Menu
Home

Cruise, Holmes No-Shows at 'War' Party

Tom Cruise | Michael Jackson | Oprah | Jessica Domain

Cruise, Holmes Skip 'War' Party

AP
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in New York.
If they were there, no one saw them.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes apparently skipped the big after-party for the New York premiere of "War of the Worlds" last night.

No big deal: Sources also say that the Steven Spielberg science-fiction remake is the most expensive film of all time.

My spies — since no press was allowed — did spot Spielberg and wife Kate Capshaw. They also saw actress Amy Irving, the first Mrs. Spielberg, and the couple's son, Max Spielberg.

"Amy even went and got a drink for Kate," said an observer. "It's nice that they're friends."

Alec Baldwin, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon and many movie execs made the move from the Ziegfeld to the American Museum of Natural History.

Pat O'Brien, host of Paramount TV's "The Insider," unsurprisingly scored a ticket. Add Hulk Hogan and Nicole Richie to the mix and you get the idea of who turned out for the big night.

But those who audited the comings and goings of Cruise and Holmes couldn't find them. Funniest part of the night: the overzealous screening process.

Women were not allowed to bring purses into the premiere. Men were told to have nothing but wallets. No cell phones.

Paramount is terrified of piracy. It thought someone in this high-toned crowd would do a "Kramer" and film "War of the Worlds" with a HandiCam. Cruise's sister/publicist, Lee Ann DeVette, was seen waiting on a line for her own handbag after the show.

Meantime, I've got a solid new figure for the budget on "War of the Worlds." Are you ready?

Not counting promotion: $182 million. With promotion, think more like $230 million.

And the word from those who saw the movie? Mixed reviews: The ending peters out, but the special effects when the Martians come were given high marks.

"Tim Robbins steals the movie from Tom Cruise," says a source.

Jacko's Passport Back in Hand

So Michael Jackson has his passport back, and it wasn’t missing or lost after all.

That's the word from Santa Barbara Sheriff's Department spokesman Sgt. Eric Rainey — although there's still no confirmation from Jackson's camp, despite repeated calls.

Rainey says the passport was turned over last Friday, June 17, to Jesus Castillo, a private investigator for Jackson's defense attorney Thomas Mesereau.

Earlier that day, four days after Jackson's June 13 acquittal, Judge Rodney Melville signed an order that the passport be returned to Jackson.

Sources close to Jackson complained about the time lag when the passport was not immediately turned over after his acquittal. At least two of them claimed the passport had been lost by the District Attorney's office.

The DA's office says it didn't have the passport, and Sgt. Rainey has confirmed that. We defer to the sergeant on this one.

There had been some confusion about who had the passport when the trial ended and who had had it throughout the trial. Rainey told me he wasn't sure whose possession it had been in before his office turned it over to Castillo.

Sources say the passport was kept in the District Attorney’s office as part of evidence, although the DA's spokeswoman says it was not.

Oprah: $1M Donation, Thanks to Ebersols

I can tell you exclusively that Oprah Winfrey, no stranger to showing her largesse, donated $1.2 million to a South African school last week.

It was all because of a documentary she watched on a plane while heading to the continent two weeks ago.

The school, Ithuteng Trust, is run by "Mama" Jackey Maarohanye in Soweto. It's actually a youth program that has already saved around 6,000 young people from the mean streets of Soweto, despite a violent lifestyle marked by extreme poverty.

Many of the children rescued by Ithuteng are rape victims. Winfrey openly talks about her rape at an early age by a family member.

News of Oprah's gift barely made a ripple out of South Africa back on June 14, when Winfrey presented "Mama" Jackey with her check.

But last night, more than two dozen heavy-hitter A-list media types heard the story at an exclusive screening of "Ithuteng" ("Never Stop Learning"), which was made by three perspicacious young men: brothers Willie and Charlie Ebersol and their friend Kip Kroeger.

If you recognize the last names, that's because Willie and Charlie are the 18- and 22-year-old sons of NBC Sports chief Dick Ebersol and actress Susan St. James. Another son, 14-year-old Teddy, died in a plane crash last winter.

The Ebersols' tragedy and determination, the story of Oprah, the saga of the school in South Africa and the fact that the dining room at the Plaza Athenée was filled with the kind of people who might have been at the premiere of "War of the Worlds" under different circumstances made for an extraordinary evening.

First of all, the guests at the screening and dinner: Mike Wallace, Lesley Stahl, FOX News' very own Linda Vester, former U.N. ambassador Richard Holbrooke, NBC News chief Neal Shapiro, NBC Entertainment chief Jeff Zucker, "O" Magazine editor Gayle King, Foreign Affairs magazine editor Jim Hoge, journalist Jeff Greenfield, Al Franken, author Stanley Crouch, former New York mayor David Dinkins, Tony-winning "Producers" star Cady Huffman, rock socialite Ann Dexter Jones, Premiere magazine editor Peter Herbst, journalist Jill Brooke and even a hot young movie star, Ryan Gosling, who'd heard about the film and wanted to see it.

The topic of the night was Mama Jackey and the extraordinary work she's done. (Amazingly, a quick search of both the New York Times and Washington Post archives show no stories about Ithuteng or Mama Jackey — ever.)

The Ebersol brothers and Kroeger have made a remarkable, moving film for almost no money about Ithuteng, highlighting six of her kids and the effect the school has had on them.

They filmed in Soweto, quickly and cheaply, but gained the trust of everyone involved. Now they're looking for a distributor, and should get one without too much trouble.

"Ithuteng," like "Murderball," will surely be in consideration for awards at the end of the year.

But the Oprah story: Charlie Ebersol, tall and lanky, a graduate of Notre Dame, could sell sand to the Arabs.

"I called everyone I could think of," he said, finally reaching director Brett Ratner.

Ratner showed "Ithuteng" to his friend Chris Tucker, who was so moved he then went to South Africa to see Mama Jackey in action.

When he returned, he helped get the film to Oprah, who watched it on a plane as she headed to Johannesburg.

This all happened about three weeks ago. Oprah's best friend, Gayle King, whom Charlie had also called a few times, encouraged her to watch it.

By the time Oprah reached Mama Jackey — she'd put her at the top of her list of people to meet — Ithuteng was on the verge of having its lights and power shut off.

Winfrey immediately handed Mama Jackey a check for $1 million, then returned the next day with a million South African rands so the school could pay its immediate bills.

She also gave about $50,000 to the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. According to one of the few stories I could find, filed June 14 by Nadia Neophytou, Winfrey told a crowd of 3,500 fans at the Sandton Convention Center: "I love to give away inspiration, but cash is good too!"

She also said: "What I have decided is that education is my priority" when giving away money.

I guess all of this was obscured by the news that Oprah had found through DNA testing that she had Zulu blood. It made a better headline.

And what of the Ebersols? Last November 29, Dick Ebersol and two of his sons, Charlie and Teddy, were in a terrible plane crash in Colorado.

Teddy didn't survive. Charlie pulled his father out of the plane and watched it explode not once, but twice. They knew immediately that Teddy was gone.

Charlie had the heartbreaking responsibility of calling his mother with the news after digging his father out of the wreckage and pulling him to safety.

Dick Ebersol, who's 57, narrowly missed paralysis from fractured vertebrae. Charlie's vertebrae were broken as well.

At the screening, Susan St. James hobbled in on crutches. On June 10, which would have been Teddy's 15th birthday, she had elective foot surgery.

"It was the best thing to do, because I knew they'd knock me out," she told me with a rueful laugh.

Dick told me:"We decided after a couple of days that we had to go on. We knew we were always going to be sad, but somehow we had to pick the pieces when we were outside. Then we could go home and cry."

The Ebersols have two older kids, Harmony and Sunshine (don't ask — it was the '60s).

Next weekend, while Dick runs Wimbledon coverage for NBC, Susan, Charlie and possibly the aforementioned two will go backstage at the Live 8 concert, thanks to Bono (who donated the song "One" to the "Ithuteng" soundtrack).

Susan — who was the Jennifer Aniston of her day in "The Name of the Game" many seasons ago — wants to meet Sting.

"We give a lot to the Rainforest Foundation," she told me.

Willie, who just finished his freshman year at USC Film School and could be an actor, is going to spend the summer at home in Connecticut so his mother can have one last summer with a kid at home.

They're a remarkable family, great kids, determined to survive a tragedy and celebrate their son and brother. I can't think of a place I'd rather have been last night, or people I'd rather have been with.

Radio, Radio: Record Execs Listen Up

OK: You know how hard it is for new pop singers to get their music heard. But Jessica Domain has got to get some credit.

A sort of new generation Carly Simon or Carole King, with a voice like Sade, Jessica has done something unique. She booked herself onto a new radio station in the New York area that has a unique hook: it broadcasts in Russian.

You can hear her today on 87.7 FM, now known also as VSE.

What a hoot: I think the show itself may be in Russian, but Detroit-born 25-year-old Jessica will play live and sing her great original songs in English.

Someone tune up the radio in Clive Davis' office. This is not to be missed.