Birthday Reunion

WITH BRAD PITT AND PALS AT HER SIDE, JENNIFER ANISTON CELEBRATES 36

Splitting from husband Brad Pitt hasn't stopped Jennifer Aniston from partying with friends—or Pitt himself. With the help of about 80 pals, including several famous names (see below), the former Friends star and her estranged husband rang 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," says a pal of the birthday girl's. Pitt, 41, and Aniston, who announced their breakup Jan. 7, "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.

Among the arrangements: Aniston had her favorite chef whip up a buffet and had a set designer decorate the house. "They had disco balls and brought in fun furniture," says a source. The actress also experienced a stream of the best kind of good wishes. "She had presents delivered to her the whole week [prior to Feb. 11, her actual birthday]," says a friend. "She got amazing gifts."

Brad's Faux Love
A fledgling actress gained 15 minutes of fame when a celebrity magazine claimed she was the new love of Brad Pitt's life. Not so, say both Pitt and the woman, April Florio, who believes she actually did meet the actor "for about five minutes" at a party—George Clooney was there too, she says—in 2002. "The whole thing is so ridiculous," says Florio, 22, who adds that she hasn't seen Pitt since the party. She describes herself as "a fun, down-to-earth, spacey sometimes but cool person who is into my career, my immediate family and my friends." She has her detractors. "She used [the magazine item] to gain publicity for herself," charges a former associate. And even Florio admits to milking her newfound fame. "If I am going to be in the spotlight," she says, "why not make it about me?"

Matthew's Troubled Days
When Matthew Perry was rushed to a Los Angeles hospital last week due to an adverse reaction to prescription medication, the former Friends star had several of his pals worrying. Perry, 35, who has struggled with Vicodin and alcohol abuse in the past, "was in the hospital for a 24-hour stay and now is fine," says his rep. "It was nothing insidious." But friends believe that Perry 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," says a pal of Perry's. "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, who moved from New York to LA. to be near him, then back, because "they drove each other crazy," says a source. The couple broke up for a few weeks, then decided to reestablish their long-distance relationship. But finding his footing again "is such a daily frustration," says a friend.

LINDSAY AT WORK AND PLAY
The latest on Lindsay Lohan? Despite reports that a bout with the flu caused a slight delay in the filming of her comedy Just My Luck in New Orleans, her rep says, "she is fine, never in the hospital, and she is on-set working." She's also playing—on Feb. 11, Lohan drank nonalcoholic energy drinks till 2 a.m. at the Palms, an upscale New Orleans bar.

TEE-ING OFF
Looking for the latest celebrity flash? Naomi Campbell, Tara Reid and Kirstie Alley proudly billboarded their personal news this week.

VEGAS VALENTINE
Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz headed to the casino—and not, as gossips believed, a wedding chapel—during a Valentine's Day stop in Las Vegas. The matrimonial buzz didn't spoil his fun. "Does that bother me? No," said Timberlake, when asked about the rumors. The two did attend a benefit for his charitable foundation, sponsored by the bag company ful, at Caesars Palace, and they gambled late into the night. "I like to play poker, I like Texas Hold 'Em," Timberlake told PEOPLE.

DEMI: NOT ENGAGED
A rep for Demi Moore, 42, says that the band on her left ring finger does not (we repeat, not!) mean she is engaged to love Ashton Kutcher, 27.

Can He Get a Witness?
Michael Jackson's latest showstopper? The flu. The 46-year-old singer was taken to a Santa Maria, Calif., hospital on Feb. 15, postponing jury selection in his child molestation case by a week. "His spirits are fine," says brother Randy Jackson. The day before, Michael's attorneys released a list of more than 300 potential witnesses he may call, including Elizabeth Taylor, Jay Leno, Kobe Bryant, Maury Povich, Diana Ross and Aaron Carter. Most said it was news to them. Joked Leno on The Tonight Show: "I might be called as a witness in the Michael Jackson trial. Which is really odd, because I'm really much closer with Tito."

DIVA DOUBLE TAKE
Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé Knowles teamed up for a Pepsi commercial—also starring David Beckham—set to premiere in Madrid later this month. Sorry, fellows, the ad won't be seen in the States.

Ashlee Gets Friendly
Ashlee Simpson and Lindsay Lohan have something in common: Wilmer Valderrama. Simpson, 20, has been spotted dining and clubbing with Lohan's ex, That '70s Show's Valderrama, 24. She drove 30 miles to visit him Feb. 1 on the California desert set of his upcoming film El Muerto. Simpson's rep maintains there's no romance. "She's known him for over four years," says the rep. "Nothing romantic."

POP QUIZ

Don Cheadle
Oscar nominee Don Cheadle recently joined a Congressional delegation visiting Sudan, where millions of people have fled their homes for refugee camps as rebels battle government troops. In Hotel Rwanda, Cheadle, 40, plays a hotel manager who aids refugees seeking asylum in 1994.

How would you sum up your trip to Sudan?

We visited the refugees, and they talked about how they needed help and wanted to go home. We heard their personal accounts of being bombed by government planes. In one village, there once were 40,000 people; by the time we got there only 200 were left.

Did you feel disbelief, like the hotel manager you portrayed in Hotel Rwanda?

I know why people aren't coming to the rescue. People are quibbling over the definition of genocide. They won't do anything unless there is pressure.

What do you think can be done to help the situation?

An independent court, like they did for Rwanda. Start prosecuting the individuals who are perpetrating this. The regime needs sanctions—assets frozen, arms embargoes. They have shown a quick response to sanctions.

Let's switch gears and talk about Hotel Rwanda. How did you perfect your accent for the role?

Practice, practice—the same way you get to Carnegie Hall. I had a coach in the beginning, but once you're there, with thousands of extras, hearing that dialect all the time, it happened.

You enrolled your daughters in a local school while filming Rwanda in Africa.

They really enjoyed their time there because it was a completely different experience. They were very vocal about wanting to come back.

Somehow, the film was overlooked for Best Picture.

It's great to be recognized by peers and Academy members, but the work is the work. The awards don't change that.

Think you'll win the Best Actor prize?

Who knows? Anything can happen at the Oscars.

ON THE BLOCK

DARYL'S DOMAIN
PRICE: $3.27 million
PLACE: London

Daryl Hall, the blond half of Hall & Oates ("Rich Girl," "She's Gone"), is selling the restored three-bedroom London home he has shared with socialite Amanda Aspinall. They are moving to a larger house near the Thames. The late-Georgian-era, 1,825-sq.-ft. townhouse boasts a wine cellar, conservatory, private garden and music room.

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