Thomas Cruise Mapother IV. That’s his real name. I have it on good authority that it was shortened to Tom Cruise by a woman by the name of Tobe Gibson, who is credited with discovering the young actor and landing him his first major roles. She was a talent manager in NYC and a little research shows she got him started, launched his career, and like many in Hollywood do, he left her behind as he climbed the ladder. If you read his unauthorized biography, or search their names together, it’s clear they were connected.
I met Tobe when I was 32. The twins were about 4 months old, I was unhappy in my marriage, and struggling to figure out my direction in life. (Once again…) I had recently started an acting workshop, had new head shots done, and realizing I was ‘over the hill’ for the business, was advised to seek out a manager to guide me on the path to success. I sent out 30 photos and got two calls back…typical. One was from a rough sounding woman who instantly reminded me of Joey’s agent on Friends. (Estelle… remember Estelle?!?!)
I was standing in my kitchen. I remember the call. I was jotting notes on a scrap piece of paper. She told me a bit about herself, explained her claim to fame was discovering Cruise and said she wanted me to come to her office. It was in Hartsdale, not Manhattan. We scheduled an appointment for a few days later, I hung up the phone, and Andy and I danced a little in the kitchen. (That was always our thing…dancing in the kitchen.) Maybe this was it. Maybe this was the beginning of what I was meant to do.
When I met her, it was cold and snowy. Her building was less than memorable, although I remember it vividly. I arrived at her office and she had someone else there so I waited outside in the hallway. When I went in, she looked me up and down and told me to sit down. She had on a lot of make-up and was wearing a navy dress suit. Her office was cluttered with photos. She had my head shot in her hand, flipped it over to look at my resume and declared, “Well, you haven’t done much. I don’t know what I can do with you.”
What?!?!?! She had invited me there! I drove an hour and a half, in snow, to have some old lady dismiss me just like that?!?! No way!!!! I smiled, which I do occasionally, and made conversation. She said, “Well, do a monologue or something. Let’s see what you’ve got.”
I did. When I was done she said, “Well, you’re good. I guess I knew it from the picture. You really don’t have much on your resume. I’m not sure how I can promote you. I’ll sign you for a year. Just a year. I normally do two but you really don’t have much. Can you sing?”
“I don’t sing, ” I replied.
“You can sing. I know you can sing. I hear it in your voice. Trust me . You can sing,” she said.
“I can’t sing.”
“I’m pretty sure you can sing.”
Thus began our beautiful relationship. The short version is we connected. I don’t know why. She was overbearing, in your face, demanding, and yet completely irresistible. She talked about my career, about her visions, how she felt ‘there’s just something about you’…
It was February of 2009. Two months later she had yet to send me on a single audition or meeting. She wasn’t feeling well, she said. She would have me stop by on my way to/from NYC on an almost weekly basis. Her apartment was cluttered. She had stacks of photos everywhere. She told me she wished I was her daughter. (She had two daughters. One was a notable SOAP actress, the other a Hollywood Madame. GOOGLE Jody Babydoll Gibson.) She was heartbroken over her daughter’s path, and perhaps she saw me as a way to make up for something she felt she had done wrong. She wanted me to succeed.
One weekend she came to my home in Connecticut. I picked her up from the train in New Haven and on the way home we had to stop at the grocery store to get her favorite foods. Aidan and Zach were with me, ages 6 and 4. She yelled at them in the car for being silly. I was taken aback, not surprised, and mildly irritated. I’m the mom. I called the shots, but not in Tobe’s world. I kept my mouth shut. I tucked her into bed and she watched a Barbara Streisand special on TV. The next day I drove her to Rhode Island to get her haircut. Why?!?! I couldn’t tell you why. There was just a connection.
She took me to all you can eat salad bars, forced me to eat strawberry shortcake, and called me regularly. I drove her, in a near blizzard, to pick up a friend miles away from her home. I couldn’t say no. In four months she sent me on one meeting with a casting director and that was all. Andy and I talked about what I should I do. Did I tell her I needed more and wanted out of my contract?
In June she called and said she needed to see me. I went to her apartment and she apologized for not having followed through as my manager. She told me she loved me like a daughter…the good one…and said she needed to go to LA to be with her family. She was sick, they were worried, and she was getting old. (I never knew how old.) She was spunky, relentless, and outspoken. She asked me if I wanted some of her furniture. An old lamp, a mirrored armoire. I said no, I didn’t have room for them. She then told me to sit on her bed and walked across the room. She came back with a mink stole. She wanted me to have it. It meant a lot to her, as did I, and she wanted to know that someone she cared about would keep it safe. I couldn’t say no.
She said she would call when she got to LA. She was going to work with an agent and would have me come out. I never heard from her again.
I left her a message in July. No return call. I called again in August. Nothing. It was strange. This woman had called me regularly and as much as she drove me insane, I missed her. At the beginning of October I received an email from a common connection. “In Memoriam: Tobe Gibson” She had passed away. I cried…and cried…and cried. I was heartbroken.
Tobe had a rare brain disease. I think it was Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. She may have contracted it fifty years earlier, and it causes memory loss, strange behavior, and dementia. Once the symptoms present, it can be a rapid decline. Suddenly it all made sense.
At her memorial, I met her daughter. (The good one as she put it.) I cried along with a roomful of people I did not know. Tom wasn’t there. Her friend, the one I picked up in the snowstorm, announced to the room how much Tobe loved me, and how fond of me she was. I asked her daughter if she wanted the mink and she said no, her mother had wanted me to have it.
There is so much more to this story. The anger Tobe felt that she shared with me and the discussions I had with other industry professionals once I realized her connection to her ‘other’ daughter. I felt as if I had been robbed of the chance to truly know this woman, to fully develop our relationship. Five years later I can say her impact on me, in just those 5 months, was tremendous. I still feel the loss now and wonder what she would think of where my life has gone. I wonder what may have happened had she not fallen ill? I think maybe that wasn’t ever in the cards, and perhaps I was sent to her for some reason.
I don’t know if I can sing. I know that because of Tobe I try. I belt out show tunes at the top of my lungs, when I’m alone, and I think sometimes I do ok. I think the key is we think, or are told, we can’t, and therefore never try. If you’re uninhibited, sometimes you can. Maybe I needed lessons.
The mink is in my closet. Well, it’s in Andy’s closet. He hasn’t moved it and won’t until I’m ready for it. I wore it to Christmas Eve once, but that was the only time. (I can eat the cow, can’t wear the mink.) When I tell this story I often end it with, “Cruise got Cruise… and I got a mink.”
In reality, I think I got so much more than he did.
This story is very touching. I’m glad I read it. thank you Jacquie
Thank you for your words. Heartfelt and paint a personal, loving and portrait of Toby. I actually did not even realize she had passed and I have tears in my eyes as I write this now. I worked with Toby for one year in the late 1990’s; just the two of us, everyday, together in her Upper East Side apartment. She was a little nutty, as show folk tend to be, and I often disagreed with the methods to some of her madness. But I can tell you this – everything she did – for her family, friends and her clients she represented – was out of pure love. Though the way she went about expressing it was a little kooky, she always had other’s best interest at heart. Anyone who had the good fortune in their lives of crossing paths with her was touched by her loving craziness, if only for a breif while. – Phil
LikeLiked by 1 person
Phil, I believe she hired you right after me, or sometime shortly thereafter. This is an old post so hopefully you get this message.
My name is Jody BABYDOL Gibson and Yes, I am Tobe’s daughter. My mother was loved by many. She would cry to me again and again when an unk actor would abandon her once he got his “Big Break”. I’m going on-the-record that Tom Cruise never have her the credit she deserved. I should know. I was there. It was a fall night when we both went to watch Tom in a high school play. Tom went to school with a client of Mom’s. Her name was Lauraine Gauli and she would beg mom to please come see Tom act. So we did. He was young, before the nose job and good looks kicked in, and frankly I wasn’t impressed. But mom would tell me over and over as only She could “Jo- he’s going to be a Star!”. And she was right. My mother and I were close regardless of how she felt about my “Policies”. I continue to support her in her absentia whenever I can. Love You, Mommy…
Jody… my son Colby, who will be 16 years old July 23,2017 was a client of your moms around the year 2005 approx.
I read this very accurate portrayal of your mom and I also wanted to express what a magic personality she was. She truly DID leave an impact. Although she would ask for some semi wacky things like for me to drive an hour and half each way to help change a lightbulb at her apartment. Lol. But she truly had a unique spirit. I want to say that we had several discussions when she spoke highly of BOTH her daughters. She did tell me some of the struggles your fam endured but she told me the struggles she overcame out of LOVE for BOTH girls. The madam AND the soap star w/ a hair line possible coming out. She obviously taught you girls both to take a negative and twist it to positive. I just found out about your moms passing at local comicon last year by EMMY award winning Geancarlo Esposito from breaking bad ( who was also loved and represented by your mom ) We Both spoke for a bit as he advised me of her passing. The common words said about your mom are all positive so I’m proud to say that my family ( sons Colby and Cooper) and I were grateful to meet your mom and obviously she’s left a big impression on people’s lives. FYI Tom cruise lost out in the end bcus your mom was a GREAT lady and maybe he wouldn’t of turned out to be SUCH a raging asshole had he kept good ole stone in his life to knock that oversized ego of his down a few pegs. She totally would of and that’s likely why he ran like the wind…. someone like TC couldn’t handle it if every one didn’t stoke his …. ego. Tone was one of THE realist ladies you could ever meet. Anyways … if your ever in Northwest Connecticut summertime and need a place to crash…. any daughter of Tobes is welcome. My thoughts are with you for the loss and I want you to know I think of her often. I’m getting my youngest son Cooper ( per his request) back into modeling if funnyface & Barbara C at innovative are interested but boy oh boy do I wish Tobe was able to help because she was very respected in the industry. It was right around the time the internet was getting big and I think technology frazzled her. But I still couldn’t bail on her even though she had us driving 2 hrs to the city for things she could of sent in thru the computer. TG was the most genuine person I met in the industry. She cared or at least appeared to. RIP to Tobe Gibson a woman of integrity, personality & a character you can’t just find.
Hi Nora; I am just discovering your lovely letter now, 18 mos later. Thank you for writing this piece on my mom. Tobe knows how much I loved her. Others know nothing. My journey, which most mother’s would Not understand, took 2 books for me to write. Outsiders have No clue as to the dynamics of our complex relationship. No matter what gets written or published by amateurs ‘taking a stab at writing’, Tobe and have always shared a love for each other, and I still communicate;!we are closer than ever before. She is proud of my new Store http://www.babydolscloset.com and wished she could be here designing w me. Few know, Tobe began as a Clothing Designer on 7th Ave NY. We shared this passion.
After 4 CDs on ITunes, 5 published books on amazon, Videos on YouTube, my Vida Collection, and now the Babydols Closet Online Store w over 300 Custom Made items I Design – well, my Story begins to tell itself.
Please find me on Facebook or Instagram as I would luv to make the connection with you.
Jody Babydol Gibson
Tobe was an amazing woman. At a time when color blind casting was rare…she saw my potential as a multi-racial woman who did not fit any mold. She gave me a chance…..let me stay at her house….even walked 7 flights of stairs with me to an audition for Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame (95) ….I know she thought a lot of me, and she never gave up on me. Even when I called 15 years later at an open call for the hollywood bowl ….she put everything on hold so they could hear me sing. I remember exactly what I wore the day I met her in her studio on the upper east side. I did not know she passed away, and i wish she could have known my successes in musical theatre have a lot to do with her.
in loving memory
Gigi “koonin” Coddington
Of course you wouldnt remember me but I was Tobes assistant for a little while 96-97. I remember you and she used to always talk about your story could be a LIFETIME movie.
not quite sure how I stumbled across this article. tobe must be thinking of me from up above. I lived with her the summer before I started college in 1990..She saw something in me and believed that I would be a star ( the girl next door, she would tell me) I got a few jobs but mostly just hung out with her, lived with her during the week , and helped her deliver paperwork.. I was a small town girl living in the big city.. east 62nd st.. I will never forget the amazing experience and opportunity that she had given me.. and the stories she would tell me.. tom cruise, mos def, dwayne wayne.. I am not a model or movie star today, but a proud mother , teacher , and wife… just as rewarding!!!!!
kristin ducharme (peterson)
Kristin, I remember seeing your photos in her filing cabinets years after you left the job! This was in the mid 90’s, and I cannot forget a name like Ducharme. Very small world. And for what it’s worth, being a mother beats being famous any day 😉
Hey! Tobe Gibson was my manager too. I was in one film when I was eleven. So sad to hear of her passing, and disease. My mother just passed away, and I just found my old contract with Tobe’s phone number on it. She told me she found Cruise too. I called her years later and she said to me, You were chunky did you grow up thin? Do you sing? i said no even though I do, and i write screenplays now. Like My mom did. I was hoping for her guidance with my scripts. This is how I came across your post! Wow. Small World. ❤