February 2, 2006
‘Brangelina’ Phenomenon Reaches Fever Pitch
By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES -- The celebrity phenomenon dubbed "Brangelina" has triggered a media fever surrounding Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie that some observers say has reached the point of insanity -- far overshadowing the hoopla that attended such couples as "Bennifer" and "TomKat."
The terse confirmation last month that Jolie was pregnant by her co-star Pitt was proof to the media of a love affair that neither star has publicly acknowledged.
Depending on which TV show you listen to or which celebrity magazine or gossip column you read, Jolie is expecting a girl, no! a boy, no! twins; the pair plans a Valentine's Day wedding in Malibu, or possibly at George Clooney's Italian villa, unless they have already married in a secret Buddhist ceremony.
They are also reported to have hired British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to do the catering, Madonna's husband Guy Ritchie to be best man and have commissioned an Italian jeweler to come up with the ring.
Or does the sultry Oscar-winning actress (or possibly Pitt) have cold feet about tying the knot -- whoever said marriage was imminent anyway? -- and is Brad's ex-wife Jennifer Aniston devastated or happily moving on?
Jolie, twice married, and Pitt, whose divorce last year from popular "Friends" star Aniston has spiced up the story, have remained tight-lipped, merely fueling the speculation.
LEAVE THEM ALONE
"We are not talking about it. We don't want any more stories. We just want people to leave them alone," Pitt's publicist Cindy Guagenti told Reuters.
Guagenti said there was no truth to the rumor about an imminent Italian wedding, adding cryptically. "They are not getting married. I don't want a story about they're not getting married. I think you guys should just drop the whole thing."
Some hope. There's even a Brangelina.net Web site.
"There has always been a certain fascination with celebrity but with today's proliferation of outlets that seem to be competing for the same photos and stories, it has reached a point that seems completely insane," said PR consultant Ken Sunshine, whose clients include several celebrities.
Even Time magazine has acknowledged the deafening noise, carrying a darkly satirical cartoon last week that featured the Jolie pregnancy news and wedding rumors as new methods of torture for prisoners of war.
Robert Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television, said the coupling of A list stars like Pitt and Jolie -- or in years gone by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton -- was "a paparazzi's dream come true."
"As silly as it sounds, this new tendency to make up single names for two people -- like 'Bennifer' (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez) and 'TomKat' (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes) -- is an insightful idea. 'Brangelina' has more cultural equity than their two star parts," he said.
"You get interested in this whether you want to or not. It's by osmosis," Thompson said.
Sunshine said Jolie and Pitt "seem to be dealing with this insanity as well as anyone could" although he regretted the media obsession with their personal lives rather than Jolie's work as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. refugee agency.
Even if the pair switched tactics and were more open with the media, Sunshine doubted they would be left in peace.
"It never happens. If it were that simple my job would be a lot easier. They (the paparazzi) don't want the truth. They want something lurid or beyond normal imagination.
"Most celebrities work hard, they have families and want to spend time with their kids. It isn't that exciting," Sunshine said.