LOSS OF GRUNGE ROCKER COBAIN SPURS EDITORS' COVER TRIBUTES

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The unapologetic suicide of twentysomething grunge rocker Kurt Cobain not only shocked the slacker set of Generation X last month but moved many magazine editors as well, enough to make him April's Cover Story winner.

The monthly Cover Story survey assigns point values to celebrities' cover appearances on more than 30 of the nation's leading publications, based on factors such as prominence of photo and frequency of publication.

Mr. Cobain, 27, the driving creative force behind the Seattle band Nirvana, shot himself to death last month after a long struggle with depression and drug dependency. Mr. Cobain eschewed the limelight and his press-appointed status as spokesman for a cynical, disenfranchised generation. Magazines like Newsweek and People made note of that, but their front-page treatments inadvertently served to reinforce that perception.

Mr. Cobain's 7 points and seven covers were followed by soon-to-be-divorced supercouple Christie Brinkley and Billy Joel with 5 points and five covers. News of their amicable parting came just one week after Ms. Brinkley nearly died in a helicopter crash in Colorado.

Brinkley-Joel edged actresses Whoopi Goldberg and Roseanne Arnold, both of whom also had 5 points but whose three covers each landed them in a tie for third. Ms. Goldberg got notice for hosting the Academy Awards in March, while Ms. Arnold made waves for trying to divorce husband Tom.

More actresses tied for fifth place, both with 4 points and four covers: Loni Anderson, who garnered more "My-life's-on-track-after-Burt Reynolds" attention, and Julia Roberts, who is rumored by tabloids to be splitting with her husband, country singer Lyle Lovett.

President Clinton also had 4 points, but his two covers cost him the tie-breaker with Anderson-Roberts, hence his seventh place finish.

A mash of celebrities rounds out this month's survey, each with 3 points. They include Woody Allen-less actress Mia Farrow, bands Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden, and "Serial Mom" filmmaker John Waters.

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