The Voice Reads Maureen Orth’s Story about Scientology in Vanity Fair


See also our Voice Exclusive: Paul Haggis reacts to Scientology’s attack on Nazanin Boniadi

We managed to find a copy of the new Vanity Fair today, and we’ve read Maureen Orth’s story, “What Katie Didn’t Know,” about Tom Cruise and his Scientology-approved search for a new wife.

As advertised, there’s really good stuff here. But there’s also a lot we knew before and that’s been reported here at the Voice. So join us as we show you our notes after giving Orth’s story a good read.

Orth’s article starts off with Tom Cruise complaining to Scientology leader David Miscavige about being unable to find a girlfriend. This is sourced to Mike Rinder and Marty Rathbun, the two high-level former church executives we’ve been writing about quite a lot over the last few years here at the Voice.

Rathbun was once the second-highest ranking official in the church. He defected in 2004 and resurfaced in 2009 with a blog that is harshly critical of Miscavige, and which Miscavige apparently considers a major problem. Last year, we provided ongoing coverage as Rathbun was besieged in his South Texas home by a goon squad sent by the church to make his life “a living hell.”

Rinder was, until his defection in 2007, the chief spokesman of the church and ran its Office of Special Affairs, Scientology’s intelligence-gathering and covert operations wing. He spoke to us in March about his experience being held in Scientology’s California concentration camp for executives, “The Hole.”

After Kidman and Cruz both proved unfriendly to Scientology, Tom Cruise needed a “beautiful true believer,” Orth writes.

To that end, Scientology actresses were told to come in and audition for training videos — this was a ruse to see if they’d make a good fit for Cruise. This is sourced to Marc Headley, who worked as a technical employee at Scientology’s International Base east of Los Angeles (the subject of Headley’s own book, Blown for Good). Claire Headley, Marc’s wife, adds that the timing was crucial because it was believed Cruise was about to make a big donation to Miscavige’s pet project — his push for new buildings, called “Ideal Orgs.”

Orth also revisits what we reported here in January, that while Cruise was being guided back into the church following his 2001 breakup with Nicole Kidman, reports were being delivered to the church about what was going on in his household, using Scientologists on his staff.

Orth describes auditing and gives a quick rundown of OT III and the Xenu material — which is always fun. She has Headley talking about how it’s a make-or-break moment for Scientologists when they encounter that material. But as we wrote recently, there’s a good reason why L. Ron Hubbard’s tales of a galactic overlord and alien genocide don’t scare away more longtime members.

Kidman, as we’ve mentioned before, stopped short of OT III before she gave up on Scientology. Now, Orth is told by former Scientology official Amy Scobee that she saw one person punished for the failures of the Kidman case by being sent to what sounds like the church’s notorious prison detail, the Rehabilitation Project Force, which involves hard manual labor.

After Cruise split up with Kidman, as we’ve written before, Marty Rathbun was tasked with auditing the actor and bringing him back into Scientology in a big way. Orth points out that these auditing sessions were secretly recorded — and Marc Headley was the one who had installed the cameras. Orth points out that Scientology had admitted to the BBC’s John Sweeney in 2010 that they recorded these sessions, but this time denied it to Vanity Fair. (Hey, it can be hard for the church to keep track of all of its “shore stories,” we imagine.)

Rathbun blames Miscavige for breaking up both of Cruise’s first two marriages, to Mimi Rogers and Nicole Kidman. His quotes on this are fascinating, and you’ll have to get them from the magazine.

Claire Headley and another former executive, Tom DeVocht, paint a portrait of Miscavige sipping Macallan scotch as he read reports from Cruise’s supposedly confidential auditing sessions, joking about their contents with his wife Shelly. DeVocht tells Orth that Miscavige’s jokes were usually at the expense of Tom’s sex life. (The church, naturally, told Vanity Fair that it doesn’t betray the confidentiality of auditing sessions, but there are literally decades of court documents that clearly show the opposite, believe me.)

After vetting dozens of women through its auditing process (and with Tom Cruise striking out with Sophia Vergara and Scarlett Johansson), Scientology finally settled on the winner of its tryouts — 25-year-old, Iranian-born, London-bred, UC Irvine-educated, Nazanin Boniadi.

She spent a month, in October 2004, preparing for her big role as Cruise’s girlfriend — which entailed interrogations to make sure she was really perfect. She was a highly trained Scientologist (she was OT V), and had not had a threesome in her life, Orth writes, which was apparently a prerequisite. Before she could be with Cruise, she needed to ditch the red highlights in her hair, lose her braces, and also get rid of her boyfriend. In order to help convince her of that, Orth writes, Scientology leaked to her damaging details about him that had been culled from his auditing files.

Once she was ready, Claire Headley says she was ordered to buy $5,000 worth of new clothes and other items for Greg Wilhere, the Sea Org executive who had been guiding Boniadi through the process — he needed to look better than your typical Sea Org drone, the naval-outfit-wearing hardcore workers for Scientology who labor about 100 hours a week for only about $50 each week. With Wilhere spiffed up, he flew with Boniadi to New York to meet Cruise for the first time in November 2004. She still had no clue what she was being groomed for, Orth writes.

A wonderful detail: Boniadi had been asked her idea of a perfect date. She said sushi and ice skating. And that’s just what Cruise delivered in New York — with a tour of the Empire State Building thrown in. Along for the date were Tommy Davis and his then wife, Nadine, as well as Jessica Feschbach, who would become Davis’s next wife.

Over the next couple of months, as the relationship deepened, Boniadi found herself under strict control. “Cruise wanted Boniadi’s incisor teeth filed down,” Orth writes.

As Orth had already revealed in this weekend’s teaser, Boniadi ultimately proved to be wanting because she had a hard time understanding David Miscavige’s rapid speech and had to keep saying “Excuse me,” to get him to repeat himself during a visit at Cruise’s home in Telluride, Colorado at the end of December. “Things were never the same after that,” Orth writes.

She learned from Wilhere that the relationship was over, not from Cruise himself, and then she was shipped to Flag Land Base, Scientology’s spiritual mecca in Clearwater, Florida. Depressed by what had happened, she made the mistake of confiding in a friend, who then wrote up a 10-page “knowledge report” about her. (Spying on friends and family is almost a sacrament in Scientology.)

“For more than two months Boniadi’s punishment was to scrub toilets with a toothbrush on her hands and knees, clean bathroom tiles with acid, and dig ditches in the middle of the night,” Orth writes.

Orth then writes about John Brousseau, who not only was David Miscavige’s brother-in-law for many years, but also did a lot of work for Cruise, customizing his homes and vehicles. We recently wrote a lengthy two-part story about Brousseau’s remarkable 32-year history in the church.

We then get a recitation of the wackiness of 2005 — Cruise jumping on Oprah’s couch and other PR disasters, and South Park‘s infamous November episode, “Trapped in the Closet.”

Orth has a great quote from Mike Rinder about the publicity disasters of that time, and why he didn’t speak up to Miscavige about it: “I could never say a word. That’s like saying Eva Braun is ugly.”

Orth then writes a section about Katie Holmes, most of which is familiar, except for one fun detail: Marc Headley claims that Katie’s father, Martin Holmes, was asking for advice about how to get his daughter away from Scientology before the 2006 marriage even took place.

Near the end of the piece, Orth points out what we wrote about earlier, that Cruise gets to skirt the rules that tear apart other Scientology families.

Well, as we said, there’s a lot of familiar stuff here — but with plenty about Nazanin Boniadi that’s never been published anywhere before — and all in all a great read.

UPDATE: Orth writes in her story that Scientology officials denied that the church records auditing sessions (even though they admitted that very thing to John Sweeney and the BBC for a documentary in 2010). Well, our tipsters have come up with a little visual proof that should settle the matter. From a 2006 copy of Scientology’s own Source magazine comes this image of a “case supervisor” keeping an eye on an auditing session going on and writing down whatever supposedly private things are being said…

As Orth writes in her story (and what courtrooms and reporters have heard for decades), what is said in supposedly private auditing sessions has a way of being used later by the church when it wants to retaliate against a perceived enemy.

Or, in this case, when David Miscavige wants to get his jollies laughing about Tom Cruise’s sex problems.

See also:
“Tom Cruise worships David Miscavige like a god”
Scientology’s president and the death of his son: our complete coverage
What Katie is saving Suri from: Scientology interrogation of kids
Scientology’s new defections: Hubbard’s granddaughter and Miscavige’s dad
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?
Neil Gaiman, 7, Interviewed About Scientology by the BBC in 1968
The Master Screenplay: Scientology History from Several Different Eras
And a post that pulls together the best of our Scientology reporting

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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 also catch his alerts at Twitter (@VoiceTonyO), at his Facebook author page, on Pinterest, 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.