If you wish on a star hard enough, you might just find your love is returned, says Hester Lacey
Anyone who has ever nurtured fantasies about a star of stage or screen should take heart. It looks as though Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston are on the verge of announcing their engagement. And how did he fall for her? The same way as any other fan: he saw her in Friends and thought, "Phwooar".

Of course, Brad Pitt is in a better position than most fans when it comes to getting in touch with a famously fanciable face. Pitt persuaded a mutual friend to arrange a meeting. This strategy has worked before. Simon le Bon first clapped eyes on his wife, supermodel Yasmin, in a glossy picture and set out to meet her; they have been married since the height of his fame in Duran Duran and have three children. And falling, initially, for an image can work out: the le Bons claim to be as enamoured as ever and to make love seven times a day.

Most star-struck fans, however, don't have a network of entertainment- land friends who can play cupid. But a bit of energy and brass neck can pay dividends, as British-born Minnie Sharpe found when she sent Beverly Hills 90210 heartthrob Luke Perry an example of her underwear and her phone number. It did the trick: they were married in December 1993 and now have a baby.

And Gemma O'Neill, who is now Mrs Gary Numan, was one of his keenest fans since her schooldays. She took a lower-key, more lady-like approach: "I'd ask for an autograph, or a photo, and I was always very polite - never obsessive or weird." This paid off, although it took a while. "She's always had a lovely face, but it was the way she behaved that made her stand out," recalls her spouse. "No disrespect to the other fans, but Gemma had an air about her, she just stood out. She wasn't cheap, she wasn't pushy. She wasn't someone who wanted to get to you at any cost and do stuff with you at any cost."

However, it doesn't always work. Even the most famous woman in the world can't snap her fingers and summon any man she fancies on demand. Madonna got nowhere when she instructed her assistants to call Hugh Grant and ask him to go out with her after seeing him in the film Maurice. Rather than responding with enthusiasm, he was thrown into a tizzy, he said at the time. "It started with a message from my agent in America saying: 'Madonna's people have called to say she wants to see you'." When Madonna herself rang, it was all too much for Grant. "I answered and a voice said: 'It's me!' It was Madonna. I panicked and said: 'Who?', pretending I didn't know her. Madonna kept repeating: 'It's me, it's me.' I said: 'I'm sorry, you have the wrong number,' and hung up." Eventually he recovered his nerve sufficiently to meet her for tea but nothing more. Madonna has also reportedly set her cap at Rufus Sewell and Suggs (who told her "Sorry love, I'm married").

But sometimes meeting an object of desire can be a useful debunking. A few years ago a writer for this newspaper was invited out to dinner with Keanu Reeves by a friend who had been entrusted with showing the lust-magnet round London. "Keanu made a lot of unconnected and bimbo-ish remarks about people in the restaurant, life, clothes and surfing, and said 'radical' a lot," wrote the sadly disillusioned journalist. "It was clear that Keanu was like the Bill and Ted characters from his teen hit movie in real life: a handsome blockhead who got lucky." And the ultimate let-down: "As he walked away, I noticed he was pigeon-toed."