Scoop

updated 09/01/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/01/2003 01:00AM

TRADING PLACES?
Britney Spears meets Cameron Diaz's ex, touching off a flurry of rumors

Even by the soapy standards of tabloid journalism, it was irresistible dish: Britney strikes back at Justin by hooking up with Cameron's ex! At Ben and J.Lo's party!

In reality, however, the true story was far less dramatic. On Aug. 16, just a few hours before going to Ben Affleck's 31st-birthday party at the club Concorde in Hollywood (see p. 64), Britney Spears ran into actor Jared Leto at Dolce, the hot restaurant co-owned by Ashton Kutcher. For those not keeping track, a quick recap: Leto is the ex-boyfriend of Cameron Diaz, 31, who is currently dating Justin Timberlake, 22, Spears's former beau. Though Spears, 21, and Leto, 31, started out sitting at separate tables—she with her friends, he with his—Leto eventually came by to chat. The two left with their respective posses in tow, then met again at the Affleck bash, spending a half hour there before leaving together, with pals, in the same car.

So is Leto part of some grand scheme for revenge hatched by Britney? "Oh God no," insists Spears. " [Jared and I] are totally just friends."

Cynics point out that the timing of the Justin-Jared story just happened to coincide with a wave of publicity for Spears, whose fourth as-yet-untitled CD is due out this fall. Indeed, Britney has become something of a staple for haute couture publications in recent weeks. The singer has been seen flaunting a new, provocative maturity in ultraglam shoots for INSTYLE, W, British Elle, and The New York Times' fashion magazine. In keeping with her new grown-up persona, Spears has also moved into her own place, a $15,000-a-month penthouse apartment with ocean views in Santa Monica. In other words, you know that whole "not a girl, not yet a woman" debate inspired by the lyrics of one of Britney's songs? It looks like it has been settled.

FRIENDLY ENCOUNTER

Britney Spears and Jared Leto left Dolce restaurant in Los Angeles at the same time on Aug. 16, which predictably set tongues wagging. But in this case, says Spears...

..."we're totally just friends. It's nothing." The two met again Aug. 18 at Joseph's, a Hollywood night spot, and chatted briefly. Says an onlooker: 'They were just talking......not touching." Next week Leto leaves the U.S. for Morocco to begin shooting the movie Alexander. As for Britney on her own: "I'm doing really good," she says.

Britney's New Look
A slew of features in stylish periodicals such as The New York Times' fashion magazine, British Elle and W have showcased Spears. "Britney can look like the girl next door and also womanly and sexy," says Ford modeling agent Craig Lawrence. "That's what makes a great model."

A Birthday Cake for Madonna
In case you wondered how Madonna celebrated her 45th birthday: On Aug. 16 (the actual date) the singer took a morning bike ride, then went to a Kabbalah session. That afternoon she held a girls-only lunch at her Beverly Hills mansion with Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez. A source close to Madonna intimated the trio were planning a special performance for the MTV Video Music Awards on Aug. 28. But Spears's rep insists that "Britney just dropped by to say happy birthday." The next day Madonna and husband Guy Ritchie, 34, threw a low-key pool party at home for family and close friends—including fellow Kabbalah student Demi Moore and her boyfriend, Ashton Kutcher. There were, says a friend, "lots of kids in the pool and the most decadent chocolate cake." But doesn't Madonna adhere to a mostly macrobiotic diet? "Times have changed, I guess," says her publicist Liz Rosenberg. "I heard it was delicious."

ONCE, TWICE, THREE TIMES A LADY
Could there be a more understanding woman than Pamela Anderson? In just five days the actress, 36, caught up with her three most recent romantic interests—and never was heard a discouraging word. On Aug. 13, former Baywatch boyfriend David Chokachi, 35, said hello at an L.A. party. Two days later Kid Rock, 32, snuggled with her outside Hollywood's Bar Deluxe. On Aug. 17, ex-husband Tommy Lee, 40, clowned around with fake punches in Malibu.

ARNOLD WATCH

Lowe's on Board

Rob Lowe, a longtime Democrat, plans to organize celeb support for Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger's run for governor of California. Why? "[Arnold will] put the people above partisan politics," Lowe told TV's Extra. Game show host Ben Stein, a former speechwriter for Richard Nixon, has a different take. "I think Arnold got confused and thought Rob actually worked for a real president," Stein says, referring to Lowe's role on The West Wing. Lowe, 39, became friends with Schwarzenegger, 56, after their families met three years ago on vacation.

A Chip Off the Old Godfather?
According to the British press, Courtney Love's mother, Linda Carroll, claims that she's the daughter of Marlon Brando, 79, making him Love's grandfather. Brando's lawyer says it isn't so. Love, 39, is quoted in Britain's Express, saying, "I've heard Mr. Brando has more than 30 children, so I can't imagine how many cousins I might have."

POP QUIZ

Andre Agassi

The U.S. Open kicks off Aug. 25, time for Scoop to check in with Andre Agassi, 33, about his off-the-court activities—including life with wife Steffi Graf, 34, their son Jaden, 1, and another child on the way.

Is there a connection between success in tennis and a stable family life?

Listen, you can't do it without a phenomenal support system, starting with your wife. She makes it all possible. End of story.

We hear that Jaden is already swinging a racket.

He's swinging everything. He doesn't care what environment he is in. He feels that if there's something that looks like a ball and a stick, it's a good thing to make contact.

Who's the better coach, you or Steffi?

Oh, no coaching involved yet, just attending to a lot of needs.

How are you and Steffi preparing for your second child [due in November]?

We're getting ready for a couple of years of significant pain, starting with the pregnancy, followed by traveling with a toddler and an infant.

Doing anything differently this time around?

No. Steffi cruises. She makes winning 22 grand slams seem like nothing. She makes being pregnant seem like it's a function of just waking up one day and it's over.

You're the spokesman for a fragrance, Aramis Life, coming out nationwide in October. Have you always been a cologne wearer?

I've enjoyed it randomly in the past, but I've been a big critic of it mostly.

We find it unusual that a sweating tennis player sells cologne on the side.

I never looked at it that way. I guess that would be a bit odd, but if anybody would need it, it would be that [sweating] person.

What about the Open? How do you feel about your chances?

My body is holding up pretty good, and my enthusiasm is there.

ON THE BLOCK

CASH'S CABIN
Price: $325,000
Place: Hendersonville, Tenn.
Specs: Johnny Cash, 71, is selling the rustic log cabin that once served as a weekend retreat for him and his wife of 35 years, June Carter Cash, who died on May 15. Now, "Johnny doesn't want to go back up there," says his brother Tommy. The 2,000-sq.-ft. cabin—built in the 1840s and reconstructed in 1989—sits atop a hill on five secluded acres.

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