COVER STORY;O.J.'S EXPOSURE OUTSTRIPS GRANT

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The trial drags on and the covers keep coming. Once again, editors saw fit to give the O.J. Simpson murder case enough exposure to secure the top spot in July magazine cover appearances.

The "trial of the century" racked up 9 points based on seven covers, with Los Angeles and First for Women joined by devoted coverage in National Enquirer and Star.

Cover Story is Ad Age's monthly ranking of celebrities' popularity as reflected by their appearances on the covers of more than 30 of the nation's leading publications.

Another type of legal problem secured the No. 2 spot for Hugh Grant. The charming British actor's encounter with Sunset Strip streetwalker Divine Brown helped him collect 7.5 points based on five covers, including Premiere and Entertainment Weekly, all but one inspired by the arrest that kept Hollywood buzzing for weeks.

An unlikely duo tied for third place, with Hollywood's favorite new funnyman, Jim Carrey, and heart throb Richard Gere earning 7 points apiece, based on four and three covers, respectively. Mr. Gere decorated the covers of US and Esquire, while Mr. Carrey's appearances included a Rolling Stone cover parodying old Coppertone ads.

Fifth place belongs to actress Susan Sarandon, based on appearances on The Cable Guide and Total TV.

Tabloid stalwarts Princess Diana and Michael Jackson tied for No. 6 with 4 points apiece, along with "Batman Forever" star Nicole Kidman, who graced the cover of Vanity Fair.

But the real crush comes in the tie for ninth place, with a passel of celebrities earning 3 points each, including Gloria Estefan, Claudia Schiffer, Sylvester Stallone, Andy Garcia, Dolly Parton, Christopher Reeve, Drew Barrymore, Reba McIntire, Alicia Silverstone, Cindy Crawford, Bill Gates and Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother imprisoned for killing her two young children.

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