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A first novel from Ann Leary raises speculation she's taking revenge on husband Denis. Nah.

June 17, 2008|Choire Sicha | Special to The Times

ROXBURY, Conn. -- Writer Ann Lembeck Leary, 45, was doing a blitz of media -- including, accompanied by her husband, Denis, "The View" and "Today."

"Obviously, to go on these shows, Denis would have to go with me," she said -- they "don't usually have first-time novelists." She laughed. Though Denis Leary was busy promoting HBO's "Recount" and the fourth-season DVD release of "Rescue Me" himself, still: "It did feel a little Lucy Ricardo-ish."

Her book, "Outtakes From a Marriage," is about the wife of an actor who realizes that her husband changed -- and became unfaithful -- as he grew famous.

So, the rude but unavoidable question: Is the book her revenge for any indiscretion of her husband's during their 25-or-so-year relationship?

"No. No. No!" she said.

But on June 13, the Rush & Molloy gossip duo of the New York Daily News questioned Leary's creativity. Clearly Leary was jealous of her husband's relationship with Elizabeth Hurley, Rush & Molloy wrote, "if her new novel, 'Outtakes From a Marriage,' is as thinly veiled as it seems." They ended by agreeing that Ann Leary and Hurley were equally sexy pieces of meat: Both were "steak."

Ryan Tate, of the celebrity gossip website Gawker, went further. He wrote that Leary had "sadly channeled her frustrations into a thinly veiled 'novel.' "

"That's crazy," Leary said the day the Gawker item appeared. She was on her way to an interview with USA Today. She wasn't angry about it, she said -- in fact, she was validated.

You see, in her book, the angry wife sends in cruel and fake sightings of her cheating husband to none other than Gawker. "I think it's too bad that they're so desperately looking for this kind of thing," she said. "But it actually fits with the plot of my novel -- how easy it is to place a rumor online and then to have it spin out of control."

For the record: Was Ann Leary's publicist at the firm 42 West behind this gossip item, as a way to get the book some press at any cost? "Absolutely not!" he e-mailed. The Daily News' Joanna Molloy did not respond to an e-mail.

This weirdness was just the latest iteration of the way Leary weaves in and out of the world of celebrity. Like with the red-carpet photographers at the Emmys or Golden Globes: She's more likely to be gossiping with them than posing for them. Sure, they'll snap a few pictures, "but then they want me to leave, because I'm a waste of editorial space," she said.

And that's OK. "I'm a middle child, Denis is a middle child," she said. "I'm very aware of attention and the way certain people thrive on it. Some people are discomfited and made sick by it. And some people have both, which I think I am."

--

It seems normal

Down in the Learys' own little valley, a wedge surrounded by deep woods, there were other things going on during the days of publicity and drama last week. The son is going to college next year. The daughter is getting her driver's license this month. Sneakers, the nasty barn cat, had gone missing. Ann's laptop had been electrocuted and blanked out in a storm.

The Learys moved there in 1997; the kids were 6 and 8. The frogs scream all night right now, but absolutely nothing dramatic happened Thursday during a few hours of afternoon conversation. Some crows came, some dogs got muddy, there was a breeze, the housekeeper left in a white Nissan Murano. Silence. The house -- tastefully expanded from a small old farmhouse -- is not usually so clean. The barn is appropriately red. The pool is discreetly situated and not at all tacky.

The quiet would drive you crazy if you were hanging at home, wondering if anyone's buying your book. Leary went to yoga class with her daughter, who had to tell her, "Mom, this isn't a competition. Stop looking at other people." Leary, who is very, very active, drinks coffee all day long. Her neighbors, such as a lady in the supermarket, all have a helpful idea: She should go on "Oprah"! This is like how they used to tell struggling comic Denis that he should go on Johnny Carson.

Just in case Oprah Winfrey never calls, her publisher had her start a blog, and for Leary it got addictive, because it has the push-pull of any attention-seeking interaction, like a red-carpet strut or a public breakup. "I post something and I'm really pleased. And I push send. Post. Publish. Whatever you hit," she said. "The instant it's published, the shame sets in." Currently, she averages 12,000 viewer hits a day.

About her online life, her kids only feel the shame: "They tell their friends that I'm on Facebook, and they laugh maniacally."

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