Playback 

Playback generally refrains from nosing around in celebrity bedrooms, figuring that’s a job best left to TMZ and Rob Lowe’s ex-nanny. But we couldn’t help but notice last week’s announcement that country-pop superstar Shania Twain and her husband of 14 years, Robert “Mutt” Lange, are calling it quits.

As we all know, sham marriages have been all the rage in Hollywood for years, and, really, you’re nobody in that town until you’ve been through at least one. But for all the conjecture that accompanied Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, the nuptials of Shania and Mutt always seemed like the shammiest of all.

Here’s the back story: Shania released her debut album in 1993, to a collective yawn from the country-music intelligentsia. But Mutt, a veteran producer best known for taking AC/DC and Def Leppard to multi-platinum glory, saw her early videos, sensed something in his manhood stirring, and began to stalk her in that charming, legally-acceptable way that music bizzers sometimes do: He wrote her gushing fan letters, said he wanted to meet her, and popped up at a Nashville fan fair.

Within a few months, they were a songwriting team, a production juggernaut, and a married couple. Mutt’s fine-tuned canine ears enabled him to take Shania to levels of popularity never imagined by a female country singer. And Shania’s too-sexy-for-Nashville looks and major-league pipes made Mutt relevant again.

Only one suspicious thing about the romance: Mutt’s a big old weirdo, a veritable Howard Hughes of shlock pop. We know he’s an old dude, but there’s little visual confirmation of this fact, because he hasn’t allowed himself to be photographed in decades. And he’s refused to appear in public with Shania or participate in any interviews. Hell, the only aural proof that the guy really exists is his “Gunter glieben glauchen globen” intro on Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages.”

The Muttster is also famous/infamous for his ridiculously controlling perfectionism in the studio. During the recording of Pyromania, he drove Joe Elliott to tears by forcing him to endlessly recut his vocal parts, and spent months pushing drummer Rick Allen (at a time when he still had two arms!) to perfect one measure of music.

By all accounts, Shania is no afternoon at the paleta cart, either. Maybe these two ruthless, driven people meshed perfectly for years, until Shania woke up one morning and realized that she was sharing the pillow with grandpa. In any case, if the whole thing was nothing but a marriage-of-convenience sham, you’ve got to admire them for keeping up appearances for 14 years.


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