Senior Editor Peter Travers, our top film reviewer and the person in charge of the showbiz sections, claims he was a movie nut practically at birth. "My mom was in a theater watching Tyrone Power in Crash Dive when she went into labor," he says. "After that, my parents were taking me to the movies once a week in Yonkers, N.Y." Travers, who joined PEOPLE in 1980, now has a 2-year-old son, Alex, who, like his father, laps up the reel life that comes with the popcorn. "Alex is good at clapping when it's over," Travers notes.

These days Peter, 42 (also the father of Jennifer, 17, and David, 12), has to ration his time on the aisle. "He's in the hotbox," explains Managing Editor Pat Ryan. "Whenever we want to know what's going on, Travers has the answers. He lives show business 24 hours a day." Besides reviewing movies and editing entertainment stories, the ever amiable editor ("I save my barbs for the typewriter") also schedules our covers. Last winter, for example, he proposed our feature on Mel Gibson, the "Sexiest Man Alive," which became a big-selling issue. (Rock Hudson was 1985's best-selling regular cover.) This week singer Ricky Nelson, who died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve, was chosen for the cover story (page 28) because, explains Travers, "our readers grew up with Ricky. They shared in his life and were shaken by his death."

Peter, who earned his M.A. in English at New York University, met one of his favorite legends in 1972 while writing a story for Reader's Digest on the Santa Fe, N.Mex. set of The Cowboys. "It was John Wayne," Travers recalls. "He was a wonderful man, a real giant. But after I saw him take off his corset and toupee in a sauna and then remove his false teeth, I knew that indeed this was a fantasy world."

Travers' all-time favorite film is Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, which he keeps for study at home along with 3,000 other taped movies. His second wife, actress Robyn Reeves, 34, threatens to throw them out if the collecting doesn't stop. But Travers needs his library for reference. "When I write a review, I want to give an educated response," he says. "The industry thinks we're tough, but that's because we're direct and honest. I think our readers like that. And if they don't like what I say, they tell me. They're passionate about movies. So am I."