Curse of Hello] strikes as editor says goodbye

IN THE true fashion of Hello] magazine, the editor called the separation 'very amicable'. But no sooner had the latest issue of the best-selling celebrity bible hit news-stands than it emerged that Maggie Goodman and Maggie Koumi, its founding editors, were no longer to share the editorship.

Some might even say that the Curse of Hello] was working up to Ms Goodman's departure: the relationships of many of the celebrities who have appeared in its pages seem to have hit trouble soon afterwards. And on the day that Ms Goodman's last issue put the Duke and Duchess of York on the cover again, Buckingham Palace announced that there would be no reconciliation.

Ms Goodman was putting a brave face on her departure last week. 'It's very friendly,' she said. 'There's no intrigue, I wanted a change.'

On one thing she was adamant: 'There is definitely no chance of me leaving because we have run out of celebrities. There is an endless supply of them.'

She had better be right. Call it the bland leading the bland, but the phenomenal success of Hello] has led others to jump on the bandwagon. The latest, Guess Who], which hits the streets later this month, combines the glossy celebrity formula with another favourite, the quiz magazine.

How many times did Liz Taylor get married in 1979?, it will ask. Which Hollywood actor was once married to Madonna - Kenneth Branagh, Sean Penn or Orson Welles? It could add, how many fawning celebrity magazines do British readers want?

Hello] now sells nearly 500,000 copies a week - and after only five issues, OK], its new monthly competitor - some might say imitator - claims to be selling nearly 300,000. Its publisher, Northern and Shell, is already taking on more staff.

The July issue has exclusive first pictures of Sir Harry Secombe's holiday villa in Majorca ('We love the easy way of life we lead out here,' enthuses Lady Secombe). An 'interview' with Michael Jackson, also 'at home', covers 10 pages.

'The tabloids will report how they were locked out of Liz Taylor's wedding,' says Simon Waldman, deputy editor of Media Week, 'but these magazines will give you the wedding pictures.' They may be bland, he admits, but people don't read the articles - they just want to see the pictures.

Guess Who], published by Harmsworth Magazines, which is owned by Associated Newspapers, will 'be nice and warm', explained Mike Schwartz, sales director. 'It will be positive. There is a backlash against cynicism in the media.'

According to its editor, Leonard Stall, the current thirst for even the most superficial information about the rich, famous and glamorous means people are increasingly expert on their private and public lives. 'We will be satiating that desire, that nosiness factor, but there will be no no revelations,' he said.

Ms Goodman said: 'People are fed up with all the bitchery of some magazines, and with the sleazy side of the tabloids.'

Ann Wallace, editor of OK], agrees. 'You don't want to upset celebrities,' she said, 'or they won't appear in your magazine.'

(Photograph omitted)

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