The New Ben & Jen?
A series of close encounters leaves many wondering if friendship has turned into something more

Is the world ready for Bennifer, Part Deux?
Ben Affleck and his Daredevil costar Jennifer Garner have been spending a lot of time together, leading many to ask if Ben has found his new Jen. Officially, reps for both stars declined comment. But a source close to Garner says the two reconnected last month in Vancouver on the set of Elektra, which centers around Garner's Daredevil character and features a cameo by Affleck. "I did miss him," Garner told the Sydney Daily Telegraph earlier this month. "I missed his advice." (Garner called it quits with her boyfriend and Alias costar Michael Vartan in July, the same month Affleck split with Boston sales exec Enza Sambataro.) Then over Labor Day weekend, the two were spotted at a Starbucks coffee shop in Savannah 38 miles from the estate Affleck bought during the height of the J.Lo frenzy. "I thought to myself, That girl looks a lot like Jennifer Garner,' " said a witness. "I turned around, and there was Ben Affleck. He's got his Boston Red Sox hat on, and they are chatting back and forth." In a romantic fashion? "They weren't holding hands," he said. "They just seemed to be having a good time."

Garner has since returned to work on her ABC series Alias; Affleck has been playing poker in Las Vegas. He's also whipping himself into shape with L.A. trainer Gunnar Peterson. "He's eating well," says a source, "and looking great."

Eau de Brit
Britney Spears held court for 125 fans at a private lounge in Macy's in Manhattan on Sept. 14 to promote her new perfume Curious. "[Britney] was dancing with two fingers like guns on her hips when she came out," says Athena Sevastos, 13, who won a spot by being one of the first to buy the new scent. "She said, 'Hey, y'all, thanks for coming. I hope you'll be cool and buy my perfume.' " Spears's fiancé, Kevin Federline, also attended but stayed out of the spotlight. "I said, 'Kevin, why are you hiding? Come out and show yourself,' " says Sevastos. "He just smiled." After a brief intro, groups of 10 were swept into a small room with Spears, where they got to talk with her and take photos. "She was smiling the whole time," says Eric Ocasio, 16. "No one had a chance to say much. We were in there for about a minute. She was very polite. I hugged her. Britney is my goddess."

COLD MEDICINE
In Dr. Phil's first prime-time special, Family First (airing Sept. 22 on CBS), the good doctor confronts some jaw-droppingly dysfunctional families. Which leads Oprah's favorite shrink to utter some truly memorable lines—even by Dr. Phil standards:
•"There are 14 characteristics of a serial killer. Your son had nine of the 14. Jeffrey Dahmer had seven."
•"I often say you see somebody over [at the toilet] that's all uptight, and I say they must have been potty-trained at gunpoint."
•"Take everything out of [your child's] room except his bed.
That's commando parenting."

CHARLIZE'S PAIN IN THE NECK
The fall Charlize Theron took Aug. 30 while filming the sci-fi thriller Aeon Flux in Berlin had serious consequences: USA Today reports that she's going to physiotherapy three hours a day. Theron, 29, slipped doing back handsprings. The actress suffered a herniated disc between her sixth and seventh vertebrae that pressed into the fluid sac near her spinal cord.

In the Courts

A Preventable Tragedy?

WRONGFUL DEATH SUIT
A year after the sudden death of sitcom star John Ritter, his family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hospital where he was treated and members of its medical team. "If the proper procedures had been followed to diagnose and treat Mr. Ritter's symptoms, he would be alive and well today," his widow, actress Amy Yasbeck, 42, and four children charge in court papers. On Sept. 11, 2003, Ritter, 54, was rushed to Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank after he complained of chest pains on the set of 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. The lawsuit alleges that doctors misdiagnosed a tear in Ritter's aorta, first thinking he suffered a heart attack, then believing his heart was compressed by surrounding fluids. Ritter died on the operating table as surgeons tried to repair the tear. Hospital reps said they have not seen the lawsuit but did issue a statement noting that Ritter's family had asked them not to talk about the case, adding, "We extend our deepest and most sincere sympathy to the Ritter family for their loss."

COPYRIGHT SUIT

Simon vs. Simon
American Idol's slammaster Simon Cowell is getting dressed down by an unlikely critic: Idol creator Simon Fuller. Fuller is suing Cowell for copyright infringement and breach of contract, claiming that Cowell's new Brit TV show The X Factor is an Idol rip-off. Factor uses three judges to size up singers and then pits the judges against one another as each plays mentor to their candidate. The production company behind Factor said in a statement on Cowell's behalf that it hopes to resolve the issue amicably but would defend any legal action "vigorously."

RYAN'S 30TH BIRTHDAY
One thing you learn as a reality TV star is how to keep a secret. On Sept. 10 The Bachelorette's Trista Sutter duped her husband of nine months, Ryan, with a surprise 30th birthday party. "I've been wanting to do something [for Ryan's 30th] since last year," she says. That night the couple went to dinner in Vail Village, Colo., near their home, and during the meal a friend called from a bar across the street and persuaded them to come over. Inside: balloons and 25 friends. "He had no idea," says Trista. And just how did he celebrate his real birthday four days later? "I told him he could do whatever he wants," says Trista. "But he wanted to clean the garage."

POP QUIZ

Kim Basinger
Onscreen, Kim Basinger plays a kidnapped teacher in the new thriller Cellular. In real life she just went through a tough custody dispute with her former husband, Alec Baldwin, 46. (Basinger retained primary custody of their daughter Ireland, 8.) The actress, 50, spoke with Scoop.

You've just come through a very public custody battle. How are you doing?

You know, we live in the public. It comes with the territory. I always say, "God and a sense of humor have gotten us through this whole thing."

What's on tap for the next chapter of your life?

Just watching my daughter come into her own, into her creativity. And then watching what the rest of my journey is going to be about.

We've read that you are shy and that you suffer, at times, from panic attacks.

Right. That's true.

How did you overcome it?

My gift from God is that I became an actress. It's also my curse because I'm not a very public person. It's therapy for me to go into these characters.

Anything else help?

Giving birth to my daughter. You can't be what you are once you're responsible for another human being.

Is she impressed with your celebrity?

If [you're] not Hilary Duff or Chad Michael Murray, she could care less.

The cell phone plays a role in your latest film. Do you have one with a camera?
I hate that thing with the camera because we have been so disturbed by them. Sometimes, like at a Broad-way play, people will start taking your picture. I am a mom, so I have a cell phone. It's that simple.

Besides the phone, what do you carry with you?

A camera. I love to paint, so I love to take photographs of things [to paint]. Cash. My credit card. I am not a real girly girl, so no makeup. Oh, my sun-stick for my lips. Probably some breath freshener. Things for Ireland...lollipops.

Does it bother you to still be called a sex symbol?

Well, yeah. I used to think that was just a horrible thing. But the Europeans truly cherish it. They taught me to appreciate having been put in that category. It's cool to be sexy.

ON THE BLOCK

JANET BY THE SEA
PRICE: about $9 million
PLACE: Malibu
SPECS: Janet Jackson has moved on from her Super Bowl malfunction—and her beachfront estate as well. The pop star recently sold her 5,600-sq.-ft. house overlooking the Pacific. Built in the '60s, the five-bedroom residence features a media room, gym and deck with panoramic views.

  • Contributors:
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  • Marisa Wong,
  • Jennifer Wren,
  • Champ Clark,
  • Sean Daly,
  • Caroline Howard,
  • Julie Jordan,
  • Ken Lee,
  • Liz McNeil,
  • York Membery,
  • Gail Nussbaum,
  • Cynthia Wang.