Scientology: Kiwi Reporter Puts Lisa Marie Presley On the Spot; Playboy Blows Tom Cruise
On Sunday, we broke the news that the lyrics to Lisa Marie Presley's song "So Long" -- from her new album Storm and Grace -- contained an even more obvious message that she was leaving Scientology than the one we perceived in the single she released in advance of the album a month ago, "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet." (Above is Lisa Marie's video for the single, and our thanks to Skip Press for making us aware of it.)
All week, Lisa Marie has been on a publicity blitz for the album, and we've been waiting patiently for a reporter to ask her about these lyrics, which seem to quite plainly reveal that she's breaking away after her long association with the church.
Now, one has. And he happens to be on the other side of the planet.
We got a message yesterday from Russell Baillie, entertainment editor of the New Zealand Herald, in Auckland.
Russell told us that he'd seen our articles, so when he had the opportunity to interview Presley this week, he asked her outright the question we've wanted to ask ourselves.
Here's the exchange he sent us, which this morning he published at the Herald's website:
So is it [about Scientology]?
"Right,'' she replies, gathering her thoughts. "Well sadly I am not discussing any kind of religion or politics while I am doing the promo.''
Well, I am asking about the specific song on the record you are promoting ...
"I understand. But I don't typically discuss what I, personally, am writing about in my songs. I don't discuss what I write about and I don't discuss religion or politics. So there you have me backed in a corner ...''
That, my friends, is what we in the business call a "non-denial denial."
I told Russell that it didn't surprise me that Lisa Marie would avoid answering. She has an album to sell, and her label probably doesn't want its launch to get caught up in questions about her former religion.
But my hat's off to Russell Baillie for doing what no American entertainment reporter has had the gumption to do, and ask her outright about what seems so obvious from her lyrics.
Back in this country, it's still business as usual, with the press fawning over Scientology's celebrities and rarely asking them tough questions about all the messes the church finds itself in these days.
Timed this week to help promote his new film, Rock of Ages, Tom Cruise got a lengthy stroking by Playboy in its vaunted interview, which used to be known for asking probing, difficult questions.
Overall, writer Michael Fleming does a fine job getting Cruise to open up about his childhood, about his drive to make movies, and about his dedication to his kids. But when it came to Scientology, Fleming and Cruise are getting way too much credit for supposedly taking on a difficult subject.
Fleming asks Cruise about his PR disasters of 2005, when Cruise went on a tear about Scientology and ended up in an embarrassing argument with Matt Lauer, and jumping for joy on Oprah's couch. Cruise handles the subject easily...
When I go back and look at it, I find myself thinking, I don't feel that way. I get how it came across, but I don't feel that way, and I never have. Telling people how to live their lives? I saw how that came across and how pieces were edited...What's interesting is, if I don't talk about my religion, if I say I'm not discussing it or different humanitarian things I'm working on, they're like, "He's avoiding it." If I do talk about it, it becomes, "Oh, he's proselytizing." Reviewing the whole thing and how things can be edited and misinterpreted, I decided, You know what? Here's the deal. I take responsibility for what happened, but everyone now knows that if I am dealing with humanitarian things, I will talk about that. When I'm promoting a film, I'm not going to get caught up in anything else, and that includes all my personal things.
And that's it. It's a skillful non-answer that addresses nothing.
But we wondered, is that all Fleming asked? The 2005 incidents, after all, paled besides what really embarrassed Cruise (and helped launch the Anonymous movement), the January 2008 release of a 9-minute, church-made video interview of Cruise that was recorded four years earlier.
How do you interview Cruise about Scientology and not ask him about his infamous statement that only Scientologists can help at the scene of a car accident? Not to mention all of the things that have happened since then, including the church's lawsuit against Debbie Cook (who Cruise knew well), the 2010 FBI investigation into the church's abuses, and the exodus of top church executives in recent years -- including the man, Marty Rathbun, who was Cruise's personal auditor, Scientology's version of a priest who heard Cruise's confession. (So many damaging revelations about Scientology have come out recently, we wrote an open letter to Tom Cruise telling him it was about time he said something publicly about them. Note that we were not asking about his personal life or the beliefs of Scientologists, but about the practices of his church, which include convincing children as young as 8 years old to sign billion-year contracts to serve the organization blindly.)
I wanted to give Fleming the benefit of the doubt, assuming that he might have asked about this stuff and more but Cruise either wouldn't answer them, or Playboy's editors had cut material. So I sent him an e-mail asking if that was the case. I didn't hear back from Fleming.
While American news organizations shy away from allegations of abuse in the Church of Scientology, they can't seem to get enough about whether John Travolta gave someone a hand job.
And last night, we learned just how eager the National Enquirer is to dig up dirt on the private life of Tom Cruise.
Marty Rathbun, at his blog, made public an e-mail exchange he had with the Enquirer, which is so interested in getting Rathbun to spill what Cruise told him during confidential auditing sessions, it's willing to pay him "at least" $20,000, promise him a cover story, and help promote his forthcoming book.
In the past, Rathbun has made it clear to me that he takes very seriously his role as an auditor who is told things in confidence. And he said as much to the Enquirer: "Thanks, but no thanks," he answered.
Rathbun was once the second-highest ranking official in Scientology before he left in 2004. In 2009 he started his blog, which is highly critical of current church leader David Miscavige -- the best man at Tom Cruise's wedding to Katie Holmes. Rathbun's blog has become a rallying point for disaffected longtime members who have left the official church but still adhere to the ideas of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and call themselves "independent Scientologists."
Rathbun addressed his post last night to Cruise directly, writing: "you have nothing to fear from me or the independent Scientologist community," he wrote.
Could Rathbun tempt Cruise out of Miscavige's grip? It seems a long shot. But on the other hand, Lisa Marie Presley is writing songs that seem obvious announcements of her defection, and Jason Beghe told us Sunday that he believes Kirstie Alley has "one foot out" herself. Travolta, meanwhile, no longer has a reputation to worry about in case he, too, wishes to leave.
The years 2004 to 2007 saw a mass exodus of top Scientology executives. Could 2012 be the year that the celebrities start jumping ship too?
Scientology on the High Seas
In November the Voice obtained hundreds of copies of L. Ron Hubbard's previously unpublished "Orders of the Day," which he gave to crew members as he sailed the Atlantic and the Mediterranean on the yacht Apollo. Our documents cover the period from late 1968 through 1971, and this time we're looking at what was happening the week of May 13 through 19 during those years.
This week, the Commodore loves the sound of a cool million...
May 18: LRH gets pretty manic as he jumps from cooking to Smersh to movie stars...
The director of the paper that printed all the mystery news and aerial photos was once the Portuguese Ambassador to London!
CS-1 got a lawyer and tackled them and there will be a retraction printed.
The port authorities were also informed by us very secretly that this company was negotiating with the Cuban government in Exile to train men and charter ship to them and we were upset about being aerial photographed in Lisbon Harbor and to inform their counter intelligence. It's all very secret so don't spread it around. Its only in a negotiation stage..
I wonder if you know that President Kennedy promised Krushchev to defend Communist Cuba from attack by other countries in the Western Hemisphere -- including the U.S. in return for removing some missiles out of sight. CS-G has the tex of Kennedy's letter. He also clobbered our E-Meters.
The new president apparently isn't wholly honoring the agreement.
Thank you for your Daily Report. The crew is getting a lot accomplished and getting some sleep and food too!
I didn't slur the cook's cooking as he thought.
Food, time to eat it, was my theme. The crew must have time to eat in a relaxed no-orders at meals atmosphere.
It would be very prudent to complete items rapidly now as it's just five days until we sail.
Hey the President of an African nation gave warm permission to one of his subjects to import Scientology.
MDs in the UK are floundering around trying to use DMSMH hopefully. Our Diane[t]ics Course and its simplicity is just in time.
We evidently put an end to a century wide strike in Australia by giving the govt minister a copy of the 3rd Party Law!
And 6 Smersh top men are out of the running since we went to war decredited or dead or suddenly retired for health reasons.
Our Clear 2000 was a movie star!
May 15: Mo' money, mo' money, mo' money...
US STATS HAVE JUST GONE OVER THE MILLION MARK!!! AOSHUK IS OVER $47,000!
May 17: The Commodore believes in justice, not black propaganda, yo.
Word here is that Wrigley reported in to EULO as requested that the matter is being handled there properly.
The findings of a Comm Ev convened to establish what went with Barney are awaited.
In matters of justice we do have the responsibility of seeing that fair play exists and that "justice" is not used as oppression.
Along with this comes the responsibility of not operating on isolated reports. Almost all injustice stems from operating on unsubstantiated reports. Honest stats are far more reliable. Injustice and false reports go hand in hand. Taking action on any single report is a very risky thing for any executive to do.
It almost always results in an injustice.
The activity called "Black Propaganda" consists of spreading lies by hidden sources. It inevitably results in injustices being done by those who operate without verifying the truth.
For instance all the attacks on Scientology were Black Propaganda from hidden Fascist sources. This has caused injustice. Black Propaganda was a Nazi specialty.
But injustice recoils on those who deal in it.
Thus a hidden lying source can cause authority to act. Thus authority can be undermined by being made to commit injustices.
There is also another side to this. When those in charge are directly attacked they have to resort to defense in order to control the situation. That they so act to defend can itself be used to undermine. Once more it is vital for executives and organizations to act only on information that is fully verified. And when they do act it should be with due attention to the full formalities of justice.
To make the problem worse, the omission of enforcing truth and justice can damage many and can be itself a severe overt.
If the world were honest, justice and the need for it would vanish.
The road out is the Road to Truth.
May 19: Hubbard reveals the Valuable Final Product!
Those not directly on pc and student completion lines should get some idea of what Flag is really producing.
The best way to get it is to look at the stats FEBCs are pushing up over the world. They are using the Tech of Admin developed by myself over the years and particularly here on Flag in 1970 and early 1971.
Those who keep the ship here, get them here, handle and train in this tech and process them and send them off directly contribute to these soaring stats over the world.
The technical material I developed from '68 to '71 on Flag is published here, trained on here and applied here. We have the best auditors in the world. They are very few.
While the Flag Ship Org keeps a ship here, keeps ports here and services those aboard, so that these activities can take place.
The Flag Bureaux pushes the Administrative planning and programming which forms up the Continential Liaison Offices which hold the orgs there for FEBCs to return to.
Everyone on Flag contributes to these successes, no matter what his post is.
We are all operating directly on the VFP of a Cleared Planet.
Sometimes this may not be as visible as it might be to someone with his head down into some routine job.
But you can measure the success of what you're doing. Look at the sky-rocketing rise of stats over the world. That's my stat and Yours.
It is in Power.
This one's a real treat -- photo by L. Ron Hubbard! [Click to embiggen!]
Bonus 1970s Awesomeness
While L. Ron Hubbard was moving HQ from the yacht Apollo to the Florida coast, Advance! magazine was thrilling Scientologists with its tales of "OT Phenomena." Those church members who had reached the higher levels of spiritual training shared their stories of superhuman powers with fellow dupes -- er, enthusiasts. This excerpt is from Issue 33, July 1975.
Last week I saw that my goldfish was all red and lumpy. My husband, Rick, said that he's had goldfish like that before and that they don't recover, they just die.
I got very sad. He had been with our family for a year now. So, that night, I decided to do something. I used my knowledge of flows from 8-80 and my abilities as an OT and flowed some energy toward my fish's wounds. I did this until something seemed better. I then went to sleep.
The next day Rick said he noticed the fish was less red and lumpy! I was very pleased and that night from my office at work I continued the assist. I continued to flow energy, changing the flows as needed until a big burst of mass blew. I ended off. When I went home that night the fish was completely healed!
It was a big win for me, and the fish. It couldn't have been done without the technology of L. Ron Hubbard. -- Minty Alexander, OT
I was at a friend's place today and was told two of their cats were in a fight. One of them had an eye that was injured and partially closed.
Well, I audited the cat. In about two minutes his eye was operating near normal and he was able to see through it.
This was the first time I've done this but it seems quite normal. -- Joseph Forster, OT
Wait a minute, how did the cat hold the cans? And if OTs can cure animals with only some mental juju, why aren't they opening vet shops and making out like bandits?
Ah, more mysteries upon mysteries. But we know this for sure: you'll get schedules and updates at our Facebook author page, so check it often! See you Sunday with another round of Funnies.
UPDATE: That Advance! cover is freaking some people out. And for good reason. What is being portrayed in it? Well, here's the note that the Editor has inside the issue...
"To the Reader: This month marks the beginning of a fabulous new series of Advance! covers personally photographed by L. Ron Hubbard.
Ron is well known internationally as a top photographer, not only by Scientologists, but widely in public and professional circles as well.
He bring to each subject his characteristic technical mastery based upon years of exact study and experience. Add to that his truthfulness, knowledge and understanding, and here we have a brilliant series of authentic works such as have never been seen before.
Unquestionably, these covers represent a very important new extension in the field of still photography subject control and aesthetics. Advance! is honored and enriched by them.
Thus it is, indeed, a rare privilege to present them to you, one by one, over the next many issues -- THE EDITOR"
Well, that didn't really clear things up, did 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you ask nicely he'll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories. 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 hot subjects we've covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and was 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.
- New York City's Food Pantries Are Struggling to Keep Up With a Growing Demand For Meals
Sat., Nov. 28, 12:00am
Sat., Nov. 28, 12:00pm
Sat., Nov. 28, 1:30pm
Sat., Nov. 28, 7:30pm
- As Islamophobic Rhetoric Gets Louder, NYC Muslims Fear for Their Mosques
- Forget Big Chain Theaters — Watch Movies at These Cool NYC Spots Instead