Hollywood West

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 March, 2008, 12:00am

There once was a time when the one thing that would validate a rock star in the eyes of the world was a hot, supermodel girlfriend.

What else could describe the steamy chemistry between Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall (although Jagger eventually dumped Hall and moved on to another willowy supe, Carla Bruni)? Claudia Schiffer dated Peter Gabriel, co-founder of rock group Genesis, and Paulina Porizkova has been married to Ric Ocasek, formerly of The Cars, for almost 20 years.

But the musician-model romantic alliance is so 1990s. These days, all the fab girls - be they strutters on a Victoria's Secret runway or starlets of dubious talent - are hooking up with sports stars, beefy hunks of manhood in tight pants and fast cars with zillion-dollar pay cheques.

On the face of it, the affinity between the two branches of celebrity makes perfect sense. Athletes aren't exactly known for their intellect and are portrayed in the media as dopey dummies who look good on the playing field and make heaps of cash tossing a ball around. And actresses are generally seen to be into anyone good-looking and rich and who doesn't compete with them - so it seems to be a match made in celebrity heaven. And, if you look at the current crop of couples, it is.

Take, for example, Brazilian babe Gisele Bundchen, latterly best known for her body and for dating Leonardo DiCaprio. These days, Bundchen is on the arm of Tom Brady, an American football quarterback for the New England Patriots who apparently makes about US$8 million a year - and that's before endorsements.

Brady, an all-American looking chap with a big smile and a cleft in his chin, isn't exactly a model of moral manhood: he dated pretty actress Bridget Moynahan for a couple of years and ended things around the time she got pregnant. Although Brady was around when his son was born last summer, he's otherwise rarely seen with him or even talks about him, presumably because he's a bit tied up with a certain Brazilian hottie.

Other star athletes are a bit more upstanding. Tony Parker - who plays basketball for the San Antonio Spurs on a US$66-million, six-year deal - got married last year to actress Eva Longoria, who's not exactly in the poorhouse herself. The good-looking couple weathered strife in their young marriage when rumours surfaced that he had cheated on his wife with a French model. Longoria - who has legally changed her name to Longoria Parker - stood by her man, going so far as to tattoo a 'nine' on the back of her neck - the number on his basketball jersey. Take that, mademoiselle.

Even blonde bombshell Jessica Simpson has moved on to a sports star after her failed marriage to former boy-bander Nick Lachey. She's happily ensconced in an affair with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who also recently signed a US$67.5 million contract with his team - good news for Simpson, whose career stalled after that Daisy Duke thing she did.

Paris Hilton, the girl who likes to date everybody, has had her sports star fling, hooking up with hockey player Jose Theodore, and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Lienart, although she has since returned to her typical fodder of male models and millionaires and, more recently, Good Charlotte band member Benji Madden. Elisha Cuthbert, the annoyingly clueless daughter of Jack Bauer in 24, was in a hot and heavy relationship with hockey star Sean Avery, although they too have apparently split.

But other couples in this mould are still going strong. Hilary Duff, the teen pop star/actress, is in an apparently serious relationship with ice hockey star Mike Comrie, and has been for several months. Which, in both Hollywood and the world of sports superstardom, is a lifetime.