Pat Kingsley Finally Talks: Tom Cruise, Scientology and What She's Doing Now

Pat Kingsley
Pat Kingsley
 Austin Hargrave

Hollywood's once-most-feared woman opens up for the first time about being fired by Cruise (and the role Scientology played in their split), why she had to fire her longtime business partner Leslee Dart and her "selfish" life following an unprecedented, astonishing career.

The light is fading. We've been talking without pause for more than two hours, during which Kingsley never has flagged.

After Cruise's departure, things were not quite the same, she continues. The company had been sold to Interpublic in 1999, then merged with Huvane Baum Halls in 2001 to form the newly named PMK/HBH. Under new owners, there was pressure to do more lucrative corporate work, which was less appealing to Kingsley. Then came the split with Dart.

Dart was based in New York, with Kingsley in Los Angeles, but their relationship had grown frosty over the years, especially after Lois Smith's retirement during the early 2000s. Knowing Dart was angling to displace her, sources say Kingsley flew to New York and summoned her to a meeting in November 2004. There, with just the two of them and a human resources staffer, say the sources, she told Dart she was being fired.

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Dart left the next day and formed her own powerhouse company, 42West, taking a slew of celebrities with her, including Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Mike Nichols and Scott Rudin. "After the Leslee thing, we knew it was going to take some time to structure the company in a way that would be really viable once I left," notes Kingsley.

With Cruise's exit, then Dart's, there was a sense she was fallible. The world she had commanded for so long was changing. She no longer could control information as she once had. The galaxy of TMZ and bloggers and endless online chatter repulsed her. "You lose control of something so fast," she explains. "Publicity in my day was all about control."

Kingsley had signed a new, two-year contract in late 2007, but her heart wasn't in it. She was longing to leave, and when her bosses at Interpublic insisted on more cuts, she decided to go. "I said: 'Let's do it. I'll take my money now.' Within 24 hours, I had the check. Then I took my son-in-law and cleaned out my office. I had been planning that for two years, thinking I had another year to serve, and I didn't have to."

She adds: "I was so relieved. I was ready to give it up. I was ready to go."

A lamp comes on, casting a glow across the room, the amber light reflected in Kingsley's glasses. We sit in silence.

Kingsley is happy like this. She has few regrets and conveys no sense of longing for the past. "My life is divided into my growing up, my professional life and now my retirement life," she says, "and it's like three different people. I feel a little bit of guilt in that I am not being of some service to the community or some cause, but I am quite selfish about it because I don't want to. Retirement is great!" -- great in every way except for the looming future.

Mortality has begun to vex her, and especially her loss of faith. Once, she notes, she would read the Bible every day -- a chapter from the Old Testament and a chapter from the New -- and she even taught Sunday school in her 20s. But now she has doubts, and they're growing.

"I don't know that there's somebody out there waiting to welcome me into the pearly gates," she says. "I am more and more thinking that maybe this is it and there's nothing afterward."

She wishes she could slow her mind enough to find the type of haven she created for her clients. But her brain is too active, as busy now as ever before. "If I could just meditate, I wonder what that would feel like," she muses. "But I can't. I can't turn it off. I can't stop."

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