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Tuesday, September 21, 1999 Published at 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK


When two (egos) become one

Love match: Tennis greats Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi

Retired tennis star Steffi Graf has hit the headlines since leaving Centre Court - for scoring Andre Agassi game, set and match.

Shortly after announcing her retirement, the formerly camera-shy Graf dumped her racing driver boyfriend and was snapped canoodling with fellow French Open winner Andre Agassi.

He, too, had recently split from another - actor Brooke Shields, his wife of two years.

The Graf-Agassi supernova union has generated a flurry of interest from celebrity-spotters, who like nothing better than to sneak a glimpse into the love lives of the rich and famous.

Pressures of fame

But surely such scrutiny must put undue pressure on such love matches?

Dr Adam Joinson, an expert on the psychology of fame at the University of Glamorgan, begs to differ.

[ image: Meg Matthews, left, and Liz Hurley initially found fame through Noel Gallagher and Hugh Grant respectively]
Meg Matthews, left, and Liz Hurley initially found fame through Noel Gallagher and Hugh Grant respectively
It would be harder for a star to maintain a relationship with a lawyer or lecturer than with another celebrity.

"I think it is perhaps easier for famous couples, because what tends to happen is that someone who isn't famous suddenly finds themselves thrust into the spotlight when they start a relationship with a celebrity.

"Look at Noel Gallagher of Oasis - his wife, Meg Matthews, is now relatively famous through association."

Not only does like attract like, each member of a celebrity couple understands the life their famous partner lives, Dr Joinson says.

"Famous people tend to become incredibly self-conscious.

"It's like what happens when you go to a restaurant and sit in front of a mirror - no-one looks attractive when they are eating, and sitting in front of a mirror makes you very aware of that.

"Being famous seems to have the same sort of effect. It seems to make people very self-conscious and it can be difficult to understand the pressure.

"If you come home to someone who's not famous and talk about a hard day on the set drinking champagne, they won't understand."

Graf, in an interview with UK tennis magazine Ace, says she came to terms with the side-effects of being famous a long time ago.

"I used to treat it as a game and laughed about it, hiding in the back of cars and staging high-risk escapes.

"Since Princess Diana was killed I have taken the view 'Just let the photographer take your picture'."

Similar circles

Few mere mortals live the fantasy of star-falls-for-bookseller played out by Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts in the film Notting Hill.

Dr Joinson says: "People like you and I don't tend to run into Robbie Williams down at the local bar - we move in different circles."

[ image: Catherine Zeta Jones traded in a Blue Peter presenter for Hollywood's Michael Douglas]
Catherine Zeta Jones traded in a Blue Peter presenter for Hollywood's Michael Douglas
And why would a woman like rising Welsh actor Catherine Zeta Jones or a man like footballer David Beckham settle for Joe or Jane Public - they move in a rarefied atmosphere peopled by the pampered likes of Hollywood star Michael Douglas and Spice Girl Victoria Adams.

"It's not surprising that famous couples exist, even though it would probably be better for them not to go out with famous people," Dr Joinson says.

"A lot of them live in fairly closeted world - the first thing they do is leave their community and buy a big house with walls and a gate, and cut themselves off from the their old friends."

Measure of celebrity

Whom a star dates can be a barometer of their fame.

Witness the glamorous Zeta Jones. Once upon a time she dated Blue Peter presenter John Leslie.

Then she had her dress ripped off in the film The Mask Of Zorro, and is now engaged to Douglas.

[ image: Serial star-dater Winona Ryder: Past loves include Christian Slater and Johnny Depp]
Serial star-dater Winona Ryder: Past loves include Christian Slater and Johnny Depp
In the early 1990s when actor Johnny Depp was Hollywood's hottest hunk, he dated superwaifs Kate Moss and Winona Ryder.

Now his halo of fame has slipped somewhat askew, he has settled down into parenthood with French songbird and lesser celebrity Vanessa Paradise.

Ryder, however, has found a place at the side of actor Matt Damon, the Oscar-winning co-writer of Good Will Hunting and newly anointed hunk of the decade.

Everybody loves a lover

As millions are fascinated by the topic of 'who fancies whom' - especially when played out by household names - forming an alliance with an established name can be the fast track to fame.

[ image: Norman 'Fatboy Slim' Cook and Zoe Ball raised each others' profiles when they wed in August]
Norman 'Fatboy Slim' Cook and Zoe Ball raised each others' profiles when they wed in August
BBC presenter ZoŽ Ball was a virtual unknown outside the UK before she married globally successful DJ Norman 'Fatboy Slim' Cook.

His music, too, gained a new audience among ZoŽ-watchers when the pair got together.

"No-one loves a couple more than a celebrity couple," Dr Joinson says.

"If one plus one equals two, then with celebrities, it's more like one plus one equals 10."

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