How Lauren Sanchez went from TV anchor to ‘the other woman’

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On Aug. 20, 2005, a crowd of A-listers — including Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Jessica Alba — watched as Lauren Sanchez, an “Extra” correspondent, sashayed down the aisle to tie the knot with their Hollywood mega-agent Patrick Whitesell.

Fellow Whitesell client Hugh Jackman belted out “Mack the Knife” at the star-studded $2 million bash in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The newlyweds celebrated with a sexy rumba and a long kiss. As Sanchez told People, “I’d always ask my friends, ‘How do you know it’s the right one?’ Then when I met Patrick, I told them, ‘I so get it.’”

Fast forward to 2019. The blushing bride is now the “other woman” at the center of what is set to be the world’s most expensive divorce, between Jeff Bezos and his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie.

As a source who has been friendly with Whitesall and Sanchez told The Post exclusively: “None of this comes as a surprise. Patrick is one of the most loved, talented and respected men in Hollywood. Nobody would say anything bad about him. [Before marrying, he] was the most eligible bachelor in Hollywood! All the girls wanted him.
“But we never quite trusted Lauren. It’s hard to put into words, but anyone in Hollywood will tell you that.”.

Patrick and Lauren Whitesell
Patrick and Lauren WhitesellWireImage

According to another source familiar with the affair, “Although they were having issues and separated, Patrick had been suspicious for a while. But he really only found out the extent of Lauren’s betrayal recently. MacKenzie Bezos also had her suspicions.”

After reportedly hooking up about nine months ago, Bezos and Sanchez spent months enjoying trysts across the country including romantic hikes and five-star hotel hideaways, intimate dinners and flying in Bezos’ $65 million private jet, according to the National Enquirer.

The Post can reveal the two even took a couple’s trip to the famed Beauty Park Spa in Santa Monica, Calif., in October, where celebrity favorite “Nurse Jamie” Sherrill offers rejuvenating treatments including Botox, fillers and lasers.

Eventually, Sanchez couldn’t keep the affair to herself, showing friends Bezos’ X-rated selfies and sexts — including one that read: “I love you, alive girl. I will show you with my body, and my lips and my eyes, very soon.”

Finally caught out, Sanchez and Bezos are in the relationship for keeps, said the source familiar with the affair.

“Lauren and Jeff are very much an item,” the source said. “Jeff is an idiot for the way he’s handled things, but this is the real deal. I will bet anything that they will get married.”

Meanwhile, Sanchez and Whitesell, who have a 12-year-old son, Evan, and a 10-year-old daughter, Ella, have both hired noted celebrity attorney Laura Wasser to mediate their own divorce.

“Even though he and Lauren have two kids, [Whitesell] is not about to be taken to the cleaners by her when she’s likely to marry the world’s richest man,” said a Hollywood insider.

This is all a far cry from Sanchez’s humble beginnings. The 49-year-old is a third-generation Mexican-American who was raised in Albuquerque, N.M. As she told the Hollywood Reporter in 2017, “I used to sleep in the back of my grandmother’s car when she would go clean houses.”

Growing up, she went by her given first name, Wendy. Sanchez headed to California after graduation, attending El Camino Community College and then receiving a scholarship to the University of Southern California. Next she moved to Phoenix to work as a local TV anchor and reporter before moving onto national gigs at “Extra” and Fox Sports.

“When I first became a reporter, I did it because there was no one else I thought that looked like me,” Sanchez told “Extra” last year.
Her ambition drew attention, an “Extra” source told The Post.

“When Lauren first came in, she was known as Wendy. She wore a fire-engine red dress cut so low it left nothing to the imagination. She was a mover and shaker even then.”

Along the way, she met Tony Gonzalez, a former tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, with whom she had a son, 17-year-old Nikko. She also became engaged to “NYPD Blue” actor Henry Simmons.

Lauren in Las Vegas in 2012.
Lauren in Las Vegas in 2012.FilmMagic

Then she met Whitesell, the executive chairman of media powerhouse talent agency William Morris Endeavor (WME). “He was a real step up in the world from Tony,” said the “Extra” source.

“[Sanchez is] very smart about men — but not much else,” the source added. “She really couldn’t pronounce a lot of the simplest words in the scripts. But she is energetic and super fun. She’s got a great body. She’s a real guys’ girl.”

Whitesell and Sanchez dated for two years before marrying and conceiving their first child in 2005. That same year Sanchez was the original presenter on the Fox show “So You Think You Can Dance.” But, she was left fuming after being told Cat Deeley would be taking over the gig because she was pregnant. (Fox executives later disputed the explanation, insisting it was said in jest by show producer Nigel Lythgoe.)

Sanchez returned to “Extra” in 2009 as a weekend anchor and special correspondent and co-hosted “Good Day LA,” a Fox-affiliate morning show, from 2011 to 2017. She also made a number of film appearances, portraying news anchors for movies including “White House Down,” “Ted 2” and “We Bought A Zoo.”

More recently, Sanchez has been working as a helicopter pilot — she once told the Hollywood Reporter it was her “calling” — specializing in aerial filming. All three of her children are said to have taken flying lessons.

The brunette first met her lover through her husband.

Bezos and Whitesell had teamed up on the 2016 Amazon film “Manchester by the Sea,” which won Casey Affleck the Oscar for best actor and director Kenneth Lonergan the Oscar for best original screenplay.

Sanchez and Whitesell were also neighbors with the Bezoses, with both couples owning homes on Mercer Island, Wash.

Bezos made a play for Sanchez at a 2016 holiday party that he threw with Matt Damon to celebrate “Manchester by the Sea,” said the source familiar with the affair.

WME's Patrick Whitesell, Lauren Sanchez and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Patrick Whitesell, Lauren Sanchez and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, 2016.Getty Images

As they got to know each other, helicopter pilot Sanchez and Bezos, who owns space company Blue Origin, bonded over their love of flight. Patrick actually suggested they work together on Blue Origin, and Bezos hired Sanchez to film aerial shots promoting the company.

That’s when Bezos started pursuing Lauren seriously, a source told Page Six. “He’s like a teenage boy in love, totally smitten — and Lauren thrived off the attention.”

She also liked to flaunt her association with the richest man in the world.

A Fox insider in Los Angeles said, “Lauren came in a few months ago… and said she was doing a documentary on Jeff Bezos. ‘Good Day LA’ [producers] told her they’d love to send a crew to shoot her shooting Jeff — but she told them ‘Jeff is very private and he won’t let anyone near him but me.’” (Amazon and Sanchez did not return calls seeking comment.)

In November 2018, Bezos and Sanchez told their spouses about their affair and were seen “making out like teenagers” at Hollywood power spot Felix in Venice, Calif., Page Six reported. Sanchez and Bezos also attended the Golden Globe Awards together last Sunday.

On Monday, Bezos posted on Twitter that he and his wife were splitting “after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation.” (However, he and his wife were seen celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary at a Miami nightclub in September.)

Now that the secret’s out, Whitesell and MacKenzie Bezos need to figure out their next moves.

Whitesell — whose client list includes Christian Bale, Michelle Williams, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Costner and Jared Leto — has “found himself in a rare position for a big power player… he’s now the subject of a major media storm,” said another Hollywood source close to WME.

“He advises clients how to stay out of this kind of position. He’s never had this kind of scrutiny before. People close to him say he’s really embarrassed, particularly because Bezos was a friend.

“And even worse, there’s no way Patrick or his big clients can avoid Amazon and Bezos.”

Additional reporting by Merle Ginsberg

2019-01-12 18:40:00

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