TRAGEDY OF JOHN CANDY'S DEATH STIRS MAGAZINES

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The month of March had it all: Government scandal. International espionage. Hollywood tragedy. And, yes, Nancy Kerrigan, to boot.

But last month was lacking in at least one way: a clear-cut 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.

In March, it seemed like there was a different celebrity or new story every week that occupied the spotlight. The Aldrich Ames/Russian spy case, the death of John Candy, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Princess Diana and Ms. Kerrigan all had a turn in the limelight, each garnering 4 points.

Breaking that tie-and perhaps surprisingly so-was Mr. Candy, the movie actor and comedian who died at the age of 43 of a heart attack.

His passing generated four cover stories-the others garnered three each-including one from People, which reported that the heavyset star of "Cool Runnings" and "Uncle Buck" had long tried to correct such unhealthy behaviors as cigarette smoking and massive junk food consumption. His heart, the article suggested, had been weakened by that struggle.

Mr. Ames, Ms. Kerrigan and Princess Diana tied for second place, landing three covers each.

Mr. Ames and his wife, Maria, were arrested in February after a long and controversial investigation into alleged clandestine dealings with the Soviet Union and Russia that date back to 1985.

But newsweeklies such as Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report used a lot of their ink to detail the lack of cooperation between the CIA and FBI that prevented either of them from nabbing the Ameses earlier.

As for Princess Di and Ms. Kerrigan, the U.S. figure skater who won the silver medal at the Winter Olympics in February, both continued to be fodder for supermarket tabloids.

Mrs. Clinton also scored 4 points, but her two covers earn her only fifth place. The coverage was both good and bad: an appearance on the cover of House Beautiful for a story about White House decor, as well as an appearance on Time for her involvement in the growing Whitewater scandal.

In fact, the Whitewater affair (the short version: the Clintons may have acted improperly, if not illegally, in how they handled a bad real estate investment back in the '80s) is the oddball among a slew of celebrities that earned 3 points in March and tie up the remainder of the Cover Story survey.

They include: Hollywood couple Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger; Hollywood's top gun at the box office, Tom Cruise; Academy Award winners Tom ("Philadelphia") Hanks and Tommy Lee ("The Fugitive") Jones; supposed-to-be-dead rock 'n' roll icon Elvis Presley; actress and Academy Award loser Winona Ryder; really rich New York couple Donald Trump and Marla Maples; and animated irritants Beavis and Butt-Head.

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