Following weeks of rumors, both lascivious and vicious (read: tons of free publicity),

Alex Rodriguez

, 33, has spoken up about his putative love affair with the world's most predictable taboo-bender,

Madonna

. And the word from A-Rod is

Plato

- as in

platonic

.

"We're friends - that's it," the Yankee star tells People. A-Rod says he finds reports linking him to the 50-year-old laughable: "I've . . . read that we were buying an apartment together. That is absolutely ridiculous."

A-Rod, who settled an amicable divorce from his wife

Cynthia

in September, says he

does

have a deep (albeit asexual) connection with Madonna.

It's a deep

philanthropic

connection.

A-Rod says he recently found that he and Madge "shared a lot of the same commitments toward helping children." That revelation, he says, led him to become a major supporter of Madonna's Raising Malawi charity.

Now, isn't that the purest thing you've heard, you dirty-minded gossip addicts?

Bits 'n' pieces . . .

Jennifer Aniston

's beau,

John Mayer

, will donate proceeds from his annual Holiday Acoustic Revue, a solo performance tonight in Lalaland, to Toys for Tots and the Los Angeles Food Bank.

Jennifer Hudson

, 27, whose musical success has been overshadowed by the slayings of her mother, brother and nephew in October, says receiving four Grammy nominations for her self-titled album "is truly a blessing."

People mag says

Mark Ruffalo

's bro,

Scott

, 39, who was shot in the head on Monday, is in "very serious condition" at an L.A. hospital. Police are seeking two "persons of interest" for questioning in the shooting.

The indie flick

Slumdog Millionaire

was named best picture of the year by the National Board of Review.

Anne Hathaway

nabbed the best-actress prize for

Rachel Getting Married

, while

Clint Eastwood

won best actor for

Gran Torino

.

Us Weekly says

American Idol

's resident goofball,

Paula Abdul

, is selling her house, less than a month after an apparently unbalanced fan killed herself nearby.

'Jackass' can dance?

What does

Steve-O

, the London-born yob whose claim to fame is acting like a mental job on camera, have in common with that graceful, dimpled hottie

Brooke Burke

?

Dancing With the Stars

, baby!

In a scary report, TMZ.com says the

Jackass

star "has verbally agreed to appear on the show next season - and has even auditioned." Can't wait to see the dude set himself on fire and spin around the floor in some

Jackass

imitation of the Whirling Dervishes.

This column contains information from Inquirer wire services. Contact "SideShow" at sideshow@phillynews.com.