Name Dropper


The Church of Scientology is very big on big names. It was not that way in the early days because Hubbard was THE name that mattered.

Somewhere along the way, the Church in Los Angeles noticed they were attracting a few of the “lights” of nearby Hollywood. Someone got the notion that such people should not have to wait in line like the rest of us especially as the rest of us were staring.

So, a special place was created: very clean, very artsy, and called “the Celebrity Center”. I was fortunate enough to have worked there for a time under Yvonne Gilham, its first director.

The big names we worked with are probably no one you have ever heard of today but Stephen Boyd, Geoffrey Lewis, Chick Correa, Jim McMullan, Helene Ireland, and Amanda Ambrose were all fairly substantial stars at the time.

And one must recall that at that time, John Travolta was finishing high school, Tom Cruise was not even in high school, and the Ribisi twins were not even a dual twinkle in their daddy’s eye.

Speaking of them, I remember the father very well. There were a couple of up and coming rock bands in Scientology at the time. One was Orange Colored Sky and the other was People! The latter group had a #1 hit song called “I Love You” and they were at the height of their fame at that time.

Working at the American Saint Hill Org, I got to meet the band. The Levin brothers seemed to be most people’s favorite as they were the photogenic group. Denny I didn’t get to know too well but the nerdier one of the group, Al Ribisi, I found easier to get along with.

Not that we were best buds or anything but we did talk a bit. I believe his sister, Soo, joined the Sea Org the next year and she was as friendly as Al, and even a bit better looking (no offense, Al).

Al is still in the Church and his three children were raised in Scientology and seem to be doing quite well for themselves.

From the rather small and humble beginnings of encouraging celebrities to try Scientology, we have come to the place where they have become – for better or worse – the public face of the Church.

Still, something about jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch doesn’t make a very sane or solemn impression.

What do you think?

Saving the World (part 1)

My Adventures in La-La Land (the Church of Scientology)

I received an email yesterday from John Dalmas, the award-winning science fiction author, asking if I had heard anything about “Independent” Scientology.

I’m sure most people have heard something about the Church of Scientology either pro or con. Either through the antics of Tom Cruise, John Travolta, or Kirstie Ally, a few of their leading celebrity endorsers.

Why Mister Dalmas wrote me about the cult has an unusual – and twisted – history. It is where we met…


My family got involved in the “space age religion” back in 1956, before there was much of a space age. You could say I was raised in the church but that would not quite be correct. Dad was a research chemist (and agnostic) Mom was a Baptist preacher’s kid and took us four boys in tow every Sunday to the local Southern Baptist Church.

Dad’s search had begun at an early age and this drew him to major in psychology at the University of Texas. He very quickly realized most people involved in the program were trying to figure out what was wrong with themselves, just the same as his personal search. After he realized the psychology professor was in the same boat, Dad figured out psychology must not have the answers. He transferred his major to chemistry and looked for other avenues for his personal research.

I remember some the fascinating books he was reading when I was still too young to understand much of it. Proceedings of the American Society of Paranormal Research, Psycho-Cybernetics, and Twenty Cases in Support of Reincarnation were just a few of the ones I remembered. I recall the names Morrison, Snow, and Korzybski on the books. Don’t ask me what the books were about as I was only seven years old when I noticed such things and did not get too involved.

But soon Dad did involve us in the search. We would go ghost hunting, dowsing, UFO watching and that sort of thing. I figured this was a normal upbringing and everyone went through this intense search for the magical, spiritual world that seemed to overlay the physical world we could see.

Somewhere in his search he came across an ad for the Self Realization Fellowship and he read Paramahansa Yogananda’s works. There is a River by Thomas Sugrue caught his eye and he was off to study Edgar Cayce.

Then he came across the book Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health by L. Ron Hubbard. Being an avid science fiction reader, Dad was already familiar with the name of the author. Impressed with the book, Dad was soon trying the processes out on us kids. And very quickly it led into the area of past lives.

He communicated with the Founding Church of Scientology in Washington, D.C., and began taking correspondence courses from them. At that time, the only Scientology Church was the one in Washington.

In 1961, Dad got accepted for a job with Melpar, a chemical company in Fairfax, Virginia, and we sold the house in West Texas and moved to the East Coast so he could pursue his studies at the Church.

By the time we got there, the job had evaporated and we had to live in a condemned farmhouse just outside of Poolesville, Maryland, for several months. [The house is still there, still occupied, and still as condemned today.]

Fortunately, he got a job with NASA which, thanks to President Kennedy, was expanding. We moved into Bethesda, Maryland, and Dad started his courses at the Church in D.C. Soon, Mom was attending them as well.

They went to a conference at the Mayflower Hotel in 1962 where I met Ron Hubbard. I believe it was the last time he was in the country while he was actively running the Church.

By 1964, all four of us boys had joined in the action and were attending courses as well.

Yes, we were all going to “save the world”… but from what, exactly, I was a tad unsure.

(to be continued)