In the grand tradition of Brangelina and Bennifer, the code name for this story is "TomKat." Maybe code name is wrong. It's more of a brand name. And Rome is buzzing with it.
The Eternal City is hosting the wedding of the moment. A remake of "Roman Holiday." In this version, the Cary Grant role goes to the actor my (Irish) mother-in-law refers to as "that little fellow who is always running in movies." Already it's turning out to be a blockbuster.
Tom Cruise marries Katie Holmes -- TomKat. The word has my e-mail inbox bursting at the seams.
Here's just one example:
Subject: Tomkat dinner, What is being served?
The message goes on:
Please onpass to anyone who needs. Here's what the restaurant just told me.
Salad of mushroom and cheese.
Pasta with shrimp and zucchini
Ravioli with white truffles
Gnocchi with Tomato sauce (Tom's favorite! He's had it here before.)
Seabass covered with salt
Sliced beef with artichokes
White wine: Gavi
Red: Rosso di Montalcino
That's not the wedding meal itself. It's from Thursday at Nino's restaurant, where Cruise hosted an intimate dinner for 110. But you get the idea.
Rome's luxurious Hassler Hotel, atop the Spanish Steps, has suddenly become Rome's biggest tourist attraction. Fans and photographers jostling for just a glimpse have been camped out there for days. One Danish couple told me they hoped to see the groom rapel down to his limousine from the penthouse suite where he has been staying -- "Mission Impossible" style. I guess you get a little punchy standing for hours in a place like this, in a city where the permanent tourist attractions include the Vatican, the Pantheon, any number of Renaissance masterpieces, and some of the best restaurants in Europe.
In the tiny town of Bracciano, where the wedding is taking place, the commotion is even more pronounced. It's a beautiful medieval city on a lake that serves as the water supply for all the fountains of Rome. Bracciano has hosted plenty of popes and kings in its day, but never before Hollywood royalty.
Today, the guest list includes more stars than J. Lo, Will Smith, George Clooney, Jim Carrey and David Beckham. Brooke Sheilds is here, despite a recent spat with Cruise. Oprah is not, despite Cruise having turned somersaults on her couch declaring his love for Katie. John Travolta is expected to pilot a jet carrying dozens of other celebrities sometime today.
The wedding venue is Odeschalchi Castle, a 15th century castle that dominates the skyline of Bracciano. With its turrets and parapets, it's a fairy tale setting. And, perhaps as important, it's a fortress. So far as we've been able to find out, Isabella Rosselini married Martin Scorsese here in the '70s. And Christiane Amanpour tied the knot here in the '90s.
The details of this ceremony are, for now, a closely guarded secret. In a typical Scientology service, the couple is advised to honor the principles of the "A-R-C triangle" -- Affinity, Respect, Communication -- and the priest admonishes the groom to provide the basic necessities for his bride, among them "a comb, a pin, a cat."
For most of the people here, though, the main draw is not Scientology but celebrity. We met three college girls from Saugus, Mass., who are in Italy for a semester abroad in Florence. They arrived in Bracciano yesterday only to find all the hotel rooms full. All three are sharing one bed. Appropriately enough, the little pensione describes their room-type as a "matriomonio."
"We have no makeup and no change of clothes, but we're staying," said Amanda Santucci.
The celebrity they're most hoping to see? John Travolta! Apparently they loved him in "Grease." They may well be in luck.