Last week we ran a brief item about Daniel Miller’s story about Scientology’s Hollywood properties which ran at The Hollywood Reporter.
The more we looked at Miller’s piece, however, the more impressed we were with how much investigative work he’d done on it, and the people he’d talked to — including Tommy Davis, Scientology’s excitable spokesman, who has been out of the public eye lately. We wanted to know more about that, and other things, so we sent over some questions to Miller. After the jump, his responses!
Scientology spokesman Bob Adams told you that “Scientology is expanding and growing like never in history.” Did he offer you any proof of that, other than the purchasing or redevelopment of buildings?
The questions I asked of Adams were centered on real estate, so generally discussing the expansion or growth of the church really wasn’t a focus of mine. Once I realized just how complicated a thorough story on the church’s Hollywood real estate holdings was going to be, I had to set aside a lot of other interesting topics and focus on the core story.
You described the Celebrity Centre in evocative terms. Did you get a chance to eat at the restaurant, Renaissance? The food there really is terrific. I can still remember vividly the dish of Chilean sea bass and wild rice that I had.
I actually didn’t get an official tour of the Celebrity Centre while reporting this story, though one day I did check it out on my own — with a stroll around the perimeter of the property — just to soak up a bit of the atmosphere. It is really a fascinating place, with an amazing (though perhaps fictional) back-story filled with Hollywood intrigue and innuendo. I think for most Angelenos, it is the Church’s most recognizable building — many people know about the Sunday brunch that the restaurant Renaissance serves. But I have toured the Celebrity Centre in the past; in 2007, while working on a less comprehensive story on the church’s Hollywood holdings for a different publication, I was given a tour of the property. It was then that I got the chance to eat at Renaissance, and I came away impressed. I couldn’t tell you what I ate there, but I know it was French cuisine, and tasty.
Some of our readers were surprised that Tommy Davis shows up in your piece. The usually high-profile spokesman for Scientology has been scarcely seen or heard from in recent months. When did you actually speak with him? Was it in person?
Tommy Davis was very involved in representing the church for much of the time I spent reporting my story. He and I did several interviews — in April and May — all via e-mail or the telephone. We never met in person. I last heard from Davis during the third week of June. It was around then that another of the church’s spokesmen, Bob Adams, began working with me. Along with Davis, Adams is also quoted in my story and he accompanied me when I spent a day touring various facilities with the church’s real estate team at the end of June. Like my story indicates, both Davis and Adams answered nearly every question I asked of them, usually in very detailed responses.
You handled a section about the RPF particularly well, I thought. You pointed out that other religions also have hard core members who will do menial work for low pay. But I’m trying to think if any other religions use menial work as a form of punishment. Can you think of any?
I’m not an expert in religions, so on this matter, I defer to the sort of scholars I interviewed for my story, including Hugh Urban from Ohio St. University. I found what Urban had to share about religious groups such as monastic Christian communities that ask their members to perform various kinds of labor to be particularly interesting. Urban and I didn’t discuss this in the context of punishment.
See all of our recent Scientology coverage at the Voice
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?
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”
An Interview with Nancy Many, Former Scientology Spy
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 29, 2011