The Scientologists


LOCATION Greenpoint

RENT $1,100 [market]

SQUARE FEET 450 [top floor of house]

OCCUPANTS Camille Acey [booking agent-promoter]; Benjamin Ickies Jr. [accordionist-composer; director, the Ambitious Orchestra; library clerk, 92nd Street Y]

Just after I had a jelly donut at Peter Pan on Manhattan Avenue with the rabbits, I passed the We the People Document Service Center—”Bankruptcy $199, Divorce $199, Living Trusts $399.” You live across from a gas station and next to a tire store . . . and you have heavy purple drapes. Camille, do you work at home staring out at the cars? [Camille] I used to. I started a temp job at a swimsuit company. It’s funny, there are all these old women there who are overweight. I feel like our community here is 75 percent senior citizens. Our friend who helped us move did numerology for us.

She concluded ? Organization was going to be an issue. Benjamin and I met living at Flux Factory in Queens.

Is that a live/work building? They live it up. That’s why I quit my job. They sit and read the newspapers for three hours. [Benjamin] Half is a performance space, half, these 15 dorm-like rooms. You pay the rent to the Flux Factory. There are two bathrooms for the whole house. [Camille] No, three. [Benjamin] That was the executive bathroom. [Camille] It just had a sink, a toilet, and a cat litter box. They had this installation at the Queens Museum. They rebuilt it in the executive bathroom. [Benjamin] You could watch surveillance tapes while you were on the toilet. I moved in 2003. It was so cold that winter. Half the house hooked up with the other half. Brian started going out with Liz. Then Dan and Alice Mary. [Camille] They met before that. [Benjamin] The point is—I’m giving you gold. These were the circumstances in which Camille and I became involved. [Camille] Nonsense. On Thursday, they have performance monologues. I got up and said, I’ve never had a boyfriend. So we went on a Valentine’s date, a place called Jekyll and Hyde. I said, “Where did you go to college?” He said, “I didn’t. I went to L.A. and studied Scientology.” I flipped out. I just can’t be a member of a cult. I screamed at him. We got in a huge fight. We ended up making out, no I said, making up. My mother’s from Ghana. I went on vacation. I got malaria. I took this medication. It made me psychotic.[Benjamin] She was nuts. [Camille] I thought he could hear my thoughts. He tried to make me think of nine things.

Nine things? Benign things. He started showing me Scientology things you can do to be organized. More and more, bringing those pamphlets. Now I identify as a Scientologist. Actually I’m glad about it.

Does Scientology have an approach to the home? No? Well, I heard communication is a big thing. [Benjamin] Communication is so big. Before Scientology, I was a mess, spinning around, trying to start a band. After Scientology, I was able to get these tasks completed. Things aren’t a mess now in the apartment.

You were raised Orthodox Jewish, Camille said. Conservative. I swore off Judaism after my bar mitzvah. I was reading from the Torah and some old lady I’d never met before started talking about me, saying, He’s very talented. Who is this lady and why is she talking about me on a very personal level? I knew Judaism was not for me. Then my mom got into Scientology and she said, “It’s important I share this with you.”

Is there a Scientology church? [Camille] You take services there. I have a study packet. It’s in Times Square. [Benjamin] In Judaism, you have the Bible, the Torah. In Scientology, there are maybe 50 books, a lot of application of the texts . . .

I have to go now. [I put on my wrap.] [Camille] Oh, we didn’t tell you about the backyard.

What about it? [Benjamin] We have one.