Way before he was jumping on couches and eons before he was considered crazy – not creative – I met Tom Cruise. Well, met is a subjective term and I bet his security team remembers it a little differently than I do, but I’ll share with you how I remember our meeting.
I was studying abroad in London in the Spring of 1997 and Tom & Nicole Kidman were filming Eyes Wide Shut there so I just knew we were destined to meet – me and Nicole that is. You see, I had been carrying on a very elicit, top-secret romance with Nicole Kidman since the Fall of 1989. It was Dead Calm and I was anything but. I’m not one to kiss and tell, but we were hot and heavy. It was one of those timeless stories where the very sight of me would have her so overcome with passion and uncontrollable urges that she would just lunge at me right there. The only thing I needed was to get her to actually see me so that she could have that reaction and I could let her in on our secret romance.
They were having the premiere of Jerry Maguire in Leicester Square that night and I got all my friends to go. We were spread out across the crowd angling to get the best spots to see people, but I knew just where to go. I grabbed my friend Kate and we headed for the doorway. It was early, so we buddied up to these Swedish women at the front doorway and settled in for a wait until they arrived. More and more people started filling out the area and it got to be a really big crowd. The square was closed for the event and jam-packed with people.
So you can get a clear picture of the area, the front doors of the theatre were the start of a red carpet that rolled out to the area where the cars let everyone out. On either side of the carpeting was the crowd fencing about three feet high and set up to keep the masses at bay. It looked like a big T with the doorway we were situated at being on the very bottom of the T and the cars drove up and let people out at the top of the T. We were in a good spot because everyone needed to come to us to get in and then back out to their waiting cars.
As time went by, we could spot certain friends through the crowd scattered all across the divide trying to get the best view and access. In the mean time, there was the guitarist from the New Power Generation (Prince’s old band) and there was Cube Gooding Jr (who would win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Jerry Maguire shortly after – I’m not saying that I was responsible for him winning in any way, but I have always thought of myself as a lucky person) and then Woody Harrelson (who would go on to lose the Oscar for The People vs. Larry Flynt to Geoffrey Rush for Shine shortly after) came along. I looked over and there is my crazy friend Janet not getting an autograph from Woody, but writing down her phone number for him. This was amazing on so many levels, but mostly because Janet neither had a great smile and personality nor was she attractive at all. She was a very cool girl, but not something you’d want to hit one night in London if you were famous and had your choice of anyone…I’m just saying.
(I know she gave him her number because later that night when she had gotten back to her apartment, her roommate’s boyfriend had just hung up the phone twice when he answered and the voice on the other end said “Hi is Janet there, this is Woody Harrelson” – He thought it was a joke! She came busting in saying that she just met Woody Harrelson and gave him her number as the phone rang again. She answered that time and he invited her and her friends to an after-party at a private club so they all got to hang out with Woody, Cuba, and the guitarist from New Power Generation all night. I on the other hand went bar to bar through the night sharing my Tom Cruise Story with everyone who would listen and even some who wouldn’t)
So as I was waiting for the sight of Nicole so we could make our love connection known to the world or just make out depending on how she felt, I saw Tom and he wasn’t with Nicole – he was with Jonathan Lipnicki, the little boy from the movie. Not one to be deterred, I threw the two Swedish ladies in front of us out of the way and then got onto the crowd fencing and started screaming for Tom to come over. As we were right by the front door to the building, the security guards started to heckle me. “He isn’t coming over, he’s already gone. Where are you from New York, screaming like that. Do you see anyone else here yelling? He’s not going to come over…” With that I stood straight up on the crowd fencing and screamed at the top of my lungs “HEY TOM…TOMMMMMMM – GET OVER HERE!!! At this point he stopped dead in his tracks (as did the crowd who all of a sudden got a little quieter and turned towards me) and started walking towards me. I quickly turned to the security guards and said “what do you think of that!” and looked over to see Kate hysterical crying at the sight of Tom Cruise literally steps away from her and I turned back to see Tom stepping up to me with a huge smile.
He put out his hand to shake mine and I don’t exactly know what came over me but instead of shaking his hand, I leaned across the crowd fencing I was standing on and grabbed his upper arm and pulled him about two feet closer right up face to face and got all up in his grill. My immediate thought was – what a great suit – nice material – but then I started screaming (literally inches from his face) “WHERE’S NICOLE – WHERE”S NICOLE – I LOOOOOOOVVVVVVE HER!!!” and everyone around us just went silent. He bust out hysterically laughing and tried to adjust his suit that I had just grabbed and then he goes “She’s filming, I love her too!” and started laughing at me. That’s when I really got out of control. I started screaming, to no one in particular, about how he was going to go home and tell her about me. (Of course, someone just grabs you and gets all up on you screaming about your wife and you don’t tell her?) I just knew that Nicole would know about me in a matter of hours and it was just a matter of time now before she came looking for me and all sorts of crazy ramblings that make sense when you’ve had a bit much to drink as well….A reporter from Access Hollywood tried to come up and interview me but I was too hyped up and Kate was still hysterical crying at having just met him…She tried to ask us questions, but I ripped the microphone out of her hand and screamed in her face – “What’s wrong with you – Didn’t I just tell you he’s going to go home and tell Nicole about me???Nicole knows about me!!” Tom looked back at me still screaming and carrying on like one of those nine-year old Asian girls with the Hello Kitty knapsacks in the Michael Jackson videos and then he laughed and got into his car and pulled away.
Then it hit me – I’m going to take the cardboard movie placard that he just leaned on and bring it to the Rosie O’Donnell Show – she loves Tom and she’ll get Nicole on to meet me. It’s amazing how the dynamics of a twisted mind work – because this seemed like such a reasonable plan to me. I ripped that placard off the crowd fencing and the thing was as wide and long as a dining room table, but I didn’t care. We took that placard to every bar that night as we went to celebrate meeting Tom and my eventual intro to Nicole.
I brought that to our apartment and hung it above our mantle. Anyone and everyone who was on our Study Abroad program heard about that placard and story on a daily basis. The day we were flying back home, everyone told me that they would never let me get the placard on the plane and I knew it would get ruined if I shipped it. I did the only thing a reasonable person would do in a situation like that: I forged Tom Cruise’s signature on the back of the placard and told the British Airways people that I was auctioning it off for charity in NY and it was Tom’s autograph and very valuable. The stewardesses let me put it in back of the last row of seats on the plane home so nothing happened to it and I got it back to NY intact – now, how to get it to Rosie…Stay tuned later this week for the continuation of this story and hear about what happened when I told Rosie all about it!