The Breakup Artist

Calling all romantics: The only sure-fire way to avoid divorce is to never get married. "Washington is the dysfunctional-marriage capital of the country," according to former divorce attorney Mark Barondess. "The only place worse is the Los Angeles area."

Why are we not surprised, in this town of Type A workaholics? Barondess, who spent 20 years in the family law trenches here, has distilled the tricks of his trade into "What Were You Thinking?? $600-Per-Hour Legal Advice on Relationships, Marriage & Divorce." After stating the obvious -- selecting a spouse is serious business -- he gets to the good stuff: what, why and how to untie the knot, with lots of insider tips. "Men have no common sense, especially when it has anything to do with women," said Barondess, who now practices general law in L.A.

Barondess (twice married) represented Larry King (six times married, but who's counting?) in his last divorce, and the two became fast friends. They spent yesterday hanging out together at the Kennedy Center at a party for "In My Own Backyard," the new country CD of Shawn King.

King played proud hubby to his wife of eight years (a record for him!) and mother of two young sons. "Sometimes you have to keep trying to get something right," he said. "The guy who invented 7-Up was wrong six times."


Much as we love reality TV, as soon as a series ends we usually can't remember a darn thing about who was on it. (Those unfamous people just blur together, don't they?) But who could forget "The Amazing Race's" Uchenna and Joyce Agu, the plucky Houston fortysomethings desperate to have a child? Or Uchenna's cheer as they crossed the finish line to win $1 million: "In vitro, here we come, baby!!!"

So when they came to town yesterday to mark National Infertility Awareness Week with visits on the Hill and a fundraiser for advocacy group Resolve, we had to find out how things are going.

Kind of ironic: Ever since they became "the poster children for infertility," as Joyce puts it, they haven't had time to take up a doctor's offer of a free round of in vitro fertilization. "We haven't been home long enough to do it," she said.

Both say they've been amazed at the reaction to their televised candor. "Everyone wants to keep this kind of thing in the closet," said Uchenna. "I can't tell you how many times people have pulled us aside and whispered, 'We're going through the same thing.' Sharing information would have made a big difference for us when we started the process."

They still intend to try in vitro, Joyce said, but "we're open to the idea of adoption."

Show Them What You've Got (in Your Wallet)

Hip-hop producer Chucky Thompson is known for working with stars such as Mary J. Blige ("I'm Going Down") and the late Notorious B.I.G. ("Big Poppa"). Could you be next? He'll host a "talent audition" 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow at Howard University's Cramton Auditorium.

We asked the LeDroit Park native, who just moved back to the area, what he's looking for. "People who have a story," Thompson said. "People that want it, that have the ability to become a star." Oh, and stick to hip-hop or R&B: "I'm not looking for any country artists."

With all his success, we couldn't help wondering why hopefuls are required to shell out $20 for the privilege of auditioning. Thompson's partner, NYC promoter Mo Brown, said the fee is standard practice in music industry showcases and will barely cover the cost of the room. "It's to separate the serious individuals from those who want to waste your time."

Good luck, kids! Check with a lawyer before signing anything.

"It was like opening the door to your house and having someone come in and take your big-screen TV off the wall during the big game, and there's nothing you can do about it."

-- Country music singer Kenny Chesney, describing his sudden divorce from actress Renee Zellweger in Life magazine.


* Celebrating: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Clinton, closing out her 58th birthday Wednesday night at Cafe Milano with former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe and his wife, Dorothy. The chocolate birthday cake had three candles, but the heart-healthy former president opted for mixed berries.

* Divorcing: Holly Morris, queen of the wacky live remote on "Fox 5 Morning News," and her husband of eight years, the show's former weatherman Tom Sater. The couple came to WTTG in 1998 from a Lexington, Ky., station; Sater evaporated from the airwaves in July.