By Stacy Jenel Smith
When it comes to celebrity coupling and un-coupling, the year that was 2006 will go down as spectacular.
Yes, spectacular is a term that works for the $5 million Tom Cruise- Katie Holmes wedding in Bracciano, Italy on Nov. 18. Fairytale medieval castle rented for a reported $2.6 million. Wedding party attire designed by Giorgio Armani. Four days of parties. Andrea Bocelli to sing at the reception. J. Lo and Marc, Posh and Becks, Jada and Will, Brooke and Chris -- no Oprah. All of it.
And, spectacular is a term that works in a different way for the crash-and-burn wreck of Britney Spears' and Kevin Federline's marriage the same month. Britney's text message divorce notification. K-Fed's counterstrike of filing for full custody of the couple's one-year-old and two-month-old sons, Sean and Jayden (pray for them) and spousal support. "Kevin is prepared to go the distance in order to do what he feels is necessary to protect and safeguard the children," proclaimed his attorney. Britney's hiring of celebrity divorce lawyer Laura Wasser, who's done the dissolution deed for the likes of Angelina Jolie, Kiefer Sutherland and Nick Lachey. All of it.
Meanwhile, rap star wannabe K-Fed was announcing his availability to pretty ladies from the stage at a ticket giveaway club date - while svelte again former pop princess Britney went out partying night after night after night with Paris Hilton, and wound up taking off her pants and dancing in fishnets at the Tryst club. Panty-less photos of Britney's crotch as she exited a limo subsequently showed up all over the internet. Such a mother.
Clearly, Heather Mills will no longer be needing and feeding 64-year-old Sir Paul McCartney. She slung a slew of accusations against the former Beatle, including that he grabbed her by the neck and pushed her over a coffee table -- adamantly denied -- as their spectacularly acrimonious divorce moved forward.
Also spectacularly bitter is the Travis Barker-Shanna Moakler split. After video paparazzi footage of him kissing Paris Hilton a month after their parting emerged, former "Dancing With the Stars" competitor Shanna was accused of making threatening calls to Paris and attacking her at L.A.'s club Hyde - the now-infamous tussle that has Shanna accusing Paris' former boyfriend Stavros Niarchos of tossing her down some stairs. A spectacle, indeed.
Country warbler Sara Evans filed divorce papers in October, stating that husband Craig Schelske committed adultery, was verbally and emotionally abusive, drank excessively, and frequently watched porn. A media frenzy ensued over her spectacular allegations, and her subsequent choice to drop out of "Dancing With The Stars."
Pamela and David Hasselhoff split in January and have been making ugly accusations about each other since, including her claim that the former "Baywatch" lead was abusive to her and their kids.
Hookups and breakups, 2006.
We were taken aback by the speed of Pamela Anderson's and Kid Rock's hookup and breakup this year. They held on-the-yacht nuptials in Saint-Tropez in July. They made it legal with their second wedding in August at a Beverly Hills courthouse, then wed again a couple of weeks later, onstage at Nashville's Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. But despite doing their vows in triplicate, the on-again/off-again couple split up before Thanksgiving, each filing divorce papers the following Monday.
We wondered if it was really, finally, the end when Whitney Houston filed for divorce from her spouse and soul mate of 14 tumultuous, tempest-tossed, dazed, confused, sometimes violent and occasionally funny years, Bobby Brown. But with reports that Whitney's determined to get healthy and make a real comeback, maybe this split will last.
We wondered "Why is she talking about this?" when Hilary Swank discussed Chad Lowe's past substance abuse problem in Vanity Fair last summer - months after the couple's split in January after eight years of marriage.
We were saddened to see all the rumors of trouble in the seven-year-old Reese Witherspoon-Ryan Philippe marriage prove true. The parents of a young daughter and son released a separation announcement in October. Reese filed for divorce the next month, amid stories of his extra-close friendship with Australian actress Abbie Cornish and gossip over whether her bigger paychecks were to blame for the rupture. She made a reported $15 million for "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde" for instance, compared to his $2 million for "The I Inside."
We were intrigued by the unfurling relationships between Kate Hudson (whose estranged husband, Black Crowes lead singer Chris Robinson, filed for divorce Nov. 17 after nearly six years and the birth of their two-year-old son) and Owen Wilson. And Luke Wilson? While "You, Me and Dupree" costars Kate and Owen have been widely reported as a romantic item for months, recently tabloids have Luke crushing on Kate since they made "Alex & Emma" in 2003 -- and out to cut in on his big brother's tango.
Another roundelay saw Heather Locklear and Richie Sambora split in February after 11 years of marriage, followed by his hooking up with Denise Richards, former wife of Charlie Sheen. Heather then hooked up with David Spade - for awhile.
As the year drew to a close, Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn parted ways.
Newly single Eddie Murphy hooked up with Scary Spice, a.k.a. Melanie Brown.
And Anna Nicole Smith married her longtime attorney and "confidante" Howard K. Stern on a catamaran off Nassau less than three weeks after the drug-related death of her son Daniel - while Anna Nicole watchers pondered the validity of the marriage amid her financial and legal tussles with her other baby daddy claimant, Larry Birkhead.
Rock guitarist Dave Navarro and "Baywatch" and Pussycat Dolls babe Carmen Electra shared their wedding preps with the world via their "Til Death Do Us Part: Carmen + Dave" MTV reality show in 2003. This year, they announced they were breaking up.
The year 2006 also had the breakup of popular couple Sheryl Crow and Lance Armstrong - which led to the hookup of bachelor buds Armstrong and Matthew McConaughey. They were spotted working out together (in similar duds), on the town together, and were said to be engaged in constant partying.
Also hooking up in 2006 were Nicole Kidman and country star Keith Urban - who wed in fairtytale style in June in Sydney, Australia. The bride wore a flowing white Balenciaga gown and pearl drop earrings, rode in a cream Rolls-Royce limousine through streets lined with cheering fans, and made Keith her groom in an intimate chapel ceremony. But the magic quickly turned into a testing time when he apparently skidded off the wagon and wound up in rehab admitting an ongoing substance abuse problem in October.
Also tying the knot this year: Patricia Arquette and Thomas Jane; Avril Lavigne and Deryck Whibley; Michael Flatley and fellow dancer Niamh O'Brien; Marcia Cross and stockbrocker Tom Mahoney; Tori Spelling and actor Dean McDermott; "Lost's" Emilie de Ravin and actor Josh Janowicz; "America's Next Top Model" winner Adrianne Curry and former child star Christopher Knight; Pink and motocross racer Carey Hart; Jack Black and Tanya Haden; Richard Dreyfuss and Svetlana Erokhim; Lisa Marie Presley and guitarist Michael Lockwood; Glenn Close and David Shaw -- and Dwayne "Dog" Chapman and long-time mate Beth Smith, who tied the knot despite the nightmare of his daughter's death in a car crash the day before.
And best wishes for long, happy lives together for them all.