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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Recalling OK magazine - the original

I am a compulsive and obsessive buyer and reader of magazines. It's a constant source of irritation to me that I didn't make the logical step after my journalistic training of going into magazines. I did try once, when I was at Radio Devon and I needed to move to London (my then husband having already done so), but I received a "no thanks" letter and didn't pursue it further. Linday Nicholson, who did the same newspaper training course as me (she was the year ahead) became editor in chief of Good Housekeeping.

The magazine thing started when I was a kid. I always hated comics like the Wheezer or whatever it was called (Beano, Dandy, Bunty etc) and went straight into the hard stuff, Teddy Bear comic followed by Princess Tina. The only memorable thing in Princess Tina was a villain called Snurge. I still call my elder brother that. I also flirted with young girls' titles like Pink, which had fabulous free gifts.

After PT, it was a rapid progression to Jackie. I was never much of a Jackie fan. It constantly featured pinups of saps like Donny Osmond, David Essex and David Cassidy when I was more interested in David Bowie and Chicory Tip. I dropped Jackie as soon as Hi! and OK! appeared. You can buy old copies of OK! on eBay (I did recently). It's not the celeb version we have nowadays. It was quite ahead of its time then, as it featured sex problems which Cathy & Claire in Jackie didn't. Hi! was a similar magazine. Neither of them lasted very long. I also read Mirabelle and Fab 208 magazine occasionally, but I didn't listen to Radio Luxemburg very much. It was too crackly on my transistor radio.

Snurge was reading Melody Maker, which I considered old hat and full of BOFs (boring old farts). So I started buying New Musical Express. How I swooned when there was a memorable double page article on Woody Woodmansey, the drummer from the Spiders from Mars.

My seminal magazine moment came when I was on holiday in Hayle. It must have been around 1975. I was bored, and looking at the magazine racks. I picked up Honey, and instantly liked what I saw. I remember even to this day: a big 2-page spread on how to make a real pizza with the headline "Belissimo!" Honey was probably a little old for me at that time but it seemed just right. I became an avid reader of Honey, 19 and then Over 21.

I've seen quite a few titles come and go. Obviously OK, Hi, Over 21, Frank, Woman's Journal, Living. I'm not always very true to my demographic. I was buying Cosmopolitan until about two years ago, New Woman until about 5 years ago, and still buy Marie-Claire occasionally, all with a much younger target reader.

These days I buy an eclectic mix of Eve, Woman & Home (my current favourites), Red, She, Good Housekeeping, Gardener's World, various craft titles, You Are What You Eat and Business Week, plus weeklies OK and Hello (shocking isn't it). It's thanks to my magazine obsession that I'm never short of an offbeat conversation topic at dinner parties. I find that the minor European royals, courtesy of Hello, and the dieting secrets of the stars (OK) are an endless source of fascination.

If I'm really desperate, if I'm going on a long flight or it's that lean period when all the magazines are out, I might get Perfect Home, Q, Grazia, Good Food or Glamour, or American magazines. The American magazines are interesting because they're a bit like a step in time: they're more like Cosmopolitan used to be in the Marcelle D'Argy Smith days when it was all a bit soft and boy obsessed, with no hard reportage. There are some titles I wouldn't touch with a barge pole: Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harpers, Wallpaper, Tatler (file under "Emperor's New Clothes").

Oh, and I forgot to mention the best magazine of all: Smash & Grab, which was the comic I used to write with David Westgarth when we were kids and borrwing his dad's Olivetti typewriter. There are no back copies of that one, sadly.

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