Isaac Hayes Was No Expert Scientologist


As Rob Harvilla, the Voice music editor, pointed out to us yesterday, there was one really awful detail in the news this weekend about the death of the legendary Isaac Hayes – that the 65-year-old singer was found next to a treadmill which was still running. Chilling.

Naturally, there’s been some speculation in the press about Hayes and his religion, the wacky cabal of L. Ron Hubbard worshippers at Scientology. Hayes was one of Scientology’s high-profile celebrity members, which (supposedly) led to his quitting his sweet gig as “Chef” at South Park because of the show’s unmerciful savaging of the dopey science fiction church.

Fox News columnist Roger Friedman has some very interesting insights about that incident, as well as some good background on Hayes’s shaky health in the last year. Hayes had suffered a stroke in January 2006 which left him struggling to speak. Just two months later, however, he quit the South Park show. Friedman says that before his stroke, Hayes had said that he was under intense pressure from Scientology to quit, and Friedman suggests that Scientology took advantage of Hayes’s diminished capacities to quit for him in March 2006.

With that prime gig over, Hayes, who had long suffered money problems, had to go back on the road, even though he was not really recovered. Friedman mentions a January 2007 performance in New York that was a disaster. (However, the Voice‘s former music blogger, Tom Breihan, saw Hayes in New York this June at Prospect Park, and said it was a great show. So Hayes seemed to be on the mend.)

Meanwhile, Slate today speculates on what happens to Isaac Hayes’s soul according to Scientology beliefs. (Scientologists believe in reincarnation, and its most ardent members sign billion-year contracts, promising to keep serving Hubbard lifetime after lifetime.)

But Slate also makes some assumptions that because Hayes was in Scientology so long, he must have risen to a high level of church expertise.

Not so, says actor Jason Beghe, who recently defected from the church but says he was “on course” with Hayes while he was still a member.

Beghe is a veteran television and film actor who made a splash in April with a YouTube video trashing the church he’d been a member of for 12 years. The first former celebrity member to so vocally denounce Scientology, Beghe has now become an active critic.

While he was still in Scientology, however, Beghe says he often ran into Hayes. The singer, Beghe says, had become a fervent Scientology member because the organization had helped him out when he was at a very low spot. But although Hayes was a visible face of Scientology, he did almost no studying of the concepts of Hubbard “technology” at all.

“This guy was not a student. Not a reader,” Beghe says. “This guy was in Scientology a lot longer than I was. But he didn’t have the first clue about anything. He did very little services. I mean none at all.”

“Isaac Hayes didn’t know the first thing about Scientology. He felt like he was contributing, but he didn’t know the first thing about it. You talk about taking advantage of someone,” Beghe says.

“They had helped him, and all he had to do was promote Scientology.”