Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes

Perhaps he can’t handle the truth, but Tom Cruise could handle the Museum of the Moving Image’s salute to him just fine. Instead of reprising his infamous Oprah-batics, the springy thespian played it cool (of course all couches had been removed from the dais at Cip­riani 42nd Street). United Artists CEO Paula Wagner was there to keep a watchful eye on her moonstruck business partner. Last year, the two entered the UA wheelhouse together after Paramount’s Sumner Red­stone had somewhat inexplicably cashed out the box-office wunderkind. As it turned out, getting fired wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

Although Tom Cruise’s tenure as one of the world’s preeminent leading men has spanned a whopping quarter of a century, a (hypothetical) remake of Top Gun could easily feature the boyish 45-year-old all over again without causing the makeup crew to break much of a sweat. Say what you will about Scientol­ogy—it does wonders for the skin.

Katie Holmes’s striking transformation from sweaty chick in jogging garb (having run the NYC Marathon two days earlier) to glamour sylph in a dashing blue velvet gown commanded a good deal of attention. That big smile on the honored hubby’s face clearly conveyed that he didn’t mind sharing the spotlight.

Needless to say, celebrities had rolled out in droves to salute their vaunted colleague: Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Kenneth Branagh, Oliver Stone, Julianne Moore, Michael Pena, Barbara Walters, Barry Levinson, Ellen Barkin, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, Jerry Bruckheimer. They all took turns unloading Cruise anecdotes upon the black-tie congregation, interspersed with clips from Born on the Fourth of July, Collateral, The Color of Money, A Few Good Men, Jerry Maguire, War of the Worlds, Magnolia, Top Gun, and, of course, the classic underwear sequence from Risky Business.

Finally, the honoree himself ascended the rostrum to deliver­—from memory as much as from heart—a fairly comprehensive acceptance address. Dead silence as Tom recounted the hardships of his childhood, talked about his mom’s struggle to raise him and his three sisters after she divorced his abusive father, his first job as a paper boy, his brush with the priesthood.

Among the rapt listeners: mother Cruise herself, Mary Lee Mapother.

He concluded his speech with an emphatic “I love you, Katie.” She completes him, it would seem.

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Paula Zahn, Marlo Thomas Dan Hicks and Hannah Storm
photos by Joan Jedell &
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