CYAN YELLOW MAGENTA BLACK
By BILLY CALLAHAN
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
WESTFIELD — Last month, superstar Tom Cruise won his second Golden Globe Award and is favored to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Magnolia.
A native of the Garden State, he has certainly left his Jersey roots behind, but the person closest to the core secret of his career birth remains local.
Westfielder Kathy Burns, who would be known by the famous star as Kathy Gauli, inadvertently brought Cruise to the attention of the world.
Ms. Burns was a sophomore at Glen Ridge High School when Cruise (then named Tom Mapother before he dropped it in favor of his middle name) was a senior.
Acting alongside him in a school production of Guys & Dolls, she played Agatha, a member of the Mission Group, while Cruise personified the role of Nathan Detroit.
How it fell into place was that Ms. Burn’s older sister, Lorraine, had brought her own agent to the performance.
“She wasn’t in Guys & Dolls because she wasn’t into musical theater like I was,” said Ms. Burns of her sister. “She was more of an actress actress. I think she just wanted this agent to see me.”
Lorraine Gauli, discovered when she was a teenager by talent agent Toby Gibson in a department store in New York City, would graduate two months later with Cruise. Considered by Ms. Burns to be “THE star of the school,” Lorraine spent six months of her junior year in Boston doing a TV show for PBS and had a fouryear scholarship to acting school.
It was this influence that led to the discovery of Tom Cruise one midApril night in 1980.
“Ironically, he would not have been discovered that night if my sister’s agent hadn’t come to see me,” said Ms. Burns. “( Gibson) came to see the show, looking for
some new talent, and she picked him right out. And that’s where it all started. From there he did a bit part in Endless Love along with my brother, Sean, and right after that he took off.”
One wonders if it was Cruise’s looks alone or his stage presence that snared the intrigue of Gibson. Ms. Burns is quite sold on the latter.
“He had the type of personality on stage that you wanted to watch,” she recalled. “Tom knew how to capture a character just by doing it. The biggest part of Guys & Dolls, in my opinion, is Nathan Detroit, because you have to have a big personality to be able to pull that off, and he did it perfectly. That’s just the way he was. He could sing very well, too. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a musical some day.”
When asked if there was a sense, by her or any of his friends, that Cruise was going to make it, Ms. Burns replied, “Not at all. No one knew he had talent until he did the show. He never did anything else. I’m not surprised at all that he’s a star, but I am very amazed at how gifted he is now. He’s come a long way.”
While some may have a brush from their past with a face now famous, few can lay claim to having routinely palled around with a kid arguably considered today’s biggest box office draw. The rapidity of his mesmerizing rise only furthered an element of mysticism to the recollection of a girl barely out of her teens.
Ms. Burns’ reaction upon seeing him in his highly touted feature role in 1983’s Risky Business was, “Totally totally shocked. All my friends and I were.” She added, putting a hand to her chest and
breaking a smile in a lighthearted, goodnatured possessiveness, “Though he was two grades older, WE were his friends because we were the artistic creative group, his kind of group. We went down
the shore together, went to parties together. He even dated my best friend before she went back to her old boyfriend. He was a newcomer I think in his sophomore year and I know there was a lot going on in his life. I know his father was never around because I used to spend time at his house and I was good friends with his mother and sister. He seemed to be aggravated because he wanted to be a wrestler and had hurt himself. So by fate he decided to do this instead.”
Drawing comparisons from his rambling teenage days to his acting career, Ms. Burns has nothing but praise and admiration for her old friend.
“What I can say the most about him is that he was extremely positive and confident and charismatic,” she said. “When he smiled he could light up the whole room. His personality was always assertive; there was never a doubt about himself. He exudes that in his acting. What I see in his acting is what I saw in him as a person. He was kind of aggressive and intense, also kind of fiery. When we were doing shows together and doing stuff together afterwards, he and I clashed a little bit because we’re both kind of the same personality.”
Though she didn’t follow Cruise onto the big screen, Ms. Burns pursued a busy career off it. She continued her acting and singing into the professional circuit, performing at the Paper Mill Playhouse and other various offBroad way stints, one of which inspired
a second trick of fate. It was by doing a theater production of Carousel that she met fellow actor and exmarine Gary
Burns. From the stage they eventually wound up at
the altar and have been married for
10 years, the past 5 ˝ of which have
been spent residing in a Madison Avenue house actually
built on the most elevated
location in Westfield.
It was in this union that the ultimate career blossomed when Ms. Burns bore two sets of twins— Tara and Ariel (now 8), Kyle and Kimberly (now 3)— none of whom know anything about Tom Cruise and whose frequent intrusions made the interview quite interesting.
Two roaming black cats, a large frisky German Shepherd, and the four active kids cause Mr. Burns to describe their home as a “jungle— each room teeming with moving life.”
When not busy in the jungle, Mr. Burns teaches middle school English and Ms. Burns works as a billing specialist for doctors; jobs that may, in a certain respect, be understood as somewhat of a reprieve.
Far away from Madison Avenue, however, continues the legend of an old chum.
When Ms. Burns watches Cruise on the big screen or hears the reverence given him by TV gossip columnists as the premier hunk in America, she has an altered perception than do most others.
“I sometimes think, ‘Wow. That’s really amazing that I knew him, and I know he would remember me, ’” she mused. “But even though he’s the biggest star in the world I wouldn’t be awestruck because I know him. When I see him on the screen I think that a lot of the things he does reminds me of him, because I think you still have that core person of who you are. Yet, sitting in a theater full of people watching him, I do feel funny being one who really knew him.”
Ms. Burns said that if she one day catches up with her old friend, she’d want to speak on the same level with him that she last did.
THE NIGHT OF DISCOVERY... Kathy Burns, pictured with her back to the camera, goes over lastminute preparations with Tom “Cruise” Mapother before a production of Guys & Dolls. Kathy’s older sister, Lorraine, is waiting somewhere in the audience with her own talent agent who would discover Cruise later that night.
Courtesy of Kathy Burns Courtesy of Kathy Burns
ARTIST OF THE WEEK
John Belushi ( 19491982 ) Offbeat and over the top are two words that aptly describe Chigacoborn comedian and writer John Belushi. Tragic and lost are two other words to describe the man who died from an injection of cocaine and heroin in 1982.
One of the first regular cast members of NBC’s blockbuster hit, “Saturday Night Live,” Belushi, who portrayed the Samurai Warrior, The Bee, Joe Cocker and Beethoven, was voted Homecoming King and Most Humorous at Wheaton Central High School in Illinois. His football teammates called him “Killer Belushi.”
Turning down offers to run his father’s restaurant businesses and a football scholarship, Belushi kept his eye on his dream to be a comedian. He joined the Second City Comedy Troupe in 1971. It wasn’t until he was discovered by a National Lampoon Magazine’s representative at the Troupe for his deadon impression of Cocker that Belushi got discovered. Enter “Saturday Night Live.”
Wisecracking Belushi and his flirty, highraised eyebrows moved on after the parody show to memorable flicks such as Animal House
and The Blues Brothers in which he played Joliet Jake, a character very close to his own personality.
Although Belushi wed his high school sweetheart Judith Jacklin and life seemed blissful, the tragedy of Belushi’s love for the night life and excessive drug use loomed like a storm cloud waiting to burst.
Belushi succumbed to the storm in 1982 and was buried in a cemetery in Martha’s Vineyard. Although a stone marks his original burial place, the comedian was moved to another, unmarked spot in the cemetery due to vandalism and desecration by fans who didn’t want to believe Belushi was gone.
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Double Theatre Reviews on Page 23 How Tom Cruise Got His Start: Westfield’s
Kathy Burns Remembers Her Friend
Arts & Entertainment
Sprint Ad Shot In Westfield Aired At Last
By MICHELLE H. LePOIDEVIN
Specially Written for The Westfield Leader and The Times
WESTFIELD – Blink and you’re sure to miss it, but at last the commercial filmed by Czar Films, advertising agents from McCann Erickson for Sprint’s 1 Point product on Elm Street last June has been spotted on the television.
Near the end of the commercial, the brasscolored stars above the door of Sir Puff’s Café may be seen as the ad’s main character dubbed “Hero Actor” picks up a napkin to wipe himself up after a delicious hamburger.
The commercial tries to point out that while the Hero Actor must travel to multiple venues, such as William’s Nursery in Westfield for the burger’s lettuce and Checker’s Restaurant on Route No. 22 for other ingredients, Sprint 1 Point service serves all communication needs at one time and place with one product.
If you look for the Sir Puff’s sign in the commercial, you are sure to not find it. According to Group Manager of Advertising for Sprint, the sign was dismantled to not encourage cigar smoking.
“It’s the perfect Main Street America type of town,” Production Manager Ann Bobroff of Czar Films told The Westfield Leader and The Times last June. “It’s a quaint type of ‘Main Street America. ’”
Ms. Thompson hinted that further commercial spots which would be needed for Sprint 1 Point might bring camera crews back to Westfield.
However, during a brief telephone interview with The Leader and The Times on Friday afternoon, a representative from McCann Erickson revealed that there are no plans in the works for further commercial shootings in Westfield.
While “Stuckeyville,” a comedydrama for CBS, which was also shot last year at a house on St. Mark’s Avenue, has yet to be seen on television, we will certainly stay tuned for further details.
Continued on Page 23
State of the Art
The Crossroads in Garwood will host Zen Tricksters on March 23; Billy Hector Band on March 24; Better Off Dead on March 25; Lost Marbles on March 29 and Shady Groove on March 30. For more information, please call (908) 2325666.
The First Congregational Church in Westfield will present the Elements String Quartet as part of its MidDay Musicales series on March 29 at noon. For more information, please call (908) 2332494.
Union County Arts Center in Rahway will continue its presentation of
Man of La Mancha on March 24 and 25. Performances begin at 8 p. m. For more information, please call ahead for tickets at (732) 4998226.
The New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark will continue its production of The King and I until March 26 in Prudential Hall. For more information, please call 1888GONJPAC.
MillerCory House Museum
will host a demonstration on Crewel Embroidery on March 26 at 2 p. m. For more information, please call (908) 2321776.
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Kathy Burns as a senior cheerleader for Glen Ridge High School in 1982.
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