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JUDGING PAULA
American Idol's Paula Abdul raises eyebrows with two erratic television appearances

Sure, Paula Abdul is prone to crying fits and spontaneous dances as a judge on American Idol. But her behavior during two Jan. 11 interviews seemed bizarre, even for the unpredictable star. On Seattle's Q13 FOX News, Abdul swayed as she gave incoherent answers to the anchors' questions. While chatting with San Francisco FOX affiliate KTVU, she slurred words, swiveled in her chair and made large gestures, prompting the interviewer to ask, "Do you always wiggle around that much?" Her quick response: "I'm a dancer!" Abdul's rep attributed her loopiness to "technical difficulties" with the audio feed, an explanation that Abdul seconded during the Jan. 16 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. "No one knew there were two cities in my ear and [what I said] seemed to make sense in one city," she told DeGeneres. (Q13 station news director Steve Kraycik tells Scoop, "There was no audio problem on our end.") One thing was certain: Abdul remained entertaining—and entertained—through it all. On The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, she summed up the experience: "I was having fun!"

BRIT'S
WILD WEEK

Memo to new Britney Spears beau Isaac Cohen: Bump up your Red Bull intake. The model-actor squired Spears to dinner at Social House in Las Vegas Jan. 14, then accompanied her to Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity show and topped it off with a visit to the Coyote Ugly nightspot (where Britney danced on the bar). By 1:30 am., when he and Spears headed back to the couple's $40,000-a-night Hugh Hefner Sky Villa at the Palms Casino Resort, Cohen called it a night. But Spears showed no signs of slowing down—continuing on by herself to Pure nightclub for late-night dancing. Earlier in the week, however, Cohen had no trouble keeping up with her schedule: On Thursday they hit the opening of Sideways Lounge, then L.A. gay bar Tigerheat; two days later he went along for a trip to Prince's show at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Vegas followed by dancing at another gay lounge, 8½. How does Brit keep going? Maybe she relies on late-night catnaps, à la her New Year's Eve nod off. Except not in public.

KEITH'S RETURN

After a 90-day stint in rehab, Keith Urban knew just how to celebrate completing his treatment—by spending a night out on the town with wife Nicole Kidman. Not long after checking out of his facility, Urban escorted Kidman to the star-studded CAA Golden Globes afterparty in L.A, where they mingled with fellow A-listers and shared a quiet moment near the back of the room. They were "in their own little world," says a source. Alas, not for long: Urban was scheduled to head to Germany Jan. 18 to promote his CD Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing. The singer officially kicks off his world tour in Europe in April before hitting the U.S. in June.

JENNIFER GARNER
ALL ABOUT BABY

Until recently, Jennifer Garner's most pressing engagement was 13-month-old daughter Violet's baptism, held Christmas Eve at Charleston, W. Va.'s Christ Church United Methodist. Now, with her romantic comedy Catch and Release set to debut Jan. 26, Mrs. Ben Affleck is back in the public eye. She opened up about her family to reporters Jan. 13.

TAKING A BREAK FROM ACTING FOLLOWING ALIAS'S '06 CANCELLATION: I've been in heaven being with Violet the past year. I was terrified after Alias. I didn't know if I'd hate having time on my own or if I'd embrace it. But having a baby fills your life.

HOW MOTHERHOOD CHANGED HER: I call my mom now and say, "You know all the dinners you made that I said 'No' to and went off and ate peanut butter? I'm sorry. I get it. I slaved over roasting this, and [Violet] goes, 'No, no, no!'"

LESSONS LEARNED: I was rocking her, and she was fascinated by the light hitting the ceiling. I thought, "God, for the past five years, I haven't stopped to look at light on the ceiling for [one] second." To slow down and go at her pace has been such a gift.

LOSING THE BABY WEIGHT: It took me a long, long time. I just wasn't that motivated. I wanted to play with her. Then I got on the treadmill, stopped stuffing my face and lost the weight. I cut out croissants, bagels and muffins—all the good stuff. And went back to having a salad once a day and protein.

BEN AFFLECK ON DADDY-DUTY: He does a good job. I mean, okay, maybe I wrote out what he was supposed to make for her [to eat] today while I was gone. But that's just me being paranoid. He's great—he can do it.

ON THE MOMMY-DADDY BOND: There's nothing more emotional than seeing your partner—the man you love—with your baby at any time: the first time, the second, yesterday, today. There's nothing more beautiful.

HEART MONITOR

ODD COUPLE

It must be getting serious: For his 38th birthday, Marilyn Manson's rumored love interest, 19-year-old actress Evan Rachel Wood, "gave him a live scorpion in a cage," a source at the goth rocker's Jan. 5 b-day party tells Scoop. Manson and Wood haven't been spotted together since, but his pals are lashing out at the love match. "It's like he's having a midlife crisis," says a source close to Manson and estranged wife Dita Von Teese, who filed for divorce Dec. 29. "He's with a younger version of Dita." A rep for Wood would not confirm the relationship. Manson's rep declined comment.

NEW GUY?

Claire Danes & Hugh Dancy

Is there someone new behind the curtain of Danes's notoriously veiled love life? The actress, 27, never confirmed her three-year relationship with Billy Crudup, 38, but the New York Daily News reports the pair split around a month ago—and that Danes has taken up with Dancy, 31, her costar in the upcoming Evening. (They were spotted kissing in N.Y.C. Jan. 12.) Reps for all three declined to comment.

HEATING UP

Penélope Cruz & Orlando Bloom

After four months of are-they-or-aren't-they speculation, Bloom and Cruz sure looked like a happy couple during the actor's 30th-birthday party at Teddy's Jan. 13. The two—who have been spotted clubbing repeatedly since the Pirates of the Caribbean star split with Kate Bosworth this fall—spent much of the evening talking closely and shared quick embraces on the dance floor and by their table at the back of the club (located in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel). Reps could not be reached.

MOVING ON?

Whitney Houston & Ray J

The greatest love of all? Maybe not. But Houston, 43—who split from husband of 14 years Bobby Brown this fall—was spotted dining at Mastro's Steakhouse in Beverly Hills Jan. 14 with Ray J (the younger brother of R&B star Brandy). Could she be dating the singer, who is 17 years her junior? A source close to Ray J says the two have been having a "romantic" relationship for the past four or five months—but her rep insists they are "family friends and nothing more."

Q + A

THE DIRT ON DAVID

An executive producer on his wife's new show, David Arquette also acts in his own series

Lately, life's been busy for David Arquette. Besides starring in ABC's new sitcom In Case of Emergency and playing Daddy to 2-year-old daughter Coco, he's also an executive producer of the FX drama Dirt, featuring his wife, Courteney Cox Arquette. The actor, 35, talked to Scoop about metaphorical juggling.

On In Case of Emergency, your character reunites with some high school classmates. Do you keep up with any of your old pals?

Yeah, I have a bunch of friends that I grew up with. It's great to have friends who call you on your [BS].

Dirt is set at a tabloid magazine. Is it inspired by true events?

When Courteney was pregnant, the paparazzi [became] more renegade. They started doing things like chasing her in the car. It was crazy. So we started developing the idea.

Are you pleased with the show?

I'm really proud of Courteney and what she's doing. She's playing a character that's not likeable. It's shattering the old Monica image.

As exec producer, how hands-on are you with the show?

I'm not on the set all that often. I'm doing my show, and there are a lot of love scenes—and that's uncomfortable for everyone.

Some of those scenes involve your wife. You don't like them?

Definitely not. I just avert my eyes. I have to watch sometimes just to see what's going on, just to be aware. I don't want to be blindsided!

How do you and Courteney balance work and parenthood?

I watch the baby most every morning. Then in the early afternoon, Coco goes and visits Courteney. Unless there's [an inappropriate] scene going on, then she'll come visit me. My trailer is just a bunch of toys.

How do you guys unwind after all that running around?

[I'm happiest] when it's me, Courteney and the baby, just hanging out and relaxing ... without paparazzi.

  • Contributors:
  • SCOOP CONTRIBUTORS Danielle Dubin,
  • Rennie Dyball,
  • Molly Lopez,
  • Ashley Williams,
  • Bryan Alexander,
  • Howard Breuer,
  • Jed Dreben,
  • Chris Gardner,
  • Mark Gray,
  • Lisa Ingrassia,
  • Julie Jordan,
  • Amy Keith,
  • Claire Kleinedler,
  • Ken Lee,
  • Amy Longsdorf,
  • Lesley Messer,
  • Michel.