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Feb 12 2003

Michael and Cath `dreaded' wedding pics like Beckhams in OK!

Adrian Shaw

CATHERINE Zeta-Jones told magazine bosses: "Don't make my wedding look like the Beckhams'," a court heard yesterday.

Former OK! magazine editor Martin Townsend, who bought the rights to Zeta- Jones's wedding to Hollywood legend Michael Douglas, said the couple wanted the coverage to have more class and glamour.

The magazine's coverage of footballer David Beckham's wedding to former Spice Girl Victoria Adams had famously featured the couple sitting on his- and-hers thrones.

Townsend, now the editor of the Sunday Express, told the High Court in London he negotiated the £1million buy-up of the picture rights to the Douglas wedding with Allen Burry, Douglas's publicist.

He said: "In discussing the wedding, one particular concern of Allen's was that any coverage of it would not be like OK's £1million feature on the wedding of Victoria Adams and David Beckham.

"He stressed that the Douglas wedding would be nothing like the Beckhams' wedding, which was a big glitzy occasion.

"It was going to be a private family event and any coverage of it should reflect that fact."

Townsend said he had been confident of fighting off celebrity magazine rival Hello! to cover the star- studded wedding at the New York Plaza hotel in November 2000.

Earlier, they had been given exclusive rights to take pictures of the couple with newborn baby Dylan.

He said: "I simply hoped that the Douglases would be pleased with the Dylan feature and that the wedding feature would follow on naturally."

Townsend revealed one crucial feature of the Douglas contract enabled Hello! to scoop them with unauthorised pictures obtained by a paparazzi photographer who sneaked into the wedding.

Unlike the Beckhams, who approved their pictures at 4am after their wedding reception, Zeta-Jones and Douglas insisted on having time to pick their pictures and have them retouched.

At the time, there was widespread speculation about why Douglas, now 58, appeared much younger.

The clause meant that OK! decided to delay publication by nearly a fortnight. They were then forced to rush an edition out when bosses learned that Hello! had obtained six grainy photographs of the wedding.

Townsend said: "The Douglases' contract stated the pictures were to be delivered up and retouched where necessary within four days of the wedding.

"Some of the retouching was done by them and some by us."

Townsend added: "It was to give them time to look at the pictures and decide whether they wanted to release the pictures to us and give them adequate time to make a proper selection and where necessary to have some of the pictures retouched."

At the Beckham wedding, there was no need for retouching and the exclusive feature on them went straight into the next available edition five days later.

Townsend added: "We couldn't do that with the Douglases' wedding. The practicalities didn't allow us to publish the following week."

The Douglases are suing Hello! for £500,000 damages, claiming the magazine's snatched photographs invaded their privacy and left them violated and distressed.

Douglas claimed in the witness box that the amount they were seeking was "a pittance" compared to what they had been through. The publishers of OK! are suing for £1.75 million because they lost sales by having their exclusive ruined.

Townsend yesterday claimed it lost them around two million sales because the exclusivity had gone.

Hello! claim that OK! pulled a similar stroke by gatecrashing the wedding of TV star Gloria Hunniford and Stephen Way at Hever Castle. But Townsend said that Hunniford blew her £70,000 deal with Hello! by handing out disposable cameras to guests.

He added: "I believe that in order to have privacy at an event like that you have to put on reasonable security measures and it doesn't seem to be a reasonable security measure if a contract is in place to hand your guests disposable cameras."

He added: "It is necessary with such high-profile people to enforce privacy and not be left as a hostage to fortune. If you give them disposable cameras, they are going to use them. It's human nature."

He said he did not believe publishing such pictures was an invasion of privacy because they were taken with disposable cameras.

James Price, QC, representing Hello!, said he disputed whether they were taken in such a way because the snaps were of such high quality. Townsend replied: "They were probably very good disposable cameras."

He added: "Catherine and Michael's wedding was by far the biggest celebrity event I had every been involved with at OK! and it is likely to be the biggest the magazine has ever been involved in.

"It is very rare to have two celebrities of that magnitude and A-list status marrying each other."

The case continues.


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