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Smooth Sailing for This Cruise

September 23, 1996|By BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The American Cinematheque took 1,000 guests on a long cruise through glamorous waters at its 11th annual Moving Picture Ball Saturday in the Beverly Hilton's ballroom. Tom Cruise was the honoree, Rosie O'Donnell acted as captain/emcee, and $400,000 was raised for the nonprofit organization that promotes film as an art form.

By 1998, that promotion should be taking place in the Egyptian Theater. Last week, the Cinematheque bought the Hollywood Boulevard landmark erected in 1922 by the legendary Sid Grauman (who five years later built the nearby Chinese Theatre). The Cinematheque's new home is now being renovated, refurbished and upgraded with technological advances, including a state-of-the-art projection system. As a concrete reminder of that construction, there was a white hard hat on every seat at the ball.

It took some guests a moment to make the hard hat/construction connection. One woman thought the headgear "might help if you're having a bad hair day." Jackie Collins said it was a welcome shield from "ego fallout." An industry wit guessed it was "for protection from falling grosses."

Not that box-office problems would apply to Cruise. One point made clear by the evening's program was the profitable variety of his roles. From the fluff of "Cocktail" to the nitty-gritty of "Born on the Fourth of July" his has been a wide spectrum career.

The survey of that spectrum began with O'Donnell establishing a running joke about her obsession with meeting Cruise. She refers to herself as "Fan Zero," the benchmark by which all Cruisemania should be judged. Her goal is simple: "I just want him to live in my house, wear an Armani suit and bring me things."

It was her smooth verbal patter that guided the evening which began with remarks from Cinematheque President Sigurjon Sighvatsson, then board Co-chairmen Mike Medavoy and Peter Dekom, who joked that the hard hats don't have to be returned to the beleaguered Sony management.

Tributes came from "Taps" director Harold Becker, "Top Gun" producer Jerry Bruckheimer, "A Few Good Men" director Rob Reiner, and Cuba Gooding Jr., who co-stars with Cruise in the upcoming "Jerry Maguire."

O'Donnell also read letters from Oliver Stone, Neil Jordan, and to wonderful effect, one from Demi Moore which she did in the actress's trademark raspy voice. When O'Donnell was finished with it, this was a very funny letter. There were video tributes from Ron Howard and Paul Newman and more brief speeches from Kurt Russell, Cruise's partner Paula Wagner, Paramount's Sherry Lansing, screenwriter Robert Towne and director Cameron Crowe. It was at this point that the evening began to run long. They could have honored Mother Theresa in less time.

The actual award presentation was made by Sydney Pollack, who called Cruise, "the youngest old pro in the business." The honoree made a brief speech in which he said he wakes up at night in hotel rooms on location and think his career "is like a dream, a wonderful dream that I don't want to end."

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