The actor’s (former) best friend offers a rare portrait of “Kutch” before the fame.
Jim Tomlinson grimaces prior to chancing a bite of his Pad Thai at the Clinton Street Noodles & Co. before drying his grey/blonde mustache of the zesty sauce and chewing with his eyes on his Velcro wallet. After roughly 27 seconds, he breaks the silence with a guttural cough and pronounces the dish “fine.”
Tomlinson, the former best friend of Movie Star/Tech Guru/University of Iowa Dropout Ashton Kutcher, has never spoken about their famed bond, or its demise, until this moment. As the autumnal gusts forced Tomlinson to roll down his Garfield/Jetsons crossover sweater, Couchface dove in to one of Iowa’s most elusive enigmas.
(Note: Tomlinson refused to have his named abbreviated to “JT,” which he stated “sounds like a California bum” and “not like a real name, even.”)
Why the secrecy for so long, Jim?
What people need to understand is that Ashton is a very complicated individual.
For example: On Wednesday evenings when we’d walk home from church class, I’d ask Kutch—he went by “Kutch” in those days— if he wanted ice cream or cookies when we got back to my parents’ house. And he’d think and think and think on it, those brown, beautiful eyebrows flurried with activity. It’d often take him fifteen minutes just to pick a dessert.
He had trouble making decisions?
Oh, yeah. I mean, one year he’d be into G.I. Joe’s, the next year some girl, then obsessed with getting a scholarship and debit card. It was like, who is this guy?
Sounds like the changing priorities of an adolescent.
Nah, he was somethin’ else entirely. He was The Kutch.
What was college like with Ashton?
Well, everyone else could tell he was a gorgeous man. And by “everyone,” you know I’m talking about the ladies! In those days you’d have to meet the girl at a place at a certain time without a cell phone. So you’d be twiddling your thumbs, watching squirrels climb trees, passing cars. Sometimes you’d get so darn relaxed you’d suddenly realize the girl never showed up!
Did that happen to Ashton?
No, Kutch’s gals always showed up.
Did that create friction between you two?
I suppose so. I could tell he was embarrassed by me some of the time. He’d drop little hints like “don’t come to this party” or “we’ve grown past our friendship” or “stop knitting me sweaters.”
Those sound like pretty specific hints.
I knew he was just playing around.
How can you be sure?
What do we not know about young Ashton?
Well, Ashton was really into teddy bears. But not just any teddy bears. He liked ones with the eyes ripped out.
Did he rip the eyes out himself?
No, it was something I had to do.
Something you had to do?
He wasn’t strong enough to ask for help. It’s up to a really true friend to see when a buddy really needs something.
Why did he need that?
Ol’ Kutch was complicated, like I say.
Can you tell us about the Spaghetti Tampon incident?
When did the friendship end?
Actually, I was with him the day he got discovered over at The Airliner. We were drinking and I was fixing some bears for him and all of a sudden this woman comes up and says what the hell are you doing going to college? Your face should be everywhere. Everyone in your life has been holding you back not telling you how beautiful you are.
I thought she was talking to me. Ya see, people always thought I was prettier because I was near Kutch all the time.
(Note: At this point in the interview, Jim stared at me intensely, I assume waiting for confirmation of his attractiveness. He then inadvertently spilled his Pad Thai on his khakis and the interview continued.)
So, the day at The Airliner?[Wiping his pants with an entire block of napkins.]
I stood up and tried to walk toward her. Well, I still had my teddy knife in my hand and I tripped and damn near killed this talent scout. Kutch just sighed, shook his shaggy mane, and walked off. Since then I only seen him on TV and movies and such.
Is it hard for you to see him be so successful and loved?
Heck no. I’m happy for the guy. I finished pharmacy school, got married, kept all the bears. I’ve got more photos of him around my house than I do photos of my own family!
How does your family feel about that?
Tell ya one thing, my daughters absolutely hate having friends over.
Why break your silence after all these years?
I figured it’s been long enough. I wanted to formally reach out and ask Kutch once again: ice cream or cookies? My mom’s got both ready. And we’re waiting for ya, bud.
She has them ready right now?
She makes them daily. Just in case.
(Note: Jim presented to me his phone, which exhibited Facebook Live video of his 87-year-old mother, Grace, making cookies.)
How are you doing, Grace?
Grace Tomlinson: Tired.
Are you in love with Ashton Kutcher?
Jim Tomlinson: Love is a very complicated word. Kutch is a complicated man. Tell ya, I love my wife, but she understands her limitations. She knows she’s no grand mystery.
You’re finally listening to me.