In both of the two major books about Scientology coming out this summer, Janet Reitman‘s Inside Scientology, and Hugh Urban’s academic history, The Church of Scientology, we noticed that Nancy Many shows up multiple times. And no wonder: the former Scientologist has lived an amazing life. She happened to be in the right place to take part in or witness some of Scientology’s most interesting moments, from working directly with L. Ron Hubbard, to spending time (while five months pregnant) assigned to the prison-detail RPF, to spying for both the Guardian’s Office and its successor the Office of Special Affairs, to, years later, testifying in the Lisa McPherson civil trial.
Many put out her own book a couple of years ago, My Billion Year Contract: Memoir of a Scientologist that documents her career. We devoured it recently and then talked to Many about her crazy life.
You were in so many notable places and times. No wonder you show up in both Urban and Reitman’s books.
Sometimes when those major things were happening, I would feel like I was in a weird movie.
We noticed that one of your many positions was to work with celebrities. You were even president of the Hollywood Celebrity Centre from 1980 to 1982. But you seemed pretty scrupulous about not mentioning any names. Can you tell us now who were some of the celebrities you worked with?
Jerry Seinfeld, for example.
SERIOUSLY? What can you tell us about Jerry in Scientology. He tends to downplay it today.
He was at the Celebrity Centre in New York. He did a few courses and he did one or two sessions. Then, the first time he want on the Johnny Carson show, in Los Angeles, before the show he came into the Hollywood Celebrity Centre and did his TRs [training routines] to prepare for it. And that’s when he was a big hit and his career really took off. Then he went back to the CC in New York.
Was he in much longer after that?
He probably just dribbled out.
You were important to the Lisa McPherson civil lawsuit because you worked as an operative for both the Guardian’s Office and its successor the Office of Special Affairs, the covert operations wings of the church. You were able to testify that OSA, despite what the church said, was largely continuing the same policies. In other words, you were able to say with some authority that Scientology has practiced spying operations over a large part of its history. How would you explain to someone unfamiliar with Scientology why it would even NEED a spy wing?
I have no idea why a religion needs a spy organization, especially one that rivals the FBI in sophistication — as one FBI agent stated after the  raids. I have worked for both and even though OSA says “we are not like the Guardian’s Office,” they are. They always attack both covertly and overtly. The operation we see on Marty Rathbun is the overt one. There is a corresponding covert action being taken. I do think Marty of all people, is aware of this.
Your experience in the Sea Org’s internal prison, the RPF, was so incredible, having to sleep in a smelly parking garage while you were five months pregnant. Later, when you faced the prospect of going back in, you and your husband Chris chose to escape instead. That suggests to me that in some ways, the RPF is something of a mental prison, rather than one with bars. Do you wonder about how many people are on the RPF today, and what would you say to them to help them escape?
No, believe me, Chris and I had to escape. We were being kept separately and with different guards. They had taken our son, and we knew they could make him disappear or hold him hostage. At the time we escaped before we got him, we did not know if the church had already taken him elsewhere to be able to coerce and manipulate them. I am so sorry to say that these days they have motion detectors, cameras everywhere, in addition to the usual separation from the group and being kept under watch. It is disgusting. No pay, or if we got some it might be $10. Illegal living conditions. The best way to get out is like Daniel Montalvo and call someone on the outside and have them work to help you out.
You worked directly with Scientology’s founder L. Ron Hubbard. How would you contrast him with what you know of the church’s current leader, David Miscavige?
I also did know Miscavige. I first met him at Saint Hill [Saint Hill Manor in West Sussex, England] when he was about 14, then at Flag [in Clearwater, Florida], and then when he would come down to Florida from Gold [Scientology’s secretive International headquarters near Hemet, California]. In fact when I was spying for RTC/OSA, they pulled me out…They knew I was burnt out and possibly going to turn. [This was during the time Scientology was suing David Mayo, a man running a rival Hubbard center in Santa Barbara. Many had been sent in to spy on it. She was then asked to help in the ensuing trial, in which Scientology was suing Mayo for copyright infringement.] I was prepped as a witness, but never took the stand. After they won, Miscavige and one of his assistants walked over to me and gave me one of those half hugs, shook my hand and had his arm around one shoulder. He thanked me for my work.
My basic view of the difference is that Hubbard was a human being. Yes, he had his faults, he could get angry. But he also had another side to him. He would go back and help clean up the damage done [by his temper].
Miscavige, on the other hand, feels that Tom Cruise is the greatest Scientologist and doing the most. That hit those of us out (even after many years) as a slap in the face. In Hubbard’s time the most important people in Scientology were the Sea Org members. If a celebrity felt the urge to do more, he could work to gain the status called “Honorary Sea Org member.” Miscavige denigrates Sea Org members while raising celebrities and other wealthy people to the level of being catered to by Sea Org members. Hubbard would never have done that. Never. Miscavige hurts people in anger, but then never goes back to repair things. Hubbard lived well, he had perks and privileges, but not the ostentatious life that Miscavige is building.
I met Tory Christman very shortly after she left Scientology. Those first months were very difficult for her. You seemed to be “recovering” from Scientology for years. What is it about Scientology, do you think, that makes it difficult to leave and recover from it?
It is very difficult to leave Scientology for many reasons but one of the main ones is the incredible friends you have made. You think: how can I leave them behind? In addition, if you leave you are left in limbo. No Scientologist, whether family, friend, or simply another member, will speak with you, let alone help. Most people after years in this group have lost all contact with any non-scientologists. So where do we go?
What’s next for Nancy Many? You figure prominently in Reitman’s book. Are you being asked to speak? Are you done with this subject? Are you experiencing any harassment?
I have had minor harassment, but truly none to speak of since Mike Rinder and Marty Rathbun are providing cover. [The two former high-level executives seem to be bearing the brunt of OSA activities. That we know about, at least.] I have gone back to graduate school for the needed degree and training to be a chaplain. I am still being asked to speak, but I pick my avenues. I am still working with the mentally damaged people Scientology creates, and am saddened each time I learn of another suicide. After going through what I went through, one is never fully recovered, you simply have to integrate what happened into your past and move toward the future. It is a work in progress.
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 Robert Cipriano Case — A Hellacious Example of Fair Game
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 Aaron Saxton Accusation — Australia turns up the heat on Scientology
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?
Inside Inside Scientology — An interview with author Janet Reitman
Scientology and the Nation of Islam — Holy Doctrinal Mashup, Batman!
Scientologists — How Many of Them Are There, Anyway?
Roger Weller’s Wild Ride — Scientology When it was Hip
The Marc Headley Infiltration — A Scientology Spying Operation Revealed
Placido Domingo Jr: Scientology’s Retaliation is “Scary and Pathetic”