On Monday, we told you about Grant Cardone, NatGeo’s “Turnaround King” whose new reality television show about rescuing ailing small businesses premiered Sunday night.
What the show didn’t say was that Cardone is a wealthy and high-level Scientologist with cozy ties to Scientology leader David Miscavige. In 2007, Cardone sent an e-mail to fellow Scientologists attacking Milton Katselas, a well known and admired acting coach who had, in the view of the church, not kept up his duties as a compliant Scientologist.
Now we have more detail about that, with an additional letter that Cardone sent directly to Katselas, the acting teacher’s reply to Scientology, and also Cardone’s public responses since we outed him as someone willing to do Scientology’s dirty work.
After our story ran Monday, we were contacted by Allen Barton, owner of the Beverly Hills Playhouse, who has a 20 year history there and worked closely with Milton Katselas.
Barton himself was a Scientologist for a time, but hasn’t been involved for many years (despite what a New York Times story about Katselas said about Barton).
Over the years, Barton says, actors did come in contact with Scientology when they studied with Katselas, but that wasn’t the point of what the great teacher was doing. “There was a time when people would come to the school, find out about Scientology, and become interested,” Barton says. “But Milton never proselytized in class. Never. And he never gave a shit. He was interested in acting.”
Although Katselas had been involved with Scientology since 1965, Barton says the ties between the Beverly Hills Playhouse and Scientology reached a sort of peak in 1999. “When Jenna Elfman won a Golden Globe, that was the height of that connection, between Milton and successful Scientology actors. Jeffrey Tambor was nominated for an Emmy. Catherine Bell was on a series. Giovanni Ribisi was becoming successful…Jenna did a big public relations spread where she had a photo taken with him.”
But soon after that period, Barton says, there came a “disaffection.” Katselas had been stuck on OT V, three levels under the highest of upper-level training in the church, and he didn’t seem interested in pursuing that any further. He had stopped going to events. And, Barton says, Milton was a single, straight male. “He had female students who were interested in him. He didn’t always refuse it. I’m not saying it was a good thing, but there it is.”
Around 2003 or 2004, Barton says, “there came what I call this ‘jihad’ about Milton.”
That’s consistent with what Marty Rathbun wrote on his blog Monday — that about that time, he was asked by Scientology leader David Miscavige to begin pressuring Katselas to get back on the straight-and-narrow path of Scientology development.
“It was a jihadist puritanical path,” Barton says. “They were pressuring him. Was he really on board with the church, with Miscavige. All of this stuff that Grant Cardone put out in his e-mail.”
“The Elfmans cut ties in 2004. Suddenly some trigger went off. This man must be stopped. I took a phone call from Bodhi Elfman screaming about Milton. Between 2004 and 2007, pretty much every Scientologist left at that point.”
On May 15, 2007, Cardone, taking on the role of church enforcer, sent out an e-mail to hundreds of fellow Scientologists. Someone, he can’t remember who, passed on a copy to him, Barton says.
“Holy cow. I can’t remember if I even showed Milton. Milton didn’t use computers. I’m sure someone showed it to him. His reaction was always measured. By that time he had become resigned to the jihadist mentality that had taken over Scientology.
“To the end, he was loyal to Hubbard, and held that relationship in high regard. He never said anything negative about Hubbard. He would say things like, ‘If Ron was still around, none of this would be happening.'”
Barton says that until Katselas’ death in 2008, he was receiving some Scientology services, despite the church’s approbation.
After Katselas died of heart failure, Barton was the one who cleaned out the acting teacher’s office, finding various documents pertaining to the church.
At my request, Barton went through his papers and located two fascinating, and heartbreaking documents.
The first is a letter that Grant Cardone sent directly to Katelas himself. Besides sending out an e-mail to hundreds of Scientologists that was meant to ruin Katselas’s reputation in the church, Cardone sent a copy directly to the teacher with an additional note.
[See the Cardone letter as a .pdf file. It includes the e-mail he sent out to fellow scientologists. Click the link on the window that appears.]
Cardone’s letter includes chilling lines like this:
You have to be blind not to see the effect these actions had on your school’s statistics, with so many “faithful” leaving you. If you ever feel the group of people you once had influence with are shunning you, I’m your man. You know the saying: “SNIPER ON THE ROOF?”
Rather than answer Cardone, Katselas chose to respond to the church that he had been a part of for so long.
[See Katselas’s letter to Scientology]
Katselas attached Cardone’s “Knowledge Report” (KR) and asked that it be “withdrawn.” He explains that he is still trying to advance in his Scientology training. And he objects to the accusations about him without any kind of evidence.
I have never met Grant Cardone, and to my knowledge he has never been to a class at the Beverly Hills Playhouse; therefore the data that he must be operating on is second-hand. Additionally, because Cardone offers so many generalized negative statements about me, these then act as 3rd party on a Scientologist who is in good standing, which I am. This in itself is a Crime.
The 73-year-old man asks the church to withdraw Cardone’s vicious Knowledge Report. A year later, he was dead.
We contacted Cardone Monday through his assistant, Jen Harris. He has not responded to our request for an interview.
However, Cardone has reacted to our story. On his Facebook page, he dismissed “haters” and provided a link to the following image:
That’s some turnaround.
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
A Church Myth Debunked — Scientology and Proposition 8
Daniel Montalvo Strikes Back — Scientology Hit with Stunning Child-Labor Lawsuits
When Scientologists Attack — The Marty Rathbun Intimidation
A Scientologist Excommunicated — The Michael Fairman SP Declaration
The Richard Leiby Operation — Investigating a reporter’s divorce to shut him up
The Hugh Urban Investigation — An academic takes a harsh look at Scientology’s past
Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh — A precedent for a Scientology-Branch Davidian link
Janet Reitman’s Inside Scientology — A masterful telling of Scientology’s history
The Western Spy Network Revealed? — Marty Rathbun ups the ante on David Miscavige
Scientology’s Enemies List — Are You On It?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 24, 2011