ASHLEE RUNS CRYING TO JESSICA OVER HER ORANGE BOWL DISASTER

Published on: January 14, 2005

Jessica Simpson has rushed to the rescue of little sister Ashlee following her latest singing disaster -- but experts tell The ENQUIRER that sisterly advice may not be enough.

Only weeks after she was caught lip-synching on "Saturday Night Live," the 20-year-old warbler suffered fresh humiliation January 4 when a crowd of 72,000 booed her during a nationally televised halftime performance at the Orange Bowl.

"It's all getting too much for Ashlee and she's crying on her sister's shoulder," revealed a close source. "Jessica doesn't want to see her sister crack under the strain of these setbacks."

After the Orange Bowl fiasco, critics piled on the fledgling singer.

MSNBC.com commentator Michael Ventre slammed Ashlee's singing as "a cross between a political prisoner being tortured and a test of the Emergency Broadcast System."

As soon as Ashlee got off the stage, she called 24-year-old Jessica sobbing, asking what she was doing wrong, said the close source. "Jessica told her to hang in there -- not to give up. Ashlee said she'd try to be brave."

Confided an insider: "Jessica's really worried about Ashlee, fearful she's going to crack if the setbacks keep coming."

But professionals say encouragement alone won't help Ashlee, who begins a nationwide tour in February.

Celebrity vocal coach Seth Riggs, who has instructed Madonna, Ricky Martin and others, told The ENQUIRER: "It breaks my heart listening to her because her voice is just not trained enough to cope with the songs."

Hollywood super-manager Jay Bernstein, who helped turn Farrah Fawcett into a star, told The ENQUIRER that Ashlee needs to use humor to repair her damaged image.

"She needs to be funny and honest. Once you put yourself down, everybody's on your side."

-- ALEXANDER HITCHEN, ELLEN GOODSTEIN, ALAN SMITH and TONY BRENNA