VIDEO: Watch Sacto Mayor and Former NBA Star Kevin Johnson Suck Up to Scientology
Our West Coast counterpart, staff writer Josh Dulaney at the Voice's sister paper OC Weekly, has been dishing on Scientology's spiffy new "Ideal Org" there in several spicy posts.
In a story last week, Josh mentioned that William Dalton, the mayor of Garden Grove, California (population: 170K), lavished praise on Scientology at the June 2 grand opening celebration of its new building, which was also attended by church leader David Miscavige.
Josh knew this because the church put out a press release about Dalton's participation -- Dulaney himself had been barred from the event.
The reason we're mentioning this is that seeing Josh's post about a mayor helping to open an Ideal Org jogged our memory: we've been sitting on a doozy of a video that shows how the mayor of a much bigger city -- Sacramento, California -- sucked up to Miscavige and the church in the most embarrassing way. And this wasn't just the mayor of a state capital -- we're talking about squeaky clean former NBA god Kevin Johnson!
For those of you who need a refresher, Johnson -- fans lovingly called him "KJ" -- was a superb guard for the Phoenix Suns during its mid-1990s run of playoff appearances with star forward Charles Barkley.
I'll pause here to have you gaze on the obligatory KJ highlight, his monster dunk over the much taller Hakeem Olajuwon in a 1994 playoff game against the Houston Rockets...
KJ wasn't just a great player on a team having a great series of years: I can tell you, as someone who lived in Phoenix at the time, Johnson enjoyed the kind of legendary status that really only a few athletes achieve: he was adored by Suns fans as much for who he was off the court as who he was while he played.
Johnson had cultivated the image of a squeaky-clean nice-guy Christian athlete who -- for completely genuine and not attention-seeking reasons -- had created a foundation to help out local kids.
But that image took a hit in 1997, and I had a front-row seat to see it happen.
I was a staff writer at the Phoenix New Times then, and the dean of reporters on that newspaper's staff was (and still is) Paul Rubin. I can still remember Rubin and managing editor Jeremy Voas racing to put together one of our best all-time scoops: Rubin had learned that Johnson had come under investigation by the Phoenix Police Department for his relationship with a 16-year-old girl.
In the summer of 1995, when KJ was 29, he had met the girl (named "Kim Adams" for Rubin's story) at a video shoot for a public-service campaign. The two of them had become friends and, according to the girl and her mother, spent almost every day of the summer together.
In 1996, Kim came under the care of a therapist who realized that the friendship between the young girl and the superstar athlete was highly questionable and might have included sexual contact. By law, she was required to report it to the police and she did -- but not before she called Johnson twice to ask him about it (and in doing so, tipped off Johnson that he was going to come under investigation).
In their investigation, Phoenix police decided to use a "confrontation call" -- taping while Kim spoke to Johnson -- to see if Johnson would talk about what had occurred between them.
Rubin writes however, it was obvious that Johnson -- tipped to what was coming -- was wary. Still, Rubin notes, "Johnson comes across at times in a transcript of the confrontation call as a man-child with confusion in his soul."
"Can I say something off the record?" Johnson asks at the start of the July 23, 1996, ambush call.
"Sure," Kim replies.
"I miss you bad. I don't like not being able to talk to you. 'Cuz when I was calling, you didn't call me back."
Kim broaches one incident she alleges occurred inside the guesthouse at Johnson's sprawling home on the side of Camelback Mountain.
"Well, I was naked and you were naked, and it wasn't a hug," Kim says.
"Well, I felt that it was, you know, a hug, and you know, I didn't, to be honest, remember if we were both naked at that time. That is the night at the guesthouse?"
"Yeah. . . ," the girl says. "Why would I be upset if it was just a hug?"
"Well, I said the hug was more intimate than it should have been. . . . But I don't believe I touched your private parts in those areas. And you did feel bad the next day and that's why we talked about it."
"Well, if it was just a hug, why were either one of us naked?"
"Again, I didn't recall us being a hundred percent naked."
Kim reminds Johnson of other alleged fondlings during the summer of '95, including a claim that she took a shower with Johnson that night in the guesthouse -- an event which, during the call, Johnson never denies.
Despite Johnson's seeming confirmations of at least some physical contact, Phoenix police did not recommend prosecution, and the Maricopa County District Attorney's Office declined to take the case to court, citing an inability to get a conviction.
But in 1997, as the NBA playoffs were beginning, Kim's attorney, Kent Turley, mailed Johnson a demand for $750,000, threatening to sue him over his contact with the girl.
His demand letter included this accusation by Adams...
He [Johnson] said I could sleep in his room or the guesthouse and I chose the guesthouse. . . . We got into the bed and he took all of my clothes off and all of his but his shirt. He was on top of me touching me all over--my breasts, butt, in between my legs, and stomach. Then he took off his shirt. I didn't really know what to do--I was very confused because I thought we were friends, but I didn't know what else to do than to go along with it. . . . He told me to pinky-promise not to say anything and when I asked why, he said I knew why.
Neither Turley nor the girl accused Johnson of having sexual intercourse with her, but they did say that he had fondled her genitals several times.
As Rubin explained in a 2008 followup to his original story, Turley was furious that Rubin had learned about the police investigation -- keeping the incident quiet was central to Turley's ability to sue the basketball star, after all. (Rubin's story ruined the lawsuit's prospects. Johnson, as we said, was never charged criminally. But the 1997 story did cause Phoenix's sports media to do some self-examination -- Rubin learned that some TV reporters had known about the investigation for more than a year but didn't dare make it public.)
Rubin wrote that 2008 followup article because he wondered whether Johnson, now long retired from basketball, could overcome the troubling 1997 story in his bid to become Sacramento's mayor.
A Sacramento native, KJ easily defeated incumbent Heather Fargo after forcing a runoff against her.
Since becoming the mayor, the weirdest thing Johnson has done, I guess, was marrying Michelle Rhee.
Yes, that Michelle Rhee, the warm, lovable woman who charmed the Washington DC education establishment by bringing people together with her infectious nature, and for sticking up for teachers during tough budget times.
(Read more here if you don't know what I'm talking about.)
An odd couple for sure. But maybe they're made for each other.
Anyway, whatever Kevin Johnson's enduring qualities, we can say with some certainty that he must not know much about Scientology. How else to explain the way he gushes for Miscavige and the assembled throng at the January 28 event to open the Sacramento "Ideal Org."
For those not among our regular readers (who are quite familiar with this "Ideal Org" caper), since about 1991 the Church of Scientology has been in a steady decline, and the best evidence suggests that today only about 40,000 people around the world are active members of the church (the church's own claim of millions of members is pure fantasy).
Since about 2004, David Miscavige has pushed hard to create the illusion that Scientology is actually growing by replacing its old "orgs" (churches) with new "Ideal Orgs" -- big, historic buildings purchased with parishioner donations.
The old orgs are not full, and there's no real need to replace them. But for years, local church members have endured constant appeals for money in order buy the new buildings, which are opened with great fanfare. Some of the earliest Ideal Orgs are now several years old, but there's no evidence that they're pulling in large numbers of new people -- on the contrary, we regularly get reports that the Ideal Orgs are largely standing empty.
We have reliable reports from ex-Scientologists personally familiar with how the Ideal Org push works -- Luis Garcia's lengthy expose is one of the most instructive -- so we have a pretty good idea what a racket it is. Local church members are pushed to raise millions of dollars for a historic building, but after the purchase, the deed to the edifice goes to the international church, not the local org. Local church members are then pressed to raise millions more for renovations, and are then on the hook to maintain the new Ideal Org -- even though they don't own it. So if things continue the way they are now, with dwindling membership, and the building can no longer maintain its expensive upkeep and goes dark, Miscavige still owns a historic building free and clear.
It's more real estate caper than religious revival.
Given that background, here is Kevin Johnson's performance at the January 28 grand opening of Sacramento's Ideal Org...
Yeah, Kevin, the birthday game. What you just did there was encourage the Sacramento Org to spend the next twelve months outdoing all of the other orgs in convincing its members to fork over every dime they have, mortgage their homes, max out their credit cards, and otherwise impoverish themselves in order to improve the local org's "stats."
It's one thing that this country's government has done so little to answer the calls of so many ex-Scientologists who have been defrauded, abused, and exploited by this church. But for a politician to endorse and encourage them like this?
Well, Kevin Johnson does have a record of poor judgment. How was it that Rubin put it?
Oh yeah. "A man-child with confusion in his soul."
Tell you what, KJ. We'll keep an eye on how that Ideal Org performs, and what an asset it turns out to be for Sacramento as you run for re-election. (Oops. He was re-elected last week, in fact. So much for following Sacto news here in NYC.)
We'd love to talk after the dust settles, and ask you about your day hanging out with Scientology's brass.
We won't even ask any really tough questions.
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 June 10 - 16 during those years.
This week, the Commodore has a contract for you to sign...
June 10: The crew shatters suppression...of cockroaches.
Thank you for your Daily Report.
As you are handling your posts and outnesses much better DAILY REPORTS ARE NOW OPTIONAL.
Watch E, having been hammered and beaten into line by Cathy Cariotaki is upgraded to DANGER.
The roaches in B Deck galley have just begun to eat up the allowances of CS-3 and the staff stewards, the order to clean all shelves and food having been neglected when earlier given.
The order to cost the watch a week's pay if they come closer than 3 miles to a ship, having served its purpose, is cancelled.
In washing decks THOROUGHLY SWEEP UP CHIPPINGS FIRST or they will clog the drains badly. I had one opened today to get water off the Sundeck.
The Sundeck work is progressing well. It should be finished very soon if we keep pushing.
The crew GOWHERE suggestions are laid out in CIC. The majority indicates a destination.
Contrary to rumour there are no border disputes where we are going since the nations mentioned in a rumour I heard aboard have no mutual borders.
Good luck to the Dianetic Students on the part time derby.
Ship condition will be upgraded on completion of chipping.
June 11: Check the fine print, geniuses.
SEA ORG CONTRACTS
All persons aboard who have not signed Sea Org Contracts are to be listed by the Recognitions Chief at once and the list sent to me well before arrival at the next port.
All those persons requesting to leave should place their applications at once. No applications for leave will be considered after arrival in the next port.
The few people showing up for renovations are thanked. Their names are being carefully noted for further favours.
June 10: This is mest up.
Every bogging case and student we have traces back to antagonistic parents or anti-Scn connections by current survey.
A remarkably clean sweep.
So PTS tech is vital, old and new. All the "old" tech is totally valid in this subject. It was let go out of use.
What usually happens is that when "old" tech goes out the backdoor, Trouble comes in the front door in crowds.
A PTS checksheet and pack is needed. Another FEBC team job. Boy will they ever need it when they get home!
M-E-S-T. The ship is getting a little bit enmesty especially in the tween decks. I want each person aboard to clean up his/her area today. I will be doing a thorough inspection and will take heavy action on enmesty areas.
Let's get ready for Sea NOW, not the day we sail.
Lt. N.F. Starkey, Captain FSO
CLEANING THE ORG. FAO staff can get the org free of enmest by 13 June 1971. Do it. If enmest persists into 13 June, HCO will bring Order by means of Dept 3. Enmest (piles of stuff randomly stacked and grossly not-ised) is a false report on our actual intentions for this Sector. Clean the org. Your post area is less valuable if it is enmested. Cleanliness is next to richlyness. Get rich quickly with ORDER. Do it!
Love, Bob A/HAS FAO
June 12: The Commodore pleads poverty.
Your bonus and wherewithal to work depends on the arrival and departure of students.
Flag expense is up to three and a half times to five times what it was last year, mostly in the FAO.
Two recent weeks were only around three thousand and six thousand. Such an average would be just about a tenth of the total cost.
The income of Flag must be such that 20 percent of the gross covers bonuses. If it does not, then there are no bonuses.
The FAO has not been product oriented.
Completions must add up to a final product.
Students off and home successful is the product.
This requires students arrive at TRC and Flag.
With the ship jammed full and no final product, the economy was cut.
Thus I had to act.
As no FEBCs were on the FAO exec posts these factors were not handled. So they had to be handled.
Also FEBCs on key FAO posts must be arranged and is being cared for.
Thus delaying or invalidating this flow is a serious offense calculated to put us in the soup and kill the boom. Ethics will hereafter be conducted accordingly.
The assistance of those who are doing their jobs and getting this flow moving is appreciated.
More 1970s Awesomeness!
While L. Ron Hubbard had moved HQ from the yacht Apollo to the Florida coast, Advance! magazine was thrilling Scientologists with 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 37, December, 1975. (And another cover featuring a photo by the Commodore!)
One of the Field Staff Members at our Mission brought in a friend of hers who had read in an old issue of Advance! about an OT who got in comm with, and fixed a sick horse. She also owns a horse who had been acting odd and so demanded to be brought in to meet me. The Field Staff Member brought her into the Mission and her friend asked me to fix her horse. I had not had much experience with horses but decided it might be a real game to mess around with in my spare time. So she told me her horse's name and approximately where he was and I told her to call me the following day.
I went (exterior) and found the horse and learned he had pain in his foot and that everything else was fine, so I told her (the owner) this the next day on the phone. The owner immediately had the shoer take a look and found his foot was in bad shape and fixed the shoe, the horse is now fine and actually bucks and runs faster than ever.
The real win here is the fact that the owner is not a Scientologist (yet) but could accept the workability of Scientology without question. -- Jeff Nichols, OT
I left Los Angeles and climbed on the plane for Kansas City, Missouri, my "old" home town. When I got to Kansas City my three sons met me at the airport and they actually looked right past me not being able to recognize the "new" Connie. My oldest son finally found me and was just thrilled about the change and he just loved having all his friends call me his sister. I might add that Ernie is 32 years old and I am pushing 60 myself, so you see how much this would create an effect.
I have wins daily on post now that I am back in my org. I just love not having anything pressure me. I just apply Ron's tech and easily go from A to B.
Oh, yes, it is fun being exterior and being able to see! -- Connie Cambrion, OT
Again with the veterinarian miracles. My cats resist auditing, so I guess they don't know what they're missing.
There were a couple of other very interesting items in Issue 37. Apparently, by 1976, a new form of psychological torture had been discovered:
Also, I found this display of OT books really enticing, for some reason. Miscavige has turned all of the early tomes into slick-looking things with all the charm of mid-1990s corporate HR manuals. Doesn't he realize he'd have a better shot at the hipster market with re-releases of these great 1970s covers? (For a better look at each one of the "seven most advanced books of knowledge ever written": The Creation of Human Ability, A History of Man, Hymn of Asia, Mission Into Time, The Phoenix Lectures, Scientology 8-80, Scientology 8-8008)
Well, that's a big post, and my thanks if you managed to get through it all. We have some really great items coming up in our Sunday Funnies installment, so we'll see you then. For the latest updates, make sure to check our Facebook author page.
********** 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