Well, Judy Barnaby and the folks at the Antique Center of Red Bank are looking like pretty good judges of character right now, contrary to the cynical intepretations by some regarding events at the store last Friday.

Judy and her colleagues were visited by Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa that afternoon, something that’s happened innumerable times over the past two decades. Store employees and antiques dealers chatted with the couple, got a hug or two, and sat ‘enthralled’ with the few customers present while Bruce and Patti put on a scruffy little performance with some old string instruments they found in the stalls.

The dealers even talked with Patti and Bruce about a blind item that appeared the day before in the New York Post, which reported the couple was about to split up because of an alleged affair between Springsteen and an unnamed Sept. 11 widow. The story was ‘ridiculous,’ Scialfa and Springsteen both said.

Afterward, and with evident reluctance, Barnaby and her colleagues broke their usual omerta about their celebrity customers to tell redbankgreen, in an exclusive, that the couple looked as happy as they ever have, no matter what the Post said.

Now, either Scialfa and Springsteen are playing a masterful game of PR manipulation—and doing an impressive acting job—or Judy Barnaby & Co. have pretty good radar.

In a message posted today over his signature at his website, Springsteen writes:

I hesitate to use this website for anything personal believing it should remain a place where fans of my music can come free of the distractions that occasionally arise with the rest of my job.
However, due to the unfounded and ugly rumors that have appeared in the papers over the last few days, I felt they shouldn’t pass without comment. Patti and I have been together for 18 years- the best 18 years of my life. We have built a beautiful family we love and want to protect and our commitment to one another remains as strong as the day we were married.

So here’s a question: How will the New York Post spin the story now?

Will it claim that its sources are better than Bruce’s? Problematic, that approach.

Maybe the Page Sixers will claim that Bruce is flat-out lying about his and Patti’s ‘commitment’ to each other; you’ll notice, of course, that he doesn’t deny the rumor of a dalliance, and thus far, Patti’s site carries no equivalent posting. Or maybe they’ll say he’s deluding himself about truths the Post has an inside line on.

Perhaps the tabloid will take the “Time will tell,’ approach, as though events in the future might vindicate its action of last week.

It would be interesting to watch the Murdoch worms squirm, but odds are they’ll simply walk away from the story. That’s what snipers do: shoot and leave.

Meanwhile, Judy Barnaby and a small group of dealers and customers have a priceless memory of … well, here’s how Judy put it:

Bruce was strumming an old guitar, and Patti was strumming an old mandolin, and they were singing and cuttin’ up and have a good time.

You heard it here first.

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