Scientology's membership boasts some of Hollywood's top talent, despite one of the most sinister reputations of any modern religion.
"The evidence portrays L. Ron Hubbard as ... virtually a pathological liar when it comes to his history, background, and achievements. The writings and documents in evidence ... reflect his egoism, greed, avarice, lust for power, vindictiveness, and aggressiveness against persons perceived by him to be disloyal or hostile."
- Paul G. Breckenridge, Jr., Judge of the Superior Court of Los Angeles, June 20, 1984
AFTER HIS WEDDING TO NICOLE KIDMAN, TOM CRUISE was the guest of honor at a dinner party given by the powerful Creative Artists Agency at the trendy DC3 Restaurant, overlooking the Santa Monica Airport. Cruise sat at a table with CAA kingpin Michael Ovitz, often called the most powerful man in Hollywood. Right next to them sat David Miscavige, often called the most powerful man in the Church of Scientology, the self-help religion that promises "auditing" will "clear" its followers of the fears and traumas blocking them from total success--at a typical cost of $300 to $400 an hour. Nearby were two full tables of Scientologists. According to one of the guests, the Scientologists around Cruise were "like they always are--very direct, very attentive, very protective--hovering over Tom. And shaking a lot of hands."
Across town, a former Scientologist named Nan Herst Bowers was agonizing over a letter she'd recently received from her 23-year-old son, Todd. "Dear Mom," he wrote, "I am sending you this letter to let you know that I have to disconnect from you ... I can't see you, the babies, or Jim until this is all over and handled."
A Hollywood publicist, Bowers had been a Scientologist for twenty years, had been married to a Scientologist, and had raised three sons in the organization. Although she had been drifting away for years, she was still officially a member when an article appeared in the Star about Cruise's involvement with Scientology. Almost immediately, the tabloid began getting strange calls. The callers "started harassing me to find out who my source was," says Janet Charlton, the reporter who broke the story. "People in the Tarrytown, New York office, the reporter who worked with me, the front office all got fake calls, trying to find out my source, to get a phone number." When that didn't work, Charlton says, she got a startling call from the phone company. "They told me there were people calling from different places, from New York and the West Coast, trying to get copies of my phone bill, pretending to be me. Then someone called me pretending to be a lawyer from my own magazine."
Shortly afterward, Bowers says, she also got a strange call--from a man claiming to work for the Star. "He said his name was Alan Goldman and he was with the GP Group, which had recently bought the Star and the National Enquirer. He said he had talked to Janet Charlton, and she said I was her source for the Tom Cruise story, and if it wasn't true, she would be fired."
Bowers insists she wasn't a source for the Cruise story. But Charlton is a close friend. So, Bowers says, under pressure from "Goldman," she finally made the statement that tore apart her family. "I lied for Janet," says Bowers. "He said, 'Did you get paid for it?' and I named a figure I thought was right."
It turned out that "Alan Goldman" was lying. In fact, as Scientology officials readily admit, the caller was a private detective working for Scientology attorneys. Three days later, Bowers says, a Scientology official named Philip Jepsen paid her a visit. "He comes with two people in uniforms--very intimidating--and he asks me about Tom Cruise," Bowers recalls. "It became obvious he knew everything I had told 'Goldman.' He grilled me for two hours. At the end, he handed me a Declare."
The charges listed in Bowers's "Suppressive Person Declare"--essentially an order of excommunication--included "writing anti-Scientology letters to the press or giving anti-Scientology or anti-Scientologist data to the press" and "engaging in malicious rumour-mongering to destroy the authority or repute of higher officers or the leading names of Scientology." The Declare meant that, in general, no one in Scientology should speak to her again, including members of her family. It was followed by "Disconnect" letters from her sons and ex-husband.
When Bowers tried to contact her sons, she got letters back from Jepsen. "Dear Nan, I just received a letter from Todd, enclosing a card you sent to him for Valentine's Day," Jepsen wrote. "In the card you suggest to him that you and Todd see each other without telling anyone. I think you realize that this would not help Todd in any way in his auditing, and he would at best have a withhold that would keep him constantly out of session and unable to make any gains. Todd has asked me to let you know that he is now engaged and that he is giving you a year's warning in which to handle your situation so that you will not miss out on something you really want to be part of." In other words, recant or miss your son's wedding.
Scientology officials respond to Bowers's charges by accusing her of being in league with the Cult Awareness Network, an anticult group whose members they call "thugs" and "kidnappers." Scientology organizations and individuals have lodged more than 40 lawsuits against CAN, which counts among its members the wife of Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas and Patricia Ryan, whose father, Representative Leo J. Ryan, was killed by Jim Jones's followers in Guyana. CAN officials say their only service is to provide information, and they adamantly deny Scientology's charges that they are involved in kidnapping or any other illegal acts. Scientologists also say Bowers tried to get one of her sons "kidnapped" by deprogrammers. Bowers admits trying to get her son to talk to two "exit counselors"--who say they don't use force and only talk to people who are willing to speak to them--but the son ran away before she could even bring them together.
Since her Declare, Bowers has been trying to contact Cruise. He has a reputation for being a good guy, she says--surely he wouldn't want her family split up on his account. Maybe he would intervene. "I sent a letter to his assistant," she says. "I said, 'Listen, Tom, the church went out of its way to protect you, and in doing so they ruined my relationship with my three boys. I wanted to know if you could help.'"
Bowers never heard back.
L. Ron Hubbard's strategy for success since 1955, when he launched "Project Celebrity" by printing a wish list that included Orson Welles, Danny Kaye, James Stewart, Greta Garbo, Walt Disney, Darryl F. Zanuck, Cecil B. DeMille, and many others. Scientology's Ability magazine printed detailed instructions for hunting them down. "If you want one of these, write us at once, giving the ONE celebrity you have selected. We will then allocate this person to you as your game. Having been awarded one of these celebrities, it will be up to you to learn what you can about your quarry and then put yourself at every hand across his or her path...." The order concluded: "These celebrities are well guarded, well barricaded, overworked, aloof quarry. If you bring one of them home, you will get a small plaque as a reward."
Nearly 40 years later, Scientology has arrived in Hollywood in a big way. The list of celebrity Scientologists now includes Cruise, Kidman, Priscilla Presley, Lisa Marie Presley, Anne Archer, Juliette Lewis, Kelly Preston, John Travolta, Mimi Rogers, Karen Black, and Kirstie Alley. There are dozens of lesser-known Scientologists in show biz as well: Lee Purcell (Big Wednesday), Jeff Pomerantz (General Hospital), Geoffrey Lewis (Juliette's dad, who was in Every Which Way but Loose, among other movies), Judy Norton-Taylor (The Waltons), Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson), child TV actor Vonni Ribisi (My Two Dads), Michael Wiseman (Predator 2), Kimberley Kates (Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure), Michael D. Roberts (Rain Man), and Gary Imhoff (the forthcoming Thumbelina). Then there are the behind-the-scenes talents: Dick Tracy screenwriter Floyd Mutrux; composer Mark Isham (A River Runs Through It); actor and acting teacher Manu Tupou (Hawaii); and director Dror Soref (The Seventh Coin), who cut his teeth on Scientology films and now has a deal at Paramount. Scientology even claims one of Hollywood's most successful acting teachers, Milton Katselas, who heads the Beverly Hills Playhouse. People who have drifted through Scientology include Jerry Seinfeld, Patrick Swayze, Top Gun producer Don Simpson, Harvey Haber (brother of CAA cofounder Bill Haber), actor Brad Pitt, and Ernest Lehman, screenwriter of The Sound of Music.
Scientology's physical presence in Los Angeles and Hollywood is massive. It owns at least seven large buildings, staffed by 2,500 members, and is associated with a wide array of local organizations--"front groups" to their detractors. Some are directly affiliated with the Church of Scientology, like the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, an antipsychiatry group, and Author Services, which represents Hubbard's books and hires actors like Roddy McDowall and Bruce Boxleitner to read the Scientology founder's books on tape. Others have Scientologists on staff and use Scientology methods: HealthMed Clinic offers a drug treatment developed by Hubbard called the Purification Rundown, the Gentle Birth Center offers a Scientology-compatible quiet birthing technique, and the Delphian School and Apple Academy use his "study tech." Then there's the Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education (FASE), which used funds from the U.S. departments of Energy, Education, and Labor--as well as IBM, ARCO, and the National Science Foundation--to produce a PBS motivational math series that featured Arnold Schwarzenegger, Leonard Nimoy, Ted Koppel, and Edward James Olmos. FASE has also promoted Hubbard's Purification Rundown. Some are run by Scientologists and may have no other connection to Church of Scientology activities, such as the Shaw Health Center and American Premiere magazine, which is distributed free to all members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (For the record, PREMIERE and American Premiere were in a trademark litigation several years ago. The dispute was resolved.)
And Scientology's celebrities work for their church. When one stage of a court case in Oregon went against Scientology, Travolta flew up to speak at a news conference. Alley is the international spokesperson for Narconon International, a Scientology-inspired drug rehabilitation program, which she promotes through interviews, speeches, and public appearances. Magazine covers of Cruise, Travolta, Archer, and others are displayed outside one of Scientology's New York centers, along with the slogan: I AM A SCIENTOLOGIST ... COME IN AND FIND OUT WHY. Travolta's films have been made available for Scientology benefits: Chains of Gold premiered--at the Directors Guild--for Scientology's Ability Plus schools. Look Who's Talking Too raised a reported $100,000 for Narconon. In 1991 Black lent her name to a benefit for the Gentle Birth Center. Celebrity Scientologists frequently extol the benefits of Scientology courses in Celebrity magazine, which is distributed free at Celebrity Centres: "It was just after auditing that I got the role in Fatal Attraction," says Archer. "The tech that has helped me the most in acting has been Mood Drills and TRs," says Alley. "I guess you could say that is my acting technique." Hubbard's name even made the 1975 Oscars, when producer Bert Salzman said in his acceptance speech, "I want to thank ... my dear friend, and a wonderful human being, and a man who helped me pull it all together, Mr. L. Ron Hubbard."
While many Scientologists are certainly sincere idealists--even the most bitter ex-Scientologists say there are many fine people in the group--there is no doubt that Scientology has mastered the art of associating with good causes. Case in point: The Earth Communications Office (ECO) is Hollywood's leading environmental group, with a board that has included such luminaries as Schwarzenegger and Michael Keaton--as well as Rogers, Alley, Preston, and Cruise. R. Michael Wisner, a FASE official and administrative director of HealthMed, was also on the board. Alley helped arrange a premiere of Look Who's Talking to benefit ECO. Scientologist members suggested that Author Services develop an environmental booklet for ECO. The booklet, called Cry Out, ended with a poem Hubbard had written before he died in 1986.
The association between ECO and its celebrity Scientologists began to backfire: When the Sherman Oaks Elementary School planned a program of skits and songs based on Cry Out, complaints from worried parents and administrators about the Scientology connection became so strong that the school canceled the event. Soon afterward, ECO founder Bonnie Reiss brought up her growing concerns with ECO's Scientologists, at which point Cruise and Alley left. But before they did, Alley appeared under ECO auspices on The Arsenio Hall Show with fellow Scientologist Edgar Winter, who performed Hubbard's Cry Out for an audience of millions.
Since he went public, Cruise has been Scientology's most glittering advocate. He says Scientology helped him with his learning disability, and he also reportedly urged studio executives to rent an expensive sound machine developed by Scientologists; it was used on Far and Away. (Some associated with the production later noted it did prove useful.) And he has introduced major Hollywood players to church leaders, in one case flying producer Brian Grazer and screenwriter Bob Dolman by helicopter to Scientology's desert complex for a story meeting. Director Ron Howard was waiting there with Cruise. "The surreal thing about it is it's in the desert, and part of the office is built as the replica of a ship," Dolman says. "And the idea of going to a place that has its own compound in the desert and being flown in a helicopter is exotic."
Dolman found his hosts "so security-conscious, so military--there was a car waiting for the helicopter, people wearing brown khakis." At the end of the story meeting, in walked Scientology leader Miscavige to shake hands. Miscavige also came to the Far and Away location for Cruise's birthday. "I know he's one of Tom's closest friends," Dolman says.
AT FIRST, NONE OF THE WELL-KNOWN SCIENTOLOGY celebrities would agree to be interviewed for this article. Cruise's publicist, Pat Kingsley, insisted that writing an article about someone's religion was "un-American." Alley faxed this response: "If I ever met a journalist who I felt had the intention of representing this religion in its true vein, I would not hesitate to do the interview. My instincts tell me you're not the one. Pass-adena."
Scientology leaders later agreed to a two-day interview with this reporter, which they began by saying they weren't surprised that no Scientology stars would talk to PREMIERE because Cruise's former publicist, Andrea Jaffe, said "you wanted to get some 'juicy stuff' on Scientology." PREMIERE interviewed Jaffe shortly after she left her job with Cruise to become head of marketing at Twentieth Century Fox. She denies saying anything like this but admits following up her interview with calls to both Cruise and Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder.
Subsequent to an interview with the Scientology leaders, we received letters from several actors: "Scientology is a brilliant technology that I have used for many years to make my life more insightful and richer," Archer wrote. "As an artist I have felt more and more creative and find myself constantly expanding. Those things that one wishes one could change about oneself just fall away and there you are--more truly yourself."
Priscilla Presley wrote: "Scientology is the only religion I know of that still maintains integrity, values, and delivers what it says it will. I have had tremendous gains from applying Scientology philosophy to my life, and things have changed for the better as a result. . . . People who drop out of Scientology or have a problem with it obviously can't maintain the ethics involved, which is the same reason why our society is in the condition it's in. If we don't have a sense of ethics in our lives and get back to the basics, where is the future for our children?"
Finally, just before this story went to press, actor Michael D. Roberts called and offered--demanded, actually--to be interviewed. "I've had many wins in Scientology, and I've been a member for twenty years," he said. But he insisted on meeting face-to-face and said he wasn't available for "several weeks," repeatedly refusing to be interviewed on the phone right then and there.
Ex-Scientologists were also reluctant to talk--out of fear. "I have kids, I have an ex-husband who is still way, way involved," said one. "Everybody I know has been investigated." A Hollywood publicist also refused: "I don't have the lawyers or the bodyguards." Emilio Estevez was reported to be the target of a Scientology recruitment attempt; he said he supported PREMIERE's efforts but declined to be interviewed: "I just don't want to end up with my phones tapped."
Such fears have considerable foundation. The worst incidents come from the '70s: Scientologists are known to have framed the mayor of Clearwater, Florida, in a trumped-up hit-and-run accident. They also framed a journalist named Paulette Cooper, alleging a bomb threat, and sued her seventeen times. Hubbard's wife, Mary, and ten other leading Scientologists were sentenced in 1982 to five-year terms in federal prison for breaking into government offices and stealing thousands of official documents about Scientology. During their trial, several Scientologists leaked damaging information to the press about the presiding judge's sex life. In a 1977 raid on Scientology's Los Angeles offices, the FBI found lock picks, pistols, ammunition, knockout drops, a blackjack, and bugging and wire-tapping equipment, as well as church memos on how to launder money, tail enemies, and blackmail people.
The current leaders of Scientology insist that the acts of Mary Hubbard and her coconspirators represent a dark side of Scientology that is all in the past. They dismantled the unit that was responsible for these activities, and attack a reporter as "a bigot" for raising the issue. But they admit without hesitation that they still use private detectives to investigate their enemies, including Bowers--they even provided documentation of Scientology detectives secretly videotaping a sting operation against a hostile former church member. "I have no problem with that," says Marty Rathbun, president of the church's Religious Technology Center.
To this day, people who tangle with Scientology find themselves subject to aggressive efforts at intimidation. Mike Farrell, who played B.J. on the television series M*A*S*H, crossed paths with the church when he contacted the Cult Awareness Network for information on a film project about child abuse. After gaining great respect for their work, he attended a fund-raising event at a private home in Beverly Hills, where he was confronted by angry picketers. "There were people taking photographs, being very obvious, getting video footage of the guests as they went in and out--obvious harassment," he says.
Farrell says he asked one of the pickets if he was a Scientologist, and the man said yes. In an effort to be fair, Farrell had lunch with Reverend Heber Jentzsch, president of the Church of Scientology International, and investigated Scientology's charges against CAN. The actor says he found them to be based on "sham, invective, and distortion." Later, at a CAN convention near the L.A. airport, Farrell encountered more angry Scientologists. "Not only did they picket, but they sort of get in your face and give you this loud and incessant spiel that doesn't allow for dialogue--it's just a kind of attempt to intimidate."
In the last few months Farrell has gotten numerous strange phone calls, one telling him (falsely, as it turned out) that an old friend had died. There have been so many that now when he gets calls after midnight at his home, he answers, "Hubbard was crazy." Sometimes, he says, there's a long silence before the caller hangs up.
SCIENTOLOGY'S MEAN STREAK is deeply rooted in church doctrine. Founded by pulp novelist Hubbard in the 1950s, Scientology promises to heal the psychic scars caused by traumas in present or past lives through auditing, a therapy aided by a simplified lie detector called an E-meter. Excited by the rapid progress stimulated by the E-meter, many students eagerly begin the climb "up the bridge," course by course (costs range from $30 for introductory audio tapes to more than $14,000 for the Hubbard Key to Life/Life Orientation Course special package). According to former members and press reports, the few who attain the highest level of instruction learn the following secret theology: 75 million years ago a tyrant named Xenu imprisoned other aliens near volcanoes on Earth and then nuked them, leaving their spirits, or "thetans," to wander the planet and attach themselves to humans--to be purged through further courses. While Scientology officials dispute this account of their beliefs--spokesman Rinder calls it "garbage, completely untrue"--they refuse to provide a more accurate version, saying upper-level church beliefs are for insiders only.
What distinguishes Scientology is Hubbard's bile and paranoia, which is clearly demonstrated in much of his writing. Representative is this "policy letter" written in 1969: "We must ourselves fight on a basis of total attrition of the enemy. So never get reasonable about him. Just go all the way in and obliterate him." There are many other examples.
Furthermore, one of the central tenets of Scientology philosophy is that 20 percent of mankind is "suppressive," a Scientology term that seems to mean "evil" and "meanspirited." Of that 20 percent, Hubbard wrote, 2.5 percent are "truly dangerous." Such people, Hubbard wrote, "should not have, in any thinking society, any civil rights of any kind...."
As a consequence, Scientologists are always on the lookout for suppressives. "When we trace the cause of a failing business, we will inevitably discover somewhere in its ranks the antisocial personality hard at work," Hubbard wrote--and to Scientologists Hubbard's writings are considered scripture. "Where life has become rough and is failing, a careful review of the area by a trained observer will detect one or more such personalities at work."
As Cruise has told Entertainment Weekly, "I look at certain people that aren't doing well and say, 'Well, who's around him? Do they want to see this person do well?' And often I might find one person that really doesn't want to see this guy succeed."
Hubbard left little doubt about how suppressives were to be treated. Consider rule number twelve in Scientology's official code of honor: "Never fear to hurt another in a just cause."
And Scientologists take their code of honor very seriously. "I remember having a choking anger against anyone who ever said anything against Scientology," says actress Diana Canova (Soap), a former member. "I would get crazy, I was just so angry. I would have done anything for them."
SOME OF SCIENTOLOGY'S MOST FERVENT EFFORTS seem to go toward preventing--or quashing--bad publicity. In 1990 Universal Pictures made a film with John Candy called Delirious, directed by Tom Mankiewicz and produced by Richard Donner, director of the Lethal Weapon series. In it, Emma Samms mused to her screen brother about Candy's "strange power" over her. "It's like I don't have a will of my own," she said. "Do you think he's a Scientologist?" the brother asked.
"After the first rough cut Tom and I started getting letters and phone calls," Donner says. "They were saccharine, but there was an underlying threat."
"It was clearly orchestrated," Mankiewicz recalls. "One letter to Dick, cc: Tom Mankiewicz. Then the next day, one to Tom Mankiewicz, cc: Dick Donner. Then two a day. They never stopped; they got worse. The tone got angrier, to the point of 'How would you feel if he was a Jew?'"
Donner has a few of the letters still in his files. "You may be aware of some of my books on films and the film industry," one begins, "including Directing the Film and Selling Your Film. Also, I have been directing my own pictures for twenty years, including the upcoming PBS twelve-part series Futures featuring Jaime Escalante. I'm writing to you because I've heard that in your new production, there is a reference to Scientology, my religion, which is derogatory." The letter ends by invoking the names of Scientology celebrities: "I'm sure my colleagues--Kirstie Alley, John Travolta, Milton Katselas, Floyd Mutrux, Anne Archer, Chick Corea, and others--will join me in thanking you for taking this step on behalf of intellectual honesty. Sincerely, Eric Sherman." The other letters are strikingly similar. One from Moe Howard's grandson Jeffrey Scott (who helped develop Jim Henson's Muppet Babies) begins with this introduction: "You do not know me directly, but indirectly I am responsible for approving the use of Three Stooges clips in your Lethal Weapon series...."
"It finally got to be something really strange--they just wouldn't stop," Mankiewicz says. And when he and Donner ignored the letters, there was concern about a lawsuit. "The lawyer said, 'They have no case, but the chances are fifty-fifty they'll take you to court. How important is this to you?'"
Donner and Mankiewicz still stalled, testing the film, feeling "First Amendment outrage." But gradually things began to escalate, initially with threatening, anonymous phone calls--"then Tom's house was broken into," Donner recalls. "Nothing was taken, but things were moved around, drawers turned upside down. It was, like, 'We can get into your house.' He went to the police, told them about the threats, but there was no way of pinning it down." Mankiewicz refuses to comment about either the threatening phone calls or the break-in, saying there was no evidence to link them to Scientology. But Donner and Mankiewicz decided to lose the gag.
"We all felt a little cheaper for having cut the line," Mankiewicz says now. "It was such an innocuous little joke--a tiny pinprick. God help you if the Catholic church felt like that and you made Sister Act."
The Delirious campaign was not an isolated incident. When L.A. Style magazine ran a small item listing Scientology's Hollywood Boulevard Christmas display under the heading "Things We Hate," the magazine was the target of regular calls and visits from outraged Scientologists--for the next three months. "It was intimidating," says reporter Richard Natale. And recently, Scientologists picketed outside the Hollywood branch of the Jewish Federation, which runs a cult clinic. The head of the clinic, a woman named Corey Slavin, has been named in nine lawsuits brought by individual Scientologists--and therefore says that, on the advice of her lawyer, she cannot be quoted in this story. (Scientology leaders dismiss Slavin because she is a CAN board member.)
When Time magazine's Richard Behar wrote a highly critical story in 1991, calling Scientology the "cult of greed," Scientology sued not only Time but seven people who spoke to Time, as well as its own (former) PR firm, the company that owns the PR firm, even the CEO of the company that owns the PR firm. When Reader's Digest reprinted the article, Scientology sued the Digest in five countries. Scientology official Marty Rathbun denounces Behar as "a criminal of the lowest order" for referring people to the "kidnappers" at CAN. L.A. Times reporter Robert Welkos says that while he and colleague Joel Sappell were reporting their impressive 1991 series on Scientology, they were the targets of a variety of dirty tricks, including investigations by "three separate teams of private investigators" (Scientologists admit to only one) and a lawsuit for false imprisonment by a church paralegal that was later dropped. Former Scientologist Hana Whitfield wrote a letter to PREMIERE saying that after an interview with this magazine, she'd been followed by private detectives for three months, 24 hours a day. Rathbun and Jentzsch responded by calling Whitfield a CAN operative and an accomplice to a 30-year-old murder, a charge PREMIERE could find absolutely no evidence to support. "It's totally bogus," says Whitfield's lawyer, her voice trembling with outrage. "They know it's false."
THE ADS APPEAR REGULARLY IN VARIETY AND THE Hollywood Reporter: "Want to Make It in the Industry? Learn Human Communications Secrets in the Success Through Communications Course." "Can Toxins Destroy Creativity? Attend a Free Lecture." The ads rarely mention Scientology itself, instead steering readers to a place called Celebrity Centre International, a lavish multimillion-dollar training complex on Franklin Avenue in L.A. Restored with 1 million manhours of labor to a rococo finish heavy on gold leaf and trompe l'oeil paintings, the CC offers elegant suites, luxurious theaters, and state-of-the-art music facilities. Love flows like warm maple syrup the minute a person walks in the door. Life there seems to be much like the CC's elegant restaurant: The food isn't much, but the service is great. During her seven years in Scientology, Canova experienced the Celebrity Centre from both sides of fame. "When I started, I wasn't in television yet. I was a nobody--I'd done some TV, but I was not one of the elite, not by a long shot--until I did Soap. Then it became ... I mean, you really are treated like royalty."
Although current Scientology leaders insist the Celebrity Centre is nothing more than a clubhouse cum church for show-biz members, Hubbard himself was more straightforward: "The purpose of Celebrity Centre is to: Forward the expansion and popularization of Scientology through the Arts."
Begun in the late '60s, the Celebrity Centre started in a rented building at 1809 West Eighth Street, with five or six staff members headed up by a charming Australian named Yvonne Gillham. One of the early converts was Bobby Lipton. At the time his sister Peggy was the hot star of The Mod Squad, and at the Celebrity Centre he definitely felt "the reflected glory--I was the brother of ..." To alleviate the expense of taking courses, Lipton says he was pressured to proselytize--including to his sister. "Yeah, they were after her," he says.
Screenwriter-director Ernest Lehman was another early student, drawn to the group after directing Karen Black in Portnoy's Complaint and finding himself impressed at how imperturbable she was during tough spots in filming. At that time, the Celebrity Centre "was like the Friars Club, with cocktail parties, art exhibits," he recalls. "If you had nothing to do, you'd drop in. It was more of a social thing than anything else."
Lehman found the Scientologists refreshing. "It was nice being around a lot of people who felt it was bad form to be gloomy and self-absorbed," he recalls. "They were very cheerful, upbeat, which is not something you see much of in the film community."
Screenwriter Floyd Mutrux wandered into the Celebrity Centre in the early '70s after reading Hubbard. "I thought, this guy's writing is terrific, this might be it," Mutrux says. Still a Scientologist, he found auditing immediately useful. "I was able to find things that completely freed me from conceptions and concepts," he says. "I discovered points of view that were completely senior to any that I'd had before and took command."
Mutrux brought in producer Don Simpson. Then writing a screenplay, Simpson plunged into the tech. "I'm chagrined to say I almost went clear--did the E-meter, the whole thing," Simpson says.
Because Scientology helps people overcome doubt and ignore rejection, it is a belief system almost tailor-made for actors. "Before Dianetics (a philosophy of Hubbard's from which Scientology evolved), if people said negative things to me or about me, I would cave in easily," Travolta told Celebrity magazine. "Being a man, that wasn't a very appealing quality. Some people would say, 'The boy is too sensitive.' But many times I had suppressive people around me who would cave me in on purpose. I was sort of like a minefield."
By 1974 the Celebrity Centre was a lively concern. Everyone hustled to bring in the famous or the someday-to-be-famous. "A friend of mine I got in was Michael D. Roberts, who was on Baretta," says Ken Rose, who joined the CC staff that year and left in the late '80s. Beyond idealism, there was another strong motive to spread the word: "You get 15 percent of all the money your recruits spend in the church," Rose says. "There's nothing better than a rich selectee."
(Church officials say the maximum commission is 15 percent and is only for the specific course sold. They also say Rose is a CAN member. Since his interview with PREMIERE, Rose has left the country. He was unavailable for comment.)
"There was always pressure to get other celebrities in," agrees Canova. "Once I got a call from this guy at Celebrity Centre at 6 in the morning. He says, 'Diana, you've got to get over here to the hospital, Freddie Prinze has just shot himself.' I used to date Freddie. This guy is freaking out. 'You got to come over, and you got to get me in to see Freddie. If I can get in to see Freddie, I can save his life. I'll tell him to get back into his body.' That was such a weird thing to me, the ultimate dissemination. Wouldn't it have been a coup--Scientology saves Freddie Prinze?"
"When I was a student at the Celebrity Centre," says Lisa Halverson, a former Scientologist who was with the Los Angeles church for fifteen years, "sometimes uniformed personnel would come into the course room and ask us to write down names of what they call in Scientology 'opinion leaders,' heavy hitters of some sort in whatever their sphere of activity might be--in business, politics, and arts and entertainment." It was common knowledge, she said, that the names would be put on a recruitment list.
Canova found the Scientologists straightforward in their desire for lucre. "The first time I walked in those doors, they said, 'Just give us all the money in your bank account. You'll get it back tenfold.'" When she joined, auditing prices were about $25. "It went up to about $175 in the early '80s," she recalls. "That was shocking to me. I was beginning to wonder, Is it really worth it? They're telling you, 'Don't spend $100 an hour on a shrink's couch, it'll ruin your mind.' Auditing is so much better?"
One route to the Celebrity Centre is via acting teacher Milton Katselas. As Archer told Celebrity magazine: "I was having problems with my marriage, and my career wasn't going well, so one evening Milton said, 'You have six weeks to solve your problems.' I ended up at Celebrity Centre. I had enormous wins right away from the auditing. I feel my life broke open in the first six hours; it was just remarkable."
Cartwright also credits Katselas with getting her back into Scientology when she drifted away. "One day he invited me to a barbecue at his place, and I noticed that all eight of the people there had things in common," she said in Celebrity. "They were all Scientologists. They were all doing well in their careers, they had good relationships, and they all had Milton in common. To make a long story short, I made the decision to get back into Scientology because of these observations. I called up Gary Imhoff and went to the CC Int. I then started the Purification Rundown and my life took off completely."
Actor Peter Horton (thirtysomething) didn't respond in quite the same way. For him, Katselas's class "felt very controlling and, I guess, culty," he says. "In an acting class, there's a real tendency to build an image of a teacher as someone who can give them attention and love. So when someone comes along who happens to be a great acting coach--which Milton is; he's phenomenal--but actually has a connection with a system of self-help that verges on a cult, it's very easy for people to be manipulated."
In 1975, the Celebrity Centre landed Travolta, its biggest fish up to that time. "There was tremendous excitement about him," recalls Rose, who says for a time he was Travolta's case supervisor (Scientology officials deny it) and that the star was a jealously guarded church asset. "He's been very disaffected at times, and it took a great deal of work to get him back in," he says. "At one point, it was rumored that J.T. was gone, was no longer a Scientologist, and had made public statements. And then a bunch of people went and held his hand, and evidently he was gotten back in." Travolta seems to be solidly in the church now, having married fellow Scientologist Kelly Preston.
Romance and Scientologists seem to go hand in hand. Prior to marrying Travolta, Preston had lived with Charlie Sheen, reportedly the target of a Scientology recruitment attempt. (Sheen was sufficiently disturbed by his contact with his former girlfriend's religion that he refused an interview with PREMIERE but offered this quote: "I have no involvement in that form of silliness.") Cruise got in after marrying Mimi Rogers, and Brad Pitt took his courses while dating Juliette Lewis. This seems to be something of a tradition. As Rose describes the early Celebrity Centre, there were always "a lot of women around. It was probably a great draw in those days, for my generation of Scientologists--it was a great place to get laid."
Hollywood producer Jim Jacks says one night when he was depressed over the collapse of a relationship, he was approached by a show-biz friend in Scientology. "'It will solve your woman problem.'" Jacks recalls his friend saying. "I think he was just trying to help, but I wasn't interested."
BREAKING UP WITH SCIENTOLOGY CAN BE VERY HARD TO DO. "It took me years before I decided to quit," says Canova. "I guess finally I was so fed up with being afraid. You've heard all these horror stories ... I believed them."
"The party was over for me in 1971," Bobby Lipton says. "I remember going to a rally at the Shrine or some big hall, at a time when the press was first starting to get after them, and there were people marching around with banners and signs and screaming about getting the press. It was kind of scary, talking about targeting different people. I thought, gee, this isn't what it was about."
But when he tried to leave soon after, Lipton was accused of telling the secrets of Scientology's upper-level courses to outsiders. "The last thing they said to me is, 'If you did reveal them, you are going to die,'" he recalls. "I don't think they said 'die,' but that's the inference I took. I said, 'Is that a threat?' I think he said, 'Take it any way you want.'"
Simpson says he lost interest after spending $25,000 on Scientology courses without seeing much improvement. "I had a meeting with Yvonne Gillham, and I said, 'I've now almost gone clear, why aren't I happier?'" he recalls. "She said, 'Things will be okay when you go through OT3 [a higher-level course].' At that point I realized it was a con." But when he left, he took a warning with him. "Heber Jentzsch called me into the Guardian's Office and implied that I was making a grave error," Simpson says. "The implication that I took away was that I would be on their enemies list."
Jentzsch says it is an "absolute lie" that he threatened Simpson in any way and says that Simpson was bounced for ethics violations he could not reveal because of his "privilege as a minister."
THE LEADERS OF SCIENTOLOGY INSIST THAT MUCH of the organization's bad press comes from psychiatrists who are angry that Scientology is encroaching on their turf. They point to their fights against psychiatry and drug abuse as evidence of a beneficent side of the religion that the press ignores. "We're helping celebrities," says Jentzsch. "We service them--to be more capable, to be more ethical, to be more able. ... Scientology celebrities are successful, and they're not messed up! They're not messed up!
"There's a long list of celebrities who have been devastated by psychiatric activities and psychiatric assault," Jentzsch continues, citing the case of Frances Farmer: "Psychiatrists would take her out and use her for big parties, sex parties, and stuff like that."
PREMIERE checked into this: According to William Arnold's heart-wrenching book on Farmer, Shadowland, it does seem that orderlies at a Seattle mental institution allowed soldiers to have sex with her--but then we noticed that Arnold's list of acknowledgments makes special mention of the emotional and research support he got from Heber Jentzsch and the Citizens Commission on Human Rights. He doesn't mention their connection to Scientology.
But the Scientologists have other good press they can point to. During an interview, they proudly cited this quote Rob Reiner gave to GQ: "I don't know anything about Scientology, but if Scientology means you're the way Tom Cruise is, then everyone should be a Scientologist."
Perhaps. Maybe Scientology has emerged from its dark past. But if that's true, then why the use of intimidating private detectives, why the ugly attempts to smear their critics, why the barrage of legal threats, why the badgering by belligerent Scientology officials who fight over the simplest questions? Theirs is a meanspiritedness so pervasive that we finally became convinced that when they can't discourage it altogether, Scientology leaders want bad press, the better to justify their own vindictive gospel.
Now when we call Bowers, we wonder if someone, somewhere, is listening. She has moved to another city, and we worry that her address will slip through our fingers and into the fingers of Scientologists. And we listen to Canova when she warns us: "They're capable of doing a lot of things."
Like many of the people quoted in this article, all of whom are well aware that people who were interviewed by Time are currently being sued, Canova says she spoke up because she thought it was important. "I see some of my friends having to keep their mouths shut for personal reasons, for business reasons," she says. "I don't believe that's right. If it's going to be termed a religion, or a church, then those kinds of fears have no business being there. Nobody should be afraid. And you can quote me on that."
Tom Cruise refused an interview with PREMIERE. When we presented our fact-checking questions, we received this response.
[To the editor:] I got Tom Cruise to answer the questions and I offer them to you on one condition.
The condition is that you use the questions exactly as they were asked and use the answers exactly as they were given.
We have agreed that if any changes are contemplated by PREMIERE we can then withdraw all of the material and nothing can be printed without our specific approval.
With that in mind I send these sheets on to you and would appreciate hearing from you once you have an opportunity to look at them.
Sincerely, Pat Kingsley [Tom Cruise's Publicist]
1) At a birthday party at DC3 David Miscavige and Paula Wagner sat at Tom's table. Is that true?
I never had a birthday part at DC3. A post-wedding party was given me by CAA, specifically my agent Paula Wagner and Mike Ovitz. Several hundred people were in attendance. At dinner I did sit with David Miscavige, in addition to Paula, Mike and at least 10 other individuals. What's the point?
2) He joined the church via Mimi Rogers. Is that true?
I became a Scientologist while married to Mimi Rogers. No, I didn't join the Church via Mimi or anyone else. My involvement in Scientology at that time was my own as it currently is. The question indicates some built in misunderstanding or intentional misconception as one doesn't "join the Church" as you must already know.
3) Scientologists regularly visit Tom on the set of his movies. Is that true?
No this isn't true. I am occasionally visited on the set by industry people, business associates and people who are all my friends. Some are Scientologists and some aren't. To ask me if I'm visited regularly is like asking a Catholic actor if he is visited regularly by Catholics. However, so as to have no misunderstanding, I assume the question is whether Scientologists who are Church staff or officials regularly visit me. The answer is no. As a matter of fact, during the shooting of my last three films, I was visited a total of one time during the shooting of one of these films by friends of mine who are also church staff. They saw me for about one hour over lunch.
I have heard this allegation before, indicating I have "handlers" and find it repulsive. I wish I could see my friends more often, but they are as busy as I am.
4) That Tom frequently spends weekends at a Scientology retreat at Gilman Hot Springs.
This is false. Although I have been there, I haven't EVER spent a "weekend" at the Scientology property (it isn't a "retreat") in Gilman Hot Springs. In the last 2 years or so, I only remember going to the Gilman Hot Springs location once, for a day and a half. And it was even in the middle of the week. My free time, what little I have, is spent with my family at home. And in any event, I have never spent time in any Scientology location for recreational purposes.
5) That his staff have been invited to Scientology offices to take courses.
I have never heard of this and don't even know what it means.
6) His near constant companion is DM.
My near constant companion is my wife, Nic. Dave Miscavige is a good friend of mine and while we both wish we could see each other more often, due to my schedule and his we rarely ever see each other. This question is just off the wall. We are friends. And how is this relevant to anything? It's offensive that I should even have to answer this question.
7) Nan Herst Bowers was a Scientologist who was separated from her children by the church. She wrote a letter to Tom saying the church is protecting him from the fact that she "outed" Tom as a Scientologist and that the church broke up her relationship with her children. (Her letter to Tom was asking him to help her.)(*)
I don't know Ms. Bowers. I have never heard of her. Nor has anyone in my office. I have no idea what this is about except it is bizarre as nobody "outed" me as a Scientologist, and the implication that one would be "outed" as a Scientologist is insulting.
Finally, I have no idea why my religion, or anybody's, would be the subject of an article in PREMIERE and that is why I have refused to participate in any interview. These questions indicate my original feelings about this story were accurate. I have taken the time to answer your questions in such detail, so that there can be no question about their inaccuracies.
I make movies. And when PREMIERE wants to talk about the movies I make, I have been and will continue to be willing to discuss such at length.
But these questions indicate that a reporter is stuck on some preconceived notion as to what Scientology is or how it relates to people's lives. I have gained a lot from Scientology. I know what it is and how it can help people from my own personal involvement and study of the subject. Not one of these questions has anything to do with that. The reporter's angle is clear. The Church of Scientology doesn't run my life or career. By being asked to answer these questions I'm perceived as having to defend my religion or Church and by having to deny accusations a false negative impression is created. This is not what freedom of religion is about. My friends in the church don't regularly visit me on the set. But so what if they did? Years ago, a friend of mine sits at my table at a party and now it's an issue with PREMIERE?
I know the inference as I have seen it in other articles. The problem is it's wrong. This line of questioning shows a lack of interest in learning what the Church of Scientology represents. I know more about Scientology and the Church and its staff than any reporter I've ever met or whose articles I have read. I know the good work they do. I shouldn't be subjected to an inquiry on my religion. Likewise, my Church shouldn't be subjected to press disparagement because I'm a member.
My work speaks for itself. It's on the screen for everyone to see. And as far as PREMIERE is concerned that should be the end of the matter.
* Editor's note: PREMIERE presented this as an allegation. This question contains factual inaccuracies that have been corrected in the text of the article.
Senior writer John H. Richardson's novel, The Blue Screen, which is currently being serialized in PREMIERE, will be published by William Morrow in the spring.
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