The goons all gone, Katie Holmes slips past her very civilized besiegers

The scene outside Katie Holmes' hideout in Chelsea today. (Dan Rosenblum)
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By midmorning today, the scene outside the Chelsea building where actor Katie Holmes is reportedly holed up after her bombshell divorce filing in Manhattan Supreme Court Thursday had grown pretty collegial.

A white Cadillac Escalade that had reportedly been filled with "Scientology goons" keeping an eye out for the would-be divorcée (whose husband, Tom Cruise, is a sort of Top Gun Scientologist) had, according to the gossip, last been seen by a Daily News reporter around 5 a.m. And Holmes herself had not been seen yet.

More than a dozen reporters and six television cameras were stationed near the front entrance of the 19-story luxury rental apartment complex on 7th Avenue near 25th Street, waiting for Holmes to walk out to a flash of cameras and shouted questions.

The New York Post was represented, as well as the News, The New York Times, DNAinfo, CBS, ABC, CNN, Reuters and "Inside Edition."

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Four or five photographers were hanging out across the street in front of the Chelsea Gourmet Deli; a few reporters were taking turns on camp chairs that had been set up near the building entrance. Next to one was a stack of magazines (The New Yorker was on top) and in another, a reporter was thumbing through a paperback copy of White Noise by Don Delillo.

The steady stream of residents walking in and out of the building appeared largely nonplussed by the siege of photographers; maybe a few seemed to be quickening their steps just a little; but few stopped to talk.

Stopping to talk to the reporters and photographers was instead the province of passersby.

Around 11:15 a.m., a not-very-kempt man who appeared to be in his 50s or 60s shouted to the group, "Get a real job!" to almost no reaction. Stakeouts are long, boring, necessary affairs.

Other bystanders, strolling by the building, or to the Whole Foods, which occupies the building’s ground floor, seemed confused and asked the reporters to explain the scene. Most were straightforward, but some had fun telling a variation of Holmes being dead or that President Barack Obama was inside.

After being told of the actress and the white van, I.T. worker Debbie Spero on her cell phone looked at the area and said, “Why would she be living here? So weird.”

The closest thing to a break came around 12:30 p.m., when the dandily dressed Christopher Hyland emerged from the building, looking like a well preserved man who must be older than he looks in a straw boater, bow-tie, pinstriped jacket, and boyish backpack. He's already something of a microcelebrity of the TomKat split, though his connection to the couple doesn't extend farther back than the few days Holmes and her daughter, Suri, have lived in his building.

He has cited her regal bearing in the face of adversity, and sympathized with her for what he called the un-American behavior of the Church of Scientology, the purported sender of goon-filled Escalades.

Reporters and cameramen flocked to him.

“They were taking intimidating photographs of me, a textile merchant and magazine editor, a non-celebrity, as if I was threatening,” he told the reporters of the Escalade people. “I mean it was bizarre.”

“Are you talking about the paparazzi or the scientologists?” a reporter asked.

“No, the paparazzi I’m not talking about. I’m talking that there is some element here that has been very intimidating, even to me as a resident of the building. And it’s not the paparazzi.”

Hyland seemed to enjoy himself as he repeatedly complemented Holmes on her poise and dignity to the reporters, and fulminated on the deviousness of the "goons." To be fair, he provided one of the few joyful moments for the poor shlubs staking out the building, too.

His 30-pound labradoodle Hudson, was not with him this time, though he has made a few appearances himself, too.

“The subject of chatting about my little dog became this intimidating, heavy-duty scene, it’s un-American, she should be left alone by these goons,” Hyland told reporters this afternoon.

One newspaper photographer, who asked not to be identified, said he was about halfway through his shift, which began at 8 a.m. He was enjoying the interest, both positive and negative, coming from both the media and the passers-by.

“There was a guy who walked by, turns to the media and says, ‘you’re scum, you’re all scum.' So one of the TV cameramen goes, ‘So what do you do?’ He goes, ‘I’m a lawyer.’ And we all just burst out laughing,” he said, later referring to the critic as just as much of a "bottom-feeder".

“That was the high point of the day,” he said.

He said he didn’t really care much personally about the divorce or the story, but he said he’d been “in worse neighborhoods on stupider stories,” and besides, he said the weather was nice and there was plenty of company.

“Apparently there’s interest in it, everybody’s bosses believe there’s interest in it, so we’re interested in it.”

There had been speculation here and there that the building might have a back entrance that wasn't being staked out.

Under some scaffolding erected in front of a church across the street, Jo and another co-worker who wouldn't give their names because they didn't want to get in trouble from their bosses, stood "wasting time" watching the action instead of working. Jo said they'd been there for 30 minutes, and not really expecting to see much of anything.

"We're supposed to be at work. And the breeze is wonderful, that's why we stood here so long," she said.

She speculated Holmes wouldn't leave the building in front of all those cameras.

"I think she'd want to go out the back way," she said. "She may even be gone already while they're standing out here waiting for her."

She must have been right: A little after 12:30, People posted a report that Holmes had gotten all the way up to 40th Street and 7th Avenue, where she taped a guest appearance on an episode of "Project Runway: All Stars" at the Parsons School of Design's fashion-district outpost.

"She did great," the designer Isaac Mizrahi, who is a judge in the fashion-industry reality-show competition and saw Holmes at the filming, told People.

Here she is, leaving the taping earlier today:

CORRECTION: Due to a typo, an earlier version of this article referred to Katie Holmes' daughter as Siri.