ROMAN HOLIDAY: Tom Cruise, 42, and Katie Holmes, 26, “have been dating a couple of weeks,” a friend of Cruis’s told PEOPLE this week. The romance was confirmed by Cruise’s rep after he and the former Dawson’s Creek star were photographed together, hand in hand, in Rome on Wednesday evening. “She’s a really genuine person,” says the friend. “She’s the real deal.” Another source says it was Cruise who made the first move: “He asked her out on a date.”
BENNIFER II: Ben Affleck‘s relationship with Jennifer Garner may lack the bada-bling that characterized his ill-fated romance with Jennifer Lopez – but that’s just the way the newly engaged Affleck and Garner like it, reported PEOPLE. “He’s very happy,” says an Affleck friend. “Jennifer is very down-to-earth, much more like him. They’re more like-minded. That wasn’t true (with Lopez).” Affleck, 32, and Garner, 33, costarred 2003’s Daredevil, and began dating last summer.
ON THE BLOCK: This week Denise Richards placed the house that she and Charlie Sheen once called home on the market to be sold. The residence is located in the pricey San Fernando Valley town of Encino, Calif. and was formerly home to Fat Actress star Kirstie Alley. The Sheens paid slightly more than $4 million for it, according to TV’s Extra. While the sale is in effect, Richards, who is eight months pregnant with Sheen’s child, will still live in the house with her mother and her and Sheen?s 1-year-old daughter, Sam.
PLAY HOUSE: Flying in the face of rumors of trouble in their marriage, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey have purchased a new $1 million condominium in Las Vegas, PEOPLE learned. The couple’s yet-to-be-built luxury 1,200-sq.-ft. digs will be in a new residential complex that will be part of the Palms Resort and Casino off the Vegas strip. Also featured in the property by casino mogul George Maloof Jr.: a basketball suite, a state of the art recording studio and an exclusive spa. Also this week, Simpson and Lachey returned from a trip to Iraq and Germany where they entertained troops.
MARTHA PROBE: The U.S. Probation Department is looking into whether the domestic diva Martha Stewart violated the terms of her house arrest by attending a Time magazine dinner. The question is whether “this event was directly related to her employment,” said Chris Stanton, chief federal probation officer for the Southern District of New York. Stanton reportedly approved an initial request by Stewart, 63, to attend the star-studded gala, which celebrated Time’s 100 Most Influential People issue – one of them being Stewart.
HOT HILTON: A commercial starring Paris Hilton for the Southern California-based Carl’s Jr. burger chain may be too hot for TV, according to trade reports about its creation. In the ad, the Simple Life star reportedly is shown washing a car as water hoses shoot suggestively. The spot concludes with Hilton biting into a burger and declaring, “That’s hot.”