave Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus their vote as one of the nation's 10 sexiest men, and even the opposition was impressed. "Ray is an attractive candidate and a good representative for the state--both physically and in the policies he promotes," said Wayne Edwards, a Nashville political consultant who worked for Bill Waller, one of Mabus' Democratic challengers in the 1987 election. The governor didn't have much to say about the honor. "This is one of those things we didn't seek or condone," said his press secretary, Kevin Vandenbroek. The September edition that carries the list of America's most desirable also has a picture of Mabus--fully clothed.

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