Full article at blender.com.
Later that year, when Spears had a one-night stand with an LFO backup dancer named Kevin Federline (nicknamed Meat Pole for his manhood), “it turned into a three-day stand at the Beverly Hills Hotel,” according to a Federline family friend. “All they did was have sex and order room service.” Afterward, “he called his brother Chris, like, ‘You’re not going to believe whose back I broke,’” and, the friend says, bragged that they hadn’t used condoms.
Britney invited Kevin to join her on a promotional tour in England, and though he didn’t have a passport, one was quickly procured. On the flight home, they got engaged, and then she bought herself a $50,000 engagement ring.
Britney’s romance with Kevin also intensified her affair with the paparazzi. Two fantasies of love—with a man, and with the public—joined when she took Kevin to the beach one afternoon to show off her new boyfriend to the world. The number of photographers trailing Britney doubled after Kevin came on the scene, and the value of a premium shot of her climbed 500 percent.
She was rich and famous. He was, as she put it, “normal.” She claimed to love this about him, but the discrepancy caused trouble from the start. Britney’s solution? Equalize their status by starring together in a reality show. Against all advice, Britney insisted, and the result, UPN’s Britney & Kevin: Chaotic, ran for five episodes.
“I knew it was bad for her,” says a source who was involved in the deal. “But I thought, Fuck it. I’ll make a lot of dough.”
“Chaotic destroyed the image that we had worked so carefully to create,” says one of her advisers at the time, who opposed the project. “She thought that if she showed the world everything, everyone would love her for it. What it did, instead, was make her look like white trash—and that is not what she is. She’s better than that. It created an appetite for this wild and crazy girl and created this spiral where nothing can satisfy that appetite.”
Chaotic, a withering mash of fart jokes, bull sessions and deadening sexual compulsiveness, was mostly filmed by Britney and Kevin with handheld cameras. It is porn without skin, reeking with the unacknowledged despair of people who have become things, even to themselves.
In a hotel room, Kevin asks, “How do you feel?”
Kevin: “Why do you feel great?”
Britney: “The sex is great.”
Kevin: “What else is great? Is it just the sex?”
Cut to an interview where Britney explains how she overcomes obstacles to intimacy with Kevin: “I’m not really good with just really being intimate one-on-one, and I think it helped me to have a camera there, instead of it just being me and him.”
The couple had two children (Sean Preston, now 2, and Jayden James, 1; Federline has two previous children, with actress Shar Jackson). “She had this fantasy of being a wife and mother, so everything happened fast,” says one former handler, unsurprised that Britney and Kevin’s relationship quickly circled the drain. Kevin told friends of wild mood swings and fights, calling her “bi-polar”—eruptions sometimes triggered by the hours she spent jealously scouring the list of female “friends” on his MySpace page. Though sources close to the couple say Kevin was philandering and a bit of a freeloader, his experience with fatherhood also made him the more domestic spouse. “He was Mr. Mom,” changing diapers and rising early to cook breakfast, says a friend.
California child-welfare officials visited the couple’s home after receiving reports of negligence, supported by paparazzi photographs and video. To set the record straight, Britney sat for a tearful Dateline NBC interview with Matt Lauer. She did her own hair and makeup, wore a cheap outfit, chewed gum throughout the conversation and talked about how much she enjoys housekeeping. She was trying to show the world she was a regular girl and that her recent maternal mishaps—nearly dropping Sean outside a hotel, letting him ride in her lap instead of strapped in a car seat—had been unfairly magnified by relentless public scrutiny. But the interview, a PR disaster, only made her look more disconnected from reality.
That fall, Britney called former manager Larry Rudolph to New York for a meeting. (The two had parted ways around the time of Chaotic.) When he showed up, she announced she was divorcing Federline and wanted to rehire Rudolph and get back to work. Despite her best intentions, though, her discipline had waned, and as Thanksgiving approached, she went on a hedonistic, labia-flashing tear through Hollywood clubland with her new buddy Paris Hilton.
Last Valentine’s Day, an inner circle of family and friends gathered to persuade Britney to seek help for substance abuse, and she flew with Rudolph to a rehab facility in Antigua. The next day she checked out, returned to L.A., shaved her head, attacked a pap’s car with an umbrella and spent five days going wild before voluntarily checking into Promises rehab center in Malibu. She stayed for only 30 days of the center’s standard 45-day program and returned home in March.
She ended her rehabilitation early “because that would have required her to admit, in front of the world, that she had problems. That was the one thing she couldn’t do,” says one of Britney’s closest companions during this time, sounding eaten by frustration. “Is there anyone on the planet, except for Britney Spears, who cannot see that Britney has a problem? After that, she pushed her family, literally everyone, away.”
So, Britney was willing to let go of every intimate relationship she had, to avoid admitting to the abstract mass of “the public” that her life was a mess—even though everyone knew that her life was a mess?
“That would not be an unreasonable reading of the situation.”
A June divorce ruling in accordance with Britney and Kevin’s prenuptial agreement stipulated joint custody of the children. Federline’s lawyer, Mark Vincent Kaplan, challenged the financial settlement, which was in accordance with the prenup: a lump sum rumored to be about $1 million. In September, Britney agreed to give Kevin an extra $20,000 per month for the rest of his life.
On the same day Britney made this concession, Kaplan filed a challenge to the custody agreement. The court quickly gathered testimony of Britney’s odd behavior, ranging from classic Stupid Celebrity Shit (driving without a valid license) to hair-raisingly Freudian stories from a former bodyguard of “nudity by Ms. Spears, drug use and safety issues involving the children, post-rehab.” Within weeks, L.A. County Superior Court Commissioner Scott Gordon temporarily suspended Britney’s physical custody of the children. He ordered her to undergo random drug testing, mandated parenting classes for the couple, forbade them to drink alcohol within 12 hours of assuming physical custody of the kids and gave a pathetically rudimentary list of guidelines about how to behave with their boys: “Each party is restrained from making derogatory remarks about the other party and the other party’s family or significant other, either directly or indirectly, to the minor children, and from allowing anyone else to do so.”
Here, the relationship between the California court and the kangaroo court of online gossip took a bizarre twist. The week before Commissioner Gordon suspended Britney’s custody rights, he had decreed that the children “shall be transferred in a properly insured and registered vehicle, which shall be driven only by a properly insured driver who has a current and valid driver’s license.” Two days later, TMZ.com posted a photo of Britney, who had still not gotten a license, driving her children in Malibu.
The next day, Federline’s lawyer convinced the judge to suspend custody rights.
This was not, by far, Spears’s only violation of the court orders. She had blown off drug testing and parenting classes and had been seen drinking alcohol within 12 hours before picking up the boys. (TMZ posted video of her in a club that night.) But from this point on, the infinite feedback loop between her bad behavior and its coverage online was sealed. TMZ and X17online.com videos of Britney, taken in the months following her custody suspension, show her running stop signs and rolling over a pap’s foot. She bumps another pap with her car, wincing, “sorry, sorry, sorry” in a baby voice; then, when she cannot figure out how to exit a parking garage, looks pleadingly to the paps and they assist her. They pump her gas, guide her through everyday confusion at a fast-food drive-through window and often pick up her tab. Not without reason, she seems to think there’s no need to settle her own accounts. She plays the role that they expect her to play. In a Van Nuys filling station, she picks up a $1.39 Bic lighter and walks away with it, looking into the video cameras and saying, “I stole something! Oh, I’m bad. Ohhh!”