Inside the 2019 TCM Classic Cruise Day 1: A Surprise Engagement!
TV Insider is taking you inside the 7th TCM Classic Cruise, so stay tuned for more as we navigate the Atlantic and (we hope) signature cocktails with Turner Classic Movies.
Free engagement with every cruise! Well, not exactly, but a couple aboard the 2019 TCM Classic Cruise surprised the audience at a Q&A October 22 when his question turned out to be “Will you marry me?” (To the relief of hundreds of attendees, she said yes.)
Thomas Bruno and Heidi Tittle, who met on TCM’s second sailing in 2013 and have gone on each cruise since (this is No. 7), ended a session called “An Hour With Ben Mankiewicz” on a high note. When the primetime host invited Bruno onto the stage, and then Bruno began pulling her along, Tittle says, “I’m thinking, well, your hand wasn’t [raised]. What are you going to ask him? And why are you taking me up there?”
“…and I’m playing dumb,” Bruno continues. The retired New York City firefighter turned actor (Blue Bloods) and stunt driver, who lives in Asbury Park, New Jersey, says he wasn’t nervous about proposing — but “I didn’t want to fall over when I went down on one knee.”
Bruno had been planning to ask Tittle to marry him for about a year, ideally on another TCM cruise. “This is where it happened,” he explains. One wrinkle: The annual trip had taken a hiatus, so he was eyeing the network’s film festival as an alternate. Then TCM announced the cruise would return this year to celebrate the channel’s 25th anniversary.
Over the years, the two had developed friendships with many staffers and on-air talent. On the maiden voyage, Bruno recalls, special guest Ernest Borgnine “took a fancy to me,” which earned him the thanks of Director of Enterprises and Strategic Partnerships Heather Margolis for making the McHale’s Navy star so comfortable during the then-brand-new venture for TCM.
Beloved host Robert Osborne (he passed away in 2017) set up a private meeting with the couple. “He said, ‘Hey, I was just trying to bring classic movie fans together. I didn’t know I was doing some matchmaking,’” Bruno says with a laugh.
Margolis was ultimately the one Bruno consulted about turning his hopes into a reality during the cruise. “I said, ‘I don’t know what to do or how to do it. But I’d like to have the family — my TCM family — around me,’” he says. A group of about seven people at the network figured out the specifics and Mankiewicz’s role. Adds Bruno: “He’s always been gracious and kind to us. I knew he would do it because he’s off-the-cuff.”
Now, Tittle, who lives in Hollywood and does human resources for a nonprofit veterans company (headed by the son of legendary actor Gregory Peck!), wears a 1.6-carat diamond ring.
She and her husband-to-be have been making their relationship work for almost seven years despite living on separate coasts. Within the next year or two, they’re eyeing a move to Palm Springs, California, where they’ll probably end up in the old Kirk Douglas home or some other place with a connection to classic Hollywood!