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Breaking up with this story is hard to do

June 17, 2005|Gina Piccalo | Times Staff Writer

This week's bombshell in that titillating celebrity saga the tabloids have named "Brangelina" had just the right measure of sex, longing and revenge to knock the King of Pop's exoneration out of the headlines. There's just one small hitch: All parties involved in the latest report deny it.

Naturally, that only inspires more curiosity. Why let facts get in the way of a great story? So here we go.

As reported by the New York Post on Wednesday, Jennifer Aniston, furious over the 60-page Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie spread in the July issue of W magazine, told Vanity Fair that Pitt cheated on her with Jolie, ruining her plans to start a family with him. This story dispelled the widely held notion that Aniston wasn't as ready for kids as Pitt.

Adding insult to injury, the Post story goes, the series of photos in W, a publicity shoot for "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," depict the costars as a happy couple, posed with five clean-cut young boys, presumably their sons. If these images were real life, Pitt and Jolie set up house in 1960, primarily because Jolie looks so damn good in a bouffant 'do and heavy eyeliner. When they aren't seated around a dinner table holding hands in prayer, they're lounging in bed, taking turns with a gun. Compelling, no?

The Post report pinged through the blogosphere like a runaway bullet train. Within a day, Star magazine was quoting an anonymous "friend" of Aniston, who claimed the actress was primed for motherhood, and every outlet from the Cleveland Plain Dealer to the Hindustan Times had picked up the item. It was hot stuff.

And, according to Vanity Fair and Aniston's publicist Stephen Huvane, it was completely false.

For those unschooled in this melodrama, here's a recap: Aniston and Pitt married in 2000, enjoyed a 4 1/2 -year reign as Hollywood's king and queen, and announced their separation in January. There was speculation of a reunion after the couple was photographed vacationing together around that time, but that hope went up in flames when they filed for divorce in March. A couple of months later, Jolie and Pitt were spotted on a Kenya beach together.

Aniston hasn't talked about her split since March. Pitt and Jolie have been maddeningly coy. He went to Ethiopia to talk about the AIDS crisis there with Diane Sawyer, deflecting questions about his personal life. Jolie had her lawyers warn journalists not to even ask about their rumored affair.

If the cynics are right, the whole affair was just a PR stunt and, considering last weekend's box office for "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," a successful one. Which leads us back to this week's episode.

"Silence Broken," the Post headline read. "Does Jen Want a Revenge Baby?" the Star shrieked on Thursday.

For the record, Huvane and Vanity Fair spokeswoman Beth Kseniak both say Aniston met with writer Leslie Bennetts long before the W spread because they knew each other from Aniston's first cover for the magazine. But they say the actual interview hasn't yet taken place.

"Page Six is wrong and since they know that Jennifer is doing the cover of VF they are just assuming that she will discuss personal issues which they are wrong to assume," Huvane wrote Thursday in an e-mail.

The Post's columnist Richard Johnson isn't fazed by the denials. In fact, he points out, Vanity Fair, which featured Jolie on its June cover, and W, both owned by Conde Nast, have nothing to lose by letting this scandal-ette run its course.

At any rate, Johnson stands by his story.

"I think I'm going to have the last laugh when the story comes out," he says. "Jennifer Aniston was heartbroken about how she and Brad were unable to get pregnant. She couldn't figure out why not. Her plan was to finish 'Friends' and have babies."

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Correspondent Chris Lee contributed to this story.

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