Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Former Gossip Columnist Regrets: That Time He Didn’t Report How Tom Cruise Fell Down the Stairs at Prada in SoHo


Summer reading: finally catching up with Ben Widdicombe’s “Gatecrasher,” named for his long ago column in the NY Daily News. It’s full of great celebrity stories, with lots of jabs at the rich and famous. There’s also quite a bit about the backstage wheelings and dealings with publicists, the natural enemy of the columnist. (He cites several that he likes, including New York’s Norah Lawlor, described as “gimlet-eyed” and a few others.)

There’s also a lot in “Gatecrasher” about Rupert Murdoch and his family, Donald Trump and his, and a section I particularly enjoyed taking a survey of hors d’oeuvres served at charity press functions. (Pigs in a blanket are a good sign.)

But my favorite story is about one Ben didn’t report, concerning Tom Cruise falling down the stairs at Prada in Soho. He thought that by going along with Tom’s Scientology sister publicist, it would win him points. It didn’t. Listen, if you’re on a beach somewhere, download this to your Kindle. It’s certainly more entertaining than Vanity Fair.

Ben writes:

“With the column giving me access to some of the biggest names in
Hollywood, sometimes I tried to be strategic and develop a relationship
with a star. That never worked, not even once.
Around that time, Tom Cruise fired his longtime and fearsomely
effective publicist, Pat Kingsley. It was rumored that he blamed her when
he did not receive an Academy Award nomination for his film
The Last Samurai.
But Pat was generally regarded as the top PR in Hollywood, and
she played hardball. If a journalist crossed her on one of her clients,
she would block their publication’s access to her entire roster, which
included titans like Jodie Foster, Al Pacino, and Will Smith.
Pat had also managed to keep Tom on a leash, shielding some of
his crazier antics from popular scrutiny. But after the split, he decided
to transfer public relations responsibilities to his sister, Lee Anne De
Vette, a fellow congregant in the Church of Scientology.
Suddenly, after years of being muzzled on the subject of his faith,
Tom started speaking about it to the press. It was not well received.
Shortly after he changed publicists, I received a tip from a staff
member at the Prada store in SoHo. Tom had come in to do some
shopping, and as was the protocol for a major star, the store was
closed to the public for the duration of his visit.
What Miuccia Prada got for the forty million dollars she spent
with the architect, Rem Koolhaas, was a wooden halfpipe, leading
down from the main entrance on Broadway into the belly of the store,
which served both as stairs for the customers and display shelves for
the merchandise.
But it was made out of slippery zebrawood, and although the feature
looked great, it could be treacherous to navigate.
Sure enough, says the staff member who was present that day,
Tom slipped at the top and bumped down the stairs on his Oscar-denied

When I called Lee Anne, she asked me not to run the item. Sensing
the opportunity to get her on my side as an ally, and salivating at
the lifetime of Tom Cruise scoops that would surely follow, I agreed.
Needless to say, I never heard from her again.”

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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