Sideshow: Did Scientologists seek a wife for Cruise?

Kelly Ripa gets a hug from former NFL player Michael Strahan, her new TV cohost. (See "Kelly Ripa delivers cohost.")

The Church of Scientology has blasted a report that before Tom Cruise began dating Katie Holmes in 2005, he was set up with a woman chosen by church officials. Maureen Orth's story, set to appear in October's Vanity Fair and excerpted by the New York Daily News, says the church auditioned possible candidates in 2004 for a role as Cruise's wife.

Orth says the women, all church members, were told they were auditioning for a church training film. Orth says the winner, British-Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi, was shocked when she found out the truth. Told she had passed the rigorous tests, Boniadi was asked, "What do you think of Tom Cruise?"

Orth says Boniadi and Cruise dated in secrecy for some months before the church broke it off in January 2005. Orth says Boniadi was punished for making a failure of the relationship.

Cruise began dating Holmes, who was not a church choice, three months later, and married her on Nov. 18, 2006.

"The entire story is hogwash," a Scientology rep tells Us Weekly.

"There was no project, secret or otherwise, ever conducted by the Church to find a bride . . . for any member of the church."

Two former Scientologists back Orth's assertions. Marc Headley, author of the anti-Scientology tract Blown for Good, says he was privy to some of the audition tapes. Canadian filmmaker Paul Haggis (Crash) says Boniadi, a close friend, was shocked by the whole business and was silenced once it was over.

Us Weekly quotes the same Scientology rep saying, "This is totally false."


Obama's dress is the thing

Michelle Obama wasn't too stressed out by the question of what dress to choose for her speech Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Pundits, she said, would invariably over-read her outfit - as they sure did, she said, with the red Oscar de la Renta dress worn by would-be first lady Ann Romney at the GOP convention.

"They do that with everything," Obama told Inside Edition's Deborah Norville on Tuesday.

"People look for the message in everything I wear. So in the end I'm doing what women do. It's like, 'How do I feel? What looks right? What kind of movement do I need? What's practical when it comes right down to it?' "


Mayer, Armstrong silenced

In a blow to culture, silence has engulfed two of the world's most beloved rockers - Billie Joe Armstrong and John Mayer.

Punkers Green Day canceled a Sunday show in Italy when front man Armstrong, 40, was taken to a hospital because of an undisclosed illness. It may be a throat issue: Before flying back home to L.A., he mouthed, "My voice is gone" to TMZ reporters.

Mayer, for his part, writes on his Tumblr page that it will take him some time to recover after his second throat surgery Aug. 27 to remove a growth on his vocal cords. "Silent for the next few months, no singing for probably six," says celebdom's celebrated lothario. "Back to notebooks and iPad to communicate for the time being. Zen living at its finest."

Surely he can still date . . ..


Kelly Ripa delivers cohost

"Nine months and I'm about to give birth to my cohost," Kelly Ripa said Tuesday on Live! with Kelly as she introduced Regis Philbin's permanent replacement after enduring 59 guest cohosts for 200 episodes.

Former NFL dude and broadcaster Michael Strahan, whose addition to the show has been an open secret for weeks, came out, grabbed Ripa, and held her up for a midair bear hug. "We're like that insane couple from The Bachelor," she said. He said, "I'm speechless. . . . I adore you. I'm so happy to be part of this."

Welcome to Live with Kelly and Michael.


Celeb baby report

Dixie Chicks chick Emily Robison, 40, on Tuesday delivered her fourth child, Violet Isabel Strayer, her rep tells People. The baby girl is her first child with beau Martin Strayer, a musician who plays with Robison's side project, Court Yard Hounds. Robison also has twins Juliana Tex and Henry Benjamin, 7, and son Charles Augustus, 9, with ex-husband Charlie Robison.

Claire Danes, who plays an obsessive federal agent in Showtime's smash series Homeland, on Tuesday told Kelly Ripa (see above) she (Claire) is expecting a baby. She would not reveal the baby's sex, only its species. "It is a human being, which is a profound relief," Danes said. It's her first child with actor/husband Hugh Dancy.


This article contains information from Inquirer wire services. Contact "SideShow" at