While on the last days of my honeymoon in Rome, I asked the concierge of our swanky old-school hotel to show us the most direct route to the Vatican. After all, we had two days to see all the awesome sites -- the Coliseum, Forum. He pointed us to go just around the corner and take the Spanish Steps in front of the Hassler Hotel. Apparently, the steps are the best way to get anywhere or were the best way ...until TOMKAT!
On the morning of Thursday Nov. 16, as we approached the steps my new husband and I ran smack into a phalanx of paparazzi, TV cameras, and very blonde and skinny entertainment reporters breathlessly explaining the comings and goings of TOMKAT! They were three and four people deep, all waiting, surging, jostling for one shot of Tom, Katie or any mix of their shiny friends.
They were there when we left for Saint Peter’s at 11 a.m., still there at 6 p.m. that night as we went to dinner. We walked into another satellite group around 10 p.m. as a street was blocked off so the wedding party could have dinner.
Their presence was so overwhelming all over the city. If they ate dinner the swarm moved with them; no fewer than five times did I get TomKatted during my honeymoon, including, I kid you not, a woman from San Diego who ran up to me on the streets of Rome and said, "Hey, you’re Alison Stewart. Do you know where Tom Cruise is staying?"
Yeah, I told her where he was staying -- a hotel I almost stayed in. At one point, pre-TOMKAT wedding announcement, I had scored a reservation for a room at the 17-star hotel. However, after much pointing and clicking, e-mailing and sleuthing, I realized we would be paying four figures for a broom closet. And that was the cheap room. But now I know the fates had stepped in on my "Eloise at the Plaza" wannabe behavior.
The fates were also throwing a karmic boomerang my way. I did, after all, hound the two of them for an interview on the day they got engaged when I was reporting for the "Today Show." And just three weeks earlier, I’d donned a wig to play a sedated version of Katie Holmes on Halloween for "Weekend Today." So, they infiltrated my honeymoon. Okay. We are even.
I admit for a moment the journalist in me wanted to join the pack. Then the just-a-bride-12-days-ago human being really just wanted to let this young woman have her day to dress up and marry the man she loves. But I’m not sure that was part of the plan.
Just when I started to feel bad for the two of them having every move documented, I realized it was of their own making, or perhaps their PR team’s making. Their hotel was smack in the middle of everything. You couldn’t miss it. It would be like wearing a miniskirt and asking, "Why are you looking at my short skirt?"
Apparently reporters would get a heads up when someone — a star or family member — would be coming and going. And why did the press know that Ms. Holmes spent $3,000 on lingerie? I doubt it was Bob Woodward who uncovered that. The only things more prolific than D.C. leaks are publicists’ leaks about movie stars.
So if it was a public wedding they wanted, it was one they got. But a note of caution to the rich and famous who come into town and put on a show: You best live up to the former part of that phrase or leave an angry Italian car driver to tell stories like this one.
The driver who took us to the airport in one of his company’s fancy midnight blue Mercedes explained to us in broken English that allegedly someone in Tom Cruise’s camp wanted to rent all 10 E-class cars for less than half of the regular rate.
When my husband responded in broken street Italian, "Well, then (insert Italian expletive here) Tom Cruise," the driver started to laugh and said the Italian expletive back several times.
But it was the driver’s comment about Tom Cruise not paying the regular rate I will never forget:
"Why you break-a-my ball, Tom Cruise?" he asked in almost perfect English. "Huh? Why?"