Our Celebrated Weekend cover story, in which a (hopefully) hot celebrity talks about his or her favorite city, debuted back in 1990, and has appeared in nearly every issue since then (although not always on the cover and not always by that name). And it’s safe to say that since the beginning, Tom Cruise has been on the list of people we wanted to talk to. As you can see by a glance at our cover, 14 years later, we finally got him! And that is all thanks to one person, contributing editor Mark Seal.
Until this year, Mark single-handedly tracked down every one of those celebrities, which amounts to more than 300 interviews and about 70 years of his life that he’ll never get back. Many of these interviews were forever in the making, as Mark wrote countless letters, flew thousands of miles, and waited by his phone and computer in hopes of securing the next “it” person.
A significant portion of that time was no doubt spent pursuing Cruise. And to add insult to injury, just when Mark finally had the attention of Cruise’s public-relations person, the actor turned over management of his image to his sister. So Mark was essentially back to square one. “After pursuing Cruise for more than a decade, beginning with his Rain Man period,” Mark says, “I had almost given up hope, which I never do, even when nonstop nagging of the potential interviewee’s ‘people’ fails.”
So how did Mark make it happen? “Persistence,” he says. “After a volley of phone calls, faxes, and flowers, a fabulous woman in Cruise’s sister’s office finally called me. I told her my sad story of chasing Cruise for 14 years, and, impressed with my determination, she became my best friend for a month as we tried to coordinate Cruise’s schedule (packed 24/7) and mine (I said I would only be unavailable when brushing my teeth).”
But weeks went by and still Cruise never called. Mark (and I) began to wonder if the long chase had been an exercise in futility. Mark put in more calls and e-mails to Cruise’s office, who told Mark that he was a “high priority” for Cruise. “Somewhat convinced,” Mark says, “I crawled back from the ledge of the building where I’d been standing and continued to wait, and wait some more.” Then one day, “My phone rang, the voice on the other end said, ‘I have Tom Cruise calling for you,’ and Cruise was calling me ‘man’ and acting like we were best buds,” says Mark.
As you can see from the interview, Cruise and Mark did become best buds, if only for an hour. And we not only learn about Cruise’s favorite haunts in the City of Angels, but he also shares some of his favorite stories about his coming of age in L.A.
Of course, our work here is never done, and as much as we love Tom Cruise, we’re on to the next issue, the next celebrity, and the next interview. As Mark says, “I still have a to-get list of interviews I’ve been pursuing since this column began, and I have many means of persuasion. But persistence, I’ve found, is the most effective tool in my arsenal.”
Coming up, again thanks to Mark’s persistence, as well as to an expanded group of writers who are also pursuing this cause, you’ll read about Bernie Mac, Owen Wilson, Queen Latifah, and Bill Maher. And even if you’re not a fan of Tom Cruise, perhaps there’s a lesson here in what a little hard work and perseverance can get you.
SHERRI GULCZYNSKI BURNS