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Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc. believes it has found the formula for advertising success: a trendy bar, naked people and a dapper, ponytailed bit-player who also happens to be the company's founder.

In several TV ads being produced in Baltimore this week, the Joppa-based retailer is trying to regain its status as the clothier of cool, the haber--er of hip.

Merry-Go-Round made millions in profits and spread its stores across the country during the 1970s and 1980s by figuring out what teens and young adults wanted to wear -- and supplying it. It lost the touch in recent years, though, and landed in bankruptcy court in January.

For the critical back-to-school selling season, Merry-Go-Round is returning to TV and is spending more on advertising -- $7 million for the rest of the year -- than it has in some time. It hired its former ad agency, Baltimore-based Trahan, Burden & Charles Inc.

"We're trying to reposition Merry-Go-Round as the happening place today," said Allan Charles, a firm partner and longtime pal of Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, Merry-

Go-Round's chairman and chief executive. "Merry-Go-Round always had the vibe, that we're the place. . . . I hope we can bring back some of the old magic."

The agency is filming three commercials, each featuring people in their birthday suits venturing timidly into public.

In one, a naked pizza man must deliver to a college sorority. In another, a naked woman jumps into a cab -- piloted by Mr. Weinglass -- and travels to meet a blind date in a bar. The bar/cab scene was to be filmed early this morning at the Club Charles in Baltimore.

At the end of each spot, the protagonist wakes up from the nightmare to a voice-over: "It's 11 p.m. Do you know what you're going to wear tomorrow?"

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