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Sunday 21 September 2014

The odd couples

Published 30/09/2012 | 06:00

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Sam Taylor Wood and Aaron Johnson
Lana de Rey is dating little-known rocker Barrie James O'Neill
Brad and Sinita dated back in the day.

A-list stunner Lana Del Ray's romance with a little-known rocker is just the latest unlikely celeb twosome. Ed Power reports

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If you've been reading the papers lately, you may have wondered why there are so many pictures of Lana Del Rey hanging out with a homeless person.

It turns out the scruffy, mega-tached chap standing next to the singer is new squeeze Barrie James O'Neill, lead singer with Kassidy, a rock band few people have heard of (you suspect that even the four chaps in Kassidy would be pushed to name more than three of their songs).

"Odd couple" doesn't even begin to do justice to Lana 'n' Barrie, a pairing for which there is no ready-made portmanteau (Bana? Larrie?).

With 'Video Games', Del Rey instantly became one of the most famous women in the world. If she was a consumer brand, she'd be Apple -- fashionable, unavoidable, a bit chilly and distant.

In short, a fully fledged A-lister with an agreeably mysterious persona, hundreds of thousands of fans and instant name recognition.

O'Neill, meanwhile, is slightly better known than the person who served you your last cup of coffee.

Aside from the fact he and Del Rey are both involved in the entertainment business, it's hard to see what they have in common -- though, judging by pictures, they both have lovely shiny hair, so they could always talk about that.

Perhaps Del Rey secretly craves the company of someone who doesn't buy into her femme fatale shtick and isn't obsessed with fame (and O'Neill, it is fair to state, knows about as much about fame as you or I do about landing a 747).

It's a persuasive theory. And yet it doesn't tally with the reality, which is that, for a considerable stretch now, celebs of every stripe have been waving a flag for bizarro romance.

Indeed, recent years have marked a discernible trend towards celebrity odd couples -- hook-ups that, from the outside, shouldn't have gone further than a cursory fumble in the cloakroom queue.

There's the curious marriage of pop singer Mandy Moore, she of the blinding grin and bottomless reserves of perkiness, and Ryan Adams, a moody troubadour who nearly kicked his career into the kerb via excessive partying.

In interviews, Adams has explained that he and his wife have a shared passion for heavy metal, which certainly makes a difference from the usual celebrity couple therapy. Maybe Brad and Jen would never have split if they'd gone to see Megadeath more often.

Then again, Pitt knew a few things about outside-the-box pairings long before he got hitched to Aniston. Incredibly, in the 1980s, he stepped out with forgotten pop singer Sinitta, she -- more bonkers yet -- on the rebound from Simon Cowell.

Yes, we know this sounds like a Wikipedia factoid that somebody put in as a joke. But it happened.

Just as unlikely, at face value, is the ongoing loved-up-ness between Keira Knightley and fiancé James Righton of Klaxons, a band you will, in all likelihood, not have heard of unless you used to play bass for them.

What's the attraction? If recent tete-a-tetes with the media are any clue, Knightley was wooed by Righton's relatively conventional life.

One of the world's most-photographed women, it would appear she is drawn to the unassuming keyboardist precisely because his routine is so lacking in glamour.

No fashion parties, no running battles with the paps. His idea of a swish night out is a few pints and a gig in a dingy club -- an itinerary which, to the jaded Knightley, must feel head-spinningly exotic.

An appreciation of a quiet evening in probably isn't the thing that connects Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, you fancy.

The world's mouthiest rapper and queen of trash TV, this is one of those pairings with WTF? daubed all over it in bright lipstick.

Still, at least they are united in their passion for bling. As Kim joined Kanye for his 35th birthday celebrations in Dublin earlier in the year, it was announced she'd brought him a $750,000 (€576,140) Lamborghini as a present.

We hear she had quite a job hiding it under the stairs the day he came home from work early.

While no longer together, the argument could be made that Russell Brand and Katy Perry, too, belong in this category of love. For sure, on the outside they seem like variations on the same 'please look at me!' theme.

For all their attention-seeking qualities, though, under the hood the two were very different.

He was a former fat kid with a history of drug abuse and self-destruction (he lost his job as an MTV presenter by going to work the day after 9/11 dressed as Osama Bin Laden).

She was a one-time Christian singer whose cleavage-in-your-face shtick was presented with so many winks and nudges it was hard to take remotely seriously.

After news of their get-together broke, the general reaction was that it couldn't possibly last. Well, it turns out we were right. The fact they were together long enough to make a go of it was probably an achievement in itself.

Age is no obstacle to bizarro celebrity love. Film director Sam Taylor-Wood is some 20 years older than her husband, Aaron Taylor-Johnson (in a reversal of the convention, he has taken her name).

They met on the set of her film 'Nowhere Boy', when he was a tender 19. Twelve months later, they were hitched and expecting their first child.

In a slightly different category are what might be called the 'skeleton in the closet' romances. Not that either party has anything to be embarrassed about. It's just that their public personas are so divergent it's hard to imagine them sharing the same time zone, let alone the same bed.

Alongside the aforementioned Pitt-Sinitta alliance, this category also includes Tom Cruise and Cher (again, not a Wikipedia malfunction), Ryan Gosling and Sandra Bullock (together in 2002), Lance Armstrong and Ashley Olsen (the age difference a mere 15 years), and balding musician Moby and Natalie Portman.

He got a lot of hate from 'Star Wars' fans, prompting the comment "you don't date Luke Skywalker's mom and not have them hate your guts".

And what about the future Mr Scarlett Johansson, Ryan Reynolds, and his five-year stepping-out with tortured songwriter Alanis Morissette?

By all accounts their break-up left her existentially distraught. Still, at least she got a good album out of it, her 2005 LP 'Flavours of Entanglement' being, by all accounts, a lament for the toughest break-up of her life (which, as anyone familiar with her repertoire will tell you, is truly saying something).

What's interesting about all this is that, it's the relationships that, on paper, ought to last forever that often turn out to be the duds.

The (relatively) short-lived Aniston-Pitt axis looked, literally, like a match made in Hollywood heaven. And say what you like about Tom Cruise's bizarre behaviour at the time, but when he got together with Katie Holmes it did have the whiff of the Real Thing.

For their part, as the two biggest young movie stars, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart should have been made for one another.

And at first it seemed this was the case. Then K-Stew was snapped canoodling -- and there truly is no other word for it -- with the 41-year-old (married ) director of 'Snow White and the Huntsman', Rupert Sanders.

Is there a lesson here? Only this: if something looks too good to be true, then maybe it is.

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