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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 April, 2004, 08:41 GMT 09:41 UK
How to handle a media scandal
Victoria and David Beckham
United front: Victoria and David
Claims about David Beckham's text life have seen the England captain and his wife, Victoria, become the focus of more tabloid inches than even they are used to. What options do celebrities have when a media storm breaks?

In the past week, the Beckhams have been the subject of hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles - few of which will have made comfortable reading for the couple.

The pair have dismissed the allegations as "ludicrous" and "absurd". But the headlines continue, with no sign of a let-up.

So what options are open to celebrities who find themselves the unwanted focus of media gossip?

SMILE FOR THE CAMERAS

Along with instructing their lawyers, this seems to be the tactic most favoured by the Beckhams.

The couple have been seen frolicking in the snow at an exclusive French ski resort, leaving a London restaurant hand in hand, larking about at Beckingham Palace, and out and about in Madrid.

But the strategy has come at a price, with every facial expression scrutinised for hidden meanings.

HIRE SOME LAWYERS

Following nine days of stories about the Beckhams' marriage, the press were told: "Lawyers have been instructed by David and Victoria concerning these matters."

Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas
Zeta Jones and Douglas at court
But papers have continued to print allegations, and the News of the World says: "We stand by our reports 100%."

Although court action is expensive, and damages don't always cover costs, there are many precedents of wronged celebrities winning victories over the press.

Lawyers for Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas won damages from Hello! magazine for publishing paparazzi photos of their wedding day.

And actress Amanda Holden accepted libel damages over a Daily Mirror claims that she made "diva-like demands".

PROVE THEM WRONG

Can there be any better way to end a scandal than by showing the world that the rumours are untrue?

Neil and Christine Hamilton famously endured entirely false claims about sexual behaviour. They always maintained their innocence, and their phone records showed they could not possibly have been guilty.

Nadine Milroy-Sloan, their accuser, was jailed for perverting the course of justice.

BE OPEN ABOUT IT

Talking honestly about allegations is a route taken by a number of public figures accused of various shenanigans.

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck
It was splitsville for "Bennifer"
TV presenter Jamie Theakston apologised to friends and family after reports that he visited a prostitute following a Christmas party that "went too far".

DJ Zoe Ball admitted cheating on her husband, Norman Cook, with musician Daniel Peppe. The couple are now back together.

And former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown owned up a "brief relationship" with his former secretary after being nicknamed "Paddy Pantsdown".

KEEP THEM GUESSING

You know what the truth is, what should it matter what anyone else thinks?

Earlier this year the actors Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck finally announced they were splitting up, following months of "will they, won't they?" stories about their plans to marry.

The press didn't know what was going on and filled acres of newsprint with speculative stories about the couple - nicknamed "Bennifer".

REVEL IN IT

A good bit of celebrity scandal can actually boost a career if it's properly managed.

Colin Farrell in Phone Booth
Who's a naughty boy, then?
Tales of strippers, boozing, smoking and foul language have done little to stop the rise of actor Colin Farrell.

His bad boy image is so much a part of his appeal that the papers have had to look for other ways to bring him down. The Sunday Times has gone so far as to suggest he's middle class.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Rod Stewart, Hugh Grant, numerous Premiership footballers and George Michael have all survived being seen as a little bit naughty.

GO TO AN EXCLUSIVE RETREAT

Going on an expensive holiday as the storm breaks reminds the world just how glamorous you are. You get to chose whether or not to invite the press to take snaps of you at your hideaway and, of course, it should be fun.

Following their spot of bother, the Beckhams spent some time at a luxury chalet in the French ski resort of Courchevel.

The Fijian island of Wakaya is also a favourite. After Nicole Kidman split from husband Tom Cruise, she arrived there with new beau Russell Crowe. Two days after they left, Tom arrived with his new flame, Penelope Cruz.

Michael Barrymore flew to Mauritius after an open verdict was returned on the death of a man found in his swimming pool.

And Amanda Holden checked in to a luxury Barcelona hotel after splitting with Les Dennis.

VANISH

It's drastic, but the world will be talking about you for years to come - probably in relatively fond terms.

Lord Lucan has not been seen since the day after Sandra Rivett, nanny to his three children, was found murdered at the Earl's central London home in 1974. Rumours that he is still alive remain popular media fare.

And the entertainer Stephen Fry vanished for 24 hours in 1995, apparently after receiving bad theatre reviews. He made it as far as Belgium.


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