One of the many accusations made about Scientology in Lawrence Wright’s masterful piece in this week’s New Yorker is that the organization’s “Sea Org” members — who sign billion-year contracts — work for a measly $50 a week and do hard labor that benefits top members like Scientology leader David Miscavige and church icon Tom Cruise.
In particular, Wright interviewed a recent Scientology defector, John Brousseau, who says that he and others at Scientology’s desert headquarters expended enormous effort customizing a Honda Rune motorcycle for Tom Cruise and also a Ford Excursion.
Wright quotes church officials who deny that Brousseau and other Sea Org members worked on those projects, saying that contractors did. But Wright mentions in his article that he had seen “dozens of photographs” that backed up Brousseau’s claims.
Well, now Brousseau has made those photographs public to back up his side of the story, and they provide a fascinating look into the world of menial labor for the benefit of Tom Cruise.
Wright’s story explains how Brousseau, once he finally decided to leave Scientology after 30 years, went to see Marty Rathbun, a formerly high-level member of the organization who maintains a blog, “Moving On Up a Little Higher.” This morning, Rathbun posted a pdf of Brousseau’s photos that back up what he told Wright for his New Yorker story.
In the first one, Brousseau explains, he’s holding a model of a P51 Mustang that will be a gift to Cruise. The photo was taken at the Gilman Hot Springs highly secretive Scientology headquarters in the California desert.
In this photo taken at the base, Brousseau shows three two of Cruise’s bikes (the one in the middle was customized for church leader David Miscavige) which he and two other Sea Org members painted while working for $50 a week. The one on the left is the Honda Rune which Cruise was given by Steven Spielberg for the “War of the Worlds” premiere, and that Brousseau had to disassemble to give the new red paint job Cruise wanted.
Brousseau: “Here’s Tom and Katie at the opening of ‘War of the Worlds’ in Los Angeles on the Honda Rune”
Before he could give the Honda Rune a paint job similar to the one on a David Miscavige bike and the P51 Mustang model, Brousseau first had to strip off the parts of the bike that had a custom “War of the Worlds” paint job. Brousseau says he refused to paint over this fine work and instead had new parts ordered. The old parts in this photo sit in the Scientology headquarters.
In this photo, Brousseau can be seen setting up a truss system in “Tom Cruise’s hangar at Million Air aviation services in Burbank, California.” (Tom Cruise has an airplane hangar? Yowza.) Cruise paid for the materials, Brousseau says, but “99%” of the work was done by Sea Org members, who are paid $50 a week.
The finished result of all the truss work: custom signs and drapery in Tom Cruise’s aircraft hangar. “No contractors were enlisted in the manufacture of the signs or draperies,” Brousseau writes. Also, note the Ford Excursion in the foreground. This is the automobile that was mentioned in the New Yorker article, Broussau says, and he provides more photos about the massive amount of custom work that went into it.
Here’s another shot of the Excursion in the airplane hangar. As Brousseau notes, you can just see that P51 Mustang model in the background.
Inside the Excursion, showing the custom work in progress. “The metal contraption in the foreground is supposed to be a mount for a baby seat that goes between Tom and Katie’s seats.”
For wood highlights in the car, Brousseau recovered this eucalyptus burl from a tree that had blown over at the Scientology base.
The result: gorgeous wood highlights all over the place.
Brousseau says that he even went so far as to create a custom Mont Blanc pen with the eucalyptus wood, and a secret compartment for it in the car. “DM went nuts when he saw this and so did Tom,” Brousseau writes, referring to church leader David Miscavige. “It was completely over the top.”
Another highlight in the Excursion: an aluminum step that bears the Tom Cruise logo (“TC”). Cruise had paid for the aluminum stock, but the work that went into it was provided by the Sea Org, Brousseau says.
Scientology told the New Yorker that all of this work was done by outside contractors, not Sea Org members. But Brousseau told the New Yorker that the work was bring provided by workers making almost nothing: “I was getting paid fifty dollars a week…And I’m supposed to be working for the betterment of mankind.”
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he’s been writing about Scientology at several publications. Among his other stories about L. Ron Hubbard’s organization:
The Larry Wollersheim Saga — Scientology Finally Pays For Its Fraud
The Tory Bezazian (Christman) Story — How the Internet Saved A Scientologist From Herself
The Jason Beghe Defection — A Scientology Celebrity Goes Rogue
The Paul Haggis Ultimatum — The ‘Crash’ Director Tells Scientology to Shove It
The Marc Headley Escape — ‘Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle’
The Jefferson Hawkins Stipulation — Scientology’s former PR genius comes clean
The Daniel Montalvo Double-Cross — Scientology lures a young defector into a trap