By People Staff
March 19, 2007 12:00 PM

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GETTING SERIOUS

Seven months in, Jessica Simpson and John Mayer are going strong

At first, Jessica Simpson and John Mayer seemed a most unlikely pair: What’s a Texan homecoming queen doing with this cerebral Connecticut crooner? But when the two recently visited N.Y.C. for work—and plenty of play—they looked more and more like an ideal match. (With their tousled brunette locks and coordinating dark clothing, they’re even starting to look alike.) “They are totally inseparable,” says one pal. “They’re all over each other.” That was certainly the case Feb. 28, when the two arrived hand-in-hand at Stereo nightclub following Mayer’s Madison Square Garden concert, then snuggled in the VIP booth until 2 a.m. “They were leaning in close, talking and kissing,” says a club-goer. “He was stroking her hair.” (Late night snack attack? No problem. Their crew chowed on 25 pies from Johns Pizzeria.) And while Simpson did venture out solo March 1, filming scenes for her comedy Blonde Ambition and grabbing dinner with friends at Dos Caminos Soho, she was back by Mayer’s side the next day, shopping up a storm in Soho. “It’s a real relationship,” says the source. “They’re not trying to make a TV show of it.”

Nicole Richie‘s

WILD WEEK

The Simple Life? Nicole Richie‘s seemed anything but Mar. 2, when she was rushed from the set of her reality show to an L.A. emergency room. Why? She was showing signs of dehydration and required intravenous fluids after a long workday. Her rep said the incident was not due to Richie’s well-documented weight struggles. “We are proud of the weight that Nicole is gaining and her focus on her health,” she added. Even the hospital drama wasn’t enough to distract entirely from those other rumors swirling around the starlet. Could she be engaged to Joel Madden, her boyfriend of three months? Lately, the two have been spotted wearing bands on their left hands (hers encrusted with diamonds). “They are not engaged, but they did exchange rings,” says a Richie source. “It wouldn’t be surprising if they are engaged in six months.” Reps had no comment.

POWER PLAYDATES!

You gotta have Friends: Courteney Cox Arquette‘s Coco has had playdates with Brooke Shields‘s daughter Rowan. (Also invited? Laura Dern’s Jaya.)

It’s inevitable: Celeb kids hang with … other celeb kids. A guide to who’s who in the Hollywood sandbox

Gwen Stefani is setting up son Kingston and Brangelina’s Shiloh. And if they end up married? “That’d be cute!” she said to British Elle.

Ryder (son of Kate Hudson and musician Chris Robinson) rocks out with Milo (son of Liv Tyler and ex-Spacehog Royston Langdon).

No doubt Stefani gets around: Kingston has also hung out with model mom Heidi Klum‘s two oldest kids, Leni and Henry.

Gwyneth Paltrow‘s Apple and Moses cuddle up with Madonna‘s brood. “We [put] them in bed and … drink a glass of wine,” Paltrow told Spanish Vogue.

POP QUIZ

Brad Garrett

As a disgruntled husband on FOX’s ‘Til Death (moving to Wednesdays March 14), Brad Garrett relishes downtime with the guys. But off-camera, the 6’8″ funnyman hangs with a much younger crowd: kids Max, 8, and Hope, 7. The actor, 46, tells Scoop about being a dad, working with Hugh Grant—and dodging Facts of Life fans.

‘Til Death is your first sitcom since Everybody Loves Raymond—how’s the vibe on-set?

Joely [Fisher] and I both have a warped sense of humor. And Kat [Foster] and Eddie [Kaye Thomas] are so much fun. They’re kids, so I just sit in my rocking chair and go, “What happened to me?”

More fun than filming Music and Lyrics with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore?

Let me tell you something about Hugh: Every night he rocked me to sleep with something by Menudo. He did his own singing [in the movie], so that’s how we trained. I tried to get it going with Drew, but her security people make me look petite.

More film work in your future?

This is the thing with my movie career—I’m picky and not in demand. It’s a brutal combination. I’m turning down movies I’m not even up for! I’m cutting rejection off at the pass.

You split with wife Jill Diven last summer. Are you back on the dating scene yet?

I was never a good dater. I’m always second-guessing people’s motives. There’s a whole other level in show business. [I think] “Is she seeing me because she wants to meet Tootie from Facts of Life?”

How’s life with Max and Hope?

I tick with the kids—that’s where I shine. We go to this pet store every weekend. We’ve gotten four cats in a year and a half: Sophie, Smudge, Butterscotch and Princess. [The workers] must think we’re out of our minds.

DOLLED UP

Since founding the Pussycat Dolls in the ’90s, Robin Antin has seen many big stars fill tiny costumes for guest appearances. Now on the prowl via a new CW reality show, The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll, she looks back on a few favorite celeb turns.

The whip (in ’04) was Scarlett Johansson‘s idea. “She saw it and said, ‘This would be great!'”

Oscar winner Charlize Theron (in ’02) “was so graceful,” especially “the way she moved her hips.”

A bold Brittany Murphy (in ’02) “perched on a man’s knee and rubbed his bald head while singing.”

Eva Longoria (with Antin in ’05) “is so petite, but she dances, walks and talks like a tall, voluptuous girl!”

EMMA’S SWEET SIXTEEN

A dramatic, fashionably late entrance à la My Super Sweet 16? Not for Emma Roberts, the star of the Nickelodeon hit Unfabulous. “That show is ridiculous—wardrobe changes and riding in on a white horse?” says Roberts, who hit her milestone birthday Feb. 10 and took a more subtle approach to celebrating. “I was there early to my party, man.” The Lancôme-sponsored event, held March 3 at L.A. hot spot Social Hollywood, featured a rose-colored, skull-covered cake (“Skulls are so cool,” says Roberts), an old-fashioned photo booth and a psychic who assured the nervous young star that her fete would be a success. “I don’t really like having birthday parties,” she says. “They make me too stressed-out!” Fortunately, says Roberts, “my best girlfriends were there for me.” But alas, the gift every 16-year-old dreams of was not. “My mom said I can get a car when I prove that I can drive,” says Roberts. “It could be a while.”

WHERE WAS AUNTIE JULIA?

Aunt JULIA ROBERTS didn’t make it to the evening’s festivities. In fact, her niece’s big day may have slipped her mind entirely. “I didn’t get [a gift]!” Emma says with a laugh. “I don’t know what happened! But I got lots of other cool presents from my family.” You can’t blame Julia for being a bit distracted—the mother of 2-year-old twins Hazel and Phinnaeus is pregnant with her third child, due this summer.

DOG BITES RACHAEL!

Ouch-o: On March 2, talk show host Rachael Ray was injured during a dogfight in a New York City park. What happened? A rep for the host tells Scoop that Ray, 38, was playing with her pit bull pup Isaboo when another dog became aggressive. Other nearby canines joined in and, as Ray tried to break up the brawl, she was bitten several times. Luckily, she did not require medical attention. “Rachael’s main concern was for all the animals’ safety,” says the rep, adding that such tussles are not uncommon. “Dogs will be dogs.”

Jennifer’s Idol Homecoming

Take that, Simon! On March 1, just four days after scoring a supporting actress Oscar for Dreamgirls, Jennifer Hudson returned unannounced to the L.A. set of American Idol, where she first won over so many fans (and where Simon Cowell famously dissed her for her weight). The season-three alumna, 25, offered encouragement to the current contestants. “She came backstage to congratulate everyone on making it so far along and told everyone to keep following their dreams,” an insider tells Scoop. “We were all blown away by how nice she was.” Hudson affirmed she still tunes in “as often as I can.”

TERRENCE HOWARD

REVEALS (ALMOST) ALL

Onetime Oscar nominee, 38, tries to rekindle the love with his leading lady (no, it’s not Naomi) and strips down for his new role as a swim coach in Pride, out March 23.

ROMANCE RUMORS

I’m linked to Naomi Campbell in a sense that we both have a mentor in Quincy Jones. We’ve shared a lot of great moments and ideas. That’s the truth of it. I’ve only known her two weeks!

NO ATTRACTION TO THE SUPERMODEL?

You gotta remember now, I’m still married. I’m still trying to get my wife back. [Lori, whom he has been with on and off since 1989] filed for divorce but I’m still trying to campaign. My three kids are campaigning for me, too. They’ll make sure that anybody who comes sniffing around gets a bloody nose.

UNCOVERED

The Speedo was one thing that almost made me not choose this role. Why? Because I don’t look cute in blue panties! And the water is cold. All your secrets are out there in public.

FIRST-TIME PRODUCER?

No, I executively produced three kids! But yeah, as far as cinematic endeavors, this was my very first, and I took it very seriously.

THE STROKES

I thought I was a good swimmer until I watched the real [athletes] and their ease in the water. I couldn’t do flipturns or butterfly. I swam [as a kid], but I had a natural fear of sharks, so I didn’t get too good at it.

GETTING IN SHAPE FOR THE ROLE

I had to diet—no carbs, no salt, no sugar. I like honey buns and carrot cake, so it was the carbs and the sugar I missed most. Instead we ate a lot of tuna, egg whites and vegetables. There was one rule, basically: If it tastes good, you can’t eat it.

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