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TROUBLE IN SHEEN CITY

I noted recently in People magazine that one of the most loved and respected actors in America, Martin Sheen and his wife, Janet, offered a defense of their son, Charlie Sheen. If you read gossip columns, I'm sure you know there is an unpleasant situation in which his wife, actress Denise Richards, is suing Charlie for divorce. She is the mother of his young daughter and the mother-to-be of another baby due in June.

Charlie, starring in the hot CBS hit "Two and a Half Men," has been plunged into a maelstrom by this unhappy turn of events. His marriage to Denise is only a few years old and he entered into it seeming to be a reformed man. But Us Weekly has reported that Charlie still has sex, drug and gambling problems.

The good-looking star hasn't had much to say about his young wife. So, although I know neither Denise nor Charlie -- I do want to put my two cents into this argument.

What I do know is people who work on Charlie's TV show, people who would be the very first to know the facts about the actor. These people depend on Charlie for their livelihoods, so they are acutely aware of his behavior. They remember when, some months ago, Charlie came to work, called them together and said, "I want to tell you some news right now so you don't have to hear it elsewhere and wonder if it's true or not. We (and he emphasized the "we") are pregnant!" He seemed really ecstatic.

Most of Charlie's co-workers feel that, contrary to rumor, Charlie is a very good father. He's crazy about his daughter, Sam, avidly interested in being a dad and in going about his life with what they describe as "beautiful manners. ... He conducts himself in a discreet way ... he is quiet and a modest leader, but a leader he is, respected by his company and crew." One of them adds, "Charlie has often spoken of how his life changed and all he learned after his days in rehab. He is clearly a man who now wants a purpose-driven life." Another adds, "He is so stable at work, so hardworking and aware, as to be exemplary. He couldn't be indulging in much of anything and still show up in the way he does. He works hard all day and has tons of lines to learn at night. He has a hit on his hands and he is determined to make the most of it."

Charlie Sheen knows that his history of wild ways will always haunt him. But somehow, in this case, it doesn't seem quite fair. And nobody knows what Charlie actually thinks about his young wife's insisting on divorce because he won't say a word. His co-workers believe that her request for a divorce has "taken him by surprise!"

And they also believe that his chief concern now is for the welfare of his children.

Last weekend in L.A., Gray Davis, the ex-governor of California, hosted an intimate screening of Alex Gibney's coming documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room." Annette Bening, Warren Beatty and Sherry Lansing, the recently departed head of Paramount, were among those on the short power guest list.

Tribune Media Services

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