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Saturday, January 8, 2005; Page C03

A Cute Couple No More

Oh, no! (Warning: This announcement is going to be hard to take for Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston fans.) Hollywood's most beloved couple have decided to separate after 4 1/2 years of marriage.

"We would like to announce that after seven years together we have decided to formally separate," Pitt and Aniston said in a joint statement given exclusively to People mag Friday. "For those who follow these sorts of things, we would like to explain that our separation is not the result of any of the speculation reported by the tabloid media. This decision is the result of much thoughtful consideration. We happily remain committed and caring friends with great love and admiration for one another. We ask in advance for your kindness and sensitivity in the coming months."

Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston say they are separating after 41/2 years of marriage. (Chris Pizzello -- AP)

Issue 2: Shooting From the Hip

Quick, when it comes to loudmouth conservative shout-show hosts, who's faster on their feet, Robert Novak or John McLaughlin? Neither, you say? Well, you'd be right. Both men broke their hips in falls last year, and though it may have slowed them down a bit, both showed remarkable toughness in not missing a step -- in an election year -- after those major injuries.

"Well, it was not a big deal. It was only total hip replacement surgery," McLaughlin told us in his usual understated way. The 77-year-old host of "The McLaughlin Group" fell eight weeks ago, while power walking, when he tripped over a magnolia fruit. He was back at work in 2 1/2 days and -- perhaps to the dismay of his staff -- didn't miss a show. "You've got to understand, I've got Viking DNA," boasted McLaughlin, who also tells us that Channel 4 has picked up his syndicated show for two more years.

Novak slipped in a Miami hotel room in October. He, too, never dropped a stitch during his recovery from hip-replacement surgery: He might have missed a few of his regular appearances on CNN, but never skipped a column. So, who's tougher?

"I've always been the leader in relation with Novak," McLaughlin insisted. "I have a TV show . . . then he has to go out and get a TV show. In this instance, it happened to him first, in a bathtub. With me it happened with nature. He's ahead of me on that front and that's a bit of a vexation." But, "I feel almost as good as new," declared McLaughlin. "I went from a wheelchair to crutches to a cane and I can walk without the cane." Perhaps you could give it to Novak, then? "I thought I'd send him the wheelchair."

Novak defended his honor to us yesterday: "He's meaner than I am but not tougher."

Let's Go to the Tape

Teen-queen Lindsay Lohan, 18, has some advice for her fellow Hollywooders, mainly Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz, whom we recall as one of Hollywood's biggest power couples. The "Mean Girls" star is splashed all over the tabs these days thanks to her skyrocketing fame, partying ways and troubled family life. But, as she told Tony Danza this week on his new talk show, notoriety comes with the whole fame thing.

"You have to understand that when you come into this business you wanna be in the tabloids, you want to be written up, you want paparazzi to follow you and, then, when they do, people freak out. I mean, you have Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake hitting people now," she says, referring to the couple's recent run-in with photogs in Los Angeles. If you let them take a picture it's a little bit easier."

Yeah, right. This coming from the girl who says on the single from her album, "Speak" (yes, she's singing now, too): "I've gotta say respectfully / I would love it if you would take the cameras off of me /Cause I just want a little room to breathe / Can you please respect my privacy?"

Hey, Linds -- as you say, it's their job!

End Note

It was a close call for popster Aaron Carter, who had an unfortunate run-in with a wayward mattress early Thursday morning. Carter, 17, ran over it with his 2004 Cadillac Escalade, and the mattress somehow got stuck underneath the SUV and caught on fire. Luckily he escaped the vehicle unharmed before it exploded in flames.

-- Compiled by Anne Schroeder

from staff and wire reports

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