Forgive Hollywood publicists for grinning faces and self-congratulatory chuckles this week.
It's hard not to feel extremely satisfied with this kind of redemption. The world's biggest movie star decided that even he, Tinseltown's reigning big dog, required the services of a trained PR professional to keep meat-hungry press jackals from biting at his heels.
After a spate of negative media broadsides earlier this year, Tom Cruise has hired veteran Rogers & Cowan publicist Paul Bloch to right the ship, effectively removing his "publicister," sibling Lee Anne DeVette, from the job she inherited when Cruise dismissed Pat Kingsley in 2004. "Not as easy as it looks, is it fella?" publicists are saying to themselves. Or, as Pigpen said to Lucy when suggesting that he may very well be coated with the same dust that once covered the Holy Land, "Kind of makes you want to look at me with a little more respect, doesn't it?"
When Cruise showed Kingsley the door, he was at the top of his game, considered the most bankable, affable, and well-liked actor in the industry. Easy to understand how someone in his position could think, "Hey, why pay an expensive publicist, much less one who is determined to stifle me...I'm the one generating all the light, she's only reflecting it. Anyone could do that. I'll just hire my sister and do things my own way."
Turned out to be a little problematic. Freed from the strong guidance of seasoned pros who work with the media on a daily basis and utilize client leverage, Cruise did something that virtually all publicists, from Kingsley to Bloch, oppose: He behaved naturally. From criticizing prescription drugs and their users to exhibiting a case of love bonkers on Oprah, Cruise took off like a colt let out of a flaming barn. And what a beautiful runner he was. Fifteen years of enforced silence broken like petals of a rose. I admired it. Takes guts to speak out for what you believe in, especially if it costs you.
Cruise went from being one of the most bland and least substantive interview subjects to one of the most interesting and provocative. He raised issues that deserve attention. But, as someone who's decidedly unaccustomed to being teased by press or public, Tom quickly decided enough was enough, voluntarily calling on Bloch, one of the savviest publicists around. Which means a return to evasive smiles and pat answers. Tom, we hardly knew you.
Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer