- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 18, 2009

Joel, wife spilt

Looks like the third time isn’t the charm for the Piano Man.

Billy Joel and his latest wife, Katie Lee, are splitting up after nearly five years of marriage, the couple confirmed to the New York Daily News on Wednesday.

Rumors have swirled for months that Mr. Joel’s third marriage was on the rocks. Various reports have linked Miss Lee, a 27-year-old chef and author, with Yigal Azrouel, a dashing 36-year-old Israeli-born fashion designer who has frequently escorted her to events. Sources reported seeing them dirty dancing in Miami in January and have claimed that in unguarded moments, Mr. Azrouel referred to Miss Lee as “my girlfriend.”

Reps for the Joels insisted that Mr. Azrouel was just a friend and that Mr. Joel, 60, was happy to skip the parties, fashion shows and fundraisers that his younger wife enjoyed.

“It was really the age difference that caught up with them,” said a friend of the couple.

Still, the friend added, “I can’t imagine the stories about Yigal helped.”

One ally of Miss Lee said, “Billy is no one to talk. It wasn’t like he was a monk when he was on tour.”

However, a longtime pal of Mr. Joel insisted “he’s always remained faithful to Katie. When he was touring with Elton John, he flew home almost every night. He rarely stayed in a hotel room. When would he have done this supposed fooling around?”

In recent weeks, Mr. Joel has been living on New York’s Long Island, where he owns mansions in Sag Harbor and Sagaponack. Miss Lee is said to have stayed at the couple’s Manhattan town house, not far from Mr. Azrouel’s boutique.

Mr. Joel is believed to have a prenuptial agreement to protect the millions his many hits have made him. Besides their New York properties, he owns a mansion in Miami Beach.

He and Miss Lee married in October 2004. His nine-year marriage to model Christie Brinkley, the mother of their daughter Alexa Ray, ended in 1994. His nine-year marriage to Elizabeth Weber ended in 1982.

Time out for Penn

Sean Penn is taking his Oscar and going home.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the “Milk” star has dropped out of two high-profile films: MGM’s “The Three Stooges” and Universal and Imagine’s crime thriller “Cartel.”

It’s not clear how long the absence could last, although sources have said up to a year.

Mr. Penn’s moves now leave both projects in the lurch, although the “Stooges” dilemma is potentially more serious.

Peter and Bobby Farrelly have spent the better part of a decade trying to get “Stooges” off the ground, and in March they pulled off a major casting coup: Mr. Penn as Larry, with Jim Carrey as Curly and Benicio del Toro as Moe.

Now MGM and the Farrellys, who wrote the script and are slated to direct, need to decide whether they will wait for Mr. Penn or seek a new actor.

In May, Mr. Penn filed for a request to dismiss his legal separation case from Robin Wright Penn. It’s the second time he has rescinded divorce proceedings.

Murphy’s ex to wed

Former New York Giants star Michael Strahan proposed to girlfriend Nicole Murphy on a beach in the Bahamas, TVGuide.com reports.

Mr. Strahan has four children from his previous marriage to Jean Strahan.

Mrs. Murphy has five children with ex-husband actor Eddie Murphy.

No date has been set for their wedding.

• Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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