It’s hard to believe one little baby could cause a public relations nightmare.
But that’s what has happened ever since little Suri Cruise was born to Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise last April. It's been 80 or so days since Suri was born and still no one has seen her picture. I reported in this space some time ago that a photo shoot of Suri had been proposed and an auction set for celebrity magazines right after her birth. But the auction was abruptly cancelled.
That was the last time anyone discussed releasing Suri’s image to the world.
Yesterday, the Web site tmz.com reported that Suri’s birth certificate was filed late and that there were seemingly mysterious elements to its completion. You can already feel the momentum spreading in much the same way “Paul is dead” became a Beatles phenomenon back in 1969. Rumors abound about Suri: She doesn’t exist, Katie was never pregnant, they had to find a baby that looks like Tom, etc.
Of course, none of this is true. But as the stories spread and Cruise remains silent, his career — heck, his entire image — is being dismantled after 22 years of meticulous care. Last night, Yahoo! Entertainment ran a story about the “missing” baby and published links to blogger sites that make fun of the whole situation.
And we wonder why “Mission: Impossible III” was such a hopeless underachiever at the box office. Cruise’s entire life work has been eroded by a series of calamities over the last year. But “Where is Suri?” may be the one that pushes the whole misbegotten enterprise over the edge.
It doesn’t help that Cruise and Holmes have not married, either. Holmes, who was raised Catholic, is perceived by the public to have been mesmerized by Scientology. Cruise publicly professed his love for her over and over (and over). But if their relationship is so sound, where is the wedding? Again, silence about constant reports of a prenup or a contract that hasn’t been signed is not doing Cruise any good.
It’s no wonder there are rumors that Madonna is thinking of splitting with Kabbalah, the pay-as-you-go cult run by questionable clergymen Philip and Karen Berg.
According to federal tax filings for her Ray of Light Foundation, Madonna has gifted the Bergs with millions of dollars since 2001. Of course, all of it is tax-free because Madonna siphoned it through her own nonprofit and then wrote the checks to the Bergs.
And what checks! The Bergs must have thought they’d died and gone to heaven when Madonna fell for their religion. She’s literally heaped money on them in a few short years. The big gift giving comes seemingly out of the blue on Madonna’s 2001 tax return, when the Kabbalah Center received a shocking $500,000 — the first such donation given by Ray of Light to the Bergs’ religion. But it wasn’t the highest amount she gave that year. Madonna also donated $600,000 to the New York City 9-11 fund for police widows and families.
Prior to 2001, Ray of Light had given money to very conventional charities, like the $26,000 given to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, or the $5,000 to The Wellness Community in Santa Monica, Calif. in 1998. In 1999, Madonna made contributions to the Volunteers of America, the ACLU and Ronald McDonald House. But now, everything has changed.
In 2002, Madonna gave the Kabbalah Center a staggering amount, with donations coming in at just under $2 million: $1,994,157.
In 2003, she anted up $1,171,230. She also sent $5,000 to a detox program connected to a Kabbalah-type synagogue.
That brings us to 2004. The Material Girl cut back a bit, but continued to distribute the wealth. She gave the Kabbalah Center three separate donations of $548,910, $100,000 and $50,000, for a combined gift of $708,910.
The grand total comes out to $4,379,297 in just four years. And that doesn’t count money she may have given them in the United Kingdom or funds donated through sources other than the Ray of Light Foundation.
All the while, Kabbalah has prospered. According to their 2004 return, the Bergs attributed more than $21 million in assets to their New York-based Kabbalah Center. Only one problem: They claim on their 2004 form only $174,000 in direct public support for that year. Remember, Madonna claimed she gave them $708,910. Where did the money go?
But the Bergs are tricky and clever. They have several different kinds of Kabbalah funds, all running concurrently. Listed as nonprofits at www.guidestar.org are: Kabbalah Centre of New York, Inc.; Kabbalah International Centre, Inc.; Kaballah Centres of the United States, Inc.; Kabbalah Property Foundation Inc.; Kabbalah Learning Centers Inc.; Research Center for Kaballah and Spirituality for Kids Foundation.
Every year, the tax filings for the various “not-for-profit” Kabbalah companies — they’re the first religion in the world to include “incorporated” in their title — differ extremely. For example, in 2002, the year Madonna gave them nearly $2 million, Kaballah posted a deficit of a little more than $1 million. They claimed expenses of $2.8 million and revenue of about $1.8 million — a little less than what Madonna claimed she contributed.
Then, of course, there is the Spirituality for Kids Foundation. This is the Kabbalah satellite that sells Madonna’s books, and which Madonna endorses on its Web page with a big quote.
It’s certainly run much better than the Kabbalah Centers: with $13 million in assets last year and $8 million in “public donations,” Spirituality for Kids only spent $1 million last year on only 100 kids. Their other expenses included $750,000 in salaries, $45,000 for marketing, $46,000 to run the office, $50,000 for “outside services,” nearly $13,000 in bad debt and $20,000 in bank charges.
And you wonder why Madonna wants to leave.
Don’t be fooled by yesterday's reports that Katie Couric has iced out the press on her "Eye on America." (Yes, CBS has trotted the old slogan. But Katie’s putting a little mascara on it, jokes an insider.)
So far Katie’s tour to six cities, including Minneapolis, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denver, San Diego and Tampa, Fla., are netting several hundreds of thousands of dollars to local cancer charities in each of those cities.
Yesterday, a report in another column derided Katie for not including the media as she made her way across the country. I am told that not only is this is not true, but it's far from it. Couric has done press in every city following each of the charity events. She has become almost a regular on “ET,” “Inside Edition” and “Extra.”
Couric has launched colon-cancer awareness efforts everywhere she’s gone, but the money is going to local markets and not to her own charity, the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, for which Couric has raised $26 million in the last five years.
Come on kids! Katie’s working hard when she should be in France with her kids enjoying her last vacation before taking over the CBS anchor seat. She’s never less than friendly and open with me. Other columnists must not be approaching her the right way! Viva Katie!
'Pirates' Best 'Superman'
Listen closely to tonight’s ESPY Awards. When Lance Armstrong walks out, the band should be playing a song called “Maybe Tonight, Maybe Tomorrow.” The record is by Austin-based Wideawake, which has joined with Armstrong to raise funds for charity. Every time the song is downloaded from iTunes, the money goes to Lance’s cancer fund. Wideawake won the Best Pop Band title at the South by Southwest music festival for three years in a row. That’s probably why they’re still unsigned: too successful! And you wonder why the record business is in the toilet. … OK, I did say that "Superman Returns" was falling apart at the box office. Now hear this: in four days, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest” has already made more money. Thirteen days into its release, “Superman Returns” is at $144 million, while "Pirates” is at $153 million. On Monday, “Superman” was nearly surpassed by “The Devil Wears Prada,” which is playing at about 1,200 fewer theaters. Will Superman be bested by a nasty fashion editor? Is this what has become of the Man of Steel? It’s sad day indeed in Metropolis. … The lovely June Allyson should be played in the movies one day by Reese Witherspoon. She was the opposite of a screen siren, more of a screen comfort in her Peter Pan collars. At 88, she leaves behind a lot of great movies, including "The Glenn Miller Story," "Executive Suite" and "My Man Godfrey." She has no Oscars (not even a nomination), but June Allyson’s Hollywood star will shine long after many award-winners are forgotten.