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Katie Holmes much happier after divorce from Tom Cruise

Katie Holmes

Katie Holmes

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Updated: October 27, 2012 6:15AM

T hose close to Katie Holmes­ are saying the actress seems happier than she has in years.

“You get the sense that Katie has exited some kind of weird psychological ‘exile,’ ” said a longtime associate of Tom Cruise’s ex-wife. Holmes reportedly has re-connected with many friends who she “basically had not seen in ages,” added the source.

Those include non-entertainment industry pals as well as other actors and actresses — even those from her “Dawson’s Creek” days, like

Joshua Jackson.

While Holmes is not “even thinking about dating,” said the source, “and is only focusing on [daughter] Suri, her acting career and business interests,” she also is said to be enjoying making a whole new group of acquaintances. Those include folks in the fashion world she’s come to know thanks to her Holmes & Yang clothing line and a number of major players in New York’s publishing and theater circles.

STAR SURPRISED: “I think a lot of people were in on this surprise,” Diane Lane said with a laugh Monday night at the cast party following the official opening of “Sweet Bird of Youth” at the Goodman Theatre. The surprise was her husband, Josh Brolin, slipping into town to catch her opening in the Tennessee Williams classic.

“I really had no idea he was coming,” said Lane as she happily hugged her hubby, who beamed delightedly that he had truly fooled his wife — in such a good way.

Upon hearing one wag tell her “Tennessee Williams is somewhere tonight smiling down on you — thanks to your performance,” Lane smiled.

“I certainly hope so. I sure have been praying to him every single day, since starting rehearsals,” the Oscar nominee said, acknowledging the extremely demanding role.

Among the Goodman mainstays on hand for the gala kickoff to the theater’s 88th season were board chair

Ruth Ann Gillis and Michael McGuinnis, Vicki and Bill Hood, Carol Prins and John Hart, Patricia Cox, Ken Norgan, Shawn Donnelley and Christopher Kelly, Keith and Rod Goldstein, Neal Zucker, Sunny and Gery Chico, Susan and Lewis Manilow, Helyn Goldenberg, Marcia Cohn — and longtime Goodman lovers Sandy Guthman and Nikki Will Stein for the unceasing financial support provided by the Polk Bros. Foundation, the evening’s special honorees.

INTRIGUING IDEA: Ocean County, N.J., is about to pass what’s being called “Snooki’s Law.” It’s a new local ordinance requiring production companies of reality shows — or any film or TV show that would draw large crowds of star-watchers — to pay for extra security. This all comes from the problems caused by “Jersey Shore” filming, requiring local police departments to dip into very limited resources to provide extra security.

While apparently no one in Illinois has brought this up, I am hearing lawmakers in California and New York are looking into passing similar legislation to help offset those costs.

BYNES BITTER? Friends, family members and longtime business associates of Amanda Bynes continue to be baffled by the former child star, who now says acting is behind her and she’s going into the fashion biz. The reason for the concern: Bynes’ self-imposed isolation from those to whom she was once close — even a few months ago.

POL PATTER: Earlier this year, President Obama once-strong support from entertainment world stars appeared to be waning a bit, but clearly the president’s big “Hollywood Connection” is back on track, as shown by all the star-studded fund-raisers in recent months.The next big one will be a concert fund-raiser at L.A.’s Nokia Theatre, where

Jon Bon Jovi and Our Town’s Jennifer Hudson will perform. It’s happening Oct. 7.

SPECIAL TRIBUTE: The new Bernie Mac Star Sarcoidosis Clinic at UIC will be dedicated Oct. 5 — on what would have been the actor and comedian’s 55th birthday.“It’s been a long time coming, a lot of sweat and tears, but we did it,” said Mac’s widow,

Rhonda McCullough, president of the foundation named for her late husband.

The clinic will work with doctors and research scientists at the University of Illinois who are working to find a cure for the disease that claimed Mac’s life in 2008.

BOOK BEAT: A new humorous book series by Publishing Syndicate will launch nationally Oct. 9. Not Your Mother’s Book: On Being A Woman features Chicago author Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow’s humorous “The Revolving Door” — a tale about the Fannie May candy story at Michigan and Wacker.

DESIGN DITTY: The Chicago area’s BBJ Linens provided the beautiful tablecloths for the Emmy’s Governor’s Ball for the sixth year in a row — furnishing five different patterns in red to carry out the “Rhapsody in Red” theme that also included the room being filled with hundreds of thousands of red roses.

SEEN ON THE SCENE: There was plenty of star power at the Four Seasons Hotel bar as Justin Timberlake and fiancée Jessica Biel watched “Monday Night Football,” where AP sports columnist Jim Litke and Jeff Jacobs also were spotted. … As usual, Lovie Smith dined at Joe’s Stone Crab with his family — something of a tradition for the Bears head coach the night before each home game. He also boosted his own foundation by ordering a slice of Joe’s peach blackberry pie. For every slice ordered by customers this month, the eatery will donate $1 to the Lovie and MaryAnne Smith Foundation’s educational programs. … Speaking of Bears, Robbie Gould, Patrick Mannelly, Michael Bush, Dane Sanzenbacher, Matt Spaeth, Kyle Adams, Adam Podlesh, Kahlil Bell and ex-Bears kicker Paul Edinger were spotted at Timothy O’Toole’s pub after Sunday’s win.

Bill Zwecker reports on WFLD-Channel 32.

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