Couric's diva defense: Katie Couric complains in this week's New Yorker that the rumors of her catty behavior and prima donna off-camera antics have left her feeling "like a human piqata," saying, it hasn't been "a lot of fun being branded as a diva and blamed for [the "Today"] show's ratings slide." Though Couric still has stronger viewer approval ratings than her archrival, "Good Morning America's" Diane Sawyer, her negative ratings -- thanks to legions of "Katie-haters" -- have soared more than 20 percent in the last four years. Since the death of her husband, Jay Monahan, in 1998, Couric's detractors have voiced scorn for her longer, highlighted hairstyles, her short skirts and trendy heels, and her series of high-profile romances. But Couric denies she has made an effort to "tart up her image." She tells the New Yorker's Ken Auletta, "I want to age gracefully. At 48 now, I've finally lost my baby fat. I want to look nice and feel attractive." (N.Y. Daily News)
Lauren lambastes Tom: Screen siren Lauren Bacall may be getting old, but she hasn't lost her spitfire. In an interview with Time magazine, the 81-year-old actress calls Tom Cruise's recent courtship of Katie Holmes "shocking," adding, "It's inappropriate and vulgar and absolutely unacceptable to use your private life to sell anything commercially, but I think it's kind of a sickness." Bacall is hardly the first entertainment figure to criticize the actor's behavior, though much of the uproar has focused on Cruise's public dismissal of psychiatry and postpartum depression. But, as the Daily News reports, Bacall isn't afraid to "hit the 3-time Oscar nominee where it hurts." She says, "The word 'great' stands for something, [but] when you talk about a great actor, you're not talking about Tom Cruise." (N.Y. Daily News)
Scientologists to Cruise: Cool the crazy act? Tom Cruise has become accustomed to criticism from the media, but have his Scientology cronies started to turn on him too? MSNBC reports, "Some top-level officials at the Church of Scientology worry that [the actor] may be going overboard when it comes to proselytizing. 'He's still their greatest asset, and they love Tom, but there is concern he has gone a little too far lately,' says a well-placed source. 'They're worried about a backlash.'" Greg LaClaire, vice president of the Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre, steadfastly denies such claims. When asked about fears of a backlash, he responds, "You must be joking -- isn't 'War of the Worlds' up to about a half-a-billion dollars right now world-wide? ... Obviously, your sources are feeding you horse manure. But beyond that, it's offensive to even suggest that the Church would take positions regarding any of its members' affairs, when its sole role is a spiritual one." (MSNBC, the Scoop)
Adventures in eBay: Michael Baroni, the California lawyer who was Jennifer Aniston's childhood sweetheart, has taken the mementos of their little love affair -- including a birthday card fashioned from toilet paper -- off the eBay auction block. Why the sudden change of heart? "I have voluntarily canceled the eBay auction upon receiving word from one of Jennifer's representatives that she didn't want me conducting the auction," Baroni said in a statement to the Associated Press on Friday. "I have nothing but fond memories of Jennifer ... and only wish her well."
But, fear not! If owning the pathetic remnants of a celebrity love affair is the only thing that will make your life complete, you're not out of luck. Remember Joey Buttafuoco, the middle-aged squire to infamous "Long Island Lolita" Amy Fisher? The New York Post reports that he's started his own "Joeystore" on eBay, where he'll be selling 500 items, such as the personal journal he kept while in jail for "the Amy Fisher bull---- ... everything I witnessed in that s---hole ... even the most bizarre s---like scandalous treatment of inmates, beatings, fights, threats on my life from a--holes." Other gems include an L.A. County Men's Central Jail I.D. bracelet, custom leather jackets, an inlaid humidor, a 28-car model car collection and two electric guitars given by Rick James. Get your checkbooks out! (New York Post)
Simpson/Lachey shocker: Keeping track of Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey's marital woes has become something of a full-time job. One day they're happy, the next day Nick's holed up in a hotel room with three Playboy bunnies and a gallon of Jell-O. So it's hard to know who to believe ... But today the Post's Cindy Adams reports that the singers' marriage may be rockier than anyone has dared imagine. She writes, "A seemingly informed bunch [of New Yorkers] says these beauties have, in fact, already hired divorce lawyers. They go so far as to say that, in fact, divorce papers were already drawn up. Wait. They go an inch further. Said big ears and big mouths actually said that the papers have, in fact, actually been signed. Signed!" Oh, newlyweds, is the honeymoon really over?! (Cindy Adams)
Also: Wondering what to get Angelina and Brad for a housewarming gift? How 'bout some candlesticks ... because they're all stocked up on bondage gear. According to an Australian paper, "Jolie was spotted buying up big at a London sex shop the other day. She spent more than $5,000 on leather bras, sex books, G-stringsand lots of lacy panties ... and, she wasn't embarrassed by anything in the shop!" ... His string of failed romances has made Burt Reynolds wonder if he might have been better off gay, the '70s star told Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" last week. Who would he take for a lover? None other than country superstar Willie Nelson. Reynolds said, "Willie ... is just about the nicest man I've ever worked with in my life, and when we worked together, I thought ... if [we'd hooked up], we'd still be 'happily together'" ... Fox has hired an independent counsel to investigate rumors charging "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul with having an affair with contestant Corey Clark. "Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori told journalists the probe's results are due soon and will be made public, and that Abdul, Clark and 'corroborating witnesses' have been questioned." Martha Stewart loses in court again: In a public hearing, the planning board of Bedford, N.Y., has denied Stewart permission to erect a 4,700-square-foot barn on her property. "Then where do my goats and chickens go?" Martha reportedly asked.
Tom Cruise, take note. For a glimpse of real screen legends in action, check out Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in the 1948 classic "Key Largo," airing on TCM Monday at 9 p.m. EDT.
-- Sarah Karnasiewicz