WIMBLEDON, England — They arrive silently in the dead of night. On street corners. In subway stations. Thousands of them, sticking together, waiting for morning. They are ripe. They are ready. They are about to scream. They are the British . . .
. . . newspapers.


Yes. These are real headlines from British newspapers last week — tabloids, to be specific. A tabloid is sort of a midget newspaper; the kind most likely to feature a story about Elvis returning to earth in a UFO.

Anyhow, these “Fleet Street” tabloids — named after the street where many are published — are a daily habit here in England. There are so many it is hard to remember them all. The Mirror, The Star, The Sun. Anything but The Truth.

These tabloids sell millions of copies by printing any gossip they can think up about famous people. Especially tennis players at Wimbledon.

The more controversial the player, the better. For years, Jimmy Connors
(“BRAT!”) and John McEnroe (“SUPERBRAT!”) were favorite targets of the tabloids.

In fact, with those two not here this week, the tabloid reporters must be very frustrated. I’ll bet they’re so frustrated, they’ve run out and had a dozen drunken tantrums, and a few secret marriages, and maybe a sex-change operation. Tabloids keep it up front

Of course, the British tabloids are not what the American reader is used to. For one thing, there are no pictures of naked girls in the American newspapers. At least not in the one I work for.

But few Fleet Street tabloids would be complete without a lovely lass baring all for her favorite Wimbledon player, usually on page 3 or 5, sometimes page 7, now and then on page 14 or 15. Naturally, I have looked at these only in the interest of researching this column.

I have yet to visit Fleet Street. But I imagine it is full of chesty young ladies running around claiming they were jilted by Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Robert Redford, Pele, Bjorn Borg, both the Wham! guys, and aliens from another planet.

Now, some Americans might be surprised that the British go for this type of


After all, the British have always prided themselves on being more sophisticated than their distant relative, the American. In fact, the Brits often consider us country bumpkins.

That is why we can’t be expected to appreciate a story like “FERGIE’S HIPS ARE 43 INCHES!” which appeared on the front page of a tabloid here Sunday. It may be years before we are sophisticated enough for that one.

Nevertheless, we must try.

Perhaps you’re thinking about coming over here soon. In that case, you should learn to decipher the tabloid headlines, so you needn’t read the stories. Which are always a letdown.

Here are a few examples of the headline you might see, and what really happened. CHRIS AND JIMMY IN LOVE SPAT; JOHN LLOYD IS STUNNED

This means that Chris Evert Lloyd and Jimmy Connors attended a press conference at the same time. Connors held open the door and said, “After you, Chris.” Evert Lloyd said, “No, Jimmy, go ahead.” They both went in and the door swung back and hit John in the face. LUSTY PAPA McENROE NOW SAYS:

This means John McEnroe is organizing a charity fund-raiser for children. MARTINA SHOCKS WIMBLEDON!

She had a cough drop.

This will appear whenever McEnroe misbehaves, or Connors misbehaves, or Ron Guidry comes over on vacation and misbehaves. SHRIVER IN TEARS AFTER LOSS,

Actually, Pam just had an allergy. She was talking about her nose at the time. AMERICAN SPORTS COLUMNIST FOUND FACEDOWN IN GUTTER

Oh. The things they come up with.

So there you have it. I hope this little guide will keep the first-time visitor from spending too much time with foolish articles. Which will give him more time to ogle the pictures.

Of course we Americans would never allow such saucy, titillating trash in our newspapers.

That is why we have television.

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