Tina O appears to have worked her way into Mel Gibson's world.
The former Minnesota interior designer has been squiring the embattled movie star and producer around the Twin Cities since Wednesday. They've been to Bloomington's Mall of America. Gibson, Tina O and her husband, Brad Hillstrom, ate dinner Thursday at Wayzata's Blue Point, I'm told. Gibson had lunch at Excelsior's Maynard's Thursday, but a staffer declined to disclose who else was in the party. MaynardsMN's Twitter account read: "He might be the biggest movie star we have ever had in the restaurant. #braveheart."
While Tina O and Gibson were at MOA, Bridget Ulrich, a marketing specialist for Theatres of Mall of America, noticed Tina.
"I graduated with her daughters from high school," Ulrich told me when I called her Friday because of information she wrote on her BridgetMpls Twitter account. "I saw her, recognized her and walked over and talked with her. She was with him; it really wasn't a big thing at all. I took them down to Sea Life because they wanted to go because his daughter was in town," said Ulrich.
"We didn't chat too much. We just stopped at a store. He did [talk to me]. I just don't really know if I [want what was said] included in the story. I didn't want to abuse his privacy, and obviously Tina's a friend of mine. He's here with his daughter; she was loving Legoland.
"I know they didn't really want pictures taken, he was just there for a family trip with his daughter. He said it was his first time in Minnesota."
I informed Ulrich that there are photos on Twitter of Gibson at Legoland.
"Oh," she said. "He wasn't actively seeking out photos when people would ask to take photos. He politely declined."
When asked if I could intuit that Tina is a friend of Mel's, Bridget said, "Yeah, I think so." Tina was with Mel at MOA, while Brad skipped this stop, said Bridget.
Tina O is a social networker of some renown, so my mind goes wild.
Is the family vacation for Mel the real story or a cover?
Could Gibson be the money behind Tina O's dream of having a talk show? She's always got a new business venture.
Is Tina selling Mel on the idea of Minnesota as a place to rehab his image? Some think Gibson's washed up in Hollywood after repeated anti-semitic controversies, a costly divorce and the disclosure of massive anger management issues on recordings of him yelling the most vile words and threats at his then-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva.
Wonder if there's any chance Gibson is here scouting movie locations?
Minnesota Film Board exec director Lucinda Winter said, "I can honestly say I'm not taking any meetings with him and I have not. Somebody called and told me, I saw Mel Gibson. But he hasn't contacted us and I'm not talking to him. Wish I was."
There must be an interesting story about how the bigger-than-life interior designer -- who's taken up fashion with wannawearbytinao.com since moving to the Hollywood area -- met Gibson.
I just knew it was too much of a coincidence when shortly after getting a tip at 3:12 p.m. Wednesday that Tina O had been seen at the Nordstrom shoe salon, I got this e-mail from an Elizabeth: "Hey CJ. My mom and I just walked pass Mel Gibson at MoA. He was in Jane and Jack [a kids' clothing store]. He was with a little 2 yo girl [his daughter, we assume] and 2 other women."
Before seeing Elizabeth's e-mail (and thank you) I sent a text to Tina O: "Why haven't you called?" I followed that up by playfully trying to smoke her out with a note on my Twitter account: Tina O, call me before I start a rumor that you were at MOA Nordstrom with Mel Gibson. A rumor you'd love.
I knew in my gut that a Tina O sighting was connected to a Mel Gibson sighting.
I still haven't heard a peep from Tina, who knows how to find me when she wants attention for, say, getting her photo taken with Jane Fonda or being friendly with "Real Housewives of New York" star Sonja Morgan?
And who can forget how, just a few months after arriving in the LA area, Tina O worked her way onto NBC's much-hyped "Victoria Beckham: Coming to America."
Tina O stole the 2007 episode with a few petticoat can-can moves that included shaking her rear for the camera.
Now, in 2012, Tina O is rolling with Mel.
C.J. is at 612.332.TIPS or email@example.com. E-mailers, please state a subject -- "Hello" doesn't count. Attachments are not opened, so don't even try. More of her attitude can be seen on FOX 9's "Buzz," Thursday morning and Friday and Saturday nights.