My first thought when Katie Couric revealed Suri Cruise's photo last night on "CBS Evening News" was, I wonder if that baby has been Photoshopped to look like she has lost 20 pounds. After all, news reports last week were actually blaming babies for being born too fat. Since Suri is the arguably the biggest baby in Hollywood -- and the pressures of beauty standards being so heavy -- it can't be too early for her to start a low-fat, high-protein diet along with a healthful regimen of lifting weighted baby books and toys before she's even ambulatory.
Yep, Katie came through with the world's biggest get. Bigger than George Bush, who got bumped to night No. 2 to make way for Suri. The only bigger guest Katie could have booked was Osama bin Laden. He hasn't been seen, well, longer than... Dick Cheney. Where has Cheney been? I like to the think that Osama and Dick are hanging out in plain sight at a Rally's in Van Nuys.
What, you think that's so crazy? Then again, if anyone had told you the world's biggest, sexiest, most macho movie star would be labeled a possibly gay, certainly crazy, brainwashed dyslexic religious freak with a fake baby, a fake marriage and no movie studio to call home -- all in the space of one year -- you would probably have said that was crazy too.
From the very start of the whole Suri saga, when Tom Cruise appeared on "Oprah" to wax rhapsodic about the brand-new love in his life, something smelled fishy. He'd fallen madly in love with a mildly famous, mildly talented TV actress named Katie Holmes, who coincidentally had a major summer blockbuster movie to promote -- "Batman" -- just as Tom was talking about "The War of the Worlds."
Never one for understatement, Tom came leaping into love. He'd just dumped statuesque statue winner Nicole Kidman on the eve of their 10th wedding anniversary, adding fuel to the fire that their marriage had been a sham. That he was gay. That Nicole was gay. Plus, no one likes to see someone else happy. Especially a rich, handsome movie star. Suffer a little. So the schadenfreude kicks in, and the rumors start.
It was all orchestrated P.R., we said. Katie signed a contract with Tom. She's been brainwashed. She's following a script. What do you mean, she's pregnant? Well, if she is, it's not really her baby. Or she really is pregnant, but it's not Tom's baby. It's L. Ron Hubbard's baby, made with his frozen sperm. Look, she's shoe shopping on Rodeo Drive the day before she's due, that's not a real bump! The alien baby was born last month! There never really was a baby! Some other Scientology actress saw the nonexistent baby. Oh, please, for god's sake, someone somewhere find these people a baby!
Beyond our basic human lust for gossip, there's a reason the saga of Suri has compelled us all so intensely. It really is a perfect storm of all the issues that collide and affect our lives at this bizarre moment in history. The speed at which we now receive information -- and our ability to send it without any control -- is a society-altering tool that we haven't learned how to wield yet. It's on a par with the wheel. On a par with electricity. With fire. You can bet that there was a lot of singed arm hair back in Neanderthal days.
We'd like to believe that when see a news photo of Beirut buildings on fire, those buildings really are on fire, especially if the photo has been published by a respected news bureau like Reuters. But then we find out it's been enhanced -- and it's not the only one. "Wag the Dog," kids. For whatever reason, we are still shocked to discover that photos we see online, in magazines and in newspapers have been manipulated, even when we can get the red eye out on our very own home computers when we take family photos. We long to believe in what we see.
Back in the day it was so simple -- when we lived in the real world, not the "Real World." We trusted the images we saw, whether from wars or from film premieres. We had faith that celebrities were the men they said they were. Remember "Top Gun" Tommy, so freakin' hot in his military whites, striding around in that jumpsuit, wrapped up that towel, always pumped and sweaty, feeling that need for speed. I still get turned on picturing him riding that big bike and wearing his leather jacket as the sun sets on the California coast, waiting to give Kelly McGillis the thrill of her ever-loving life, taking away her breath and mine. Forget those John Hughes-y girly men like Andrew McCarthy and Rob Lowe who made the transition out of the funky, punky, Euro-trashed early '80s. Tom Cruise was a hot, full-bloodied passionate American man.
And now he's not. Bye-bye Mr. American Pie and the whole era he represented. Bruce and Madonna and Tina Turner. Reagonomics and American might and the end of the Cold War. MTV played videos, we played video games, and all was right with the world.
Twenty years later, everything has gone haywire. The government keeps telling us about the triumphs in a war we can't win. The biggest stars of the time -- Tom, Mel Gibson, even Harrison Ford, with an earring in his ear and Ally McBeal on his arm, seem like ciphers. Their babies, their bodies, their marriages -- all seem fake. We're betting on divorce dates before they even get married. No trust. The truth isn't out there. Maybe it never was.
I keep asking myself, what are they putting in the water in Malibu? Why have the "good" celebrities gone bad while the "bad" ones got so good? Angelina Jolie should be pulling a Courtney Love, but she's too busy saving refugee children one at a time. Brad should be shtupping a starlet a month, but he's too busy rebuilding New Orleans post-Katrina. What happened to the celebrity rule book?
I was so impressed to hear that last Thursday, Tom had gone over to Brooke Shields' house to apologize to her for the very public way he had raked her over the coals for using antidepressants to fight postpartum depression. Wow, I thought. That takes balls. "Top Gun"-size balls. Sure, it happened within a week of his major boot out of Paramount Studios, and the guy had to realize that karmically he was way out of control.
And then Brooke mentions it on Leno. Where, coincidentally, she had dropped by to promote her appearance on the season premiere of "Nip/Tuck," on which she plays a psychologist: in other words, a person who doles out antidepressants for a living.
Remember, that premiere was Monday night, the night before Tuesday night, when Katie Couric made international headlines by showing the images of the world's most shrouded celebrity on Katie's own national TV debut: Little Miss Suri Cruise. We can't see coincidence anymore -- only manipulation. Not just in the pages of Vanity Fair, we wonder, but even, maybe, on the evening news.