The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology, No. 4: Tom Cruise
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...
#4: Tom Cruise
In 2005, actor Tom Cruise fell in love. Like, hopelessly, famously, insanely in love. We know this because he expressed himself by jumping on furniture to show just how crazy in love he was with Katie Holmes.
You remember. It was an arresting moment. Why? Well, for a short time at least, this top-of-the-heap super-celebrity seemed to be coming apart at the seams.
He was jumping on Oprah's couch about Katie, but then, he was also getting into a strange debate about psych drugs with Matt Lauer, practically daring this country's mainstream media to debate him about his Scientology beliefs.
Even at the time, those of us in the Scientology watching community knew this was a huge moment.
For decades, celebrities like Cruise had made the mysterious church seem more intriguing, but it was something that the celebrities themselves seemed reluctant to discuss. Now, suddenly, Scientology was fair game.
If Tom's 2005 freakout opened a window onto Scientology, three years later, a 9-minute video of the actor really tore down the gates. The video had actually been made for a 2004 Scientology event in which Cruise was awarded the coveted International Association of Scientologists' Freedom Medal of Valor. If you've seen such events, you know that church leader David Miscavige likes to have video segments to show the audience. In this case, that took the form of a video interview with Tom which was clearly intended to pump up the audience with what a gung-ho, hardcore Scientologist he is.
But out of context, and shown to non-Scientologists, Tom's performance is simply bizarre.
Recently, for the first time, in this very countdown ex-Scientologist Patty Moher revealed that she was one of the people responsible for getting that video out to the world. Mark Bunker was another key part of that operation, as was Xenubarb. But after the video made it to YouTube, it was yanked down as Scientology tried to stuff a genie back in a bottle. Journalist Mark Ebner, however, delivered a copy of the video to Gawker's Nick Denton, and Denton would not back down to Scientology's threats as the video became a monster traffic success for the website.
But there's more to the reason Tom Cruise is on this list than his weird behavior on Oprah or the strange things he says on the IAS video.
As Amy Scobee explained recently to Mark Bunker for his upcoming documentary, Knowledge Report, that video had a very different effect on longtime, hardcore members of Scientology (which Scobee was at the time the video was first shown, in 2004).
Scobee described how hard it was to understand why Miscavige was treating Cruise, a pampered celebrity, like he was the ultimate, most loyal, and most effective example of a Scientologist. That felt like a slap in the face, she explained, to longtime executives who had not been pampered, who had endured years of meager pay, spartan conditions, and seemingly endless emergency orders. After all that hard work, it's a movie star who turns out to be the best example of a church member?
But Cruise seemed to relish that role. And that's what in part is so extremely strange about the man. There are other Scientologist celebrities who are gung-ho for the church, and who aren't afraid to speak out (a particularly humorless and unhinged actress comes to mind, but I'm not going to name her or she'll think she made the countdown). But Cruise is the only one who actually gives the appearance that, on some level at least, he's actually helping to run the everloving enterprise with his diminutive motorcycle buddy, Miscavige.
I think that sense has actually seeped into the larger culture, as well. If a certain Grease star, especially after the death of his son, seems more and more a pathetic victim, and if other celebrities, like an actress whose weight yo-yos, just seem clueless, Cruise actually has begun to scare people with how much he and Miscavige are joined at the hip.
I thought something Jane Lynch said the other night while she hosted the Emmy Awards was particularly telling:
"Katie Holmes is in the audience. I'd love to say something funny about her but I'm scared of her husband."
Was there even a single person watching who didn't get the implication of that joke? And that, to me, is about the best evidence you're going to get that Tom Cruise -- with his front-row cheering of David Miscavige, with his custom bike fashioned by penniless Sea Org members, and his willingness to, however briefly, become the aggressive, argumentative face for Scientology -- has badly damaged a brand that already had a creepy vibe.
But don't take it just from me. I asked Mark Bunker for his thoughts on the actor, and also Mark Ebner. First, some words from Wise Beard Man:
I like Tom Cruise. I'm a fan. I've been defending him far longer than I've been a critic of Scientology. He's a big, old fashioned movie star and I'm a big, old fashioned movie lover. I see no reason to stop liking the guy just because I don't like the organization he supports. So how do I feel about his career having been possibly harmed by the infamous Scientology tape which I had a hand in releasing to the net? Well, I'm OK with it. I'm not happy about it. I mean, I'm not a schmuck. But I take Cruise at his word that he loves Scientology. And I know Scientology loves Cruise. I think both parties should be proud of the tape and should want it to be seen. And now it is.
With Scientology crumbling, it is possible we actually may see Cruise leave Scientology someday. I think it would be good for him. He feels Scientology has helped his career but Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise because he's Tom Cruise. He has a charisma that comes through on film. He has star power. That's not something Scientology gave him. If they could do that, then everyone at the Celebrity Center would be a Tom Cruise megastar. Yes, even Frank Stallone. Tom Cruise doesn't need Scientology but Scientology desperately needs to hold on to Tom Cruise.
As I said, I also made the (journalistically questionable) decision to ask Mark Ebner to write up something on Cruise. Naturally, he sent over something very Ebneresque. You have been forewarned.
I've been making a cottage industry out of exposing Scientology since my Spy magazine story dropped in '96, and still, the number one question I get to this day is, "Is Tom Cruise Gay?" I really don't know, but his workout buddy (Scientology boss) David Miscavige tells me Tom's dick tastes like shit. I jest. Will Smith told me that. I kid. It was Travolta. Just joking. Ask his former wife Mimi Rogers, who, while discussing their split with Playboy in '93, said, ''Tom was seriously thinking of becoming a monk...he thought he had to be celibate to maintain the purity of his instrument.'' Her own instrument, she complained, ''needed tuning.''
I don't really care if Cruise gobbles knob. In fact, I championed his he-manlihood in Hollywood, Interrupted by referring to him as "the heterosexual Tom Cruise" no less than a dozen times. Still, if Cruise really did come out of the closet as urged in the Emmy-nominated "Trapped In The Closet" episode of South Park I consulted on, he'd really be my hero. Instead, I just think he's an asshole for constantly, shamelessly shilling for the criminal mind control cult of Scientology and their various front groups.
Marty Rathbun recently revealed that in 2003 the movie star plotted with former President Bill Clinton to lobby Tony Blair for tax breaks in the UK.
Not long after the 9-11 tragedy, Cruise landed like a vulture on Ground Zero to promote his New York Rescue Workers Detoxification Project urging first responders to eschew traditional medicine in favor of his hero Hubbard's sham of a "purification" program.
The actor also tried to convert the cast and crew of War of The Worlds by bringing Scientology "ministers" onto the set, and as part of his "get 'em while they're young" campaign, convinced his pal Will Smith to open a Scientology-based elementary school in California.
So yeah, I think Cruise is a prick, but I still wouldn't fuck him with yours. Me? I may be glib, but as I write this I'm beginning to feel bad about the name-calling. I mean, it's kind of like picking on a retard, because Tom Cruise, as evidenced by the infamous Tom Cruise "crazy tape" that I delivered to a giddy Nick Denton of Gawker in January of '08, is, for all appearances, batshit insane. Cruise's maniacal giggling and gibberish-spewing on that tape transcends the kind of crazy evidenced by his couch-jumping episode on Oprah, and if I had a dollar for every hit (3 million and counting) Gawker got off the video I gave them for fun and for free, I'd be a wealthy man. Who's crazy now?
Thank you, Ebner. Thank you very much. I really can't think of anything to add after that onslaught, so I'll just finish with a plea directed to the Mission Impossible man himself.
Tom, you can leave. Just do it, pardner.
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.