Scientology's Hollywood Landmarks: More from THR Reporter Daniel Miller

Categories: Scientology

CelebrityCentre.jpg
Hollywood's Celebrity Centre
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.



tortega@villagevoice.com | @VoiceTonyO | FB: Tony Ortega

See all of our recent Scientology coverage at the Voice

Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared

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"
An Interview with Nancy Many, Former Scientology Spy


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24 comments
Alexia_jenkins
Alexia_jenkins

"He and I did several interviews -- in April and May -- all via e-mail or the telephone. We never met in person"I wonder if their were any 'flushing' noises in the background of the telephone interview?

Anti-Anon, Mark Miglio
Anti-Anon, Mark Miglio

Tony,  I think I should also say something about Scientology membership. 

I would say we are expanding; although many people, like myself, would never give data to a survey taker.   Why?   Well, some of us only USE Scientology and still hold allegiance to other religions; and others of us don't want to answer up to a survey that might be funded or data searched by anti-Scientologists.    The Anti-Scientologist can be a real concern.  I personally have lost business due to their "black propaganda" efforts.

The thing is, we have more money today because our new people give it to us.  Our new churches would not exist if we didn't take our studies and get our auditing in those new organizations.

The media attacks us without doing their investigations with due diligence; and yet, we have many, many people making inquires and -- some very significant number of  these people start services in our Churches, Missions, Dianetic Groups, and  "Field Auditors" that work outside of the local church. 

We are selling more Scientology and Dianetic books, and L. Ron Hubbard fictional books -- on the internet, and on eBay, and in a vast number of U.S. and international bookstores.  Some of these readers call or email us and then start services, including the free courses at the "Scientology Volunteer Minister" website.

Old OT7
Old OT7 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Your cult would buy back LRH books in bulk from bookstores to make it look like  Hubbard was selling well.  He's not.  Your numbers are falling off a cliff.  Tommy "The Weasel" Davis said, "If his (LRH) war record was not true, then dianetics  and scientology were based on lies."    Hey, Tommy Boy, how's the RPF  working out for you?

choocho
choocho like.author.displayName 1 Like

The Anti-Scientologist can be a real concern. I personally have lost business due to their "black propaganda" efforts.

 Well I'm sure it couldn't have been your fault , you sound like such an honest person,ROTFLMAO!

DMSTCC
DMSTCC like.author.displayName 1 Like

"The Anti-Scientologist can be a real concern.  I personally have lost business due to their "black propaganda" efforts."

Thank you for using "their" in proper context on the first try this time. Very refreshing. And, I'm not sorry about your business losses, but thanks for letting us know and I hope you don't have to go on a religious retreat with the RPF for saying so.  

Thewrap 20
Thewrap 20

Just to check, were you willing to give information to a survey taker in 2001 but not in 2008? Is that why the number of Scientologists appears to be shrinking?

Also, the books from the Birmingham, UK organization are available for the last couple years and what they show is a big diversion of money from paying for services into paying for a shiny, new (and not yet open) building. 

The building money isn't new money it's just people being persuaded to pay for ideal orgs rather than move themselves up the bridge.

DMSTCC
DMSTCC

Are Scientology and Dianetic books no longer from LRH? 

Anti-Anon, Mark Miglio
Anti-Anon, Mark Miglio

Tony-----  Let's talk about the RPF.This is a rehabilitation program that is a choice that a staff member chooses to partake in -- rather than to be dismissed for very serious offenses.  There is a manufactured fantasy about the RPF that I would like to dispel.  It is not "punishment" -- granted some Sea Org staff members agree to do the program and consider it punishment rather than take it as rehab and their chance to make amends for their bad actions; but this is because they do not really think that they did anything that bad.  They don't think that they should have been removed from their post (job).

I was once removed from a Sea Organization post and yet I agreed to to the rehab program even though I was not the responsible party for the massive screw up that I was charged with.  So I requested what we call a "Committee of Evidence" to gather all the evidence and to hear my side of the story. 

Any Sea Org member can do this if they feel they have been removed improperly. 

I had agreed to do the program because other staff members that had finished the RPF program had told me that they liked it ---- and so did I. 

The food was good, the work wasn't difficult, and I was getting a lot of study time to do my studies. 

I was promoted to be a RFP team leader and was very successful. 

I did get a positive re-evaluation of those allegations; and I never did have to to appear before a "Comm-Ev", nor did I have to complete the rehab program. 

Has this been helpful?

DMSTCC
DMSTCC

Are you currently in the S.O.?

Karen de la Carriere
Karen de la Carriere like.author.displayName 1 Like

There are 3 reasons why there is always cash at hand to purchase Prime Real Estate to "prove" Church expansion.

1) Free pass on paying taxes although it is a pay-as-you-go Religion and  no counseling is done free out of kindness or benevolence. 501C3 pass saves heck of a lot of $$$$.

2) Slave Labor,a routine demand of   Staff muster at 8am ~~ mandatory  work hours til midnight ~~ that is 16 hours a day with 15 min or 20 min lunch/dinner breaks.  No day off, no annual leave, no Christmas Day Off !  No New Years or Thanksgiving day off.   Some 4000 or so Sea Members produce and work 80  hour weeks as "normal" and

3) Slave labor  for   $25  or less bucks a week because "Gross Income is down."  20 cents an hour for intense slave labor.

     ~~~~Easy to amass Billion dollar reserve accounts and lots of Real Estate when no taxes are paid and slaves work for nothing.  Slave Labor is indeed increased by menial punishment~~sadistic menial punishment.  

     ~~~~Whereas the general rule is that machines with humans wearing HAZMAT equipment should clean feces ponds, rats alleys (the underground filthy labyrinth of tunnels under the main old Cedar's Sinai Hospital) filled with grime, filth and rats, and the FREEWINDS Bilges,Sea Org Members are used to do these tasks often at 16 hours a day as punishment.

1st amendment rights !  501 CS Tax Free !  Religious "Ministerial exemption " !

Old OT7
Old OT7 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Great post, Karen!  Right on the money!

TheGuest
TheGuest like.author.displayName 1 Like

There is of course pressure regged "donations", constant, weekly for members to cough up the money; in some instances, coerced pressure, especially in the last 5 years.  So the costs of those buildings is families who went bankrupt, or lost their homes, their retirement funds, medical,  children's college funds, decades of debts. 

But about the RPF,  the history of RPF reveals its purpose:   the numbers swelled in direct relation to the latest major real estate project.  A good example is in the early 80's, major renovations still needed to be done at Big Blue, and included the parking garage.  Suddenly there were literally hundreds assigned to the RPF for any specious reason.  Most of the Execs from PAC were suddenly sitting on the dirty floors for roll call at RPF muster, bewildered, and one by one,  broken down to a malleable worker bee.

I vaguely recall OSHA and maybe another organization inspecting something or other, but someone in OSA got tipped off, but another occasion not so lucky.  I think I saw some men in silver hasmat suits, but at that point I was near delirious from sleep deprivation and in constant pain, traumatized.   The conditions were as horrid as any report you've ever heard.  The long term costs to RPF workers health, mental and physical is difficult to determine exactly  due to secrecy and fear of speaking out.

There's one last aspect of RPF, slave labor, and sci real estate.  The Big Blue, the former Cedar of Sinai Hospital, is listed on mesthelioma.com,  under L.A. buildings,  as one of the asbestos sites.  There are sites I have heard about but don't have links about buildings in the other mecca land, clearwater, fl,  and of course,  The Freewinds, sci ship, has been verified of asbestos, and in that case, covered up.  And there are many scilons dying from cancer conditions, but that is only a possiblity as another linked cost to members.

After all these years,  there are certain pieces of scientology's prize "real estate" that still makes me nauseous at the sight of it.  So when I read about the praises of  historical preservation and the pompous bragging about it, I wanted to make sure it stays on record the true and final costs to thousands and thousands  of lives.

Arielle
Arielle like.author.displayName 1 Like

So Miller never met with Tommy  Davis and only spoke to him on the phone or via emails?  That just confirms my suspicion that pretty boy Tommy might be in RPF.

TonyOrtega
TonyOrtega like.author.displayName 1 Like

...which is why I thought it was important enough to get this out on the public record.

JustCallMeMary
JustCallMeMary

Thanks for the clarifications, Tony. Looks like it's time for another clandestine visit to Celebrity Centre, like Ian Halperin did and reported about in his book, Hollywood Undercover

SFF
SFF

Interesting omission in the article, though. Scientology owns the historic El Cadiz Apartments at 1721 North Sycamore Avenue, which allegedly serves as Miscavige's LA residence. It is designated as a historic cultural landmark, I believe.

mjm
mjm

now we know where to knock on his door and bother the hell out of him and Tommy C...

choocho
choocho

 Now that tax cheats and terrorism concerns are forcing bank havens such as Luxembourg and Switzerland to open up to scrutiny, Scientology's real-estate empire funded by assets they lied about to the IRS is growing like never before!

CubanAnon
CubanAnon

Thanks for confirming my suspicions. When I first read Miller's story, I immediately thought about John Connolly, who wrote for Vanity Fair, and how scientology gets reporters to shill for its causes.

TonyOrtega
TonyOrtega

Not sure what you mean. I didn't get the impression that Miller was a shill. I'm sure Scientology didn't like the way he started his story with the anecdote about Marty Rathbun. And Miller's detailed digging about how much tax money the church is saving on historic properties was excellent journalism. He was fair to them, but this was not a puff piece by any stretch.

Anti-Anon, Mark Miglio
Anti-Anon, Mark Miglio

Tony-----  Let's talk about the RPF.

This is a rehabilitation program that is a choice that a staff member chooses to partake in -- rather than to be dismissed for very serious offenses.  There is a manufactured fantasy about the RPF that I would like to dispel.  It is not "punishment" -- granted some Sea Org staff members agree to do the program and consider it punishment rather than take it as rehab and their chance to make amends for their bad actions; but this is because they do not really think that they did anything that bad.  They don't think that they should have been removed from their post (job).

I was once removed from a Sea Organization post and yet I agreed to to the rehab program even though I was not the responsible party for the massive screw up that I was charged with.  So I requested what we call a "Committee of Evidence" to gather all the evidence and to hear my side of the story. 

Any Sea Org member can do this if they feel they have been removed improperly. 

I had agreed to do the program because other staff members that had finished the RPF program had told me that they liked it ---- and so did I. 

The food was good, the work wasn't difficult, and I was getting a lot of study time to do my studies. 

I was promoted to be a RFP team leader and was very successful. 

I did get a positive re-evaluation of those allegations; and I never did have to to appear before a "Comm-Ev", nor did I have to complete the rehab program. 

Have this been helpful?

Old OT7
Old OT7

Ditto!  Seriously, I've know people in the Re-education/Slave Labor Camp (aka RPF) who stayed there for years AGAINST THEIR WILL!  This is strictly punitive in nature.  Now, the  cult makes its staff sign off that it is voluntary.  It is basically prison!

SFF
SFF

So, for something that wasn't your fault, you were given a choice between doing the RPF and being kicked out of the religion you believe is your only path to spiritual salvation and this is meant to demonstrate that the RPF is good? Also, can you confirm that you are required to write-up the benefits you received from the RPF before you can graduate from it?

Here's a good analysis of what kind of choice it actual is from another RPF graduate:

(Links seem to be a problem so you'll have to fix this one yourself but it's well worth it)

www . skeptictank . org / rvymodel . htm

DuckBenway
DuckBenway

@8459a41353e5fb0ef970738b650fa4b0:disqus "Have this been helpful?"

Not in the slightest. STFU!

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