Stephen M. Silverman
February 18, 2005 05:00 PM

BIRTHDAY PAIR: Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, who announced their breakup Jan. 7, partied together, along with about 80 pals, to ring in her 36th birthday with a bash on a cool Feb. 12 evening at the Beverly Hills home they co-own. “It was a lovely party,” a pal of the birthday girl’s tells PEOPLE. Pitt, 41, and Aniston “were very friendly to each other.” Don’t expect a reconciliation, however. Those close to the couple don’t expect them to get back together anytime soon.

BRITNEY’S VALENTINE: Amid tabloid rumors that Britney Spears’s five-month-long marriage to Kevin Federline is on the rocks, the pop princess posted a Valentine’s Day letter reinforcing her love for the former backup dancer. “I am so grateful to have someone I love. I fall more and more in love with Kevin everyday,” Spears, 23, wrote on her Web site, adding that the couple have been spending time apart while Federline, 26, promotes his own career, fueled by his recent cover shot in March’s Details magazine. Federline recently told PEOPLE he’s thinking of modeling as well as acting, producing music and designing his own fashion line.

IDOL PICKS: The talent pool of 42 hopefuls was whittled down to 12 men and 12 women in do-or-die decisions by judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson on American Idol this week. The dramatic highpoint came from Faith Gatewood, who did not take kindly to her rejection. Wailing that she had nothing to fall back on, Faith was so distraught that show host Ryan Seacrest chased her down in the street to calm her down. Next week will bring three Idol episodes, with the men competing on Monday, the women on Tuesday, and the results revealed on Wednesday.

OLSEN SUIT: Ashley Olsen sued the National Enquirer for $40 million, accusing the tabloid of libel and false light invasion of privacy over its current cover story that claims she was “caught in a drug scandal.” Olsen, 18, accuses the Enquirer of publishing a misleading cover headline and photo that made her appear “drugged,” but the actress “does not use or sell drugs,” according to her suit. Stu Zakim told New York’s Daily News that the publication, in standing by its story, “will vigorously defend against a lawsuit.”

FRIENDS’ CONCERN: Friends, concerned after Matthew Perry was rushed to a Los Angeles Hospital last week, believe that the former Friends star hasn’t fully adjusted to the end of Chandler Bing. “He is having a hard time going from being on a hit show to having a movie (The Whole Ten Yards) that didn’t do that well,” a pal of Perry’s told PEOPLE. “He sort of feels like he’s a has-been already.” And with a recent weight loss, “friends are concerned,” says the pal. “He is the thinnest he’s ever been.” Perry has also grown apart from others, including cocktail-waitress girlfriend Rachel Dunn. Perry’s hospitalization was due to an adverse reaction to prescription medication, said his rep, adding that the actor was “fine.”

RAY’S GENIUS: The late Ray Charles and his best-selling, posthumous, final album, Genius Loves Company, emerged as the top winner at Sunday’s Grammy Awards with eight – including album of the year, best pop album and best pop collaboration for “Here We Go Again,” with Norah Jones, which was also named record of the year. Alicia Keys went home with four Grammys – including the one she and Usher each received for best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals for “My Boo.” Usher and Kanye West were both triple winners. Accepting the rap album Grammy for The College Dropout, West acknowledged that he went into the evening with a year’s best of 10 nominations, saying: “Everybody wanted to know what I would do if I didn’t win. I guess we’ll never know.”

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