The year fades away (last ember in fireplace, puff of smoke), but, like an itch at the back of the throat that's driving you mad, the celebrity memories linger. We hope this review of the year in celebdom will exorcise their ghosts. At least until next year.

Love's labors ...

Celebs fall in love just like commoners. They even marry - over and over and over again.

The best weddings were secret. Just ask Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who picked up a marriage license on April Fool's Day. Everyone knew about their super-secret nuptials (75 boxes of cream-colored orchids! screamed Us Weekly). But Jayoncé, whose $162 million fortune makes them Forbes mag's richest couple of the year, only recently fessed up.

Mariah "Call me Mimi" Carey and Nick Cannon were so spontaneous about their April 30 wedding in the Bahamas, Nick's mum never knew about it. Those wild and crazy kids have tattooed each other's names - hers across his upper back, his on the small of hers.

And who says you can't find class at Wal-Mart? That's where The Velvet Teddy Bear (Ruben Studdard) met his cutie pie, Surata Zuri McCants, in '06. The couple wed in June in the American Idol star's hometown, Birmingham, Ala.

Are Samantha Ronson and Lindsay Lohan lovers? Are they in a deep, soulful, committed sexual relationship? After hinting that they complete each other (as it were), SamRo denied they are anything but friends. Then came more hints.

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi married on Aug. 16, after the California Supreme Court overturned the ban on same-sex marriage. Both wore Zac Posen outfits - Ellen a pantsuit, Portia a pink dress. (A ballot initiative later outlawed same-sex marriage, leading to protests from numerous boldfacers.)

Former pop sweetheart Olivia Newton-John, 59, and natural-health businessman John Easterling, 56, weren't content with a secret wedding. They had two super-secret ceremonies this summer: an Incan ceremony atop a mountain outside Peru, followed by a little beach party in Florida.

Somehow, it seems perfectly natural that some B-list knucklehead would stage a fake wedding as a publicity stunt. Thus The Hills costars Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, who had not one but two fake weddings this month. Their much publicized yet supposedly spontaneous elopement in Mexico was followed by a made-for-TV scene in a court of law. Outside court hours.

Other boldfacers who married in '08 included Grey's Anatomy star Katherine Heigl and rocker Josh Kelley; Chris Kattan and Sunshine Tutt (in Yosemite Valley, Calif., no less); hip-hop genius Timbaland and p.r. pro Monique Idlett; Jessica Alba, who was pregnant, and her baby's da, Cash Warren; The Donald's lost Great Love, Ivana Trump, and her fourth husband, boy toy Rossano Rubicondi, who is 24 years younger; and Katherine McPhee, 23, and producer Nick Cokas, who is 19 years her senior. Last but not least, American Pie's geek sex symbol, Jason Biggs, who did unspeakable things with turkeys and pies, wed actress Jenny Mollen in April.

. . . labors lost

There's nothing like a classic love triangle to liven up a dull day.

Madonna

and

Guy Ritchie

divorced this year after months of rumors that the Material Girl had been carrying on with married New York Yankees star

Alex Rodriguez

. A-Rod's wife,

Cynthia

, filed for divorce in July. A-Rod denies that he and Madge were anything but friends while he was married.

Brangelina vs. Jennifer Aniston: This triangle should have been resolved in '05, when Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston divorced. But the bad blood seems to live on. Or does it?

Brad and Angelina Jolie, who are raising a brood of six, say they are the privatest of private people. Yet, fortunately, they manage to steel themselves and reveal their grandest passions in time for the next movie debut. This month Brad told some 12,000 media outlets how deeply he loves Angie, just as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button hit the multiplex. And Aniston is sharing her pain over Brad (it's been three years, babe!) in time for her box-office killer, Marley & Me.

Speaking of Jen, the Friends alum has woven quite a tangled tale regarding her young lover, John Mayer.

We're not sure if they're still together. The couple had a four-month fling this year, then broke up, only to get back together last month. Then they spent the holidays on opposite sides of the continent (oh, my!). Now the tabloids are rabid with breakup stories.

A similar situation plagues the Jimmy Kimmel-Sarah Silverman matchup. The two comics quit each other after five years. Before long there were rumors that Sarah, who once told People their relationship worked "because we really, really, really like each other," was seeing Jimmy again. They say they are friends and won't comment.

Taylor Swift, who scored a hit on the country charts with "Love Story," had a rude awakening. Her sometime boyfriend, Joe Jonas, dumped her over the phone. What's worse is that Taylor says Joe's call lasted all of 27 seconds. At least he didn't just text her.

Two long-term relationships died in '08. Morgan Freeman is divorcing Myrna Colley-Lee after 24 years of marriage. They have yet to share any details. Things are considerably uglier in Bill Murray's life. His wife of 10 years, Jennifer Butler Murray, sued him for divorce in May, citing drug addiction, physical abuse and adultery.

Star Jones, who caused a nasty p.r. ruckus when she used her '04 wedding to Al Reynolds to shill product (and land herself a bucketload of freebies), decided to call it quits this March. She has since been linked by the tabloids to Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade.

Hugh Hefner's gal pal, Holly Madison, who is about half a century younger than he is, shocked the world by leaving the Playboy magnate. She says she wanted babies. Reportedly they tried. Hugh is consoling himself with blond twins.

Tragedies most foul

Amy Winehouse

: Drugs, drugs, drugs, rehab, drugs, rehab, drugs, drugs, rehab, drugs, failing health (signs of early-stage emphysema), drugs, divorce (her ex,

Blake Fielder-Civil

, spent the better part of the year in jail), rehab. In one of many lows this year, Amy was caught on camera smoking what appears to be crack cocaine.

Heath Ledger and Bernie Mac died, well before their time.

Jennifer Hudson faced death of another sort. The Oscar-winning actress and singer's 57-year-old mother, Darnell Donerson, the singer's 29-year-old brother, Jason, and her 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, were murdered in October.

Babies for sale

Last year, celebrities had babies by the bushel. This year they reaped the rewards of their labors with a disturbing scam: selling exclusive rights to their baby pics to the highest bidder. (Sure, the proceeds usually go to charity, but there's something a little mercenary about the whole thing.)

Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony made a killing in March with twins Max and Esme, whose photos reportedly fetched between $5 million and $6 million from People.

But, as with all things p.r., Brangelina broke J. Lo's record with their twins, Knox and Vivienne, born in France on July 12. Rights for their first images were jointly sold to People and Hello! mags for $14 million, reportedly the highest fee ever for celeb babies.

People paid Clay Aiken a paltry half a million for pics of his son, Parker, whom he made with his platonic pal, Jaymes Foster. The baby didn't even really earn the money himself - People was willing to pay that price because Clay was giving them the (not-so) exclusive scoop that he is gay.

Finally, Matthew McConaughey can buy some shirts. The perennially topless studmeister bagged $3 million from OK! for pics of Levi, his son with model Camilla Alves.

Celebrity sis Jamie Lynn Spears was a squeaky-clean 16-year-old when OK! mag broke the story last December that the Nickolodeon star was pregnant. Spears quickly became engaged to the baby's dad, Casey Aldridge. OK! paid the couple $1 million for photos of Maddie Briann Aldridge, born June 19.

Other babies whose souls were captured and sold to the mags include Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott's daughter, Stella Doreen (OK! mag), and Jessica Alba and Cash Warren's daughter, Honor Marie Warren, who fetched $1.5 million, also from OK!

A category of her own

That'd be

Tina "Sarah Palin" Fey

, writer, comedian and actress who struck gold this year with her imitation of former GOP veep candidate

Sarah Palin

. Tina, who stars in the acclaimed TV comedy

30 Rock

, revitalized

Saturday Night Live

with her gentle mockery of Palin. The Upper Darby High alum just sold her proposal for a collection of comic essays for $6 million.

Coda: Celeb-watchers, beware

We leave you with a warning from noted celeb theorist

Nietzsche

: "When you look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you."

Contact staff writer Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or tirdad@phillynews.com