Kidding Aside

updated 01/14/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/14/2002 AT 01:00 AM EST

If Drew Barrymore was hurting, it didn't show. As one of several celeb guests at a Dec. 17 holiday party at an East Rutherford, N.J., catering hall to benefit families of Port Authority police officers killed or hurt in the Sept. 11 attacks, the Charlie's Angels actress chatted and giggled with kids and adults alike. When a car was ready to take her to the airport, "they called her on the loudspeaker for about 25 minutes," says Paul Nunziato, a Port Authority cop who helped plan the affair. "She would not leave. She was trying to cheer up the little kids."

She could probably have used a little Christmas cheer herself. Earlier that day Barrymore's husband, actor-comedian Tom Green, had filed a petition in Los Angeles superior court for the dissolution of their five-month marriage, citing irreconcilable differences. "Drew is a wonderful woman," Canada native Green, 30, said in a statement. "I love her very much. I wish our marriage could have worked out." The next day Barrymore, 26, issued her own statement: "Yes, it is true, we have decided to part. I love Tom very much. He has always been a great friend and that won't change."

They've got to be kidding—right? "To tell you the truth," says Trevor Cavanagh, Green's onetime TV producer and college classmate, "I'm wondering if the divorce thing is for real." It is, but Cavanagh's not alone. After all, this is the same couple who repeatedly teased the media with bogus reports of secret nuptials throughout their 17-month courtship. When the two truly tied the knot last July 7 in Malibu before 100 guests, no one was happier than the bride's once estranged mother, Jaid Barrymore. "You could tell they were so in love," Jaid, 55, said at the time. "There was just no question about their feelings for each other."

There are questions now—yet from the outset Barrymore seemed aware of the pressures faced by Hollywood couples. "I want our marriage to have some time, because this business can be hard on relationships," she told Rosie magazine last November. "It's really tough to make it work." During a Nov. 1 Tonight Show appearance Barrymore admitted to being controlling at times in the marriage (her second, his first), especially when it came to choosing restaurants. "I think that [Tom] would just be so happy," she told Jay Leno, "if I. said, 'Sweetie, where do you want to go?' "

The pair first met in late 1999, when Barrymore—whose 1994 marriage to L.A. bar owner Jeremy Thomas, 39, lasted less than two months—invited Green, then starring in his own show on MTV, to consider taking a small role in Charlie's Angels. Shortly after they began dating in early 2000, Green underwent treatment for testicular cancer (now in remission). Last February the couple escaped from a fire that gutted Barrymore's Beverly Hills home. Meanwhile, as her career was ascending after the success of Angels, Green's stalled with last spring's gross-out comedy Freddy Got Fingered, which was snubbed by critics and moviegoers alike. "When you've got two competing egos," says Merilyn Read, a Canadian producer who helped bring Green to the U.S., "that's tough." With details of the divorce settlement still to be worked out, Green—who spent the holidays with his parents and friends in Ottawa—"is doing the best he can," says a rep. Barrymore spent Christmas with Nancy Juvonen, her partner in her production company, Flower Films, and Juvonen's extended family in Wolfeboro, N.H. She then flew off to Hawaii for New Year's and was expected to return to work on Jan. 14, shooting the George Clooney-directed comedy Confessions of a Dangerous Mind in Montreal. "She's doing just fabulously," says Juvonen's stepmother Karen. "She just relaxed and had a wonderful family holiday, and that's exactly what she wanted to do."

Michael A. Lipton
Cynthia Wang, Rachel Biermann and Pamela Warrick in Los Angeles, Rebecca Paley and Mark Dagostino in New York City and Constance Droganes in Toronto

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