The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology, No. 16: Marc Headley
On August 5, we started a countdown that will give credit -- or blame -- to the people who have contributed most to the sad current state of Scientology. From its greatest expansion in the 1980s, the church is a shell of what it once was and is mired in countless controversies around the world. Some of that was self-inflicted, and some of it has come from outside. Join us now as we continue on our investigation of those people most responsible...
#16: Marc and Claire Headley
Marc Headley and his wife Claire come up several times in the pages of Janet Reitman's book, Inside Scientology. The young couple met while working in the Sea Org at Scientology's secretive desert headquarters near Hemet, California.
They were not Even though they achieved high-ranking positions in the organization, they endured stark and primitive conditons as two of the many nameless Sea Org drones who work so very hard. Reitman captures the drama of their meeting and marriage, the dread Claire felt when she realized she was pregnant even though Sea Org members were not allowed to have children, and the devastation Claire felt as she aborted two pregnancies knowing that not to do so would mean she'd be separated from her husband.
Eventually, they escaped from that life, and Marc went on to start a lucrative business in Los Angeles (which he recently sold -- the couple now lives with their two children in Colorado). But what really puts Marc on this list is what he did once he got out of Scientology -- he didn't let well enough alone. Headley knew that he possessed crucial, damning information about Scientology: he'd worked directly with Tom Cruise as the actor's guinea pig while Cruise learned how to audit. Headley had also worked closely with Scientology leader David Miscavige and had witnessed the violence and chaos on the base. Headley began leaking his observations under the name "Blown for Good" on the Internet. What BFG had to say alarmed Scientology so much, we know now that the church expended enormous resources to confirm that it was Headley leaking that information.
But Headley didn't stop at Internet posts. He wrote a book, also called Blown For Good, and he and Claire filed lawsuits against Scientology for years of sub-minimum wage pay. The lawsuits were dismissed, but not after becoming another resource-suck for the church, and there's still a chance that the lawsuits may be revived.
The book, however, didn't miss. It's easily the best self-published book I've ever run across, and its escape scenes seem ready to film. What I wrote about the book when it was first released:
Headley's story provides a damning account of life working for Scientology leader David Miscavige at the secretive desert base, where young people who sign billion-year contracts work 100-hour weeks for little or no pay with the ever-present threat that they may be pulled into hellish disciplinary drills, or separated permanently from friends and family members for the slightest perceived infraction.
The experience of the Sea Org is so alien to life for the rest of us, it can be difficult even for former members to really communicate what that life is like. And that's one of the reasons I found Headley's book so useful:
Perhaps the best service that Headley provides with Blown for Good is giving non-Scientologists the sense of what it's really like to work, day in and day out, in such a strange organization, from the lowliest laborer mucking out excrement in a Gold Base pond (Headley says shit was coming out of his ears and pores for days) to what kind of luxuries the celebrities and high-ranking members enjoy.
Even with their lawsuits stalled, the book done, and their new life going well in Colorado, Marc is not finished getting the word out about Scientology's abuses. Just last month, he shared leaked Scientology spying documents with the Voice, showing that the church's method for retaliating against his outspoken views was to turn his friends into spies.
Headley shared something else with us as that we've been working on for some time. We're finally going to give you a look at it next week. For now, you can be sure that Marc Headley continues to do what he can to expose what his former employer is all about. Now, for some videos...
Marc was part of a group that traveled to Germany in 2008 to speak at a conference about Scientology's abuses. Here's one of the videos of Marc's talk:
Claire talks about her forced abortions to the St. Petersburg Times, in 2010:
I asked Janet Reitman about the Headleys this week. She told me this:
"I'd call the Headleys' story tragic but enlightening... I would say that Claire Headley in particular is extraordinarily brave."
The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology #1: L. Ron Hubbard #2: David Miscavige #3: Marty Rathbun #4: Tom Cruise #5: Joe Childs and Tom Tobin #6: Anonymous #7: Mark Bunker #8: Mike Rinder #9: Jason Beghe #10: Lisa McPherson #11: Nick Xenophon (and other public servants) #12: Tommy Davis (and other hapless church executives) #13: Janet Reitman (and other journalists) #14: Tory Christman (and other noisy ex-Scientologists) #15: Andreas Heldal-Lund (and other old time church critics) #16: Marc and Claire Headley, escapees of the church's HQ #17: Jefferson Hawkins, the man behind the TV volcano #18: Amy Scobee, former Sea Org executive #19: The Squirrel Busters (and the church's other thugs and goons) #20: Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and other media figures) #21: Kendrick Moxon, attorney for the church #22: Jamie DeWolf (and other L. Ron Hubbard family members) #23: Ken Dandar (and other attorneys who litigate against the church) #24: David Touretzky (and other academics) #25: Xenu, galactic overlord
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared
SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE
[Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded discussing "disconnection"] [Benjamin Ring, LA deputy sheriff, wants you to spend your 401K on Scientology] [Scientologists: How many of them are there, anyway?]
MARTY RATHBUN AND THE SIEGE OF SOUTH TEXAS
[Scientology has Rathbun arrested] | [Rathbun and Mark Bunker reveal surprising ties] In Germany with Ursula Caberta: [Announcing plans] | [Press conference] | [Making news about Tom Cruise, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair] | [Post-trip interview] The Squirrel Busters: [Goons with cameras on their heads] | [Rathbun's open letter to neighbors] | [Ingleside on the Bay, Texas rallies to Rathbun's cause] | [Squirrel Buster's claim to be making a "documentary"] | [VIDEO: "On a Boat"] | ["Anna" sent to creep out Monique Rathbun] | [Squirrel Busters go hillbilly] | [A videographer blows the whistle on the goon squad] | [Ed Bryan, OT VIII, shows the power of Scientology's highest levels]
SCIENTOLOGY SPYING AND "FAIR GAME"
[Secret Scientology documents spell out spying operation against Marc Headley] [Scientology's West U.S. spies list revealed] | [Scientology's enemies list: Are you on it?] Spy operation against Washington Post writer Richard Leiby: [Part 1] | [Part 2] [A Scientology spy comes clean: Paulien Lombard's remarkable public confession] [Scientology advertises for writers in Freedom magazine] [Accidental leak shows Scientology spy wing plans to "handle" the Voice]
SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES
["Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [Tom Cruise likes coconut cake] | [Tom Cruise has a sense of humor] | ["Tom Cruise not a kook!"] | [Paulette Cooper on Tom Cruise] [Paul Haggis, director of Crash, issues an ultimatum, leaves the church] [Character actor Jason Beghe defects noisily] | [Actor Michael Fairman reveals his "suppressive person" declaration] | [Michael Fairman talks to the Voice] [Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh: Scientology-Branch Davidian link makes sense] [Russell Brand weds ex-Scientologists in wild ceremony] | [Skip Press on Haggis] [Placido Domingo Jr.: Scientology's retaliation is "scary and pathetic"] Grant Cardone, NatGeo's "Turnaround King": [Doing Scientology's dirty work?] | [Milton Katselas complained about Cardone's smear job] | [Cardone runs to Huffpo]
JANET REITMAN'S INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY
[Our review of Inside Scientology] | [An interview with Janet Reitman] | [A report from Reitman's first book tour appearance] | [At the Half-King: Reitman not afraid] [Scientology doesn't like Inside Scientology] | [Q&A at Washington Post] [A roundup of Reitman's print reviews, and why isn't she on television more?]
HUGH URBAN'S THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT
[Marc Headley: "Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [The Nancy Many interview] [Sympathy for the Devil: Tory Christman's Story] | [Jeff Hawkins' Counterfeit Dreams] [86 Million Thin Dimes: The Lawrence Wollersheim Saga] | [Mike Rinder on spying]
[Scientology singalong, "We Stand Tall"] | [Captain Bill Robertson and "Galactic Patrol"] [Scientology wins a major award!] | [Scientology wants your money: Meet Dede!] [Birmingham in the House! The "Ideal" dance mix] | [Scientology and the Nation of Islam] [When Scientology was hip] | [Sad: David Miscavige makes fun of his own fundraisers] [Freedom magazine parodies The New Yorker. Hilarity ensues.] [Scientology surf report: Anonymous parties outside the New York "org"]
THE VIEW INSIDE THE BUBBLE
[A scientologist's letter to the Voice and its readers] | [Scientology silent birth] [Tad Reeves: Scientology might listen to this guy] | [More Tad Reeves and family] [Scientology never forgets: A heartwarming telemarketing holiday miracle]
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.