Cruisin’ It : Meeting Tom Cruise

Updated 6/22/2017
Originally published 9/8/16 
I've just read an excerpt from actor Curtis Armstrong's new autobiography. Armstrong is probably best remembered for his work on Moonlighting but he also worked with Tom Cruise on Risky Business. The chapter "My Summer with Tom Cruise" is fun reading if you like reading about stars before they were stars. It reminded me I have a Tom Cruise story to tell, albeit a tiny one, but since it's #ThrowbackThursday, I'm indulging myself. 

Call me crazy but I'm a Tom Cruise fan. I'm not cuckoo about him, I don't have a fan page or anything so extreme but I tend to like his movies. He's got charisma, a ton of onscreen charm; I loved the first Jack Reacher adaptation and I'm actually excited about the next one coming out at the end of October. I gave his movie The Edge of Tomorrow a glowing review on my book-to-movie site. He is after all, despite—or some might say, because of — his association with Scientology, one of the biggest movie stars on the planet.

When I met him at my first wrap party I didn't even know who he was. It was the winter of 1981 and I had just started dating a guy named Danny. We'd only manage to go out a couple of times because Danny was working on a movie as an assistant director and the hours were intense: 12 hour days minimum. Later, my whole life would be wrapped up in celluloid — my husband ended up working as an assistant director too — but at the time I didn't know a thing—or care much—about the film business.  I was working as a copywriter at Max Factor, loving my job and often working much later than 9 to 5 myself. Still, I wondered about a job where twelve hours was considered a short day. I even wondered, if maybe Danny wasn't all that interested and was using work as an excuse, so when the production ended and he invited me as his date for the wrap party, I felt a rush of satisfaction.

I almost didn't go. It was some low budget, cheesy, semi-porny sounding movie about a group of guys going down to Tijuana to lose their virginity. It was called Losin' It and had absolutely no stars in it. Some kid named Tom Cruise, a blond actress named Shelly Long; no one I recognized at all. I felt a little embarrassed for Danny, that he was associated with such a minor league project but I kept that to myself. The little bitchy part of me put it on a chart so I could look at it later, compare him and his too skinny legs to the super successful marketing executive I had a hunch was going to ask me out any day now, like it was an assignment from English 101; compare and contrast Danny and Ben and what they represent in The Dating Life of Simone.

The wrap party was held at the House of Billiards in the Valley; it was smoky, crowded, noisy and filled with people I didn't know. My idea of hell. Danny took me round from cluster to cluster, arm around my waist, introducing me, like I was his girlfriend. They were just faces, a ton of nameless faces. The lead, Tom, was a young short guy with a toothy grin. He was hanging out with a group of other grinning young guys; actors, I guessed, but to me, they all looked like rambunctious puppies, goofy little high school boys drinking and yukking it up.

When Danny finally introduced me to an actor I thought I recognized,  a tall hispanic man with a deeply pock-marked face, I was overjoyed.

"Hey! I know you!" I said. "Oh Wow, what have I seen you in?" Words, in case you don't know, so stupid, so insulting in their ignorance that he rewarded me with a slurred Go to hell before he stomped away.

Danny and I dated for a couple more months before things came to a head with the other guy and I had to break it off. By the time I saw Tom Cruise again, six or seven years later, he was a big star. I was with some friends, fellow tour guides at Universal Studios, at Antonio's, a pizzeria on Ventura Blvd, back in the valley. So much had changed for both of us. I wasn't a copywriter anymore and I wasn't with Ben anymore. And Tom Cruise wasn't a little boy anymore. He was a star.

"Don't look now" Candace said over her wine glass, "but that's Tom Cruise in the corner."
We all looked. Crap! That was Tom Cruise and wasn't that Emilio Estevez with him? But who was that woman Tom Cruise was with? And, oh my God, can you believe how they're making out?!

That woman was Mimi Rogers. They couldn't keep their hands off each other, and we, pretending to eat pizza and drink beer in the opposite corner, couldn't keep our eyes off of them. They were lit up, alive, so entirely swept away by desire, it wasn't that they didn't care who saw them, it was more that they couldn't care who saw them. They simply couldn't see anyone else.

Tom Cruise married Mimi Rogers, that older woman, in the spring of 1987; Emilio Estevez was Tom's best man.

I read somewhere that Mimi Rogers is the one who got Tom into Scientology; her ex-husband was a Scientologist and there's a Church of Scientology just a few doors down from Antonio's so the pieces fit. Both the church and the restaurant are still there. Did I witness one of Tom and Mimi's earliest rendezvous or were they already newlyweds? I don't know; but there was a time that Tom Cruise was genuinely wild about, besotted by and clearly crazy for Mimi Rogers, and Mimi Rogers; was equally crazy for Tom Cruise. Whatever crazy things have happened since, and plenty of crazy things have happened since, on one night, the only crazy thing I saw, was two people, crazy about each other.

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