Fiona Apple and the number 7 made the news this week

BY THE NUMBER The McCaughey septuplets may be unique in the annals of medicine, but in Hollywood terms they’re just part of a numbers crunch. That’s because 1997 has been turning up sevens everywhere you look. Let’s count the ways: Brad Pitt spent Seven Years in Tibet; Star Trek: Voyager introduced Borg babe Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan); 7th Heaven turned into The WB’s highest-rated show; Garth Brooks released his new album, Sevens; and singer Erykah Badu just gave birth to her first son, named, of course, Seven. And next year brings the Harrison Ford-Anne Heche romantic comedy Six Days, Seven Nights, as well as CBS’ mid-season replacement The Magnificent Seven. Why is seven up? ”Traditionally, seven is the most sacred number,” says New Mexico-based numerologist Justin Moore, who points out that people with strong ”seven energy” tend to be actors. ”It indicates an alignment with higher wisdom.” For Badu, there’s a more mathematical reason: ”It’s the number that can’t be divided,” says the singer’s spokeswoman. (So why didn’t she name her kid Eleven, or Three?) Maybe they’re all heeding George Costanza, who insisted two seasons ago on Seinfeld, ”[Seven’s] got cachet out the yin-yang!”

GOBBLING IT UP It took Fiona Apple only five minutes to produce one of the hottest recordings of the year. In October, the waifish 20-year-old songstress taped a 40-second phone message for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Vegetarian Holiday Hotline. Since then, thousands of Apple-hungry fans have dialed 1-888-VEG-FOOD to hear the singer promote veggie dishes and protest the slaughtering of turkeys. ”Usually when we do a hotline, interest lasts a few days. But this has been going on for weeks,” says PETA spokesman Dan Mathews, who adds that Apple is more than just a phone-in supporter of the organization. ”She told us, if she weren’t a singer, she’d be applying for a job here.” The message has been so popular that the volume of callers has actually crashed PETA’s phone system three times; the group has since devoted seven different lines to handle the crush. Apple’s voice, which will play throughout the holidays, has also carried beyond voice-mail: MTV and radio stations nationwide have played the message on air, and Saturday Night Live even spoofed Apple’s save-the-turkeys fervor in a Nov. 22 skit. As for why her message is so hot, Apple says militantly, ”Because it threw a wet blanket on American tradition.” No word yet on the singer’s plans to improve labor conditions for the Easter Bunny.