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Katie, Katie! Are you okay?

We watch through half-shielded eyes, at once intrigued and repelled. A statuesque starlet, wholesome and milk-fed, is held in the clutches of a wiry, white-toothed homunculus, enveloped in his bizarre and manic energy.

The little, grinning man grabs his young fiancée and kisses her awkwardly and aggressively. He professes his ardor for her, jumping on a talk-show sofa like a hyperactive child or a primate. (The host "mercifully cut to commercial before he checked her hair for nits and flung his filth," joked one Internet wag.) When the pair are engaged after less than two months — and then, one week later, there is talk of her bearing his children — we shake our heads and sigh.

But someone is doing something about it. Hollywood artist and former media exec Sheila Cameron created FreeKatie.net after she witnessed Tom Cruise clutching Katie Holmes in his hot little hands on Oprah. She was disturbed by the image, and she wanted to provide a meeting place for others who shared her revulsion over this horrifically mismatched couple (or misconceived publicity stunt), who wanted to help liberate a young woman "held captive by forces we may never understand."

So she sells T-shirts and bumper stickers bearing the slogan FREE KATIE. She provides a clearinghouse for the unceasing media coverage of l’affaire Katie. She offers a forum where like-minded citizens and sundry other folks with too much time on their hands can vote in polls — "Is Scientology a cult or a religion?" "Is Katie’s strap-on bigger than Tom’s penis?" — and post on message boards.

There, rumors are trafficked. Tom is insulted. Tom is defended. Some people aren’t sure how they feel. ("He’s ... a controlling, manipulative, fake liar! But he’s still gorgeous.") Others simply cry out for sanity: "Katie come to your senses!!!"

Will she? Or will Tom snap first, betraying himself finally as a frightening hybrid of Svengali and Humbert Humbert? Perhaps both their publicists will ultimately decide that the negatives here far, far outweigh any positives. Time will tell. Until then, we’ll stand and look on helplessly. But we must look.

"Don’t turn away," Cameron writes. "Your indifference makes you part of the problem."

Do your part at www.freekatie.net.

Issue Date: July 1 - 7, 2005
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