BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO
Are Hilary and Chad reconciling or just friends? With celeb couples, it's often hard to tell

Hilary Swank and Chad Lowe announced their split in January. But on Feb. 19, the couple, who wed eight years ago, met at the low-key Tra di Noi restaurant in Malibu for a late lunch. "They seemed to be getting along very well," said an observer, noting that after the meal, Lowe, 38, walked Swank, 31, to her car. "He put his arm on her back when they were saying goodbye." So, are the two reconciling? No official word yet, but a close friend of the double-Oscar winner tells Scoop, "It's not the first time [they've eaten together], it's just the first time the cameras have been around. It's evidence that they're working on their marriage."

Are these preservation-of-marriage acts typical of separating stars? "In any divorce or separation, people are confused. They think, 'Maybe I shouldn't be so hasty,'" says Beverly Hills psychiatrist Carole Lieberman. Some couples have tried to mend broken marriages, but to no avail. Charlie Sheen, 40, and Denise Richards, 35, wore wedding bands and big smiles in the Bahamas in December, nine months after Richards first filed for divorce. But just weeks later the divorce was back on and a bitter custody battle over their two daughters broke out. Then there is the unparalleled case of Renée Zellweger, 36, and Kenny Chesney, 37. The two had their five-month marriage annulled in December yet continue to meet regularly for cozy meals. Their reps insist they're "just friends." With friends like that, who needs spouses?

Trump's Poison Pen Letter to Stewart
Any viewer of The Apprentice knows it's not a good idea to play the blame game with Donald Trump. Maybe Martha Stewart doesn't watch. The domestic diva has ignited an all-out war with The Donald by pinning her spinoff's poor ratings on him. In the Feb. 27 issue of Newsweek, she claims her show was supposed to begin with her firing Trump on-air, but "Donald really wanted to stay on." Trump immediately fired a shot, which Stewart returned. So far the skirmish has been limited to words—and all of them were CC'd to Scoop:

FROM THE DESK OF DONALD TRUMP

Ms. Martha Stewart
MS/Omni Media
New York, NY 10035

Dear Martha:

It's about time you started taking responsibility for your failed version of The Apprentice.

Your performance was terrible.... I knew it would fail as soon as I first saw it—and your low ratings bore me out. Between your daughter, with her one-word statements, your letter writing and, most importantly, your totally unconvincing demeanor, it never had a chance.... Despite this, I did nothing but positively promote you.

Your only response to your failed show was that, "I thought that I was supposed to fire Donald Trump!" You knew this was not true—NBC would never fire me when The Apprentice was, for a good period of time, the #1 show on television.... Essentially, you made this firing up just as you made up your sell order of ImClone.... Putting your show on the air was a mistake for everybody—especially NBC.

In any event, my great loyalty to you has gone totally unappreciated!

Sincerely,
Donald J. Trump

PS Be careful or I will do a syndicated daytime show, perhaps called The Boardroom, and further destroy the meager ratings you already have!

FROM THE DESK OF MARTHA STEWART

"The letter is so mean-spirited and reckless that I almost can't believe my longtime friend Donald Trump wrote it. I am very proud of the work we did with Mark Burnett Productions and Mr. Trump, who was an executive producer, on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. Many young entrepreneurs learned so much from the show and enjoyed it.... We are even more pleased with our excellent daytime show Martha—syndicated by NBC Universal—which has just been nominated for six daytime Emmys (including best show and best host), was touted by The New York Times as one of the best shows on television, and has been embraced by our wonderful audience throughout the country."

Bachelor Bets
Runner-up Susan Edds weighs in on the final rose

On Feb. 27 The Bachelor: Paris bids us au revoir and reveals Dr. Travis Stork's final pick: mysterious Moana Dixon or wholesome Sarah Stone. "I cannot wait," says viewer—and recent Bachelor reject— Susan Edds. Her pick? "I can almost see that je ne sais quoi between Moana and Travis, but I feel he is more comfortable with Sarah." So does Edds blame her mom (who told Stork her daughter may be "acting") for ending her chances? "I think she was trying to protect me," she says. "I just want her to trust me to make decisions, and if I like someone, you know, don't tell him to run the other way!" What's she looking for now? "Someone a lot like Travis."

Paris Hilton Turns 25 ...
... BUT WHERE WAS STAVROS?

For her 25th birthday, Paris Hilton hosted 10 pals at Pure Nightclub at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Feb. 18 at a private show by the Pussycat Dolls ("You guys are so hot !" she observed). Her boyfriend Stavros Niarchos wasn't there. Could rumors of a split be true? No, says Hilton: "We're together, we haven't broken up." The reason given for Niarchos being MIA is that he's only 20 and can't legally enter Vegas's casinos and clubs. Singing Madonna tunes and dancing on a leather bed in the VIP room, Hilton "had the time of her life," says a guest. Hilton and Niarchos did celebrate with a dinner the night before at Spanish Kitchen in L.A., where he gave her a diamond ring—for her navel.

Happy BIRTHDAY Paris

BEFORE THEY WERE
OSCAR NOMINEES ...
They were Little Leaguers and ingenues

Imagine a time when George Clooney wasn't one of the more eligible bachelors in the galaxy. Or when there was no such place as Brokeback Mountain or Wisteria Lane (or no breakout indie performance from one of its residents). Scoop did a little time travel and found a group of youngsters who probably had no idea they would one day vie for film's top honor.

Celebrity
WINTER OLYMPICS
The thrill of victory, the agony of stepping in a 3-in.-deep slush puddle in 2-in.-high shoes. Scoop is proud to present the first-ever Celebrity Semi-Real-World Olympics. And the medals go to ...

SCORE 8
EVEREST ASSAULT MARTHA STEWART
Bravely going without a sherpa, the domestic doyenne and her designer bag negotiate a Manhattan curbside Himalayas with ease.

SCORE DQ
CELEB SLED
VICTORIA, ROMEO AND BROOKLYN BECKHAM
Heartbreakingly, the presence of seven ineligible dogs kept the team out of the bobsled competition.

SCORE 10
MOM TOT & TOTE
KATE WINSLET
Backpack, bag and child: This veteran handles the required elements with ease.

SCORE 7
OUTSTANDING IN HER FIELD
NICOLLETTE SHERIDAN
Sheridan brings an infectious enthusiasm to ice-standing, which is a lot like ice-dancing without all that hectic movement.

SCORE 8
SNOWMAN SWEEP
MATTHEW BRODERICK
The actor made the world—or at least Manhattan's West Village—a little safer for foot traffic.

POP QUIZ
Dancing with the Stars'

Jerry Rice

He has scored more touchdowns than any other player in the NFL. Now, in a controversial call, Jerry Rice is headed for the end zone on Dancing with the Stars. Though Rice, 43, and partner Anna Trebunskaya received the lowest judges' score in the semifinals, fans voted them into the Feb. 26 live finale on ABC. Scoop spoke with Rice during a break from rehearsals.

It's the Super Bowl! Has it sunk in that you're in the finals?

No. I felt like my heart stopped beating when they called my name.

How does your dance partner compare with NFL coaches you've had?

Anna is right up there with them. She knows how to push me and when to back off. She has been real hard with me now [on] all the technical stuff.

Did it upset you when judge Len Goodman said you were the worst of all the dancers?

Well, you know, I've always had people say things against me. That was not a problem. But I had to defend myself because I felt like we belonged. We worked our butts off; I wanted him to know I didn't appreciate that.

What do fans tell you?

I had a guy come up to me yesterday, and he's been dancing for four years. He said, "It's amazing what you've been able to comprehend in such a short time." And he was right. In two months I've learned 10 dances. Without any dance experience I feel like I've won already.

Cleats versus dancing shoes?

I have about 10 pairs of dance shoes now. I never thought I would be collecting dancing shoes. I think it's something I want to keep on doing.

How fit and in shape are you feeling now?

I've gone down a pant size. The [wardrobe] guys are trying really hard to get me into those tight pants. That's something I cannot do!

What does your wife have to say about your new moves?

Oh, the hips! The hips have gotten so much better since week one. I'm always dancing around the house. My wife is very happy.

WILLIE'S GAY COWBOY SONG COMES OUT OF THE CLOSET
What's with Willie Nelson's latest release, a song for gay cowboys called "Cowboys are Frequently, Secretly (Fond of Each Other)"? Written by Ned Sublette in 1981, "Cowboys" has been a longtime favorite on Nelson's tour bus. "It's a party song," he says. "We play it when we want a good laugh." But Nelson, 72, admits he never thought of recording it until Brokeback Mountain's success. The video, featuring Burt Reynolds and Johnny Knoxville, will be shot this month. Until then, Scoop invites you to sing along at home, key of A:

There's many a strange impulse out on the plains of West Texas/ There's many a young boy who feels things he can't comprehend.

And a small town don't like it when somebody falls between sexes/ Oh a small town don't like it when a cowboy has feelings for men.

Well I believe to my soul that inside every man there's the feminine, and inside every lady there's a deep manly voice loud and clear.

Well a cowboy may brag about things that he's done with his women/ But the ones that brag loudest are the ones that are most likely queer.

Cowboys are frequently, secretly fond of each other.

  • Contributors:
  • SCOOP CONTRIBUTORS Olivia Abel,
  • Rennie Dyball,
  • Marisa Wong,
  • Alexis Chiu,
  • Alicia Dennis,
  • Monique Jessen,
  • Julie Jordan,
  • Kimberly Lansing,
  • Gail Nussbaum,
  • Natasha Stoynoff,
  • Tina Redwood,
  • Monica Rizzo,
  • Cynthia Wang.