Dinner and a movie star

St. Petersburg Times/June 3, 2003
By David Karp

Mayor Pam Iorio talks up Tampa during a sit-down dinner with Tom Cruise.

The guests were told to come over after work and dress casual.

Political consultant Mary Repper just wanted to have a few friends over for dinner last Thursday.

Trading stories around the table in Repper's Clearwater home would be old friend Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, state Sen. Tom Lee, and Tampa attorney Stephen Mitchell.

Plus, Tom Cruise.

The guests didn't believe it.

"Tom Lee thought I was inviting him over to see a Tom Cruise movie," Repper said.

Actually, it was the movie star, hanging out in jeans and a T-shirt.

Repper met Cruise about a year ago at a political function sponsored by the Church of Scientology at the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater. Cruise is one of Scientology's most famous believers, and Repper has helped the church build political contacts.

The two hit it off.

Repper, who loves to cook, made Cruise one of his favorite desserts, coconut cake.

He liked it so much, he wanted dinner.

Repper invited some of her closest friends, who also happen to be powerful politicians.

"The church never asked me to do this," she said.

She's had Cruise over a couple of times, including on Mother's Day. Repper and her husband have also watched a Lakers game at their home with him.

On Thursday, Iorio sat next to People's 1991 "sexiest man alive."

Over dinner, she asked lots of questions about how Tampa might attract more films.

"I tried to make good use of the evening," Iorio said. "I figured as long as I was having dinner with Tom Cruise, I figured, "How could I help the city of Tampa?"'

"She kind of promoted Tampa," Repper said. "I got a kick out of that."

They also talked about inner city revitalization, drug laws and other public policy issues. Cruise briefly spoke about how he became a Scientologist, Iorio said.

The group also talked about films and their favorite Cruise movies. Iorio's is Born on the Fourth of July.

After dinner, Cruise showed the group clips from his upcoming movie The Last Samurai, which is set to be released in December. The group also got autographs, and Cruise posed for pictures.

At home by 11 p.m., Iorio's teenage kids thought Mom and Dad were pretty cool, Iorio said.

Iorio went to the dinner with her husband, the budget director of Pinellas County, not the sexiest man alive.

Cruise was alone. His reported love interest, actor Penelope Cruz, didn't come up in conversation.

When asked about Cruz on Monday, Iorio sounded puzzled.

"Who is Penelope?" Iorio said.

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