By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 30, 2007
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Jennifer Lopez and her husband of three years, Marc Anthony, have cracked a window to their enclosed celebri-couple world and invited us to take a peek inside. So, in the interest of advancing the weird science of celebritology, we've come to observe and catalogue They-Lo's behavior in their temporary new habitat: Continental Airlines Arena, where the Bronx-born Latin-entertainment hyphenates (actors-singers-ex-Fly Girl-etc.) are rehearsing for their first concert tour together. On Friday, it reaches Washington's Verizon Center.
Having just swept into the darkened arena here, they're suddenly transfixed by the multilevel stage, on which lighted panels are changing colors, from yellow to orange to red. Lopez and Anthony are swooning over this feature, which they're seeing for the first time.
"Isn't it cool that the stage lights up like that, mama?" Anthony says, lifting his tinted glasses so he can see the colors more clearly. "It looks fantastic."
Says Lopez: "I love it!"
Anthony: "Too bad you don't get to use it."
Lopez: "Oh, not even! You will not see it until my set!"
Anthony: "Don't even start that [expletive] with me, baby!"
He laughs. She giggles.
We scribble: Stars, they're just like us -- they tease their spouses like it's an Olympic sport!
The fake marital spat is actually somewhat newsworthy, as La Lopez has just indicated that she -- and not her husband -- will be taking top billing in their bilingual family affair.
Never mind that she's never actually toured. For all of her multiplatinum dance-pop-R&B-rap success as a studio singer and video star, Lopez, 38, has only ever performed on awards shows and elsewhere on television, usually doing just a single song. (And, no, "doing" doesn't always mean "singing.") And, yes, Lopez is nervous about how she'll fare on the road, singing, dancing, bantering and costume-changing night after night, an hour at a time.
Never mind, too, that Anthony -- the world's best-selling salsa artist -- has been wowing concert audiences with his superlative voice for years, ever since he opened for Tito Puente at Madison Square Garden in 1991. Whereas Lopez never booked a tour because she was always too busy taking Hollywood roles for upwards of $15 million per (her reported salary on the romantic comedy "Monster-in-Law"), Anthony turned down various movies because he was too busy singing his romantic songs somewhere, anywhere around the world.
"This is my office" he says, gesturing at the stage. But he's agreed to give up the corner executive suite. And maybe the prime parking space, too: While Lopez and Anthony will share a bus (and his longtime band) on the road, they'll have their own luxury coaches parked outside the venues.
Still, Anthony says: "There's no competition."
"There isn't," Lopez insists.
But somebody has to go first during the tour. Anthony says: "I want to open, so I can run back to my bus and play Xbox. I'll be kicking back, going, 'Let mama sweat now' while I'm playing."
Lopez shrieks: "That's exactly why he wants to do it! I don't even want to go on after him; he's hard to follow. But it's good because while he's onstage, I'll have an extra hour to do my hair and makeup."
"Just an hour?" Anthony prods.
"Oh, no; I'll have to start, like, an hour before that," says Lopez, who doesn't appear in public looking anything less than perfectly dolled up. "These are all very practical decisions, see? I get extra time to get ready. But the truth is that it's two performers working together on one show. He'll go on first and we'll interact in the middle of the show, then he'll come back later. It's not somebody opening for somebody else."
Lopez glances at her husband for affirmation -- something both of them do frequently. But Anthony isn't paying attention: He's gazing at the arena rafters, apparently still suffering from the previous night's soiree to celebrate his 39th birthday. (Lopez rented a yacht and filled it with Anthony's friends for a surprise party on the East River.) Lopez repeats herself, talking about two performers, one show, etc. Anthony nods approvingly.
"It's rare to find what we have in our relationship," Lopez says. "We expect a lot of each other, and we push each other to do more than we think we can do, but there's no competition. It's just: How can I help Marc do better? And he's doing the same thing, helping me and protecting me and pushing me to do more than I think I can do. It's a real blessing to find somebody who you have that with."
"Definitely," Anthony says. As a general rule, Lopez and Anthony don't sit together for interviews. They almost never pose with each other for portraits, either. "They don't do couples covers," their publicist says. "They're two people with their own careers." They are not Sonny and Cher, or Ashford and Simpson, or Captain & Tennille. Love -- most certainly not newspaper or magazine stories -- will keep them together, apparently.
But now Lopez and Anthony are sitting in adjacent, cushioned, totally unglamorous folding chairs in a northern New Jersey sports complex, answering questions together about their professions and their lives (not necessarily in that order) because they've been working together with increasing regularity. Anthony did some production work on Lopez's first Spanish-language album, "Como Ama una Mujer" ("How a Woman Loves"), which arrived with a commercial thud in March; and the couple co-starred in "El Cantante," a biopic about the late salsa singer H¿ctor Lavoe. Now comes the tour, dubbed Juntos en Concierto (Together in Concert).
If you're going to sell it as two artists on equal footing joining forces for a single show, it'd be kinda strange to have said artists do separate interviews, no? Plus, doing it this way is so much more exciting , at least for us. More revealing, too.
Example: Lopez may not literally wear los pantalones in the relationship -- on this day, she's glammed up in a black belted scoop-neck dress over black leggings with gray suede boots that climb to just below her knees -- but she's still the boss. We know this because Anthony has told us as much. Twice.
We've been talking about "El Cantante," which opened to mixed reviews and middling box-office figures in August. The gritty movie was made by Lopez's New Yorican Productions, which means she was her husband's boss on the project.
"When isn't she the boss?" Anthony says.
Lopez (giggling): "I think one of the reasons Marc and I do work so well together and we're able to do so many things together -- "
Anthony: "-- is that I know she's always the boss!"
He howls. Lopez plows ahead.
"It's that we look up to each other. We admire each other and have a mutual respect for each other as artists."She Jingles, He Rattles
Lopez gesticulates when she speaks, punctuating certain words with the crash of the bangles that go sliding up and down her left forearm. Her Bronx accent has been scrubbed away for the most part, though it bubbles to the surface in her more excitable moments -- and when she's referring to Anthony as "papi," as she sometimes does.
She sits upright, legs crossed; very poised. She's decorated with lots of sparkly things: spangly interlocked hoop earrings; a jewel-studded newsboy cap; major rocks on both hands. Her cheeks are rosy, her skin buttery smooth, her smile bright and bleached. She almost looks like an animatronic wax statue version of herself. So strangely perfect.
Anthony is wholly human, full of nervous energy -- fidgeting with his boots, bouncing his legs, swatting away gnats. He's guzzling coffee (Lopez is waiting for decaf, thank you), and his posture shifts every time you look at him. He's slumped in the chair, he's at the edge of his seat, he's leaning into Lopez. He looks like a scruffier Steve Buscemi, so twitchy and flyweight-slight in his loose-fitting jeans and long-sleeved charcoal-gray shirt. He's wearing multiple crosses on his necklaces -- and a "JENNIFER" tattoo on his right wrist.
"That's huge, right?" he says of the permanent tribute. "Tell her!"
She already knows. Lopez quickly points out the tiny tattoo under Anthony's wedding band, too -- the one that says "JLM," for Jennifer Lynn Mu¿iz, a combination of Lopez's first and middle names and Anthony's surname. (He was named Marco Antonio Mu¿iz, after a Mexican balladeer; the younger Marco Antonio Mu¿iz shortened his name to Marc Anthony to avoid confusion at the outset of his own career.)
Says Anthony of the hidden tattoo: "I like to think it means 'Jennifer Loves Marc.' "
But love has its limits: Lopez won't reciprocate in kind. "It's not that I don't love you," she tells her husband. "I do love you. I just don't want to get a tattoo."Bennifer, Done That
Anthony and Lopez have been married significantly longer than the combined length of her first two marriages. But you already knew that -- even if you didn't want to know. The news, such as it was, was inescapable.
Quick refresher: Husband No. 1, from February 1997 to January 1998, was Ojani Noa, a model whom Lopez met while he was working at a Miami restaurant. Following a high-drama relationship with hip-hop mogul Sean Combs, Lopez married one of her former backup dancers, Cris Judd, in September 2001. By the following June, they'd separated; Lopez filed for divorce a month later.
There was also the almost-marriage to actor Ben Affleck, but Lopez pulled the plug just before their scheduled September 2003 wedding, while the tabs worked themselves into a lather covering "Bennifer's" breakup.
Lopez had appeared in one of Anthony's music videos and the not-yet-a-couple had recorded a duet, "No Me Ames" ("You Don't Love Me"), from Lopez's 1999 debut album, "On the 6." But it wasn't until June 2004 that they officially became They-Lo, marrying at Lopez's home in Beverly Hills.
The surprise wedding came just four days after Anthony's divorce from former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres was finalized. He'd married Torres in May 2000, and they had a child, separated, reconciled, renewed their vows in 2002, had another child, separated again in 2003 and finally put an official end to their relationship in 2004.
Total tablo-gossip gorge fest.
It has subsided: Lopez no longer peers from the cover of every supermarket weekly ("consciously not," she notes). But there is still the occasional blip. Just this month, In Touch Weekly reported that Lopez is pregnant and due in the spring. The couple quickly knocked down the rumor through a publicist, though gossips continue to speculate.
Even so, Lopez is a ubiquitous drama magnet no more.
Neat trick. Explain, please.
"Luckily, Marc knew how to live in a way where you could have success and credibility and still have a normal life and not be on the cover of every tabloid for 2 1/2 straight years," she says. "At the end of the day, people want good music and they want to see a good movie. That's what keeps you in this business. The other stuff burns you out."
Says Anthony: "It's just so destructive when you play that tabloid game. I decided very early on not to do it." By this, he says, he means not giving the stalkerazzi anything to work with and setting ground rules in interviews, though none were actually given to us.
"When interviewers ask me silly [expletive] questions about what I ate in the morning, or whether this rumor is true or whatever -- why would I even answer those questions?" he says. "It's a waste of my life. I'm sitting in front of you to tell you about art, whether it's a movie, whether it's an album, whether it's this tour."
Our discussion hasn't been exactly All About the Art. But, then, it's just part of the dance. This, they get.
"We're entertainers, and we talk to the press to let people know what we're doing," Lopez says. (To wit, she says, making a plug: Her new album, "Brave," is coming Oct. 9, and it's loaded with danceable hip-hop and R&B tracks.) In an interview about a particular project, she or Anthony might discuss some aspects of their relationship. But not all of them, she says. "It's not open season."
Let's talk about the intersection of art and life, then. In "El Cantante," Anthony plays one of his musical idols, Lavoe, and Lopez plays his wife, Nilda "Puchi" Perez. The couple have a tempestuous, wildly dysfunctional relationship. They argue and fight, then they fight some more.
Brawling in character with your real-life spouse: Difficult? Stressful? Trying?
"It was fun!" They-Lo say in unison, as if they're singing harmony vocals together. (Though, if they are, one of them is slightly off-key.)
Fun?"It really was, bro," Anthony says. "You got to say a lot of [expletive] you can't say in real life. We went there. But it wasn't difficult to step out of it, because it was so different. That's so not me, that's so not Jen, that's so not us. It just made me feel normal, you know what I mean? On the way home from the set, I was going, 'Thank God that's not us!' "
"When we did some of those intense, emotional fighting scenes, it was exciting," she says. "But it was also scary, in a way."Uh, Strong Women
The audience at Continental Airlines Arena today numbers about 60: lighting guys, sound guys, stage directors; the production manager and the tour promoter; the musicians who are starting to wander in for rehearsal; and the backup dancers in their sweats and scarves, stretching in front of a mirror on a spartan, secondary rehearsal stage.
Anthony seems to have an easy rapport with everybody he encounters. Lopez may or may not be a taskmaster.
She oversees a business empire that includes two fashion labels, a successful line of perfume, that film production company and a Southern California restaurant. This year, Forbes ranked her ninth among the richest women in entertainment, with a net worth of $110 million. Jenny From the Block, as she referred to herself in a smash hit, can now buy the entire block.
Or, she can rent a basketball arena for days at a time and turn it into her personal rehearsal space.
Upon arriving, she wonders why nobody is rehearsing. (She seems to be joking.) Later, she yells for the band to start playing and for everybody to get to work. "We've wasted a half-day already!" she says. (This time, she is probably not joking.)
The Washington Post: "I'm sure you're aware that some people have referred to you as --"
Lopez: "You're trying to find the delicate word! [Laughs.] Okay, what?"
TWP: "Ummm, powerful. Strong. Driven."
TWP: "In Latino culture. . ."
Lopez: "Are there Latino women who aren't like that? 'Cause I don't know any."
Anthony: "I've never met a Latina who wasn't strong. I was raised by them. My mom, my sisters, all of them."
Lopez: "Women in general, when they are strong, get a tough rap. Whether it's Barbra Streisand or any of these other strong women who have accomplished a lot and have multifaceted careers and have an opinion, they're always going to be looked at a certain way. Just because they're women. But it's never something I looked at like, 'Oh, this is a bad thing that people are saying this.' No! I think they admire that I really work hard."
Anthony: "Where do they even get that from, sweetheart? You're just a hardworking woman. You're actually too sweet. I wish you were meaner."
Lopez cackles. Anthony leans in to kiss her shoulder. So celebri-cuddly cute. Is it a genuine display of affection, or just another stage move? In the constructed world of They-Lo, who really knows?