Thursday, May 15, 2008
Did I Ever Tell You About the Time I Received a Cease-and-Desist Letter from Tom Cruise’s Attorney?
Tom Cruise has been everywhere lately. He’s on Oprah! He and Katie and Suri are in New York! They’re at the Met Costume Institute Gala! So I think the time has come that I tell you about a letter I once received from his attorney. Cease-and-desist letters are very commonplace in celebrity journalism but that didn’t dampen the experience for me. This was my cease-and-desist letter. It is among my most prized possessions and now hangs in my bathroom in a lovely double frame because the attorney needed two pieces of paper to adequately convey his displeasure. It sits on the wall opposite my Yale degree -- that’s how important it is to me.
The day the letter was placed in front of me, I think I physically turned around to see if there was someone standing behind me. Really? Me? This couldn’t possibly be for me. Yet there it was at the top of the page: Ms. Noelle Hancock. It was addressed both to me and to the president of the company. The lawyer must not have realized how low I was in the pecking order because he definitely skipped a few rungs on the corporate ladder. I was just the blogger, the messenger, if you will. I was simply reblogging a story that had been written by someone else. I don’t even remember what the story was about now. TomKat was in full-force then and, frankly, there’s nothing we could’ve said about Tom that was any worse than what he was already saying himself.
There are no less than four other lawyers CC’d on the letter, but what really stands out is the unlawyerly language. One sentence reads: "Your greedy desire to sell your salacious publication by smearing these two decent people is disgusting." And later on: “Your deliberate choice to brutalize this lovely couple by printing false statements to create scandalous and shocking headlines to sell your publication demonstrates your malicious intention to defame Mr. Cruise.” Whoa. That is an aggressively long sentence, which sounds like it was written by a publicist rather than an attorney. Also, use more adjectives.
The note continues: “You and your staff are a disgrace to the profession of journalism.” Well, I don’t have a staff unless you count the one I carry when I’m herding my sheep through the foothills, which happens more often than you would think. But calling someone a disgrace to the profession of journalism is a bold, BOLD statement. The only statement more laughable might be "a disgrace to the profession of law practice."
Then -- in a stunning crescendo! -- it reads: “You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Ashamed of ourselves? I love it. Sir, I’ve posted pictures of myself on the internet at the age of 12 wearing a rhinestone-studded leather jacket with dangling crystals. There is no shame left. There hasn’t been for some time.
It is signed "Very truly yours." I really love this letter.