The couple's publicist issued a statement citing career strain as the cause of the breakup. The report quickly landed on numerous fan sites for the stars, where expressions of shock and disappointment spilled out alongside unsubstantiated speculation about other possible causes for the breakup.
"I'm incredibly shocked and upset about the split!" read one typical posting on Yahoo fan club Cruise Control. "I really thought that they would be one of the few Hollywood couples that actually stays together (past couples who have split like Bruce & Demi, Alec & Kim, etc.). I just hope that the kids get through the separation ok. Hopefully, Tom and Nicole will not get divorced and somehow work through it."
Fan sites have been a staple of the Web since its inception, spawning message boards and chat rooms as gathering places for people to share their thoughts on issues banal and profound. In December, for example, large, virtual crowds gathered together on the Net to commemorate former Beatle John Lennon on the 20th anniversary of his death.
Fan sites were relatively muted by comparison in response to the Kidman-Cruise breakup. On Yahoo, some 36 sites devoted to Cruise had drawn only a handful of visitors Monday. At Cruise Control, for example, the most popular fan site on Yahoo with some 473 members, four folks had popped in by late afternoon to dissect the split.
Visitors also dropped into some of the 10 sites devoted to Kidman on Yahoo--including one of five in the "adult" category--to express their disappointment.
Less common were sites devoted to both stars--a category whose days may well be numbered.
At Yahoo fan club Nicole and Tom's Eyes Wide Open, the site's founder posted a frantic message seeking advice from other members about what to do next.
"I can't believe this...them!!!!!!!!!! I thought they were a match made in heaven. I'm really upset. This was the one couple I never thought would break up. I mean come on, I made a club for the both of them. I can't believe this!!!!!!!!!! LOL, Tam...please share your thoughts n (sic) this one."