Inside Story: The big stars of astrology

For millions of people they're a guiding hand throughout life - and they command serious fees for their work in newspapers and magazines
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The Independent Online

1. JUNE PENN

THE PEOPLE

Age: 78.

Star sign: Scorpio.

Billing: "Britain's No 1 astrologer."

Style: "You may have to be cruel to be kind to someone who doesn't listen to your complaints."

Background: June Penn aspires to be the Barbara Cartland of astrology. As our longest-serving stargazer, petite June surely deserves an OBE? Once the Daily Mirror's astrologer, she makes a fortune from horoscope phone lines and "personal psychic consultations". The twice-married, silver-coiffured mystic is a property heiress and lives in baronial splendour in Hove. Palm-reading June began on the Brighton Evening Argus as Madame Crystal before she was "discovered" by the Mirror managing editor Derek Jameson.

2. MARJORIE ORR

WOMAN

Age: 60

Star sign: Virgo

Billing: "Top international astrologer."

Style: "Tensions at home will be eased if you allow others to have their say."

Background: Marjorie Orr is a charming, no-nonsense Scot. She was the Daily Express's long-established astrologer until Jonathan Cainer usurped her celestial throne in 2000. But Marjorie maintains her popularity with columns in Woman and regional publications both here and in America. She began as a general reporter on the Glasgow Herald. She became a BBC TV news and current affairs producer and helped to launch TV-am. After producing a BBC documentary on the paranormal, she began studying astrology and became the News of the World's astrologer. The chain-smoking seer now casts her horoscopes in the South of France resort Banyuls sur Mer.

3. RUSSELL GRANT

WOMAN'S WEEKLY

Age: 53.

Star sign: Aquarius.

Billing: "Britain's most famous astrologer."

Style: "An impromptu meeting with an old friend could take your mind back to past events that you would rather not think about."

Background: Russell Grant used to be a camp, cuddly presence on breakfast television. He soon went from the Daily and Sunday Mirror to host Britain's first TV astrology show. This former musical comedy star was dubbed the Astrologer Royal after he presented the Queen Mother with her chart. As well as writing horoscopes for more than 400 regional titles, Russell has published more than 30 books and is into tarot, numerology, runes, goddess stones, and Aztec and Chinese astrology. He claims that his website receives 5,500,000 hits a month and that his e-mail subscriber list exceeds a total of 750,000 members.

4. JUSTIN TOPER

DAILY EXPRESS

Age: 48

Star sign: Libra.

Billing: "The universe's best astrologer."

Style: "Get your head out of the clouds or you could miss the main event and let someone down."

Background: A born salesman who used to help his father flog furniture in Finchley, the enigmatic Justin studied at London's Faculty of Astrological Studies. He claims to have more readers - 35 million - than Jonathan Cainer. This gangling, reclusive bachelor never gives private readings. He finds inspiration at his two homes, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and remote Cape Breton, on Canada's Atlantic coast. But could Toper manage without his equally bohemian fiancée and fellow astrologer, Lora Lake?

5. JONATHAN CAINER

DAILY MAIL

Age: 48

Star sign: Sagittarius.

Billing: "The world's most brilliant astrologer."

Style: "Take your time, do what you feel is right, trust your own judgement."

Background: He provokes huge peer-group jealousy as Britain's highest-earning columnist. His worldwide income is said to be £2m.Cainer's sometimes incomprehensible jottings have such a loyal fan base that he was enticed over four years from the Daily Mail to the Daily Express to the Mirror and back to the Mail. As well as his phone lines, this self-styled "unreconstructed hippie" has a website said to be the UK's fifth most popular site.

6. DEBBIE FRANK

DAILY MIRROR

Age: 46

Star sign: Scorpio

Billing: "One of the world's most renowned astrologers."

Style: "Watch your step and remember that even a clever Taurus can slip up."

Background: She was the person in whom Princess Diana confided during her final traumatic eight years. She has never milked this link but it allows her to launch daft projects such as the Astro Plan Diet. Debbie has a degree in American studies at Nottingham University and later attended the Faculty of Astrological Studies. As Fleet Street's most telegenic astrologer, she appears on Richard & Judy and This Morning.

7. CLAIRE PETULENGRO

COMPANY

Age: 34.

Star sign: Scorpio.

Billing: "The celebrity astrologer."

Style: "Cheeky flirtations have more serious undertones - they could come from someone who's more compatible than you realise."

Background: She is the youngest and only media astrologer to be a pure-bred Romany Gypsy. Her mother, Eva, claims to have done charts for Paul McCartney, Joan Collins and Michael Caine. Claire left school at 15 to join the family fortune-telling booth on Brighton's Palace Pier. She met the publisher Richard Desmond in 1997 and became OK! magazine's astrologer. As a cost-cutting exercise he briefly appointed her to be the Daily and Sunday Express clairvoyant as well. This lively, divorced Brighton belle has two children but is now resolutely single ("I'm more than one man can handle").

8. MYSTIC MEG

NEWS OF THE WORLD

Age: 57.

Star sign: Leo

Billing: "The world's greatest astrologer."

Style: "Ruling planet Pluto is turned on by Venus, so you should end the weekend richer and more in love than you started it."

Background: Her byline picture - shiny black hair, intense stare and high-collared red cloak - suggests a crystal-gazer on Southend Pier. In fact, she is a Tory-voting Notting Hill resident without a broomstick or black hat in sight. Meg Lake (aka Meg Markova) is a former News of the World sub-editor and deputy editor of its colour magazine. She was raised in Manchester and learnt astrology from her Romany grandmother. She has stargazed for the NoW for 20 years and the Sun for five years. She has three racehorses in training and four mares at stud. "I use my astrological skills to love-match the mares with the right stallions," she explains.

9. CATHERINE TENNANT

THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

Age: 58

Star sign: Scorpio

Billing: "The most known astrologer in the UK."

Style: "Conflict in the skies over the weekend could make you wonder if a certain problem can be overcome."

Background: It's typical of the Torygraph that its astrologer should be an aristo, even if she is a retired hippy. Her baronet husband, Sir Mark Palmer, the Queen's former page of honour, spent years touring the West Country in a caravan. Lady P casts her horoscopes in an old farmhouse surrounded by horses and livestock. Her work eschews the materialism of her rivals, although she has her own 60p-a-minute Starlines. The Sunday Telegraph's woeful new astrologer, Caroline Pryce, could do with some Tennant tuition.

10. NEIL SPENCER

THE OBSERVER

Age: 50

Star sign: Libra

Billing: None.

Style: "Full moons tend to trigger short-term craziness ('I shouldn't have tipped that drink over his head') and crystallize long-term problems."

Background: From New Musical Express editor to Observer culture correspondent to broadsheet "astrologist" (sic) is a big leap. But Neil Spencer first read Teach Yourself Astrology while studying English at Sheffield University. Married with three children, he is the least commercial stargazer, with no phone lines, web presence or private consultations. Sometimes his witty prognostications unintentionally parody The Independent on Sunday's astrologer Poppy Folly (aka Simon Carr). His film musical, Bollywood Queen, almost won him independence from the journalistic grind.

11. SHELLEY VON STRUNCKEL

THE SUNDAY TIMES

Age: 59.

Star sign: Cancer

Billing: "The world-renowned astrologer."

Style: "Don't make the mistake of thinking that, because previously tricky situations are suddenly going smoothly, you're in for a trouble-free run."

Background: Yes, Shelley von Strunckel is her real (Austrian) name. She was born in California "but had an English nanny". Originally in fashion PR, Shelley has been a consulting astrologer for more than 25 years. In 1992 The Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil appointed her Britain's first broadsheet astrologer. Shelley and the former Daily Mail astrologer Peter Watson both claim to be the chosen heir of legendary Patric Walker. She also works for London's Evening Standard and Vogue. This sassy, Marylebone-based, Lockheed executive's daughter moved here in 1985 and was briefly married to a barrister.

12. PETER WATSON

GRAZIA

Age: 57

Star sign: Leo

Billing: "The astrologer who is witty, worldly and wise."

Style: "Someone close is likely to become edgy, perhaps even tearful, under the influence of this week's full moon."

Background: Peter Watson began as the sorcerer's apprentice while sub-editing Patric Walker's Mail on Sunday column. After Patric's death in 1995 he went on to write horoscopes for the Evening Standard, Sunday Mirror and Daily Mail. He remains Celeste on Harpers & Queen and recently joined Grazia. Bike-riding Watson lives near the Oval cricket ground and gives private consultations to celebs, politicians and royalty.

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