A big 'Hello!' to the boys

You may think it just a frivolous girly pastime, but celebrity trivia traps men too, says Ann Treneman

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Real men do read Hello! in public. Just ask Adrian Dixon. He's 27 and not afraid to admit to a glance at the great and glamorous. "Besides, everyone else would probably be trying to read it over my shoulder," he says.

This week the Great Gazza Wedding issue hits the newsstands. If you don't know what that is then you must have been out of the country when Paul Gascoigne and Sheryl Failes tied the knot. It's an exclusive like they used to do them, with a reputed pounds 150,000 changing hands to make it worth the couple's while.

British Airways now stocks Hello! in first class and club class, but not for the proles in economy - 60 per cent of its half-million readers are ABC1s.

Launched in the UK in 1988 with Princess Anne on the cover, Hello! has become an adjective in its own right and copy-cat exclamation points are springing up like stigmata at Easter. Wannabes include Here! That's Life! and OK!, which last week was running a Baywatch babe and baby exclusive.

But Hello! is way out front. It has its own curse (the latest victim is Margot Hemingway, featured before her death looking too happy to be true) and its own inimitable "news" judgement. Who else would realise that what we really need to know is that Donald and Marla Trump have given their toddler Tiffany a "proper garden", by lifting 30 tons of soil to the top of the Trump Tower in Manhattan? Or that "intelligent" people would find themselves looking at all four photographs of heiress Tamara Beckwith ("the fiancee of actress Sharon Stone's brother") running out of petrol in Knightsbridge.

"We're almost an institution these days. For instance, people talk about a Hello!-style wedding," says Hello! publishing director Sally Cartwright.

One commuter, reading the New Scientist, said: "If it was next to me on the train, I would not be ashamed to read it." What he didn't say was that he couldn't stop himself from picking it up. "There are people who are addicted to light relief," says Ms Cartwright. People seem to view Hello! in the same category as chocolate; they speak of it as a luxury."

But it has yet to achieve the ultimate triumph - a cover declaring: "The Queen and Prince Philip invite us into their lovely home to share their sorrows and speak of putting family difficulties behind them." What reader, even of the Independent, could resist that?

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