April 12, 2004 12:00 PM

One day last summer, busy Montclair, N.J., moms Jeri Biebel, an actress, and Ann McCarthy, a corporate events producer, agreed that keeping up with their suburban book club was too much pressure. “Who needs more stress?” asks McCarthy. “We need entertainment and a fun excuse to get together.” Armed with a humorous take on things—and a few bottles of vino—the two rounded up 10 more women, including a bond trader and an interior designer, who wanted to kick back. The result? The “People Who Need PEOPLE” club. At monthly meetings at members’ homes, the chatter often turns from celebrity glitter to neighborhood news. “One minute you’re talking about Justin Timberlake or some star who’s pregnant,” says McCarthy, “and the next you’re talking about someone you know who’s pregnant.” Games are part of the action too. In Name That Body, a member holds up a PEOPLE page on which faces have been covered with Post-it notes while the rest guess identities. In one such competition, Maureen Munroe, a bank vice president, asked the members, “If you could be one of them, who would you be—Halle Berry, Jennifer Aniston or Nicole Kidman?” Winner by a bustier: Berry. Although some men have expressed an interest in the club, management training executive Pat Leonard thinks they don’t qualify. “There’s too much going on here,” she says. “They’re not up to it.”

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