Buds Lite

updated 02/24/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/24/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

THE EYEWITNESSES SOUND AWE-struck. "He had long, scruffy, scraggly hair and was wearing a T-shirt and khakis," says Desmond Cadogan, a promoter for the Manhattan club Twilo. "She was in black. [Both] looked gorgeous. They danced together in a corner."

At the L.A. premiere of her movie In Love and War, Sandra Bullock, 32, and Matthew McConaughey, 27, again turned heads. "He wasn't on the list [of her invited guests]," says a source who worked at the premiere. When the two strode up the red carpet together, "it was a pleasant surprise to see them."

No doubt about it: McConaughey and Bullock make a striking couple. A frequent one too. But a dating couple? That remains an open question. Since last July, the minxy actress and the limpid-eyed hunk who met on the set of A Time to Kill in 1995 have popped up in honky-tonks, airports and cocktail lounges—only to vanish in a puff of publicists' denials. "They're just friends," says Bullock's flack Staci Wolfe Newman. McConaughey's rep Jennifer Allen says she doesn't talk about her clients' personal lives. Matthew's mom, Kay, also has no comment. So what's going on here? Are they or aren't they? You be the judge:

Oct. 4: The Twilo tango.
Oct. 6: Columnist Liz Smith says the two got cozy at New York City's Belmont Lounge.
Oct. 30: The New York Post reports that the pair dined with both sets of parents at a New Orleans bistro. Also, Extra airs a clip of Bullock sitting on McConaughey's lap.
Nov. 17: Drinks at Paolo's in Washington.
Jan. 3: The Times-Picayune reports the twosome celebrated New Year's Eve at Commander's Palace in New Orleans.
Jan. 20: Holding hands at the premiere of In Love and War.
Jan. 21: They leave L.A. for a winter getaway in Miami.

While stopping short of admitting they are an item, Bullock has lately expressed breathless admiration for McConaughey. "He's an exceptional human being, and he is so talented and raw; he doesn't make excuses," she told London's Express on Sunday this month. "He's become a powerful force in my life. We have fabulous chemistry together."

But perhaps the most compelling evidence of romantic involvement is that since they met more than a year ago, neither star has been linked even remotely to anyone else. In fact the manager of the Washington club that held the November wrap party for McConaughey's movie Contact, due to be released in July, says the actor "left with the three guys he arrived with." One of his friends, Brett Pfeffer, 28, allowed that "Sandra's one of Matthew's favorite people in the world." And? "They're best friends."

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