Do you remember the moment that everything changed in the world of entertainment PR? This LA Weekly story proposes it was the moment we started saying that Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah’s couch. The article makes the case that he didn’t do that, but the Internet made it so.
At that time, Tom Cruise had made some of the movies he’s most known for — The Color of Money, Rain Man, Top Gun, Born on the Fourth of July — and had been crowned the third Greatest Movie Star of All Time by Premiere magazine. That was also the point where Perez Hilton and other entertainment blogs were starting to make their mark. And the same month of Cruise’s appearance on Oprah, YouTube had been unleashed upon the world.
Up to this point, Cruise had been pretty conservative about speaking publicly outside of his film appearances. He also had a powerhouse publicist by his side, Pat Kingsley. Because she worked with a number of A-list stars and entertainment journalism was confined to the print pages of magazines like People, she was able to manage media coverage of her clients with a firm grip. If she wanted to shut something down, she could make a call and do it.
But the article points out the free-for-all that blogs and viral video made of celebrity media. Particularly because stars — not used to the round-the-clock brutal coverage — said and did things out in the open that they didn’t think would get out (or be of interest if it did).
“With gossip sites mushrooming like a nuclear cloud, Kingsley’s fear tactics no longer worked — in fact, she wasn’t even around to wield them,” the story says.
Interestingly, while the article makes the point that the level of control entertainment PRs wielded diminished, it maintains that having a savvy publicist is still critical if you’re going to navigate the minefield.
By the time Cruise made his notorious sofa-hopping appearance, he had hired his sister Lee Anne De Vette as his publicist, had started talking more openly about his ties to Scientology, and was madly in love with Katie Holmes. De Vette didn’t have the pull that Kingsley did. Everything was moving at a speed never before seen. And with the advent of viral video, what was a just a few-second, seemingly-inconsequential thing done in front of an audience that loved every single thing Tom Cruise did would become a clip that has lived on in infamy. Despite his continued success at the box office, Tom Cruise has been declared, time and again, a flop.
The article is an interesting read whether you’re in entertainment or PR or not. It also makes you feel really bad for Tom Cruise. Here’s a guy who worked hard at keeping a close watch on his career, who wanted very much to do movies that were also “films.” And all of it was possibly derailed because the media changed overnight. It was a perfect storm with unfortunate consequences for a guy who, when he began, didn’t want to be in the spotlight for being part of the Brat Pack.