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Shortly after the Wall Street Journal transmitted partially mummified Viacom executive Sumner Redstone's (self-serving, possibly face-saving) bitchslap signalling the messy, astonishingly public end of Paramount's 14-year relationship with Tom Cruise and his production company late yesterday, other news organizations scrambled over to Cruise/Wagner to ask them if the impact from the back of Redstone's strong pimp-hand left any liver-spot marks. After rubbing a soothing aloe-based balm into their still-stinging cheeks, Cruise's producing partner and agent (whom, we should note, are married) stirred some outrage, disgust, and veiled threats into a damage control cocktail for the LAT:

"It is graceless. It is undignified. It's not businesslike," she said. "I ask, what is his real agenda? What is he trying to do? Is this how you treat artists? If I were another actor or filmmaker, would I work at a studio that takes one of their greatest assets and publicly does this?" [...]

The effect of Redstone's comments is potentially much greater than Cruise's production deal. The powerful Creative Artists Agency, which represents Cruise along with many others on Hollywood's A-list, isn't likely to forgive the public humiliation.

"Paramount made an offer that wasn't per se unacceptable, but money wasn't really the issue," said Rick Nicita, Cruise's agent. "What this says about Paramount is self-evident. It was graceless and it was shocking and offensive."

Despite the momentary offense that CAA is taking on behalf of a star client, it will probably settle on something short of a Paramount embargo to demonstrate its official displeasure with Redstone's affront. The next time the agency's partners gather in their headquarters' lobby to strip naked and stand before the huge pile of cash from a Viacom subsidiary's commission check, they will suddenly turn their backs on the money-heap and solemnly march back to their offices, forgoing their usual, joyous dive into the mound's center.