Can Britney kick Coke?

New gig may force pop diva to confront habit; Gore scandal: Ex-veep indulged in "light refreshment" before teaching class! Plus: Was Cruise cruising Cruz?

Topics: Tom Cruise, Celebrity, Al Gore, Britney Spears,

Britney Spears: Cokehead?

On Tuesday, the pop princess announced that she would follow in the footsteps of Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Faith Hill and Ray Charles and become a poster girl for Pepsi. She felt “blessed,” she said, to be offered the chance to “follow some of my heroes … and create something new with the innovative people at Pepsi.”

“It’s such an honor,” she tooth-rottingly declared. “I’m a big fan of Pepsi products and Pepsi commercials.”

At least she is when they throw millions of clams her way. Left to her own devices, it seems, Spears would rather share a Coke and a smile.

According to a contract rider unearthed by those intrepid diggers at The Smoking Gun, on her recent world tour, Spears specifically requested that her dressing room be stocked with a six-pack of Coke. What better way to wash down that bag of “Cool Ranch Doritos” and “small bowl of fresh tuna salad (w/Hellmann’s mayo, eggs, relish, and albacore tuna only!)”?


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Distant dream

“We’re not associated with him in anything besides the music part of it.”

Holly Blake, of Dream, distancing herself from Sean “Puffy” Combs, who is credited with discovering her band.

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Snacking with Al

Heard the rumor about Al Gore kicking Columbia School of Journalism faculty out of their offices when he guest-lectured at the school on Tuesday? It’s just not true, says J-school Associate Dean David Klatell.

“He was (with a specific, advance invitation) given the use of Dean Tom Goldstein’s office for about 45 minutes, as Tom was en route from Barcelona,” Klatell tells me.

The former veep “had just come from a long symposium elsewhere on campus, and wanted light refreshment before beginning his class. The university provided a small basket of healthy snacks — fruit, crackers, cheese, water and soft drinks.”

Gore had a little company while he noshed, and, says Klatell, “I gather they all nibbled a bit.”

No word on whether those soft drinks were Pepsi or Coke.

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Once again, off this island?

“Maybe ‘Temptation Mountain’ — something winter-themed in a provocative environment.”

– “Temptation Island” executive producer Chris Cowan on his plans for a sequel.

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Cruise on Cruz?

You didn’t expect anyone to believe that diverging career excuse, did you?

Speculation on just what — or who — spelled doom for Tom and Nic’s marriage is ramping up. And Russell Crowe is not the only name being bandied about.

The London tabloids are pointing a shaky finger at Penelope Cruz onaccounta those steamy love scenes she and Cruise shared while working together on “Vanilla Sky.” That and their growing friendship on the set.

“With Tom’s marriage in trouble, he turned to his co-star for comfort,” opined the U.K. Mirror. “They enjoyed quiet dinners around [New York] and set insiders remarked that their love scenes seemed unusually spontaneous.”

Tom certainly didn’t tamp down the rumors when he told the press he found Cruz “simply irresistible.”

Meanwhile, others have suggested that Nicole’s ex, Australian actor Marcus Graham, was back on the scene. However, Graham’s rep tells Us Weekly that “Marcus and Nicole are just friends, and he hopes that she and Tom get back together again.” (Not likely; Cruise has just filed for divorce.)

But the New York Post offers what strikes me as the most credible explanation: religious differences. The paper suggests that Kidman may have been less than enchanted with the Church of Scientology, of which Cruise is a devout follower, citing a 1998 Newsweek interview in which she described her spiritual inclinations thusly: “There’s a little Buddhism, a little Scientology. I was raised Catholic, and a big part of me is still a Catholic girl.”

Then again, maybe that “divergent careers” stuff isn’t so nutty after all. While Cruise is busy on film projects, Kidman has just signed on to appear on the London stage in a production of Henrik Ibsen’s “The Lady From the Sea.” It’s a play about … longing.

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Miss something? Read yesterday’s Nothing Personal.

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