Howard Dean, Playing Cupid

Howard Dean, Democratic National Committee chairman and matchmaker extraordinaire? At least two people were feeling the love at the DNC's offices on Thursday when Dean played a key role in an engagement plot by one of his staffers.

Fundraiser Andrew Wright recruited the pol to lure his now-fiancee (and fellow employee) Allison Sharpe into his office for a "meeting." According to Sharpe, Dean "said he had to go really quickly" and fled the room. Then Wright appeared out of an adjoining room and popped the question. "I think I'm the first person to get engaged at the DNC," Sharpe said with a laugh.

She said she thought the engagement was going to happen during a trip to Vermont the weekend before, but noted the actual event was "amusing and surprising." The couple met in 2003 while working for the former governor's presidential campaign in Vermont.

Beauty That's Shell Deep

Residents of Ocean City, N.J., are gearing up for the Miss Crustacean Hermit Crab Beauty Pageant tomorrow, a contest for, well, a bevy of sexy hermit crabs. (Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right?)

Spokesman Mark Soifer said the 31-year-old contest parodies the Miss America contest, held in nearby Atlantic City.

"People dress up their hermit crabs, and we have a runway the winner goes down." And the music? "We have a song, 'Here she comes, Miss Crustacean.' " He adds, "There's nary a dry eye in the place when it's sung."

Previous contestants have included Crabopatra, who was carried on a platform by people decked out in togas; Crabpunzel, sporting long, luscious locks; and Crab Salad. "People are very creative with the costumes," said Soifer. "There's always something different."

Fifty crabs have been entered in this year's competition, but only one will win the Cucumber Cup, which Soifer says is "the most coveted cup in crabdom." A wrestling exhibition between Crabilla Monsoon and Hogan Hermit is slotted to kick off the festivities (complete with scripted G-rated trash talk) and an Elvis impersonator is expected to sing, "You Ain't Nothing but a Hermit Crab."

So how do they know if Miss Crustacean is really a she? Soifer admits he can't tell the difference. "It can be a he, a she, or an it," he said. "We're very liberal that way."

Jen Cuts Brad's Hair

And now for your recommended daily allowance of Jennifer Aniston news:

She finally shows public emotion about filing for divorce from Brad Pitt (and even unleashes a little sarcasm) in the upcoming September issue of Vanity Fair. The interview was her first since splitting up with Pitt, 41, in January.

The 36-year-old actress told contributing editor Leslie Bennetts that Pitt's dyed platinum locks weren't doing it for her and joked, "Billy Idol called -- he wants his look back." Apparently Angelina Jolie doesn't seem to mind: Pitt's co-star in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" has been a frequent public companion of the actor in the past few months, sparking rumors that the twosome are a couple.

Although Aniston doesn't say whether the rumors are true (darn!), she admits she was surprised when pictures surfaced in April of her estranged husband frolicking with Jolie and her son, Maddox, on a beach in Africa: "The world was shocked and I was shocked."

Aniston also said Pitt was missing a "sensitivity chip" when he participated in a photo spread for W magazine that featured him and Jolie as a '60s-era husband and wife.

Brad? Rebuttal?

-- Compiled by Korin Miller

from staff reports

Crowning moment: A past winner of the Miss Crustacean Hermit Crab Beauty Pageant.