AT THE MANY FABULOUS PARTIES your columnist attends, between rounds of Cristal and before inhaling a few dozen hors d’oeuvres, we’ve noticed a recurrent question posed by the beautiful women clustered around us:

Just where do you get your ideas for stories?

It’s not easy, we harrumph, stabbing another shrimp for emphasis. Hours of research, painstaking legwork, sources in high places.

But since we’re all friends here, we’ll let you in on a secret: The best stories are spun off from the press releases and just plain rumors that conveniently wind their way to our desk each day.

Not that we just regurgitate the factoids that litter our desk and mind. You have to do hours of research, painstaking legwork, reach sources in high places.

A few examples? We thought you’d never ask.

PRESS RELEASE: Ron Fair appointed senior VP A&R West Coast/staff producer, RCA Records.

Relocating to Los Angeles, Fair will produce records and develop acts for RCA , with duties to include soundtracks and acquiring new talent. Fair was formerly with EMI in a similar capacity.

What the release doesn’t mention is that Fair may represent one of the last, best hopes for RCA to turn around its sagging U.S. fortunes. The label, which has lately been a Christmas pinata for industry observers and the subject of a recent and devastating Spy satire authored by Fred Goodman, has been a bottom-feeder on the charts for a number of years.

Fair, who will be only the second senior VP currently based on the West Coast for RCA, faces the Herculean task of stocking an almost-bare House of Nipper’s cupboard.

PRESS RELEASE: Maureen O’Connor ankles public relations giant Roskin-Friedman for Rogers & Cowan senior VP stripes.

O’Connor, who held a similar position at R-F, seems at first glance to have made a lateral move. More to the point: Her defection makes her the second big official to leave the firm in a year, following firm co-founder Lee Solters’ departure from the masthead last Dec. 31.

Are the mates jumping ship for ominous reasons not obvious to the general public? R-F partner Monroe Friedman begs to differ: “We’re in business, bi-coastal, we expect to be around for many more years. Our business base is still strong.”

PRESS RELEASE: Responding to Tuesday’s vote in Colorado to rescind ordinances that prevent discrimination based on sexual preference, an ad-hoc organization calls for an entertainment boycott of the state. Denver-based concert promoter Barry Fey endorses their effort.

A statement attributed to Fey appears to mark a suicidal business move, with Fey agreeing to support a boycott that would essentially put him out of business for however long it takes to invalidate Tuesday’s vote.

Fey clarifies: “I’m not endorsing any boycott. Like in 1987, we were there in Arizona with U2 (during a boycott of the state for refusing to create a holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.). We played and gave contributions to the recall (Gov. Evan Meacham) committee. That’s what we’ll do here.”

RUMOR: JIM HENKE, FORMER ROLLING STONE music editor turned magazine VP, allegedly is being offered several record label gigs.

What do labels believe Henke, a talented editor and writer, brings to the party? After all, a wise woman or man once pointed out, rock criticism is as useful as a wool hat in July.

But let the naysayers have their fun. A brief glance at the payrolls of the world’s leading record companies and management firms reveals such gloriously successful executives who once scribed for a living as Danny Goldberg (Atlantic VP), Jon Landau (Bruce Springsteen’s manager), Glen Brunman (head of Epic Soundtrax), Steve Gett (Paisley Park VP), Bob Merlis (Warner Bros. senior VP) and on into the night. They might as well make Henke president of a label, given that track record.

Says Cary Baker, head of publicity at Morgan Creek Records and former journalist for Creem, Trouser Press, D.I.Y. and Billboard: “You can never leave being a rock critic behind. I still stand in the back of every given club with arms folded, writing the review in my head. The difference is: now I have a paycheck.”

RUMOR: Former Sony Music honcho Walter Yetnikoff, set to get back into business, seeks joint venture with BMG.

Yetnikoff, who’s had more comebacks than Bob Dylan, allegedly has been lunching with various record companies since his covenant not to compete expired with Sony Music.

The conventional wisdom: BMG is the frontrunner to fund a project. But insiders say don’t count out a WEA orbit; despite rumors to the contrary, Yetnikoff’s relationships with senior execs in that galaxy aren’t all that bad.

RUMOR: U2 TO PLAY AT BILL CLINTON inauguration.

This one is so fresh it squeaks, and is probably based on Clinton’s famous radio call to Bono, wherein the then-candidate declared that the band’s “Joshua Tree” album and the song “Angel of Harlem” were among his faves. No official word yet, says a U2 spokesman. But the band had better act fast. We’re betting that a few hundred Elvis impersonators have been dialing the 202 area code this morning.

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