A lot of people thought maybe I wouldn’t make it,” Britney Spears was saying. It was opening night of her new tour in New Orleans and she’d just come off stage after a stunning performance in front of a sold-out house of 35,000 people. “People thought I was finished, didn’t they?” she asked me. “I guess for a while last year it looked that way.” She shrugged her shoulders and smiled. “Nothing I can do about the past, I guess. But I’m hoping to prove them wrong now. And I have really put everything I have into this new show.”
The new show she’s speaking of is The Circus Starring Britney Spears, and the trouble she’s talking about was her much-reparsed struggle with her mental health, which saw her spend time in hospital and ended with her father Jamie taking control of her affairs. However, though she’s now determined to give a great performance, Britney is not about to lose sight of what’s really important in her life.
“Number one priority for me? My kids.” She says. “They come first. If the boys are okay, everything else falls into place.”
DOING IT FOR THE KIDS
Nothing makes Britney lights up more than when someone mentions her children, the precocious Preston, three and mischievous Jayden, two.
Earlier this year, when it seemed lawyers could not agree on whether or not her children would be able to travel with her for the show, Britney, 27, threatened to pull the plug on the entire tour rather than leave them behind in Los Angeles.
Eventually she won the right to have them join her on the road, and she took the boys with her last week to the Caribbean during a break from performances. The singer was also snapped splashing in the surf and relaxing on the beach with her agent Jason Trawick, to whom is she said to have become very close. Those around her say there’s nothing to rumours of a romance, though there’s undeniably a flirtation there. Certainly at such an important point in her career, Jamie - who has control of her personal as well as professional life - will not allow her to get into anything serious. Nonetheless, Jason is clearly close to Britney’s sons and was photographed carrying and cuddling them on the family’s sunshine holiday in the Bahamas.
“Really, the thing that matters most to Britney is the boys.” Explained her manager Larry Rudolph. “They are her life, those kids I think her back on stage has been important, yes. In fact, it’s been very therapeutic for her. But it’s the kids that keep her going, no doubt about that.”
Also with Britney on this most important tour has been her ex-husband Kevin Federline, 30, still has primary custody of the boys, though Britney is now allowed so much access to them as she wants.
“It was once a week, then twice a week, then three times,” says a source inside the Spears camp. “But she’s doing so well now, it’s pretty much all the time - or as much time as she has, considering her crazy touring schedule.”
The European leg of the Circus tour kicks off in London on 3 June for eight nights before gigs in Manchester, Dublin, and the Continent. It’s reported that Britney has taken over a £1,100-a-night penthouse suite at The Dorchester for her stint in the capital with fresh flowers that she can arrange herself and DVDs of her favorite Marilyn Monroe movies.
Some reports also suggest all junk food has been banned. Not true, Britney has been staying in shape by eating sensibly, but her children are certainly not on a diet, and neither is anyone else. I noticed fruit platters backstage in New Orleans, as well as juices and diet sodas - but also plenty of cookies.
“I sure could use a chocolate-chip cookie,” Britney joked. “But I’m trying to be good. But after this tour, watch out!”
Whether the boys will accompany their mother on London remains to be seen. Both have their passports ready and Britney is planning on taking them. However Jayden has had a cold for three weeks and his parents are afraid it could run into a breaching problem. If he stays behind, so does Preston.
Earlier this year Britney received some words of wisdom from fellow pop parent, mother of three Madonna, who paid her a surprise visit backstage after one of her shows in New York.
“Madonna gave Britney some great advice about the kids,” says a dancer on her tour. “Keep them close by when you’re on the road.” She told her. “I have always taken my kids on the road with me. It’s a life they learn to accept as long as they’re with their mom.”
Apparently, Britney mentioned to Madonna she was concerned all the raveling might be too immense for the boys, Madonna agreed. “Kids get little colds and they can get cranky.” She told Britney. “But you want to look back on these years and know they were with you. They’ll look back on these years, too. And they’ll be very glad to have these memories, believe me.”
“I do think it’s about history,” Britney said at the end of her New York dates. “What we as others are doing is creating this history with our kids that we can look back on and say, “yeah, that was hard. But it was fun because we did it together.” When they’re adults, I want my kids to say, “Wow, my mom was working so hard, but she was always there for us.” That’s what I want to hear 20 years from now.”
So whether it’s taking them to an amusement park in a city where she is performing, or taking them shopping or on a picnic - or even, as our exclusive picture shows, to a water park in the Caribbean - Britney is intent on making every moment count. “She wants them around all the time,” says the source. “Except, maybe not for parts of the show that she thinks are so suggestive…”
The show features a fun-paced mix of songs from her recent platinum selling CDs Blackout and Circus, as well as generous helping of hit records such as Toxic and I’m a Slave 4 U. there’s a lot of bumping and grinding going on, and Britney wears the skimpiest of costumes - a gold-plated corset and a black, bare-midriff dominatrix (?) outfit among them.
“A couple of times along the way, Lynne [Britney’s mother] has taken the boys out of the arena when the show goes a little outrageous.” Says one of Britney’s intimates. “But for the some part, the kids are there and Lynne - who is on the road for many of the dates - and Kevin are with them, saying, “There’s Mommy. Clap for Mommy. Yay!” the kids love it.”
Whether this is a scene that will be repeated at Britney’s London shows is still uncertain.
“We’re working out the logistics of that,” says manager Larry Rudolph. “I’m pretty sure they will be with us. It’s what we all want. But it depends on how complicated it becomes and whether Britney thinks it will be in the boys’ best interest. So, we’ll see. We’ve been through a lot, and there are few other things we’re dealing right now.”
Though he didn’t say as much, Larry is likely talking about the behind-the-scene melodrama of (cut) and was in the news for her serious emotional problems including a mood disorder.
At the time, it was reliably reported that she was battling a bipolar condition. Though that diagnosis was never officially confirmed, her father Jamie will say this much about the terrible period. “Her life was pretty well a disaster. She had nothing going on, just mostly being in the tabloids. She was kind of wild; very messed up.”
“If ever a father proved his love for his child, Jamie did,” adds another source close to the family. “He stepped up to the plate, established a co-conservatorship to take care of her, got rid of the bad people around her and - well, look at her now. She’s thriving. It’s a miracle.”
Jamie’s control over Britney’s (cut) February last year and made permanent in October.
“She’s on the right meds, and everything is good,” comment one family member. “But we know we have to be careful, so there’s a cautious operations (?)…,”
perhaps there is good reason for caution, Jamie has been battling with two of Britney’s former friends - Adnan Ghalib, the paparazzo she dated last year in the midst of her emotional chaos; and Sam Lufti, her unofficial manager during that time.
Last month Sam was ordered to stay away from her for three years and now Jamie, determined to keep both men away from his daughter, is seeking a permanent restraining order against him and Adnan.
Both men certainly seem not to want to leave Britney alone, saying she herself wants them in her life, having been in secret phone and text contact.
Hello! Can reveal that (?), head of Britney’s security, keeps a binder of the names and whereabouts of people he feels are a threat to Britney, and that Adnan and Sam are top of the list. (?) says that when the two started trying to establish contact with Britney again, the pop star was so scared that she began losing sleep over the situation.
THE FUTURE’S BRIGHT
Today, when asked about the two men, all Britney will do is shake her head sadly. It’s clear she’s had enough of them both and just wants to concentrate on her new life, her show… and her boys.
“Toys and games are an important part of the Circus tour as the stage props.” Says another source. “And two nannies make sure everything is okay.”
“Kevin has been great, as always.” Jamie Lynn - Britney’s younger sister - told me in New Orleans. “he and Britney have become best friends. She knows how much he cares about the boys, and he knows the same is true of her.”
“Kev also gets along great with Mom and Dad, so it’s one big happy family pulling together.” Added another source. “Everyone just wants to make sure this tour is successful for Britney and that she has the comeback she deserves.”
“I’m happy,” Britney told me after the show. “Truly, I feel like the girl who has it all. I have my family, my boys, my friends, my fans… this show. But most importantly,” she concluded with a warm smile, “I’m not sad anymore. I was just so sad for so long, but not anymore. And you know what? That feels really, really good.”