Who Abandoned Whom?

Yes, its over between Julia Roberts and Benjamin Bratt. Even their publicists finally had to admit it. We hear that Bratt initiated the breakup and that Roberts is heartbroken.

The tale whispered in our ears is that Bratt, who's filming a movie called "Abandoned," grew weary of their long separations and competing work schedules.

Soon after Roberts won her best actress Oscar for "Erin Brockovich," he demanded that she move to San Francisco so they could spend more time together. After all, he's pushing 38 and not getting any younger. When she refused, he called it quits.

The nearly four-year romance had looked like a keeper for Roberts, 33, who has an eclectic dating history. Who can forget the Kiefer Sutherland almost-wedding or the two-year marriage to Lyle Lovett? Or the reported liaisons with Jason Patric, Dylan McDermott, Matthew Perry and Liam Neeson?

It seems like only yesterday that Ms. Julia and her former "Law and Order" beau were billing and cooing.

"We're drunk with joy 24 hours a day. We're sickening," she told Oprah Winfrey in March 2000. "He's such a good person. He's funny, loves me unconditionally, and he accepts me as a flawed individual."

Bratt may have blinked in the spotlight as Mr. Julia Roberts.

"We have decided to live our lives according to what the latest tabloid headline is," Bratt told reporters earlier this year. "Last week we were engaged, and this week we are broken up, and next week she will be abducted by aliens, and the following week we will marry and she will give birth to an alien child. We try to keep it right."

Alas, like so many Hollywood romances, this one's ending just as it began--with the handlers saying they're friends. It always seems to start with the official line, "They're just friends," and end with "They're still friends."

The Lord of Silence

Lord Jeffrey Archer's perjury trial is winding down in London. The big news coming out of the Old Bailey is that the prolific suspense writer won't be telling his story on the witness stand. Archer's lawyer told jurors Thursday that if the famous defendant testified, it might distract them from the legal issues.

Archer, 51, is accused of perverting the course of justice by faking diary entries and providing a false alibi during a 1987 libel case he won against a London tabloid that reported he'd engaged the services of a prostitute. Archer, a onetime London mayoral candidate, was acquitted of one charge, but six remain. The trial has consumed Britain for four weeks. Here's an update:

Archer's former personal assistant, Andrina Colquhoun, testified that their five-year affair "fizzled out" when he "tidied up his personal life" to make himself more politically attractive. "He thought it was possible that he was in line for a job with the Conservative Party, which he always wanted," she said.

She also denied hiding photos of Archer's wife in the author's penthouse overlooking the Thames but acknowledged that her pet name for him was Moon.

Jurors also were read a transcript of a skeptical judge's instructions to jurors in the libel case. He seemed entranced by Lady Mary Archer: "Remember Mary Archer in the witness box? .... Has she elegance? Has she fragrance? Would she have, without the strain of this trial, radiance?

As for Lord Jeffrey, the judge said: "Is he in need of cold, unloving, rubber-insulated sex in a seedy hotel 'round about quarter to one on a Tuesday morning after an evening at the Caprice?"

TMI: Too Much Information

Diners at the Santa Monica restaurant Rebecca's couldn't help but overhear Melissa Etheridge and her inamorata, "Popular" star Tammy Lynn Michaels, who were ensconced at their regular table Monday night. These two women were loud. And so, whether they wanted to or not, other diners learned way more than they needed to know about matters best kept in the boudoir.

"Is this too much information for you?" Etheridge, 40, leaned over and asked the folks at the next table. Uh, no, not really, the stunned diners politely responded. And so the conversation moved on to the complications of a family, now divided by a back fence, that consists of Etheridge and former love Julie Cypher, their current romantic interests and two children whose biological father is David Cros-by.

Etheridge has a tell-all memoir out this summer, along with a new album.

Quote, Unquote

"I've never been more in love in my life. It's my greatest project to date." --Actress Joely Fisher, 33, reveling in her first child, Skylar Grace Fisher-Duddy, who was born June 14. Husband Christopher Duddy, 39, and her two stepsons are also thrilled by the baby girl, Fisher reports.

"People drive 30 miles in their BMWs to go to the gym and get on a Lifecycle. We've lost our minds, folks."--actor Ed Begley Jr., who lives in a solar-powered house and drives an electric car, at a conference sponsored by Southern California Americans for Democratic Action.

Times staff writers Gina Piccalo and Louise Roug contributed to this column. City of Angles runs Tuesday-Friday. E-mail: angles@latimes.com.

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