Happy Birthday, L. Ron Hubbard! Here's Our Surprise Gift For Scientology's Founder
On this day in 1911, Lafayette Ronald Hubbard was born in Tilden, Nebraska. If Hubbard had not wisely discarded his 74-year-old meat body in January, 1986 in order to research new levels of OT somewhere else in the galaxy, he'd be a really wrinkly 101 years old today.
Where is Ron today? According to one version of Sea Org lore, he's been reincarnated after a well-deserved 21-year vacation, and is now a chain-smoking 5-year-old hanging out in the San Luis Obispo area, chasing chicks in a fine set of soul duds.
(The memes are going to be running thick here today. If you're not a regular reader of our Scientology features you might start with our primer, "What is Scientology?" and then skim our most recent outrages against humanity.)
Well, we want to get this show going. So please join us after the jump as we reveal something that... Well, we don't want to ruin the surprise. See you on the other side.
Now, some of you spoilsports are going to say that you've already had a slice of the birthday cake we got El Ronito this year.
And you wouldn't be entirely wrong. Yes, you've tasted some of its frosting, and you've nibbled some of its spongy caek here and there.
But what we have is so much fun because it's the whole damn delicious thing for your delectation.
What are we talking about? Well, cast your minds back to 2004. Mr. Scientology, Tom Cruise, had forked over $3 million to the church that year, Janet Reitman tells us in her excellent history, Inside Scientology.
Cruise's strategic value to the church was so crucial that nothing was too good for the actor. Miscavige even created a special award for him, the International Association of Scientologists's Freedom Medal of Valor, which he presented to Cruise at the IAS's twentieth anniversary gala in October 2004.
Ah yes, the infamous IAS gala.
Having recently watched the 2011 affair, a video of which was smuggled to us in December, the most remarkable thing I find about IAS galas -- and maybe something I just have to hand to Scientologists, admitting that they do have some OT powers in this regard or something -- is the sheer stamina these people have for listening to one little man talk and talk and talk for three freaking hours straight.
I mean, take a look at this star-studded front row from the 2004 celebration. I have to hand it to these celebrities for sitting and standing up to applaud and then sitting some more for such a long time...
(By the way, anyone know who Lurch is between Tommy D. and Chef?)
Now, in 2004, David Miscavige still bothered to give up the stage to let someone else talk once in a while. (That wasn't the case in 2011.)
It was jarring, for example, to see Mike Rinder jump up on stage and then hyperventilate his way through a recitation of recent wins by Applied Scholastics and Narconon...
Earlier that year, Rinder had been thrown in an office-as-prison known then as "The A to E Room," and which would later become known as "The Hole." Rinder and other executives were kept locked up in a couple of double-wide trailers that had once been normal offices, but in 2004 dozens of officials who had fallen from grace were sleeping on the floor and going through mass confessions during the day.
Rinder was let out long enough to get cleaned up for performances like his recitation at the IAS gala. It's really something to watch him, sounding so upbeat, knowing that for months previous he'd been a terrorized prisoner, and would face more than a year of further confinement.
And he wasn't the only one. That night in 2004 also featured another fallen executive who was cleaned up in order to appear on stage...
Guillaume Lesevre's name came up again recently as Debbie Cook testified last month in Texas that Lesevre was the victim of a disturbing game of forced confessions at The Hole in 2007. She watched as Lesevre and another executive were beaten and forced to say that they were having a homosexual affair, she testified. There was no reason to believe that the accusation was true, but it was something Miscavige wanted them to admit to, she says.
Wow, all this talk of beatings and confinement and psychological terror -- what kind of birthday is this! Well, we didn't mean to bring the mood down, but we thought it was interesting to put these images into some context before the big reveal, which happened after Rinder and Lesevre had got off the stage.
It was time for the night's big finale, and a presentation that we really can't get enough of, especially when seen in its entirety. So without further ado, let's all wish LRH a big 101 as we watch his favorite celebrity student get the full Miscavige treatment.
Ladies and gentlemen, we give you...the only man who can do something at the scene of a car accident, the full and uncut version! Crank it up to 11 and go full screen!
Wow. That must have been some night.
You've seen much of this excerpted before, of course -- the hilarious saluting that Cruise and Miscavige do, the things they say about each other, the giant medal that was made just for Tom.
But until I saw this full version, I didn't hear Tom saying (to Hubbard) "I take this as a half-ack."
I asked about that (surreptitiously) on Friday, and our readers helped me understand that "ack" was short for "acknowledgment," and that during auditing a "half-ack" was another way of telling someone to keep going, that they weren't through to their goal.
Tom's utterance, then, was clever and appropriate and humble. He was saying that winning this award was only an encouragement that he still has a lot of work to do. Imagine how well that went over with the people in the room.
On the other hand, there were plenty of people present that night who weren't happy with what went down.
Amy Scobee, who was a longtime Sea Org member, working impossibly long hours for many years and for almost no pay, tells me that when Miscavige said what he did about Cruise -- calling him "the most dedicated Scientologist I know" -- for many Sea Org members it came as a slap to the face.
Well, for one night, at least, Tom was the greatest Scientologist in the world.
But today? Well, we still have that open letter to him that we'd like him to answer.
If he did that, it would be a great LRH birthday present for us.
Hip hip hooray!
As long as we're being nostalgic about Tom, let's throw in this 2007 parody, Being Tom Cruise, by the UK program Star Stories, which has been making the rounds on the net in the last couple of days.
What a hoot.
OK, now we're really in a partying mood. And that's a good thing, because your humble narrator is in the right place to celebrate the Old Man's 101st...
...we're in Clearwater!
It's our first trip, and we can't wait to tell you all about it!
********** Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can reach him by e-mail at email@example.com, and if you ask nicely he'll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories, which tend to come out each and every morning at 8 am, but can suddenly appear at any time of the day. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, a Tumblr, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.
New readers might want to check out our primer, "What is Scientology?" Another good overview is our series from last summer, "Top 25 People Crippling Scientology." At the top of every story, you'll see the "Scientology" category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories. As for our regular features, on Thursdays we do a roundup of world press, on Fridays we visit L. Ron Hubbard on the yacht Apollo circa 1969-1971, on Saturdays we celebrate the week's best comments, and on Sundays we publish Scientology's wacky and tacky advertising mailers that people send us.
As for hot subjects we've covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and is now being sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology's "Mecca," whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.
Other stories have looked at Scientology's policy of "disconnection" that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We've also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there's plenty more coming.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.