Wild Brad chase: Tweets spark campuswide search for actor Pitt

Thursday, February 17, 2011 | 7:37 p.m. CST; updated 8:27 p.m. CST, Thursday, February 17, 2011
A group of students gathers outside of the MU Student Center on Thursday afternoon after rumors spread that Brad Pitt was on campus. Photos from Los Angeles clearly showed him to be in that area today and not at MU. The actor attended MU in the 1980s, but he did not graduate.

COLUMBIA — A rumor that Brad Pitt was visiting MU set the student body abuzz Thursday afternoon as tweets and texts giving Pitt's purported locations went viral.

Students gathered en masse about 3:30 p.m. between the Student Center and the Agriculture Building, where Pitt, a former MU student turned superfamous Hollywood actor, had supposedly been seen.


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MU freshman Patrick Mulvihill took responsibility for starting Thursday's Brad craze when he and a group of friends began circulating Tuesday that Pitt would be visiting the campus. The men are members of Sigma Chi fraternity.

"Brad Pitt was a Sigma Chi," Mulvihill said. "It's like our bragging point."

Mulvihill tweeted at about 3:23 p.m. Wednesday that Pitt would be visiting MU. He said what started as an inside joke between buddies quickly spread and took on different forms.

"Social media was blowing up and word of mouth was ridiculous," he said.

When he saw the group of people between the Student Center and the Agriculture Building on Thursday, Mulvihill had no idea it was related to his tweet.

"We thought someone was fighting or something like that," he said.

He never thought what he intended to be innocent fun would cause such a commotion on campus.

"Just that one of my friends came up with it this Tuesday, and it blew up was funny but ridiculous," Mulvihill said.

MU juniors Cara Thomas and Laila Al-Khashti were among the crowd of about 100 people waiting for Pitt. Although they thought the rumors circulating about his visit probably were false and speculated about why Pitt would visit the campus, they said they would be overwhelmed if given the chance to meet him.

"I wouldn't even get a chance to say anything," Al-Khashti said.

"I would just scream inaudible words," Thomas said. "Unintelligible stuff."

An MU Police cruiser rolled by the crowd, using a loudspeaker to tell the students to keep on the sidewalks and out of the street.

MU sophomore Paola Rivera wanted Pitt to show himself soon if he was on campus. She needed to get to class.

"Just drive through with the windows down," she said. "We'll be fine."

Rivera's friend, MU freshman Sydney Trepel, said she had seen lots of students stricken with Brad fever.

"Literally, girls were running from my last class," Trepel said.

"It's just funny that nobody knows if he's here for sure, but they're still crowding to catch a glimpse," Rivera said.

Rivera got a text from a friend telling her that Pitt was greeting students at the MU Columns, prompting her and Trepel to hurry toward Francis Quadrangle.

"My mom told me to kiss him," Trepel said as she walked. "My day's been horrible, and if that turned it around ...," she trailed off.

Rivera called her friend to check whether Pitt was still on the quadrangle, but the friend reported he was no longer there.

The young women were skeptical.

"She could have been kidding," Rivera said. "She sounded like she was kidding."

MU sophomore Kristina Gentile, who was working the information desk at the Student Center during the excitement, said many students were asking whether she had seen Pitt.

"Someone said they heard it on the radio, and there are a bunch of Facebook statuses about it," she said.

Gentile said she had yet to see the celebrity, though there were some false alarms.

"Some jerk screamed from up there (the second level of the Student Center), 'Oh my gosh, it's Brad Pitt,'" she said.

Many versions of the rumor were circulating. Some students said Pitt was visiting the Office of Greek Life because of his fraternity membership. Others said he was visiting the bookstore, shaking hands with students in the Student Success Center and even hanging out with Oprah Winfrey. Pitt did not visit the Office of Greek Life on Thursday, a representative said.

Pitt is an actor who performed in "Fight Club," "Inglourious Basterds," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and other blockbuster films. He attended MU's School of Journalism in the 1980s.

Pitt's publicist, Cynthia Pett-Dante, did not respond to a phone call seeking comment on the rumors.

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P C February 17, 2011 | 8:34 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
Mark Foecking February 18, 2011 | 3:46 a.m.

Twitter has allowed us to spread rumors at the speed of light, rather than at the speed of sound. Somehow I don't think this is a step forward.


(Report Comment)
Gregory Brown February 18, 2011 | 8:29 a.m.

Do frat lads automatically assume that a large crowd might be "somebody fighting or something like that"? Is that a common response on campus? Would anybody think it might be somebody passing out bread and fish?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams February 18, 2011 | 9:00 a.m.

Mark Foecking and twitter:

I see where U-tube, twitter, and facebook are going to combine forces into one entity.

It'll be called "U-Twit-Face".


(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire February 18, 2011 | 2:36 p.m.

Wow. Look at the twits. TWEET! TWEET! TWEET!

Youtube is a useful entity. Please do not malign it by including it with the other two.

(Report Comment)
Delcia Crockett February 19, 2011 | 8:40 a.m.

From story:
"Pitt's publicist, Cynthia Pett-Dante, did not respond to a phone call seeking comment on the rumors."

My response:
What's her lack of response/reaction? Does she hear of "Brad sightings" a thousand times a day? How funny!

When he actually did show up at MU, Kerry was running for President, and people can still remember that crowd that swept onto campus, just for a glimpse of this person who "missed being called MU graduate by two credit points."

Some of us students were scheduled to work that night so we went on in to work, and we even missed the "Entertainment Tonight" coverage of his being on MU campus - but there were hundreds who either called in sick or were "no shows" at work, across Columbia, that night.

Makes sense that he would try to secretly visit campus, and makes sense that some student would spot him and pass the word on. Makes even more sense that rumors spread like the proverbial wildfire online.

So, publicist just did not bother to explain the obvious.


(Report Comment)
Yves Montclear February 19, 2011 | 9:39 a.m.

My question, why is this news? **Tweets spark campus wide search for actor Pitt**

Mark Foecking wrote:
--Twitter has allowed us to spread rumors at the speed of light--

And the potential for flash mobs. In the future, it will be interesting to see where this technology goes, and if it is stopped by governments or law enforcement.

A few pissed off people aren't much of a match for law enforcement, but if somebody can 'tweet' something, and suddenly thousands of pissed off people show up at the same place, get whipped up into a frenzy...there in lies the potential for real trouble and mayhem to occur.

Law enforcement should be preparing to handle these kinds of events. I believe the 'flash mobs' are only going to get worse, not better.

It is just the nature of some people, to abuse any technology you give them.

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley February 19, 2011 | 9:59 a.m.

Twiiter is a threat to National Security, FOLKS!


Ricky Gurley

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire February 19, 2011 | 7:32 p.m.
(Report Comment)

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