Let's Get This Party Started: Top Stories for 07/11/06

7/11/2006 8:51 AM PDT

Let's Get This Party Started: Top Stories for 07/11/06

Despite a slew of rumored dalliances with a small battalion of various guys, Jessica Simpson insists that she hasn't dated anyone since she split from Nick Lachey.

What's more, she emphatically denies reports that comedian and "Employee of the Month" co-star Dane Cook is her current squeeze, and says she has "dreams" about Brad Pitt.

Though reports have circulated that she and Cook have been romantically involved – even though Cook has a live-in girlfriend – Simpson says that Cook is merely "one of my dear friends," according to an interview she's given to OK! magazine (via USA Today). Adds Simpson, "Every time I feel frustrated, I'll e-mail him and he'll e-mail me back with a suggestion. He's a great support, a solid friend, and a really good guy."

And as for the reports that she's been courted by various suitors, including Zach Braff, Jessica, who turned 26 yesterday, says, "I don't feel right about dating yet." Still, the girl knows what candy pleases her eye: "Brad Pitt in 'Fight Club'; you can't get much better than that. I still dream about his body!"

Don't Call Him Diddy, Per Favore

The Sean Combs name game continues its inexorable spin: Sunday afternoon, the rapper known variously as Puff Daddy, Puffy, P. Diddy, and just Diddy, set the (current) record straight for a pedicab driver near Manhattan's Central Park.

The driver called out to Combs, "Hey, P. Diddy, how about a ride, help the working man out?" according to a Page Six spy, to which the rapper replied, "I always help the working man out, and it's Puff, brother!" The funnyman peddler drove off with this stinger, which elicited a cheer from onlookers: "Yeah, Diddy, how cool is a guy that changes his nickname more than a baby changes diapers?"

The incident didn't mar Did-we mean, Puff's-mood too greatly, as he was seen screaming for Italy and "wearing an Italian cape around his neck" during the Italy-France World Cup final on Sunday. According to Lloyd Grove, Puff was joined at Cipriani Downtown by Jay-Z and Lenny Kravitz.

Vaughn Gets All Serious in "Enemies"

After years of playing either the goofy funnyman ("Wedding Crashers") or the sensitive funnyman ("The Break-Up") with the occasional "Psycho" tossed in, Vince Vaughn is taking a turn for the serious in the new film from Oscar-winning writer-director Paul Haggis.

The Hollywood Reporter says that Vaughn is in discussions to star alongside Sean Penn in "Against All Enemies," the film version of former terrorism czar Richard Clarke's controversial memoir, and would play ex-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. Which, given that O'Neill is almost twice Vaughn's age, makes for an interesting casting choice.

Penn is reportedly slated to star as Clarke himself, and recently cast Vaughn into his own drama, entitled "Into the Wild."

Portman Doffs All for Art

Natalie Portman, who famously bared all for her role as a stripper in Mike Nichols' "Closer" but then asked the director to edit out the nude scenes, will go full birthday suit for her new film "Goya's Ghosts," in which she will play the Spanish artist's muse, who, according to Page Six, is accused of atheism and then stripped in a torture scene. Portman denies that she does nudity just to cast off her childlike image from the "Star Wars" and other earlier films: "I don't do it in order to prove something. I just go on with my life and do what feels right."

Rather's Not So Triumphant Return

Recently cast-off CBS newsman Dan Rather is returning to television in October, but you're going to need a pretty big dial – and a high-def set – to see him.

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reports that Rather will announce at this week's television critics tour in Los Angeles that he's launching "Dan Rather Presents" on HDNet, the high-definition network owned by entrepreneur Mark Cuban. Details on the show itself are scarce, but Cuban seems sanguine about it, even though his network only reaches about 3 million homes, which is a tiny fraction of what Rather used to reach at a broadcast network.

Briefly: Rehabbed Brandon Dines with Paris, LeAnn Rimes Cancels Tour Dates

Team Firecrotch leader Brandon Davis was spotted dining recently at West Hollywood's Bella restaurant with Paris and Nicky Hilton after finishing his stint in rehab, according to the New York Daily News' Ben Widdicombe, and quaffed water only...LeAnn Rimes cancelled three concert dates on her current "This Woman" tour after she suffered a "tear in the tissue" of one of her legs, according to her publicist. Rimes is expected to play the remaining dates of the tour after a three- to four-day recovery following surgery.