Turns out the Outer Banks has its own version of the Loch Ness Monster: Tom Cruise. And because it is impossible for me to actually escape celebrity infiltration of my life, even while on vacation, I wasn't surprised last week when my 17-year-old niece came back from a plane tour of North Carolina's beaches with breathless tales of Tom Cruise owning the property JUST TWO HOUSES DOWN THE BEACH FROM OUR RENTAL! OMG!
The fact that no one has ever seen the Cruises frolicking on the beach or even visiting Duck's charmingly named Wee Winks Market for a six-pack hasn't deterred locals from spinning this one out for slack-jawed city folk already stupefied by hours of sun and saltwater. And, according to one local, time share marketers may be to blame for sparking the great OBX TomKat myth.
"It's an urban legend," said local real estate agent Richard Hess. "It's been going on so long. I think it all started 20 years ago with the time share people. They'd use it as part of their pitch: 'Tom Cruise owns a house up in Duck.'"
A more conspiratorial-minded colleague of Hess's at Sun Realty, who refused to be named, claims the rumor was true 10 years ago and that a "location was confirmed" but is now "hidden under corporate locations." And yet another secretive native, a Wee Winks employee whose perch in the heart of Duck puts her at the center of the gossip pipeline, matter-of-factly stated that Cruise did look at properties about 10 years ago but never bought. Sounds like him -- secretive, indecisive, annoying.
Like Hess, though, I remain skeptical. If Tom, Katie and Suri had visited the Banks we'd know. The paparazzi would follow them, even up the traffic-choked two-lane highway that serves as the only way in or out by car and we'd doubtless be reading about how TK had a canal dredged so the Scientology cruise ship could dock outside his place. No such luck.
Said Hess, "You think if they owned property they'd at least come to visit it once."
One true tale: Andy Griffith retired to the Outer Banks's Roanoke Island. And, truth be told, I'd rather see him anyway.
Did you perhaps bump into Kenny Chesney while snorkeling St. John or catch a glimpse of Mariah Carey kayaking her way around Puerto Rico in high heels? Since none of us can go on vacation without hearing tales of celebs (they're just like us!) lurking about somewhere behind a privacy fence, share your own tales below...