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Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson — They Weren't First

Britney, Jessica — They Weren't First | 'John Adams': Based on a Real Story | 'Piaf' Oscar Winner: Used by Web Site

Britney, Jessica — They Weren't First

So you think Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson and their ilk are the first hell-raising female singers with romantic problems?

Forget it! According to author Sheila Weller, whose book "Girls Like Us" is excerpted in Vanity Fair this month, today’s pop-ettes have nothing on predecessors Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Carly Simon.

The excerpt is just a taste, I’m told, of what’s to come in April. But for now, Weller gives over some unusual tidbits in the magazine, all revolving around how these three independent composers/performers dealt with romance.

None of them had it easy, but King — whose "Tapestry" album was the biggest seller of the 1970s along with Pink Floyd’s "Dark Side of the Moon" — suffered the most for her genius.

Married at 18 to her teen love and collaborator Gerry Goffin, King went through husbands as if she really did feel the earth move. Bass player Charles Larkey, husband No. 2, Weller says, couldn’t handle the pressure of being "Mr. King."

But it was No. 3, a drug-addicted hippie named Rick Evers, who was the most dangerous. Weller even intimates that Evers beat King. Evers eventually died of a drug overdose a short way into their marriage.

The funniest moment in Weller’s excerpt comes when King runs into Bob Dylan’s wife, Sara Lowndes, on the beach, and tells her she’s divorcing Larkey. "I want a divorce, too. How do you get one?"

King survived a fourth marriage and a long-term relationship with screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson. None of this has stopped her. A hot-looking 65-year-old who still composes and tours, she’s a major, respected environmentalist in Idaho.

Weller also details Simon’s many romances before she married James Taylor in 1972 — Cat Stevens, Kris Kristofferson, Warren Beatty and Mick Jagger among them. She also opens the door on a long-held open secret in rock 'n' roll: that Taylor’s subsequent wives were so jealous of his attachment to Simon that they banned her from seeing him.

Simon told Weller that in the years since the divorce (1981), Taylor’s "dismissal" of her has been "as confounding as could ever imagine anything would be..."

Simon’s never let romantic interludes get in her way, though. With a Grammy, Emmy and Oscar on her shelf, she’s releasing her winning new album, "This Kind of Love," in May through Starbucks’ Hear Music label.

And Mitchell? Her love train was once charted in (the real, original) Rolling Stone, and it was a snarl of names and dots and dashes. In Vanity Fair, Weller names a few — Taylor, David Crosby, Al Kooper — but I suspect the book will detail them all. So next time you pick up Star or OK!, just remember, not only did the '70s girls do it first and better, they also left a canon of classic music.

By the way, neither Carly nor Carole is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a performer. (Carole is in with Goffin as a writer.) Remember to boycott Rolling Stone! Next Monday, Madonna gets inducted by another "rocker," Justin Timberlake, into this much-addled institution, which is dictated to by Rolling Stone owner Jann Wenner.

'John Adams': Based on a Real Story

HBO’s nine-hour mini-series, "John Adams," is based on a real story, you know.

That was the running joke at Monday night’s star-studded premiere at the Museum of Modern Art.

You know a project is important when Joan Didion walks in. You know it’s good when Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer follow her. And then the floodgates opened: Candice Bergen and husband, Marshall Rose; Frank Langella; "Sideways" writer Jim Taylor; Bob and Lynne Balaban; Jonathan Demme; "Sopranos" creator David Chase; new Time Warner chief "executioner" Jeff Bewkes; Lorne Michaels; Steve Kroft and Morley Safer of "60 Minutes'"— with wives; and legendary comic writer Alan Zweibel.

I even got to meet the beautiful and gracious Lois Chiles. Remember her? She was Dr. Holly Goodhead in the Bond movie "Moonraker." Then she knocked J.R. Ewing’s socks off as Holly Harwood on "Dallas." She lives in New York and is married to wealthy Republican stockbroker Richard Gilder. Not bad!

Not enough for ya? HBO Films’ Colin Callender, who only makes great movies, introduced Tom Hanks — he produced the movie. Hanks then introduced "John Adams" author David McCullough, who gave a beautiful, thoughtful talk and reminded us that today’s kids are "historical illiterates."

Somewhere in there we even met the extraordinary cast, starting with Paul Giamatti, and director Tom Hooper.

You will really be blown away by "John Adams." Expect it to be the talk of the spring. And in September, Emmys all around.

'Piaf' Oscar Winner: Used by Web Site?

Isn’t it odd that crazy comments about 9/11 made by actress Marion Cotillard only surfaced the minute she won the Academy Award?

Sacre bleu! It seems so. Cotillard gave an interview in February 2007 on a program called "Paris Derniere." In the midst of conspiracy talk about all sorts of things — in that lovely glib way the French have — Cotillard made some facetious remarks about the World Trade Center.

Now a year later, the obscure interview has sprung to life. But I’m not sure it’s an accident. Cotillard has also been embraced — against her wishes — by a conspiracy Web site called www.reopen911.info. Believe me, no one knew of this site until the folks there found Cotillard’s remarks and turned them into their headline.

This is the price you pay for fame, you know. Craziness!

I met Cotillard the January night she won the Golden Globe for "La Vie En Rose." She’s delightful, self-effacing and full of fun. We talked a lot that night about how much she loves America. Right now she’s shooting Michael Mann’s "Public Enemies" with Johnny Depp and Christian Bale, and wondering how this mess got started.

Marion, mon amie, it only gets worse from here!