"There's this hilariously awful new magazine. You'll love it," a perceptive friend informed me a decade ago. She was teasing, but little did she know that she had initiated 10 years of sick infatuation.
Celebrity magazines are my vice: my opiate, my empty calories: in short, my raging addiction. HELLO! is naturally the apogee of the genre, but OK! and Now, those stunningly titled plagiarists of style, have their own attractions.
HELLO! and its imitators are so perfectly attuned to the zeitgeist, they can even be credited with fashioning it, inspiring the weightiest broadsheets into a panic of ill-executed populism.
At a time when any old fantastically determined blonde with a C-list boyfriend and the transparent dress of a PR can be famous; at a time when the lowbrow is fashionably ironic and It girls exist in a perfectly achieved solipsistic vacuum, HELLO! can create, elevate, and sustain itself on hot air.
The joys of the celeb mag are more subtle than the round of cliches concerning "charming" houses and the curse of HELLO! would suggest. There's a whole language of vicious understatement to be absorbed and understood.
Celebrity mags provide me with a simple parallel existence peopled by assorted Grimaldis, Mandy Smith, and terrible old Fascists. I can sit in a dumb yet happy haze on the Tube wondering about the love life of Tamara Beckwith. This is an open addiction. Any accusations of airheadedness I will cheerfully confront.
There's a delicate psychological balance of motives involved: part schadenfreude, part secret admiration for such bare-faced chutzpah on the part of certain micro-celebs. The universal paroxysms of irritation inspired by Tara Palmer- Tomkinson perform their own service, uniting the group as only ganging up on the homely yet over-confident school pain in the arse can. The opportunism of one Emma Noble bonds readers in gleeful outrage.
HELLO! is the Nova of its era. It's Cool Britannia. It's Bunty for grown- ups. It's the celebration of C2s alongside nobs and Galapagos turtles. I owe it a decade of royal fun.