The image is flawless. But like all things on Wisteria Lane, superficial beauty belies darkness beneath. And in the case of the cover of the current Vanity Fair, some petty petulance too. When the stars of Desperate Housewives gathered at an L.A. estate in February to pose for the group cover, it was, says writer Ned Zeman, a diva-esque disaster that reflects the "obvious tension among the women."

What happened? According to sources, ABC stipulated to Vanity Fair that Teri Hatcher—whose unofficial star-of-the-ensemble status has been a long-rumored point of contention on the set—not be allowed to steal the shoot. Specifically, Hatcher, a winner of a Golden Globe and SAG Award for her turn on the show, was not to get first shot at wardrobe (lest she pick the best outfits) or be posed in the center of the group. As Zeman chronicles in the cover story, Hatcher arrived early and hit wardrobe first. When Marcia Cross found herself posed next to Hatcher—standing dead center—she stormed off the set. The shoot went on, but between takes, Hatcher broke into tears during a cell phone call. While not disputing Zeman's account of the shoot, ABC issued a statement saying, "This one isolated incident does not define these women or their relationship."

In fact, several weeks later, the belle of Wisteria—who threw a baby shower for castmate James Denton on the set April 4—seemed as composed as the glossy final photo suggests. "I had a good experience with [Vanity Fair]," Hatcher told PEOPLE on April 3. "I am extremely grateful to be involved in the show, and I imagine that every other Housewife is also, no matter how they're perceived in that article." Sure, there was "a little tension that day," adds Housewives creator-producer Marc Cherry, but no one was bludgeoned by a blender or arrested for prostitution. "By and large we have a very professional, lovely atmosphere on our set, and that's the truth."