We read the tabloids so you don't have to The story so far: singer Edison Chen Koon-hei, he of average talents but remarkable cheekbones, is doing a press promotion in Victoria Park when a scruffy member of Joe Public pushes through the media scrum, leans over the barricade and - so says Apple Daily - inquired of the rising actor/singer: 'Who the **** do you think you are? Who is this ******* star? What the **** are you people looking at him for?' Reading through the news this week, it's hard not to admit these are good questions. ONE COUNTRY, TWO SYSTEMS As Hong Kong falls deeper into recession and Sars has employers cutting, slicing and laying off staff, our media is becoming schizophrenic. The news sections are a litany of misery, murder, unemployment, disease and bodies for sale. Yet the celebrity sections read like a parallel world. Talk about one country, two systems. The big Canto-pop stories - and we won't dwell on these - read like advertorials because they are like advertorials: 'Eason Chan [Yick-shun] invites nine on a junk and parties all night,' runs Oriental Sunday's cover. 'Red wine and wakeboards are the way to go this summer,' the story continues. Grainy paparazzi pictures have been turned into diagrams telling us how much Eason, fiancee Hillary Tsui Ho-ying and friend Josie Ho Chiu-yi paid for their wakeboards, flippers and shorts. Other magazines tells us Leon Lai Ming likes water-skiing, Ekin Cheng Yee-kin likes diving and Juno Mak (the singer-son of a tycoon) can't live without his powerboats. Three Weekly has a cover story on the history of birthday girl Cecilia Cheung Pak-chi's 'amazing body'. Next to a burning page icon (which denotes a red-hot story) the magazine tells us the 23-year old's breasts have grown (yet again) and that the skinny star may have the beginnings of a belly. (Adverts in the back will help get rid of that.) Express Weekly doesn't even bother to pretend its news is really a plug for potential advertisers. 'Andy Lau [Tak-wah] fights Gigi Leung [Wing-kay] to be spokesperson for Fancl House,' the mag's big splash informs us. Adding: 'Andy doesn't usually go for the women's advertising market - but times are tough and he's lowered his rate.' A WILD SEX WAR ZONE But who can blame Andy for wanting in? Turn to Express Weekly's 'true news' section and it's a different Hong Kong. There's more on atypical pneumonia deaths and the grinding economy. Sars-hit karaoke company, The Big Echo, is fighting back with buckets of disinfectant, special discounts and Hello Kitty theme rooms. Prostitution is booming, says the magazine. A recent murder-robbery of a high-class prostitute in Kowloon has thrown light on a 'growing economy of middle-class Hong Kong women selling themselves'. Easyfinder magazine readers know all about this. 'Tsim Sha Tsui park has tragically turned into a wild sex war zone,' says its lead story. The Sars economy, we are told, has caused desperation. 'Young girls will do it anywhere for money . . . and clients like it outside because doctors say fresh air is healthier.' But again, even this reads like an advertorial for a dubious karaoke bar. STILL SHOPPING FOR TOYS Flipping between these parallel worlds, between the housewife dreamers selecting a better skin cream or boob job and everyone else waking up to a Sars nightmare, it's hard not to be struck by the arrogance of the celebrity bubble. Interviewed about Sars, actor Anthony Wong Chau-sang tells Oriental Sunday: 'I won't go to Amoy Gardens . . . I have obligations, not just to my family but to Hong Kong. The city needs me. It can't do without me.' Aaron Kwok Fu-shing also sounds pretty smug. Three Weekly tells us he has seven girlfriends in seven countries. And Express Weekly tells us that although his Causeway Bay cafe closed last week, the pint-sized star is buying a new Ferrari Enzo. He is quoted as saying: 'Business might suck, but that's not going to stop me. I'm still shopping for toys.' BRING ON MRS THINGUMMY Clearly there is need for a new kind of star. Someone as idiosyncratic as Cecilia Cheung -and with a dress sense odder than Brenda Chau's. And Next magazine might just have the answer. 'The only thing Hong Kong people are really good at is complain, complain, complain.' The speaker is Betty Tung Chiu Hung-ping. Although the magazine tries to ridicule her for strange outbursts and bizarre anti-Sars cleaning clothes, as a celebrity idol she might scrub up rather well. In Next magazine's rather cruel 'Diary of Mrs Tung's Weird Outbursts', the chief executive's wife is quoted as saying: 'It's no good gambling or dreaming. Money is not going to fall out of the sky. If you want to get on you have to be real and you have to work hard.' These seem like sensible words. No other celebrity has anything comparable to offer. Next magazine also mocks her problem with names. 'She always calls people 'you' and 'wotjamacallit',' says the mag. Once, when she was meeting some Canto-pop stars, 'she couldn't even remember who Aaron Kwok and Sammi Cheng [Sau-man] were. She called Aaron 'Mr Thingummy'.'