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Bad Housekeeping

Cabbages and Kings

By Frank Rich

LAST WEEK President Nixon's team lost a member with perhaps the biggest "extra dimension" of them all. Willie Mae Rogers, a woman who not only knows people but knows their body odor as well, resigned from her post of consultant on consumer affairs less than a week after she had been appointed.

Miss Rogers, who will now return full time to her job as director of the Good Housekeeping Institute, is indeed a woman who knows perspiration stains. And should you need any proof of her distinction in this field, just take a look at this month's Good Housekeeping, available at Woolworths every-where for half-a-buck. As director of this monthly's Institute, Miss Rogers is chief dispenser of the Good Housekeeping Seal, which is given to products worthy of a money-back guarantee--items which, coincidentally, happen to advertise in Good Housekeeping.

Good Housekeeping has many advertisers, and Miss Rogers, who has played an instrumental part in testing them all, could have brought her knowledge of these concerns to an even larger segment of the American public, had she stayed on with the Nixon Administration. In this month's issue alone, she gave out the seal to four deodorants; surely her sampling of them puts her at the top of this field. And she has the word on may other, more special, goods too. She seems to be quite up on toilets and their accessories, for example, as evidenced by her granting of the seal to a toilet seat that is "the seat of the in house" and to a toilet bowl cleaner that "is the one that makes you feel safer." This is service well beyond the normal call of duty; what zeal she could have brought to public service!

THE ONLY PROBLEM, it seems, was that Miss Rogers refused to resign her Institute post to work for the government. Some Cynical Men such as Rep. Benjamin Rosenthal (D-N.Y.), thought that if she kept both jobs, Miss Rogers might not help close down those Good Housekeeping advertisers that the government is currently after.

This is nonsense, of course, but these skeptics just wouldn't accept Miss Rogers' statement that "I am basically honset. . . . So I don't expect any conflict of interest." And, last week, after pressure of the criticism had built to unimpeachable degree, she quit.

This is a grievous loss. Miss Rogers' expertise extends way beyond household wares, and she would have been an invaluable aid to other governmental departments. She must be one of the foremost authorities on military academies (over 60 are advertised in her magazine), and she would have been an astute adviser on cinema to the National Council of Arts. (Few people know about it, but Miss Rogers has had quite an unsung acting career, culminating with her starring role in Bringing Home the Bacon, an experimental film financed by the Oscar Mayer hot-dog people.)

Now Willie Mae Rogers has faded back into the world of Good Housekeeping. This is a shame, for while the magazine's mammoth advertising lineage is a testimonial to a valiant researcher, the stuff between the ads is tawdry--hardly worthy of a money-back guarantee. The March issue, for instance, features mainly articles for voyeurs ("Petula Clark: Is She Another Julie Andrews?") and sexmaniacs (a romance-mystery, "The Night Before the Wedding," by the authors of "That Darn Cat").

President Nixon put the country's collective sense of loss best this week, when, reluctantly accepting her resignation, he described Miss Rogers as a woman who would have assured American consumers of "all possible protection." And now we will have to turn to a magazine, not the government, to get Willie Mae Rogers' advice as to which deodorants can protect us the best.

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