The first movie star that I can remember having any significant awareness of was Tom Cruise.
I was young — too young to have seen “A Few Good Men,” “Jerry Maguire” or even “Top Gun” — but old enough to know that Tom Cruise was a strong name that would look good on a marquee.
His parents or his publicist or whoever had bestowed that moniker upon him deserved a cut of what I was certain was a very lucrative paycheck.
“Lucrative,” by the way, is relative term to a 5-year-old, typically used in reference to anyone who is carrying more than $10 in their pocket at any given time.
The Tom Cruise that I pictured was the type of man who attended lavish premieres, dated supermodels and owned more than one ski jacket. He most definitely had an above ground pool, and he could probably eat as many microwavable TV dinners as he wanted.
As I got older, my ideas about luxury changed — now it’s an in-ground pool or nothing at all — and I started to become acquainted with Tom Cruise “The Actor.”
My buddy owned a copy of “Mission: Impossible” on VHS (I didn’t think it was possible to “date” yourself at only 28 years old, but look at that!) and I developed what I think we would refer to colloquially today as a bit of a man-crush.
You can understand: Tom road motorcycles, stared down Jack Nicholson without blinking and had cool friends with names like Goose. I drove a Schwinn and avoided making eye contact with the lunch lady.
One of the basic rules of living vicariously through someone else is to make sure that person takes the position seriously and refrains from, say, jumping on Oprah’s couch during a nationally televised broadcast.
It’s stuff like that which forces you rethink some of your life choices — and maybe take a closer look at this George Clooney fellow you’ve been hearing so much about.
Can Tom Cruise still open a movie that isn’t a subtitle attached to the “Mission: Impossible” brand? Can Clooney or anyone else, for that matter?
Audiences still gravitate toward familiar names, it’s just that now they belong to franchises. Marvel, “Star Wars,” the “Bourne” whatever...
And I’m not sure if that’s better, worse or just more the same.
I still have that picture in my head of a movie star — he or she just so happens to be wearing a stormtrooper helmet.