“I have to defend what I know. And I know how serious domestic violence is, and I’m not with that. To be potentially accused of that is gross.”
An exclusive here at the Voice this morning. We have the first interview with Michael Sandlofer, the first husband of X Factor contestant Stacy Francis, 42, who has gained a large following in part by selling a story that she suffered domestic violence from a man while she was in her late 20s to early 30s. On Thursday, she made it plain to The Hollywood Reporter that she was talking about Sandlofer, her first husband.
Sandlofer tells the Voice that not only has Francis lied about domestic violence in her relationship with him, but he says that Perez Hilton is correct in his complaints that Francis has been untruthful about her extensive professional singing career before she came to X Factor. We had a conversation yesterday with Sandlofer, a music producer, who told the Voice about his marriage to Francis, why it was annulled, and why she then turned to Scientology, an organization she has been heavily involved with ever since.
Francis entered public consciousness when her supposedly heartbreaking story was used to promote Simon Cowell‘s new talent show, X Factor. She was featured prominently in a seven-minute “super trailer” which the show uploaded to the web on September 21:
The trailer helped build interest in the show, which has been a huge gamble for Cowell. It’s not hard to see why he would choose Francis’s wrenching story to help amp up anticipation for his new program. Early in the trailer, she grows emotional as she explains why she hasn’t already had a professional singing career:
“In my late 20s into my early 30s, I met someone, and things just went really wrong. He kept telling me I was too old, or that I wasn’t talented enough, and I started believing it. I started believing him. And he would push me around, sometimes, and I just just lost faith in myself.”
She then goes on to belt out a version of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” after implying that for some 12 years she had been discouraged from singing except in the shower of her 1-bedroom home.
The trailer has been seen nearly 3 million times. It has more than 6,000 comments, and the “top comment” reads…
“i hope that bastard she was with is watching this and is hearing the crowd roar!!”
After the trailer aired, Francis quickly became a star of the now successful show, but almost immediately there were questions about her version of events.
Perez Hilton has been particularly ruthless, pointing out that Francis was hardly only singing in the shower the past 12 years. In fact, she was a regular Broadway performer, had put out a solo album, and has sung backup for Madonna, Chaka Khan, and even shared billing with Adam Lambert.
Francis was also featured in a notorious video that was shot on the “Freewinds,” Scientology’s cruise ship that is normally used for training the highest-level church members in their final step of spiritual training, known as “OT VIII.” In 2004, Scientology leader David Miscavige used the ship to throw a lavish 40th birthday party for his good friend, Tom Cruise, and in this video you can see Francis serenading the actor, as he and Miscavige (the small man to his left) react enthusiastically:
UPDATE: From that same event, even more amazing video of Tom Cruise singing with Francis!
Perhaps most damning, however, is that Francis apparently tried to hide her extensive professional background in order to make the story she told X Factor appear more credible. Her ham-fisted attempt to hide that material, however, failed badly, as the sites she apparently tried to delete were preserved on archival Internet pages.
As questions about Francis multiplied, she remained vague about which of her previous relationships was the abusive one. She has been married multiple times, and she has not named the person who she says “pushed me around.”
Then, on Thursday, she took away any doubt.
In a story at The Hollywood Reporter, Francis complained that Hilton was telling “lies”…
“And I also found out that my ex-husband was tweeting him,” she continues. “And he’s the one that gave him a couple pictures of me and the fake CD that he put up that pretended I had a CD out — I never did; it was a demo. He’s getting all this stuff from my ex-husband and that was my abuser so it’s very disappointing.”
Francis was clearly referencing Michael Sandlofer, her first husband, who did tweet last week that he was willing to talk to Hilton. But Hilton never responded, and the gossip columnist certainly never got any materials from him of any kind, Sandlofer tells the Voice.
“I’m not working with Perez Hilton,” Sandlofer told me yesterday by telephone, as we began a conversation that lasted nearly two hours.
Sandlofer, 41, is a music producer who works out of Manhattan and who goes by several handles in the hip-hop industry. Most know him as “Lofey,” he says. His Twitter handle, meanwhile, is “Stupidwhitejerk,” which he explains is the nickname he picked up years ago working as one of the few white producers in hip hop.
In late 1996 or 1997, he says, he stopped in Washington DC on the way home from a trip to Florida in order to see a friend perform as a dancer in a stage production of Footloose.
“That’s when I met her. That was the beginning of our relationship,” Sandlofer says, and explains that what really attracted him to Francis was her voice. “I thought she was a wonderful Broadway-style singer.”
By the time he met her, Sandlofer says, Francis was already well into her stage careeer. “She had done several stage shows. She had sung backup to Chaka Kahn. She was a seasoned Broadway veteran,” he says.
In total, the couple was together about four years, marrying in 2000 and than having it annulled later that year, he says.
One of the things he noticed about her, he remembers, is her interest in spiritual ideas.
“She had boxes of self-help books, positive affirmation and all this other stuff. She seemed sort of confused, but whatever floats your boat. I’m a spiritual person, but I wouldn’t call myself religious,” he says. “I’m a musician. I’m very driven by the passion. I went to business school, and I followed through. I was more of a family person. She saw what I came from, a strong family background, and she was attracted to it.”
Sandlofer believes that Francis was drawn to his family because her own was so fragmented. “The true story is that she wasn’t raised by her mother, but by another woman who was in her 80s. To this day her biological mother won’t tell her who her biological father is. She could have told that story, but I guess she leaned a different way.”
Also, he says, she was clear about her agenda. “Stacy, number one, is very adamant about being famous,” he says. Although she had already had some success as a Broadway performer, Francis told Sandlofer that it wasn’t enough, he remembers.
“I don’t want to be famous all my life on just one block,” is something she said repeatedly, Sandlofer recalls, meaning that she needed to expand beyond Broadway singing.
“As soon as we were married, she said she had to go to Los Angeles for pilot season. Footloose was done and she needed something new,” he says.
“She stayed with a couple of friends. I supported it. I was responsible for her. I just can’t move with you out there, but we’ll figure it out, I told her.” Then, after the pilot-shooting season was winding down, Sandlofer says Francis told him that she wouldn’t be taken seriously in the television industry unless she moved permanently to LA.
“So I went out there and got a place. A two-bedroom place in Sherman Oaks. I gave her a car. And I basically left her out there, and I would come and go. I would come out to visit for a week or a two at a time. I was doing a lot of records for hip hop and R&B acts. So I’d go out there and do work. Which seemed to anger her, actually,” Sandlofer says.
Then, Sandlofer says, she cheated on him with the man who would become her second husband.
“I took my car away, and I left her. I had given her a ring that was appraised for more than 60 grand, and I didn’t ask for it back. I left her a furnished apartment. I only took the car and went back to my family. That was it. I totally supported her. Did we have pissing matches? Like anyone else. But I never laid a hand on her. None of that. And her story, her people, keep changing their story, that it was physical or verbal abuse she went through,” he says.
On the advice of an attorney, they avoided divorce and instead got an annulment.
Since then, they have had several interactions. One was unpleasant, when, he says, she accused him of causing her problems over an outstanding debt. But in general, their conversations have been civil, even friendly.
He admits he was surprised when a friend told him about the “super trailer,” and saw that Francis was accusing an ex of being abusive.
“I hoped she hadn’t been abused, and I assumed she was talking about someone else. But the talk online keeps pointing at me,” he says. “I think it would be a legal issue for her if she used my name publicly. I hope she doesn’t do that. I have to defend what I know. And I know how serious domestic violence is, and I’m not with that. To be potentially accused of that is gross.”
After their relationship was over, Sandlofer says, Francis turned to Scientology. And for one reason, he says: to get in with the likes of John Travolta, Tom Cruise, and other Hollywood types.
“It wasn’t like she read a couple of L. Ron books and was impressed. It didn’t go down that way,” he says.
Records show that over the past decade, Francis has been a dedicated member of Scientology, completing quite a few courses.
“At one point, she tried to get me into Scientology. But I knew it wasn’t for me,” Sandlofer says.
Publicly, Francis has kept quiet about Scientology, and, Sandlofer points out, she has assured her followers that she’s a Christian.
“Is it true you can do both?” he asked me.
I explained that higher-level Scientologists are asked to accept that Jesus Christ was not real but was an implanted memory placed in our alien souls 75 million years ago. (Something I had confirmed by church spokeswoman Karin Pouw more than a decade ago.) Francis, I pointed out, may still be a lower-level church member who has not been asked to accept that Jesus is a figment.
As for her X Factor future, Sandlofer is not sanguine.
“I know where it’s going to end up. Unfortunately for her, she’s not going to win, and she’s not going to be one of those artists who don’t win and still end up huge,” he predicts. “She’s made it to the top 12. There’s true talent on there that supersedes her. But I’m glad she has a fan base. If she had told her story the right way from the beginning, and hadn’t talked about me in a totally false way, I would have been happy for her.” But still, he adds, he isn’t resentful of her success.
“I love her voice for the stage, but is it good for what they’re talking about it, a pop star? She’s wonderful on Broadway, but I’m not sure how else to put it,” he says.
“I appreciate that Perez Hilton is sticking to his guns,” he adds, saying that he has felt somewhat vindicated as Hilton has taken apart the tales Francis told. “He’s not saying she’s a bad singer, but she’s lying about her story. The original story from the trailer was so misleading. She seemed to be saying that some guy had abused her and left her with two kids. So people were asking me, did I abuse her, and did I have two kids with her? It was confusing.” (They had no children in their marriage, which ended more than a decade ago. Sandlofer is now in a ten-year marriage with the mother of his two young sons.)
I asked Sandlofer if he felt Simon Cowell should be more concerned than he’s let on about the story Francis is forwarding.
“Part of me says, who cares what Simon thinks, but on the other hand, should he allow someone to lie about something so serious as domestic violence?” he asks. “Ultimately, though, Stacy is responsible. She’s the one dishing the story.”
After I spoke with Sandlofer, I called Mike Rinder, Scientology’s former spokesman, who was on the “Freewinds” that day in 2004 when Francis serenaded Tom Cruise.
He apologized, saying he couldn’t tell me anything more about the show. “I was cleaning the bilges,” he said, referring to the punishment that he and others were often assigned to by church leader Miscavige.
“I had no idea who she was. I just saw her show up and perform,” he said.
Still, she performed at a gala event for one of Hollywood’s biggest actors and one of the most important people in her religion.
And that has to beat singing in a bathroom.
The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology
#1: L. Ron Hubbard
#2: David Miscavige
#3: Marty Rathbun
#4: Tom Cruise
#5: Joe Childs and Tom Tobin
#7: Mark Bunker
#8: Mike Rinder
#9: Jason Beghe
#10: Lisa McPherson
#11: Nick Xenophon (and other public servants)
#12: Tommy Davis (and other hapless church executives)
#13: Janet Reitman (and other journalists)
#14: Tory Christman (and other noisy ex-Scientologists)
#15: Andreas Heldal-Lund (and other old time church critics)
#16: Marc and Claire Headley, escapees of the church’s HQ
#17: Jefferson Hawkins, the man behind the TV volcano
#18: Amy Scobee, former Sea Org executive
#19: The Squirrel Busters (and the church’s other thugs and goons)
#20: Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and other media figures)
#21: Kendrick Moxon, attorney for the church
#22: Jamie DeWolf (and other L. Ron Hubbard family members)
#23: Ken Dandar (and other attorneys who litigate against the church)
#24: David Touretzky (and other academics)
#25: Xenu, galactic overlord
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he’s been writing about Scientology at several publications.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin’ Scared
SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE
[Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded discussing “disconnection”]
[Tom Cruise and Baby Suri embarrassed by news item, so someone must pay]
[Benjamin Ring, LA deputy sheriff, wants you to spend your 401K on Scientology]
[Scientologists: How many of them are there, anyway?]
[Scientology hates clean ice: The “Fair Game” operation that should turn your stomach]
[Scientology hates clean ice, part 2: Another target, and the web as weapon]
MARTY RATHBUN AND THE SIEGE OF SOUTH TEXAS
[Scientology has Rathbun arrested] | [Rathbun and Mark Bunker reveal surprising ties]
In Germany with Ursula Caberta: [Announcing plans] | [Press conference] | [Making news about Tom Cruise, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair] | [Post-trip interview]
The Squirrel Busters: [Goons with cameras on their heads] | [Rathbun’s open letter to neighbors] | [Ingleside on the Bay, Texas rallies to Rathbun’s cause] | [Squirrel Buster’s claim to be making a “documentary”] | [VIDEO: “On a Boat”] | [“Anna” sent to creep out Monique Rathbun] | [Squirrel Busters go hillbilly] | [A videographer blows the whistle on the goon squad] | [Ed Bryan, OT VIII, shows the power of Scientology’s highest levels]
SCIENTOLOGY SPYING AND “FAIR GAME”
[Secret Scientology documents spell out spying operation against Marc Headley]
[Scientology’s West U.S. spies list revealed] | [Scientology’s enemies list: Are you on it?]
Spy operation against Washington Post writer Richard Leiby: [Part 1] | [Part 2]
[A Scientology spy comes clean: Paulien Lombard’s remarkable public confession]
[Scientology advertises for writers in Freedom magazine]
[Accidental leak shows Scientology spy wing plans to “handle” the Voice]
[Lori Hodgson and Disconnection: “No one’s going to take my eternity away”]
SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES
[“Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle”] | [Tom Cruise likes coconut cake] | [Tom Cruise has a sense of humor] | [“Tom Cruise not a kook!”] | [Paulette Cooper on Tom Cruise]
[Paul Haggis, director of Crash, issues an ultimatum, leaves the church]
[Character actor Jason Beghe defects noisily] | [Actor Michael Fairman reveals his “suppressive person” declaration] | [Michael Fairman talks to the Voice]
[Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh: Scientology-Branch Davidian link makes sense]
[Russell Brand weds ex-Scientologists in wild ceremony] | [Skip Press on Haggis]
[Placido Domingo Jr.: Scientology’s retaliation is “scary and pathetic”]
Grant Cardone, NatGeo’s “Turnaround King”: [Doing Scientology’s dirty work?] | [Milton Katselas complained about Cardone’s smear job] | [Cardone runs to Huffpo]
[Philip Boyd, Saving Grace actor, rips “the business that is Scientology”]
JANET REITMAN’S INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY
[Our review of Inside Scientology] | [An interview with Janet Reitman] | [A report from Reitman’s first book tour appearance] | [At the Half-King: Reitman not afraid]
[Scientology doesn’t like Inside Scientology] | [Q&A at Washington Post]
[A roundup of Reitman’s print reviews, and why isn’t she on television more?]
HUGH URBAN’S THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT
[Marc Headley: “Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle”] | [The Nancy Many interview]
[Sympathy for the Devil: Tory Christman’s Story] | [Jeff Hawkins’ Counterfeit Dreams]
[86 Million Thin Dimes: The Lawrence Wollersheim Saga] | [Mike Rinder on spying]
[Scientology dodges a bullet in Australia] | [Scientology exec Jan Eastgate arrested]
[All hell breaks loose in Israel] | [Scientology sees fundraising gold in the UK riots]
[Aussie former rugby pro Chris Guider calls David Miscavige “toxic” and “violent”]
[Stephen Cox, UK church newbie, pledges 20K pounds] | [Biggi Reichert: A German Lisa McPherson?] | [The Birmingham trove: 7,000 internal e-mails]
[Australian farmer blamed for giving Tom Cruise a bad shrimp, loses her friends, family]
ODD VIDEOS AND ODDER NEWS
[Scientology singalong, “We Stand Tall”] | [Captain Bill Robertson and “Galactic Patrol”]
[Scientology wins a major award!] | [Scientology wants your money: Meet Dede!]
[Birmingham in the House! The “Ideal” dance mix] | [Scientology and the Nation of Islam]
[When Scientology was hip] | [Sad: David Miscavige makes fun of his own fundraisers]
[Freedom magazine parodies The New Yorker. Hilarity ensues.]
[Scientology surf report: Anonymous parties outside the New York “org”]
THE VIEW INSIDE THE BUBBLE
[A scientologist’s letter to the Voice and its readers] | [Scientology silent birth]
[Tad Reeves: Scientology might listen to this guy] | [More Tad Reeves and family]
[Scientology never forgets: A heartwarming telemarketing holiday miracle]
[Scientology High School, Dating and Super Powers!]