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O.J. Simpson Crowned Magazine-Cover King

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; He is a columnist for Newsday

Six months of unrelenting coverage in the nation’s magazines and supermarket tabloids have earned O.J. Simpson the 1994 Cover Story Crown, as determined this week by Advertising Age.

Ad Age, a weekly newspaper that tracks media and marketing developments, surveyed 30 leading magazines and reports:

“The O.J. Simpson murder case grossed 61 points on the strength of 54 covers, 39 coming from near-weekly coverage in supermarket tabloids National Enquirer and Star. But the case was no stranger to the covers of more respectable fare like Esquire, Newsweek, People and Time. It won the monthly Cover Story survey for five consecutive months--July through November.”

Simpson is on trial for the murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and one of her friends, Ronald Goldman, who were found slain in June.

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The 1993 cover-story winners, battling Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson, did not even place in the top 10 last year.

The other 1994 Cover Story Royalty were: Oprah Winfrey (28.5 points and 21 covers), who generated ink “for losing weight, running a marathon and continued marriage rumors”; the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (25 points, 19 covers); the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan drama (23 points, 21 covers), and Julia Roberts (19 points, 15 covers).

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Mystery Writer: Jon Katz, the provocative media writer of New York magazine, is giving up his column to concentrate on longer pieces and his burgeoning career as a mystery novelist.

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“The Last Housewife,” his third title in a series about suburban detective Kit Deleeuw, will be published next month by Doubleday, which has scheduled a long book tour and signed Katz to write two more.

In the crapshoot of book publishing, few things are more prized than a mystery character who shows signs of catching on with readers. Warner Bros. has entered into a deal with an eye toward developing a TV series about Katz’s private eye, who operates out of a New Jersey shopping mall.

The former newspaper editor and CBS News producer emerged as a fresh voice in media criticism several years ago. In long essays for Rolling Stone, he applauded the rise of what he called the “New News"--as exemplified by rap music, tabloid TV, celebrity mags and the niche newscasts found on cable--and repeatedly derided network news and its reliance on what he called “the anchor gods.”

When Kurt Andersen became editor of New York a year ago, Katz took over the column spot previously filled by Edwin Diamond.

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Low Profile: Magazines typically herald a redesign with a trumpet blast or at least a print advertisement or two showing off the new look. Not so at GQ, which is displaying the fifth redesign in Arthur Cooper’s 11 years as editor in chief.

He closed an editor’s note in the December issue with only a few words about the magazine’s newest attempt “to brighten and lighten things up a bit.”

The bolder December cover (actor Hugh Grant) and the January front (Paul Newman) contain fewer lines and more of an in-your-face presentation.

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Fuller faces don’t leave a lot of room for cover lines. The GQ logo is also bigger and now comes with a drop shadow.

“I did it because things are much more competitive than they once were,” Cooper explained. “We are competing for eyeball attention. One way to do that is with a redesign that is seductive and captivating.”

Magazine covers are designed especially to generate the far more lucrative sales made at newsstands, where a publisher has but a moment or two to persuade a reader to part with three bucks.

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Cryptic Title: J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” takes its name from a remark made by the novel’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield, who imagines himself as one who would protect small children as they play in a field of rye.

“I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff,” he says. “I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”

Still, the title was a bit too cryptic for the Book-of-the-Month Club, whose founder asked Salinger in 1951 if he would consider changing it. Salinger thought a moment and said, “Holden Caulfield wouldn’t like that.”

The anecdote is one of dozens contained in Andre Bernard’s little pleasure of a book, “Now All We Need Is a Title,” subtitled “Famous Book Titles and How They Got That Way.” It’s newly published by W.W. Norton & Co.

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Afterwords: Elvis Presley never appeared on the cover of Life magazine while he was alive, but the 60th anniversary of his birth (Jan. 8) is cause for a special issue of the picture mag that went on sale this week . . . .

Former religious broadcaster Tammy Faye Bakker (who divorced Jim Bakker and married developer Roe Messner) has signed to write her memoirs for Villard Books.

* Paul D. Colford’s column is published Fridays.

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