98 Degrees of Melodrama: A Tale of Two Lacheys

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times -- at least for the Lachey Brothers this week.

It was the age of wisdom, the epoch of belief, and the spring of hope for 29-year-old Drew, who out-hoofed an NFL legend and a pro wrestler to win "Dancing With the Stars." More TV viewers actually watched him hoist the disco-inspired mirror ball trophy over his head Sunday than closing ceremonies at the Winter Olympics. His star is clearly on the rise.

And it was the worst of times, an age of foolishness, an epoch of incredulity and the winter of despair for 32-year-old Nick, who was left explaining the end of his TV marriage to Jessica Simpson to celebrity magazines, and why he may be asking her for support, even though he's still worth several million dollars.

"Don't feel sorry for me," the elder Lachey tells Teen People, as part of his campaign to pump up his flagging career. "I have a great life."

The Lachey brothers now cross on that ladder of success, and Nick is clearly the one being kind on the way down, watching as his brother waltzed his way into history, along with more than 27 million others who tuned in for the broadcast.

The brothers are joined, not just as members of 98 Degrees but by matching armband tattoos that bear the letter "L."

But as one Lachey boy basks in success, the troubles of the other only seem more apparent. Nick was once the big success of the family. When he and Simpson turned their marriage into MTV's "Newlyweds," he was more successful than his brother or his new wife.

'It's Not the Right Time for Me'

Simpson was somehow able to leverage her reality show stardom into success as a recording star and it-girl celebrity. Perhaps it was her famous ditzy blonde routine, somehow playing her inability to distinguish a can of Chicken of the Sea from poultry into an endearing quality.

Since he filed for divorce in December, there have been many shots fired in public, with rumors of romance on both sides making headlines. But in recent weeks, Nick has begun to look desperate, seeking his share of the $35 million his 25-year-old wife has racked up, including earnings from her big screen debut last year as Daisy Duke in "The Dukes of Hazzard."

Unfortunately, the couple never signed a prenup, which Simpson may have mistaken as some sort of canned lunch meat.

In January, the most tangible part of their marriage -- the couple's Mediterranean-style house they shared on TV -- was sold to "Malcolm in the Middle" teen actor Justin Berfield for an undisclosed price.

Nick can hardly play the part of the poor abandoned spouse. He earned an estimated $5 million in 2005, but that may only make his bid for support seem more pathetic.

In Lachey's divorce papers his lawyers also checked the box that says he wants back jewelry and other personal effects. Theoretically, this would include the 3.5-carat diamond ring his wife wore on their TV show.

Rumors of their troubled marriage began when tabloids began repeatedly spotting Simpson without that ring. After months of denial, the couple finally admitted their reality show was over.

Of course, Lachey may just be asking for money and jewelry as a negotiating ploy. Divorce is ugly no matter how rich and beautiful you may be. But while that's a good tactic for most estranged spouses, he should also think about his public image.

Now, Simpson has moved into a $5 million home in Beverly Hills. She's filming her second movie, "Employee of the Month," working on another album, and is endorsing lines of makeup, clothing and shoes.

Lachey is in Bel Air, where he's developing a TV sitcom for the WB, starring as a newlywed baseball player. He's been denying rumors that he's been dating Simpson's friend and former assistant, Cacee Cobb, and has also been romantically linked to Lizzie Arnold, the former Miss Kentucky.

While a reunion with 98 Degrees is always a possibility, the music world seems to have said "Bye, Bye, Bye" to boy band pop. Lachey's plan is to get his solo career on track. "Finishing my album is the priority," he says in the upcoming issue of Cargo magazine.

"It's more rock and guitar-driven, which has allowed me to change my vocal sound a bit. It's not a crazy departure. It's not going to sound like AC/DC, with everyone like, 'What the hell is that?' It's definitely still me, but I've tried to push myself."

Lachey's also trying to make it as a TV pitchman. He'll soon be seen shirtless in an infomercial for celebrity personal trainer Gunnar Peterson, who is marketing a series of workout DVDs -- a project that netted him $500,000.

But even in the throes of divorce, Lachey is still searching for domestic bliss. On TV, he could indeed be seen as a family man, hugging his pregnant sister-in-law, Lea, as they cheered on the sidelines for the future dance champ.

But even his brother's union reflects upon his own choices. Drew and Lea met in the fifth grade, and she served as a choreographer for 98 Degrees. And while their union has withstood the challenge of working together, Nick's clearly hasn't.

Still, to his credit, he tries to keep up a brave face.

"Obviously, it's not the right time for me to be a father," Lachey tells Teen People. "But the one thing I haven't had a chance to do is be a great dad."

"Playing with my friends' kids and having them call me Uncle Nick -- that's life."