Tom Cruise has been proactive in his drive for publicity over the years. It will be interesting to see if Paul Bloch, the star’s new PR adviser, can change his image while keeping the media sweet . Popular culture junkies and fans of gossip rags have gorged on the glamorous and public life of Tom Cruise over the past decade. This A-lister is a publicity phenomenon, who has used the global canvas of magazines and newspaper to mould his image. A humble publicist might describe this ineradicable and inherent ability to generate ink as “the stuff”.
Cruise is well aware that a modern celebrity must be the subject of gossip and have the ability to fill the media with ephemeral images and trivia. In fact, he has taught any disciple of the genre that anyone can become a celebrity if they can get into the news and stay there. Cruise’s most astute and canny attachment to the process is demonstrated by his use of personal PR advisers.
His early career was marshalled by the uber frau of celebville, Pat Kingsley. The reigning diva of celebrity flaks dictated the course of Cruise’s early career and fiercely protected the man from a sudden fall from grace, never allowing him to be a victim of the hysterical opprobrium that often succeeds extreme celebrity. Apocryphally, Cruise thanked Kingsley openly at every public occasion and awards ceremony. But recall soon diminishes in la la land and, make no mistake, there is always somebody that can do the job better.
Noam Chomsky put it lucidly in the film Manufacturing Consent: “The egos of the famous are pumped up and distorted by the adoration heaped upon them, then made paranoid and neurotic by the constant attention and scrutiny.”
A madness can creep into the minds of the needy celebrity and Cruise’s tried and tested method of outing romances on the eve of a new movie – Nicole Kidman and Penelope Cruz on his arm generated the required global hype – became a little too predictable.
Cruise and Kingsley announced their split in March last year; their parallel rises, thanks to each other’s careers, had reached a plateau. Soon after, Cruise’s sister, Lee Anne Devette, took over the PR wheel but seasoned media junkies witnessed the same strategy for generating column inches.
However, with his Katie Holmes romance taking shape, the ever savvy Cruise seems to have decided to change direction, adopt a slightly lower profile and hire a new publicist.
So step forward veteran spinmeister Paul Bloch, co-chairman of Rogers and Cowan. He is, in contrast to Kinglsey, of the old school. He doesn’t yell, preferring instead to seduce and cajole. His approach is less adversarial and more complementary – a product of the era in which he started, when movie stars needed the general-interest media more than the media needed them.
He was schooled by Warren Cowan who, with Henry Rogers, invented celebrity publicity. Cowan once said “there’s only room for one star in the relationship, in my opinion,” and Bloch is true to his mentor’s way.
He has honed his skill in over 40 years of business. Bloch is secretive about his methods and does not give interviews, staying well below the radar. However, his able lieutenant, Michelle Bega, is, without doubt, the most effective flak in town.
Bloch’s key skill is to keep his clients out of sight but not out of mind, and he is not known for withholding access to bigger stars unless journalists commit to covering the also-rans.
Over the past few years, Cruise has been proactive in his drive for publicity but it will be interesting to see if Bloch, with his more traditional approach, can change the star’s image while keeping the media sweet and the negative intrusions of the supermarket titles at bay. Mission impossible 3?