The odd thing is, D.J. LaChapelle is one of the good guys. His Internet consulting company creates Web sites for nonprofit foundations that focus on environmental issues, human rights, voter registration — name a cause, he’s probably helped build its site.
But these weighty projects aren’t what gets LaChapelle noticed. That distinction goes to his side project: TomCruiseIsNuts.com, a popular Web site lambasting Hollywood’s favorite couch-jumper.
“I love the Cruiser,” LaChapelle said. “‘Top Gun’ was a good movie. ‘Cocktail’ was a funny movie. But he wasn’t really a blip on my radar.
“But then Brooke Shields — what did she do to deserve that? And then he goes on the ‘Today’ show. Wow!”
– Justice Anderson, Supreme Court of Victoria, Australia, quoted at What judges have to say about Scientology
By now Cruise’s exploits, which included publicly denouncing psychiatry and psychiatric medication, which Shields was taking to treat postpartum depression, have become pop culture legend, topped daily by his professions of love for fiancee Katie Holmes, and by the recent arrival of the couple’s daughter, Suri.
“It’s all about tapping into the zeitgeist of the moment,” said LaChapelle, 40, who moved to Wichita from Washington, D.C., in October, after his wife took a job with Koch Industries.
Since he works from home, neither LaChapelle’s day job, as head of High Frontier Productions, nor his goofy sideline, which he’s named Amalgamated Worldwide Enterprises (AWE), were affected by the move.
Back when Cruise was just a Hollywood hottie who’d fired his publicist and made a few odd comments about Scientology, LaChapelle and his buddies decided to launch their site, mostly for their own amusement.
“We make fun of anything and everything that comes across the computer or TV screen,” said his college roommate and partner in parody, Jim Jonas, who lives in Denver.
They’d already hit the pop culture nerve a few years ago with the site WeLoveTheIraqiInformationMinister.com, so they figured they’d try again.
They spent a few hours cobbling together graphics and quotes from Cruise — including nuggets like this comment the actor made to the German press in July: “I myself have helped hundreds of people get off drugs. In Scientology, we have the only successful drug rehabilitation program in the world. It’s called Narconon…. It’s a statistically proven fact that there is only one successful drug rehabilitation program in the world. Period.”
The timing was perfect. Within hours of the site launch, it was getting thousands of hits. By week two, about 2 million visitors had checked in.
“We had no idea — it was such an inexplicable fluke,” said Jonas, 41. “We had no expectation that we could capture lightning in a bottle again.”
That said, the site is hardly a profit-making endeavor.
AWE sells a few T-shirts and coffee mugs with Cruise quotes on them, and puts the money toward paying for server space, but mostly it’s for laughs.
Not all of their joke sites have hit the mark (WeLoveArnold.com and ExterminateTomDelay.com, among others), but the Cruise site has earned mentions in the New York Daily News gossip column, on cable news and radio shows across the country.
“It was a whim we had,” said a third AWE partner, Ethan Andrews. “It was supposed to be a joke between friends, and all of a sudden we’re on CNN and Fox News.”
Andrews, 31, works for LaChapelle at High Frontier, but he’s also responsible for the snarky comments on the site, which is composed of Cruise quotes, commentary on the quotes and letters from readers. Imagine “The Daily Show” with the same celebrity guest day in, day out.
“He won’t keep quiet, so there’s a never-ending gold mine of material,” LaChapelle said.
“We have no malicious intent toward the guy,” he added, “but you can’t have it all. You can’t be Mr. $20 Million Celebrity and not be made fun of when you’re saying crazy stuff…. If you’re going to hang it out there, we’re going to find it.”
NOW YOU KNOW
QUOTES FROM THE SITE
D.J. LaChapelle, creator of the Web site TomCruiseIsNuts.com, said the site is easy to maintain because Cruise just keeps talking.
LaChapelle’s site has contributed some choice phrases to the pop-culture phenomenon that is TomKat — most notably by calling the pregnant Katie Holmes a “Cruiser Spawn Carrying Vehicle (CSCV)” –but the site depends on fresh quotes from Cruise himself.
Here are some examples of the Cruiser’s best material, from TomCruiseIsNuts.com:
• “I will forever with this woman be jumping on couches, dancing on tables and hanging from chandeliers.”
• “I’m going to eat the placenta. I thought that would be good. Very nutritious. I’m going to eat the cord and the placenta right there.”
• “I’m usually nervous to meet people that I admire because what if they’re not cool or something?”
• “When you talk about emotional, chemical imbalances in people, there is no science behind that.”
• “If someone doesn’t want to be a criminal anymore, I can give them tools that can better their life. You have no idea how many people want to know what Scientology is.”
• “It’s just like. ‘Huh? Wow, man. Wow.’ “
— Jillian Cohan