Friday morning, the Voice published an interview with David Jentzsch, 80, who said that it’s been more than three years since he’s heard any word from his brother, Heber Jentzsch, 76, the president of the Church of Scientology.
As we’ve been reporting, Heber, although he’s been the president of the church since 1982, had so fallen from favor in the eyes of Scientology leader David Miscavige, he had been seen in public only rarely since around 2004 — and multiple former church executives say that from at least 2006 to 2010, he was being held in Scientology’s hellish office-prison at its International Base, known as “The Hole.”
David said that not only has he been told by Scientology workers at the base that he could not talk to his brother, but that if he attempted to come see Heber, he would be turned away.
I just talked to David again, who says our story produced a very surprising result: this morning, Heber called him and angrily berated him for talking to the press.
“I’m glad that it happened,” David tells us, “because it got him out of his cage to talk to me.”
I asked David, who lives in Utah, how this morning’s phone call went, and this is how he described it:
“He called me and said some of these things in your article aren’t true. I said you damn well know that they’re true.”
David says they argued over the scene we portrayed in Friday’s story, about the visit that David made to Scientology’s Int Base and the meal they had. When Heber asked him what he thought of the base, David told him that it was “straight from hell.”
David says he told Heber this morning that those were his exact words.
“He said, ‘Well, this is my religion.’ I told him, that this is how I feel,” David said to me.
“He said that I should call him. I said: Shoot, Heber, I do try to call you.”
David told Heber that he believed others were listening in on the conversation.
“He said he didn’t want me talking to any more reporters. I told him, Well, what I said was true, and you know darn well it’s what is going on there.”
David said that Heber actually sounded quite good. “He sounds like he’s in better shape now than when I talked to him a few years ago. But he’s only calling me because they want him to get me to stop saying those things.”
David says Heber insisted that he was not a prisoner on the base.
“He said he could go where he wants, which is a lie. I asked him what he’s doing. He said he’s a ‘corporate officer.’ I don’t believe it,” David said.
When I talked to David for our earlier story, he was unaware that Heber had made a rare appearance in Los Angeles, for the memorial of Heber’s son, Alexander, 27, who died under mysterious circumstances. As we’ve been reporting, Heber’s ex-wife and Alexander’s mother, Karen de la Carriere, was denied access to her son’s body before he was cremated and then was not invited to the church’s memorial because she was excommunicated by Scientology in 2010 for speaking out about the way Heber was being treated.
“You won’t allow the mother of the child to be there,” David chided his brother. “He said, No, I didn’t want her around. She’s given too much hell to Scientology already.”
David said his opinion of the church hasn’t changed after today’s phone call.
“Scientology’s not honest. It’s a terrible organization. As far as I’m concerned it’s straight from hell. And I know a lot of things he doesn’t know. I think they had someone there to make sure he didn’t say the wrong things.”
At one point, David says, he told Heber, “I thought Ortega was your friend.” He says Heber’s response was “We’re not friends anymore.”
(Actually, I’ve never spoken to Heber Jentzsch.)
David says Heber’s reason for the call was to convince him not to say anything else to the media.
“Don’t talk to anyone else ever again, he said. I told him, you got too many henchmen taking care of you there. He said, You can come see me. No, I can’t, I told him. They told me don’t come, I can’t get in,” David told me.
“I told him I don’t think you’re telling me the truth. But at least I got him out of his little hole to talk to me.”
He didn’t like that, David told me.
“This is not funny, he said. Heber, I said, you know as well as I do that I worry about you. I’ve called several times, and you just will not let me talk to you. I told him you sound more like a young man again. All the other times you sounded like you were practically dead.”
I told David that Heber did look surprisingly healthy in a photograph taken at the memorial. Our last reliable information from the base had Jentzsch in The Hole in 2010. Since then, has he been receiving better treatment?
“The management there is really upset about it,” David said, referring to our article on Friday.
“He told me, You can call, I’ll make sure you get to talk to me. OK, I’ll try again,” David says he told Heber.
I told David I was thrilled that our article prompted his brother to talk to him for the first time in years, even if Heber sounded angry.
“You can feel good about this,” David told me.
Our Alexander Jentzsch Coverage:
On Thursday, July 5 we broke the news of Alex’s death after receiving word from his mother, Karen de la Carriere.
On Saturday, July 7 we reported that Karen was being denied a final look at her son before he was cremated because she of her excommunicated status.
On Monday, July 9 we broke the news that Karen had sent out an e-mail about her son’s death to more than 10,000 Scientologists.
On Wednesday, July 11 we were first to report that Scientology had relented and was holding a memorial service for Alex, but his mother wasn’t invited.
On Tuesday, July 17, we reported that the LA Coroner’s office was unhappy with unusual answers given by Alex’s in-laws regarding his death, and was investigating.
On Thursday, July 19, we published an e-mail sent out to Scientologists which blamed Alex’s death on “reaction to a prescribed painkiller.”
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Scientology’s disgrace: our open letter to Tom Cruise
Scientology crumbling: An entire mission defects as a group
Scientology leader David Miscavige’s vanished wife: Where’s Shelly?
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Tony Ortega has been the editor in chief of the Village Voice since March, 2007. He started writing about Scientology in 1995. You can reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you ask nicely he’ll put you on his mailing list for notifications of new stories. You can also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, a Tumblr, and even this new Google Plus doohickey.
New readers might want to check out our primer, “What is Scientology?” Another good overview is our series from last summer, “Top 25 People Crippling Scientology.” At the top of every story, you’ll see the “Scientology” category which, if you click on it, will bring up all of our most recent stories.
As for hot subjects we’ve covered here, you may have heard about Debbie Cook, the former church official who rebelled and was sued by Scientology. You might have also heard about the Super Power Building, Scientology’s “Mecca,” whose secrets were revealed here. We also reported how Scientology spied on its own most precious object, Tom Cruise. (We wrote Tom an open letter that he has yet to respond to.) Have you seen a Scientology ad on TV lately? We debunked some of the claims in that 2-minute commercial you might have seen while watching Glee or American Idol.
Other stories have looked at Scientology’s policy of “disconnection” that is tearing families apart. You may also have heard something about the Sea Org experiences of the Paris sisters, Valeska and Melissa, and their friend Ramana Dienes-Browning. We’ve also featured Paulette Cooper, who wrote about Scientology back in the day, and Janet Reitman, Hugh Urban, and the team at the Tampa Bay Times, who write about it today. And there’s plenty more coming.