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Britney: 2004's Most-Covered Celebrity

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RANKED: Britney Spears secured the No. 1 spot on the Access Hollywood list of “Top 10 Stars of 2004” who have been covered by the syndicated show. Britney s tally (thanks to two marriages, a knee injury and, well, just being Britney): 119 stories. She was followed (in order) by: Beyonce, 102 stories; Donald Trump, 94; Michael Jackson, 84; Tom Cruise, 72; Jessica Simpson, 69; Paris Hilton, 63; Nicole Kidman, 62; Jennifer Lopez, 54 (though that can now be 55, given reports that her ex is suing her for firing him from her restaurant); and Whitney Houston, 52.

DISCUSSED: With Nicole Kidman bowing out of the movie version of the Broadway musical The Producers, the role of sexy secretary Ulla is said to have been offered to Uma Thurman, reports Variety. Kidman claimed her workload was too heavy to rehearse the songs and dances her role required. Shooting is scheduled to begin in February, with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick reprising their roles as crooked Broadway producers, and Will Ferrell added to the cast. Agents for Thurman, who recently finished a Get Shorty sequel titled Be Cool, did not confirm the offer.

ADJOURNED: The murder trial of actor Robert Blake went on a two-week hiatus, until Jan. 4, it was announced Tuesday, after Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels called to the stand restaurant owner Steve Restivo. Restivo testified that he never saw Blake return to retrieve his gun from his restaurant while the actor s wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, remained in the family car, as the actor stated in his alibi. Restivo did point out, however, that he was busy that night, and anyone could have slipped into the establishment without his knowledge.

PROMISED: New York s Daily News “Lowdown” columnist Lloyd Grove on Wednesday, in both his paper and on the Today show, vowed that he s permanently banning the “unremarkable” Paris Hilton, 23, from his column – unless, he insists, “she discovers a cure for cancer, wins the Nobel Prize or launches herself into outer space.” So far, no comment from Hilton – for once.

SET: The 16th season of MTV’s reality series The Real World will begin shooting 24 episodes early next year in Austin, Texas, and premiere in June, the music cable network said Wednesday. The current season of Real World was shot in Philadelphia. The previous season, which was shot in San Diego, was the highest-rated series on basic cable in 2004 in the 12-34 demographic, says the Hollywood Reporter.

HEARD: “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” sung by Burl Ives, is the most-played holiday song this season, reports The New York Times, citing a Media Monitors count. From Nov. 26 to Dec. 16 on the radio airwaves, the Ives evergreen was followed, in order, by Brenda Lee s “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree,” Nat King Cole s “The Christmas Song,” Bing Crosby s “White Christmas” and Bobby Helms s “Jingle Bell Rock.” Alvin, of the Chipmunks, is said to be upset at not making the Top 5 – and at still not getting his Hula Hoop. Happy holidays.